Archive for June, 2013

The Almost July Newsletter

Pink Toilet PaperSeen “Living With Quilts: A Survival Guide?” Then you might remember this image and the story about the pink toilet paper I brought back from France. Twenty-four rolls, if I remember correctly. A fun time coming through customs in the US plus a memorable souvenir of a great trip.

Why is it stored in the window?! The addition to our house added a hallway behind what used to be an outside wall of the house. No sense paying good money to drywall over the window and try to match 12-year-old wall-paper, so I gained another storage area instead! If you’re not with me, don’t worry. Just keep going.

I’ve shared (in the aforementioned presentation) that we only use the pink toilet paper on special days, like the first of each month because that’s newsletter day. As the pink toilet paper became more scarce, I only brought it out in the afternoon on newsletter days.  Then only between 2 and 3 pm on newsletter days.

Alas, I have run out entirely, so I’ve decided that the newsletter no longer needs to come out on the first of the month. It shall come out “periodically.” I know the logic isn’t totally there, but neither am I. Besides, as you may have noticed, I seem to be writing newsletters more frequently instead of less. I hope we’re all happy with that.

Last time I wrote, (scroll down), I was whining about the cottonwood trees and their seeds getting all over my freshly dyed clothesline. I have created a solution. This video has my voice on it, which can be startling if the volume on your speakers is turned up too high.

I will be sewing bowls with members of the Lighthouse Quilters Guild in Racine, WI on Monday, so getting rid of the cottonwood seeds was pretty critical. Who wants to de-lint their “rope” as they coil and zig-zag? Want to sew with us in your own parallel universe?  Links to my hand-dyed clothesline, a BOWLing tutorial, plus tools and supplies you might need are here.


Large Suction CupHere’s another problem solved, although I didn’t have to give up a laundry basket to do it.

I’ve recommended the little red suction cups for hanging on to small rotary templates like my Twisted Sisters for safer cutting. Well, I just found a 4.25″ version that is terrific for large acrylic rulers that need to be tamed. I tried the suction cup “grab bars”  and just didn’t like them—too heavy, too expensive, and I like to keep my wrist turned the “other” way.

This MONSTER large suction cup does the trick.  Plus it’s  on sale now because I got a “deal” and I’m passing the savings on to you.


Thanks for taking my little survey last time. I thought for sure most of you would have signed up for the newsletter because you attended a lecture. That accounted for 25% of sign-ups.  A squeak more than 30% just found me on the Internet. Almost 20% found out about the newsletter some “other” way. I’m clueless about what other ways that might have been, but I can live with the mystery.

This time I want to know how  you’re reading this newsletter. (I am SO nosy!)


My hobby is diving down rabbit holes. I get an idea and I’m off! Most of the time it’s a wild goose chase. But, from time to time my harebrained ideas pay off like the PowerWrapper, Sticky Template Plastic, or the Quilters Portable Workstation. The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative (only 38 days to get your quilts in) had to have been the best idea I’ve ever had, and it sounded pretty crazy when I first came up with it.

Ever optimistic, I dove in again. My latest great idea? Making paracord bracelets out of, wait for it….dyed clothesline! Brilliant!

del paracord braceletIf you’re not familiar with paracord bracelets, here’s one  Chris Stewart made for me during a workshop lunch break. Paracord is used in parachutes, and should you ever need 12 feet of really strong cord (possibly to tow your car out of the mud or lower yourself out of a burning building) all you have to do is un-knot your bracelet. (This would take about an hour and a half.)

Naturally, hip deep in dyed clothesline, I hopped on the Internet and learned how to make one!

del bracClunky doesn’t even come close to describing this particular fiasco.  Although there was some satisfaction in learning how to tie the “lanyard” knot for the closure and how to make  the “cobra stitch” for the rest of it, the resulting bracelet was not at all what I had in mind.  It felt kind of like the time I bought 13 yards of orange fabric for a quilt, used it all, and was surprised that the quilt was so….ORANGE!

So what’s the point here? Don’t stop having great ideas. Celebrate when they work out, and move on when they don’t. (I still have one more idea on the bracelet thing.)  Don’t cheat yourself out of the thrill of what “could be.”  Percolating on the clothesline bracelet was great fun. Bracelets, quilts, it’s all the same. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and try something new.

