Posts filed under ‘Quilting Tips’

Piecing Sticky Template Plastic

Carol's Bear Family

Baby Bear from Carol’s Zoo

Piecing Sticky Template Plastic couldn’t be easier. And that’s great because once you use Sticky Template Plastic for small shapes, you’re going to want to use it on large shapes too.

I just finished making Carol Cruise’s Baby Bear ( and thought I’d show you how to piece Sticky Template Plastic for the larger Mama Bear pattern, with Carol’s permission, of course.

Step 1:  Iron the paper pattern on low heat. You will still be able to see and feel the fold lines because Carol uses sturdy paper for her patterns but it’s important to iron the creases out and make the paper FLAT.

02Step 2:  See how many sheets of Sticky Template Plastic you need. It looks like I can do this pattern with 3 sheets and a small piece leftover Sticky Template Plastic from another project. I want to make sure I cover every bit of the design.

Click the images to see them larger.

03Step 3:  For small shapes the release paper is removed and the Sticky Template Plastic is placed sticky side up on a flat surface. For larger shapes and multiple pieces of Sticky Template Plastic, the pattern is on the flat surface, right side up.

Peel the release paper off the first sheet of Sticky Template Plastic and place it on the pattern. Make sure you know exactly where it needs to go before you lower it onto the paper pattern. ( Line it up by looking at the top and the left side of the pattern.)

04Step 4:  Remove the release paper from the next sheet of Sticky Template Plastic. Hold it at an angle against the edge of the piece already in place with just the edge touching, not the sticky surface. Make sure the edges align at the sides as well. Then, lower the rest of the second sheet onto the pattern.

05Step 5:  Peel and stick the next sheet of Sticky Template Plastic, holding it an an angle against the edge of the sheets already stuck to the pattern.  Lower it to the pattern.


06Step 6:  Here’s my scrap piece of Sticky Template Plastic. It was a “corner” so I knew it was a perfect right angle with two straight sides. If it wasn’t a corner I would have made sure that the left side, the side touching the previously placed sheet of Sticky Template Plastic, was perfectly straight. Notice that I dropped it down a little. Because there was space between the back and the front pattern pieces, no sense wasting the Sticky Template Plastic. I also had slid a corner of the release paper underneath as I placed the sheet in Step 5, again so as to have some leftovers for other projects. You can see the release paper way over on the right.

07Step 7:  To keep the entire template (composed of several pieces of Sticky Template Plastic) rigid, cut scraps of Stitch Template Plastic about 1/2″ wide and stick them over the “seam.” They don’t need to cover the entire seam. (The other lines you see in the image are fold lines. Those are secure under the Sticky Template Plastic.)  The joins won’t interfere with the performance of the template in any way, in fact they may help when templates are flipped over to cut the reverse shape (for the other side of the bear) because they will keep the slippery side of the plastic from sliding on the fabric. If you want the template to fold (so you can store it more easily) skip this step. Just know that over time the original paper pattern will tear at the fold. And, the more pieces of Sticky Template Plastic you use, the more difficult it will be to fold.

08Step 8:  Now all I have to do is cut out the pattern pieces!


 Sticky Template Plastic isn’t available in stores yet, but you can order it directly from me


Thanks for stopping by,
Ami Simms


April 17, 2014 at 9:23 am 10 comments

True Confessions

My nephew Mason is getting his quilt. Soon. Really soon.

The first three nephews got their quilts before they could sit up. Mason’s already in school. Poor kid.

It wasn’t bad enough that I conned his non-quilting mother into making the top. It’s been years (plural) since our little project together began and the quilt still isn’t done!  (But hey, my sister-in-law learned how to quilt! That’s got to count for something, right?)

Students in my String Quilting class on Friday (Saginaw, Michigan) will see the quilt before Mason does, because I did a few things differently that they might want to try. More on that in a future blog. Stay tuned, as they say.

But that’s not why I’m blogging about Mason’s quilt. I also wanted to “confess” that I often put the binding on before I’ve finished all of the quilting. I can hear the gasps.

Before you pass judgement, know that I hand-baste my top/batting/back and the layers are pretty well nailed. I can start quilting wherever I want; nothing is going to slide around. 

I usually start quilting on the outside edges of my quilts. I can drive onto the quilt and drive off again into the exposed batting, eliminating any need to knot stitches. After the outside edges are quilted I put on the binding. That means I can cut off all the excess batting/backing NOW, making my quilt smaller by at least 2 inches on all sides. That makes it at least a little easier to get it  into the armpit of my machine. See, I’m not so dumb after all…

That’s all I’m confessing for now, except that although my quilt has lots of hills and valleys, there’s no batting in it. WHAT?!!
I guess you’ll have to read the next blog…

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February 14, 2011 at 8:17 am 8 comments

I Can See Clearly Now

It was a Big Day around the Simms household yesterday. I changed the shower curtain. Yes indeed, a time for celebration.

I finally broke out the clear plastic shower curtain liner I picked up at Ikea and up she went. Naturally that inspired me to crawl inside the shower and make a video.

I thought it would be kind of fun to share how I hung my quilt as a shower curtain by making a tab of fabric with a strip of  grippy (“hook”) Velcro stitched to it. I sewed small lengths of soft (“loop”) Velcro to the back of the quilt. I made these segments small (about 2″ long), rather than of one long continuous strip, so the quilt would drape better.

Now with the clear plastic shower curtain liner I can enjoy the back of my quilt from inside the shower. My life was somehow lacking without that opportunity. I just have to remember to shower with my glasses on!

I think everybody should have a quilted shower curtain. It’s a great conversation starter, and so entertaining for guests who visit your home.

