Back to the Beginning

From inside the buggy.

My quilting career began almost 40 years ago in an Amish home in  northern Indiana. I thought the women gathered around the quilting frame in the living room were sewing on a trampoline. I was clueless. They asked me if I wanted to quilt too. Of course I said yes. I wanted them to like me. I figured if they liked me they would invite me to come live with them and then I could learn about Amish culture by participating in it. And then I could write a really long paper with lots of footnotes and graduate from college.

They asked if I wanted a thimble. I declined. They giggled. I bled. Not only did I jab my finger on the underside of the quilt with the point of the needle, but I rammed the eye of the needle into the top finger too—the one that should have been wearing  the thimble.

I made huge ugly stitches but I didn’t give up.  They assumed I could sew. I didn’t tell them that my sewing was limited to the apron I butchered in Home Eck, and the Superman outfit (complete with cape and tail cozy) that I had sewed for our cat. Years later, my Amish friend told me they ripped out all my stitches after I left. I don’t know what they did about the blood.

As luck would have it, my Amish friend invited me home for dinner after the quilting. She probably thought if I was as good a cook as I was a quilter I would starve to death without intervention. That day changed my life. There’s just no other way to put it. I began visiting the family, staying a few days at a time, and have been blessed with a friendship that not only enriched my life, but nurtured a passion for quilting. I did get better at quilting. It would have been hard to get any worse.  I never got very good at milking or driving the buggy. In fact, when my friend Ida let me take over the buggy reins (above), the horse knew a total amateur was at the helm. Joe (the horse) turned around, looked me in the eye, and then marched off the side of the road!

del_Shipshewana_logoI’ll be going back to Amishland again at the end of June. This time I’ll be teaching for the Shipshewana Quilt Festival. I hope you can come. I’ll be giving two lectures, a workshop, several Schoolhouse lessons, in-store demonstrations, and I’ll be part of a panel discussion too.  Come! You will feel right at home. See the quilt show, visit the vendor mall, check out the local quilt shops, and events. Don’t forget to come by and say “Hi.”

For more information and registration information, click here.

Don’t forget to bring your thimble,

Ami Simms



14 thoughts on “Back to the Beginning

  1. You not only learned to quilt, but became one of the awesomest appliquers on the planet! A great story. They probably won’t rip out your stitches now.


  2. Ami
    What a beautiful story! How very fortunate you’ve been and still are to have a wonderful friendship with your Amish friends. I’ll never forget my first time in Lascaster Pa. it was like a new and beautiful world to me. I do have a great respect for them and to this day I love their quilts so much!
    Thank you for sharing this with us
    Jeannette (now living in Pa from N.Y. originally)


  3. Ami, your posts always make me smile. For that I thank you. I also wanted to thank you again for all your suggestions, and support, that you offered when I found out my dad had Alzheimer’s. Your kindness, phone call and support really meant a lot to our family. Because of you, we were able to provide my dad with many more years than he probably would have had if he had been on his own. For the past 8 years he has lived with my sister. On Memorial Day of this year, my dad went quietly in his sleep at home. If one is to have a good day to leave this earth, he couldn’t have picked a better one as he was a WW II and Korean Veteran. We have requested that friends and family make donations to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my dad.

    Thank you again for being such a wonderful lady. One of these days, I hope to meet you in person so that I can thank you properly for all you did for us.

    God bless you.

    Terri at the Drake’s Nest now in Palm Bay, FL (use to live in Ossineke, MI)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ami – Welcome back to the best place in the world – Northern Indiana Amish Country – I love it. I was born here and have lived here all my life. We love having you here. I am so glad this place holds special memories for you too.
    Carol Honderich, Goshen IN


  5. Oh I wish I could come. Timing is just off for me. I truly loved your story about the Amish. They are so special to me also. They helped me find material, pattern and inspiration to make a quilt for my brother. He had it for nearly 8 months before he lost his battle with cancer at the old age of 42. You note brought back such good memories.


  6. That’s a wonderful story! The Ship Quilt Fest is one of my bucket list shows along with Sisters. Have a great time!


  7. Just found you via Quiltmania Issue 100. What a great issue. Look forward to getting your newsletter now and reading your blog of course! You sound a fun lady!


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