Do you have any questions for me? Anything at all. Quilt related or not. Now’s your time to ask. (Well, actually, you can always ask. I’m just trying to encourage you.) Pop your questions in a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated and I’m hitting the road at 0’dark:30 tomorrow morning so I might not be able to respond right away.

Thanks for reading this, on whatever device you are staring at! (I’m staring right back at you!)
Ami Simms

June 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm 92 comments

More Pentagons, More Balls, & Life Inside a Snow Globe

Blueberry PentagonMORE PENTAGONS!
I found another pentagon! Next time you enjoy a handful of blueberries, see how many pentagons you can find. Hint: they’re hidden in the five-pointed star. They’re not all this perfectly formed. I kind of feel badly that I ate it.

Thank you for the wonderful comments after my last post.  So many of you wrote in and shared that you had been making them for years. I haven’t seen any pictures yet (hint, hint) but when I do I’ll add them to the original mention.

If you enjoyed my “Have A Ball!” pattern and want more patchwork balls,  there are quite a few books you might want to add to your “round and rolling” library.   

  Several of you mentioned Jinny Beyer’s Patchwork Puzzle Balls.

  There’s also Japanese Kimekomi: Fast, Fun, and Fabulous Fabric Handballs! by Barbara B. Suess

  And Temari Techniques: A Visual Guide to Making Japanese Embroidered Thread Balls.

And here I thought Scooter was ball crazy!

I’m looking forward to three Fabric BOWL-ing workshops this summer (one in Wisconsin and two in Texas) so I’ve been dyeing up a storm. The last few sessions I felt like I was inside a snow globe! The cottonwood trees let loose their seeds and the air was thick with white fuzz.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cottonwood tree, wouldn’t know one if it bit me, but the summer snow is coming from somewhere! The wet clotheslines were like magnets.  Since I’m not keen on picking off hundreds of them one by one, I’ve been working on a little machine that might do the trick. More on that next time.

I’m just curious.  It’s hard to know how people find my newsletter. I’m guessing that you attended a lecture or took a workshop. Am I right?  If you wouldn’t mind taking a quick poll, I’d appreciate it.

Comments are always appreciated in the comment section too.

Thanks for the “likes” on my FaceBook “Fan Page!” In celebration of an additional 200+ friends I didn’t know I had, I just changed my “cover” photo. (I think it’s been a whole year since I last did that!)  I’ll be FaceBooking photos from St Louis in the next few days.

Scooter has asked that I suggest you like him too at

Thanks for joining me today,

Ami Simms

June 13, 2013 at 6:29 am 80 comments

June Newsletter (5-cornered pizza, a new pattern, and lots more)

Welcome to the June newsletter!

It’s been a busy couple of days around here. On Wednesday my car was held hostage in the garage. The garage door would only go up about two feet. Even I know that’s not enough clearance to get the car out. Had that fixed.

On Thursday the new faucet for the kitchen sink finally came. The old one decided the sink on the left didn’t need water any more. It was so corroded the plumber had to take the entire sink out, turn it upside-down, and saw off the old faucet. Major mess.

This afternoon the sewer backed up. Let me clarify: I did not move backwards, the other sewer (same spelling) that lives in the basement stopped draining and didn’t tell us. Water everywhere. Nasty water. Late this afternoon the sewer was “snaked” and everything is flowing nicely. Newsletter first; cleaning the basement second. (Buy stock in Clorox, I’m just saying…) Moving on…


Electric-Pizza- CROPPEDWhen Debbie (my trusted assistant and order-filler) and I want to splurge for lunch we order pizza slices from Ruggero’s, one of our local Italian restaurants. Their pizza is rectangular, deep dish, and delicious. My quilted pizza hardly does it justice, although it is much higher in fiber. Ruggero’s makes their pizza in a huge pan and the corners are the best. Well, for me, they’re “the only.” I am a corner snob. Crust rules. When we order we beg for corners.

pentagon pizzaPersonally, I think Ruggero’s should give up the large rectangle with only four corners and go for small, square, individually sized pizzas with just four pieces so every slice is a corner. Better yet, they should make a five-cornered pizza so I could get even more corners! Oh yeah! Bake it in the shape of a pentagon like this PhotoShopped version only with real pepperoni!