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February 10, 2011 at 7:34 am 41 comments

What Traveling Quilt Teachers Do

These pictures are from my lecture “Living With Quilts: A Survival Guide.” It’s a presentation that examines how quilters are sometimes “different” from other folks, and shares coping strategies for your family. It’s all in good fun, because no matter what you’re learning about, humor always makes it more enjoyable, and more memorable.

The mission of most quilt guilds is learning new skills and turning other people on to the wonderful world of quilting. This can be done informally, just sitting down and sharing what you know. Or, it could be in the form of a workshop or lecture presented by a guild member or a professional teacher.

If you are in charge of programs, here are my top five tips for providing a great learning experience for your group:

  1. Make sure the classes/lectures you offer are of interest to your members. If you’re the only one who likes applique, better bring in someone who pieces.
  2. Nail down all the details in writing well in advance so you can promote it properly, both to your guild and your community. Decide on specific workshops or lectures at least 4 months in advance.
  3. Bring more quilters to the fold by encouraging local media (newspapers, radio stations) to write about your upcoming event.  Best way to encourage that is a face-to-face encounter with a quilt (any quilt) under your arm.
  4. Piggy-back with nearby guilds and shops to cut travel and lodging costs. Groups just outside your regular stomping ground are best, so you don’t dilute the pool of workshop-takers for either group.
  5. “Sell”  the program AND the speaker. Your enthusiasm about a speaker is probably the best motivation for your membership to take advantage of the programs you bring in.  Remember the basics: who, what, when, where, and why!   (Repeat, repeat, repeat!)

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September 20, 2010 at 4:12 am 5 comments

In Honor of Mark

I lost a good friend about two months ago. We met 35 years ago in Italy and remained friends ever since. By happy coincidence my teaching jobs occasionally took me places near where Mark lived and we got a chance to catch up on each other’s lives more often than we could have otherwise.

I couldn’t make it to Mark’s funeral and his Memorial Service was this past Saturday on the other side of the country. So I sent a quilt.

I had asked Mark’s mom if I could have some of his shirts. Six boxes arrived, thanks to one of Mark’s friends! The T-shirts will have to wait for another time, but I took apart the others and cut out the pockets from each one. Working without a pattern, I sewed them together in strips, appliquing the plackets over some seams, and also using them to bridge gaps needed to grow rows when they were too short. (Hint: 1/4″ Steam-A-Seam tape is great for this. Fuse it to the back of the placket, then to the patches and top stitch.)

I wanted to use the pockets for visual interest and because pockets are positive. They hold things that are important. Even empty, they hold promise that something important will come along. In this case, I hope they will hold memories for Mark’s family.

I stitched the rows together and appliqued more plackets over top.  The plackets were really an excuse to use the buttons. I wanted to touch the buttons Mark touched. They also offered closure, both literally and figuratively.

I cut the left and right plackets off each shirt and buttoned them together so I could be sure to sew the buttons back onto the appropriate buttonholes later. (Again, buttons on buttonholes are more interesting than just buttons. Blue painters’ tape kept the button in position until I sewed it on the quilt top.

If the thread used to sew on the button originally was anything other than white, I wrote the color thread to use on the tape.

The tape helped me reposition the bottom and hold it in place while I sewed. Took me quite a few buttons to figure out a system as I was using a #20 applique foot, probably not made for sewing on buttons. Bernina makes a foot for sewing buttons on, and I know I have one; I just couldn’t find it!

After more than 180 buttons, I got pretty good at it.

I set the stitch to zigzag, dropped the feed dogs, lined up the button holes as best I could and manually guided the needle down the first hole by rotating the handwheel. A Bernina “heel tap” brought the needle back up again and I repeated the alignment process for the second hole (Sometimes the stitch width needed adjusting; not all buttons are the same size.)  If I made it in and out of the two holes without incident, I hit the gas. I never did break a needle.

Rotate and stitcht the other wayThen I peeled off the tape, rotated the quilt top the other way and zigzagged some more. At the end of the process, I threaded the top tails into a magic needle, drew them to the back and tied all four threads into a big knot, and clipped the tails. They would be hidden inside the quilt. Except for the buttons I forgot. Those were sewn after the quilt was quilted.

I used shirt backs for the backing and rented time on a long arm machine, making up the quilting as I went along. 

I made a tissue holder for each pocket, also out of parts of Mark’s shirts.  The quilt was displayed at the Memorial Service. People attending were invited to take a tissue holder made from Mark’s shirts with them. If they chose they could write a memory of Mark on a piece of paper and put it in one of the pockets on the quilt and I understand they did just that.  Here’s a “free pattern” for the tissue holders. Notice the quotation marks.

I have ideas for more quilts from Mark’s shirts; I have a lot of leftovers! Some will be wilder than this one, but I have a few traditional quilts in mind too.

It has been a great honor to make this quilt for Mark’s family. I hope the pieces bring them peace.

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July 31, 2010 at 6:38 am 78 comments

Redneck Tape Measure

Redneck Tape MeasureMy friend and fellow quilting instructor Kathy Kansier showed me her “Redneck Tape Measure” when we recently taught at the same quilting conference this summer.

Apologies to Jeff Foxworthy.

She takes a few inches of 1/4″-wide masking tape and wraps it around the thumb of her dominant hand.  Instant measuring tool and literally stuck to you so you can’t misplace it.

As you pick up a piece of fabric to confirm a 1/4″ seam allowance you no longer have to hunt for a ruler or measuring tape. Just line it up with your thumb!Pinch and measure!

Is this not the slickest trick!? Just pinch and go!

Kathy Kansier is a quilting instructor from Ozark, Missouri.

Thanks, Kathy!

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October 30, 2009 at 12:16 am 16 comments

Ami Simms

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