As I pondered the mathematical possibilities, taking the area inside the crust and the area of crust itself and dividing by pie (pizza pie, obviously), my mind wandered…


Have a (fabric) ball!Speaking of 5-cornered thins, did you know that if you sew pentagons together they make a ball? Have you ever made a fabric ball out of pentagons? Me neither!

So I tried it! What fun! I had to think for a bit on the best way to join the patches. And (how about this for a coincidence?!) I thought of FIVE different ways to stitch them together!

Can you guess what they are? (Hint: none of the ways involve duct tape or baling wire.)

  1. English Paper Piecing – fold seam allowance over thick paper, baste, and join with a whip stitch
  2. Traditional Hand Piecing – a running stitch on marked lines, then trim seam allowance to 1/4″
  3. Non-Traditional Hand piecing – rotary cut the shape and eyeball the 1/4″ seam allowance from the raw edge
  4. Machine Piecing – rotary cut and machine stitch 1/4″ from the raw edge
  5. Invisible Applique – my very own running stitch done “inside-out!”

Have A BALL!I’ve been playing with balls all week. They’d be great for babies and dogs to chew on (make two: one for baby, one for dog). Young kids can throw them around the house like Nerf balls; they’re too lightweight to do much damage. Teenagers can use them to shoot hoops indoors instead of using wadded up dirty socks. You could learn how to juggle!

Want to make some? I just happen to have a pattern! No kidding! It’s called “Have a BALL!” and it has full-sized pattern pieces for small, medium, and large size balls; assembly diagrams and photographs; plus tips for all five construction methods. Sew by hand or machine. Pick your favorite technique. Learn a new one!

The pattern is $ .01 when you buy three sheets of my newly invented Sticky Template Plastic , since you’d want to use some for all the techniques except for English paper piecing. Already have some Sticky Template Plastic? Get it for just $2.99 when you order anything else from Seriously, you already have everything you could ever want except my “Have a Ball!” pattern? Five bucks (no shipping) emailed right to you as soon as Debbie finishes her pizza. Order HERE.


Remember this Scooter video that went viral last year? (I know there’s an advertisement at the beginning, but Scooter gets a half a cent every time it plays. So far he’s earned $37.)

Well, the video is going to be on TV! No kidding. The air date for the episode that is “likely” to include Scooter’s video is Saturday June 15th. The show is called “America’s Cutest Pets” and it is an Animal Planet show, somehow in conjunction with the Discovery Channel. That’s all the information I have. Can anybody help me find out how to watch the show in Flint, Michigan (time/channel)? We have Comcast. Thanks from both me and Scooter.


I’m less than 10 friends away from having 3,000 “LIKES” on my FaceBook page. If you haven’t “liked” me yet, please head over to and hit the LIKE button. (Or, look on the right sidebar of this blog and scroll up.)


The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiatives June quilt auction is underway. There are 27 awesome quilts you can bid on now through the 10th. All profits fund Alzheimer’s research. Please tell your friends.


Tell me what you think, ask a question, or just share. This is your newsletter too. Now that we’re on the blog, it’s so much easier. If you came to the blog because I sent you an email with a link to the June newsletter, you are reading the newsletter “on” the blog and there are places for you to click to reply or comment. (You’ll know you’re on the blog because you’ll be able to see the new banner of Twisted Sisters blocks across the top, and the dyed clothesline in the “background” on either side of the text.) You’ll also be able to find the SHARE button which makes it that much easier to invite your friends to read my newsletters too. (Thank you!)

If you get an email from Google, WordPress, Feed Burner (or another RSS feed) you’ll see the entire text of the blog in your email. (It’s not formatted as nicely as it is on the blog.) Please click the title of the blog which is right at the top of the email and go to the blog to comment. Please don’t hit reply as your comment only goes to me.


Comments are moderated before they appear. I won’t be my speedy self tomorrow as I have to clean up the sewer mess. Mine and the one in the basement.

See you next time,

Ami Simms

Jane Babb

Jane Babb

Jane Babb shared this photo of one of her pentagon baby balls. She’s been making them for the past 38 years! Thanks, Jane!

June 2, 2013 at 1:26 am 83 comments

Ami Simms

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