Michigan Guest Bloggers: Ami Simms


MichiganI’ve known Ami since the late 70’s/ early 80’s when our kids played under our quilt frames together.  Together, we planned and put on the quilt shows at Genesee Valley Mall in Flint, Michigan called “Quilting: A Piece in Time.”  That was in the early 1980’s.  If you’re a quilter, you know her name, and know that she’s accomplished so much more since then!


I live in Flint, Michigan and although the economy hasn’t turned around yet, the temperature was a nasty 13 degrees today, and the sun may not shine until June, I’m glad I live in Michigan. We’re the only ones who can stick Michiganhandout our very own personal mitten and point to where we live. Try THAT, you people in other states!

[Behind Ami’s hand is her “Flint Quilt,” a photo-transfer montage of people and places around Flint, MI.]

Yes, I drew on my hand. And if any Yoopers in the Upper Peninsula are whining because I didn’t ink up my other hand and show you were Sualt Ste. Marie, Marquette, Escanaba, and the Kewenaw Peninsula are that’s because not only did I draw on my own hand but I photographed it too. I had to leave one hand for the camera. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it, eh?

(Yes, the U.P. has actually been left off maps before, or shown as part of Wisconsin! I even saw a map where labeled it Illinois!)

Interestingly enough although there is a lot of Canada above Michigan, yet when we drive to Windsor, Ontario (Canada) we drive SOUTH. Detroit is actually NORTH of Canada. The things you can learn on a blog.

Now that you’ve had your mini geography lesson I’m going to go back over to my easy chair, turn on the TV, crank up the foot rest, crawl under the electric blanket, and finish stitching down the binding on this quilt.


Ami Simms

Flint, Michigan

Come over to my blog to see the rest of this quilt. By time you get over there I’ll have it all done!

Quilting: Spoolin’ Around with Thread Colors

 DSC03285 Whether you are a new or seasoned quilter, choosing fabrics for a quilt is a blast. There are so many colors and patterns to choose from – hand dyed fabrics, stripes, polka dots, solids, blenders, Civil War and thirties fabrics, calico and funky modern and on and on. You can spend literally dozens of hours and many more dollars choosing just the right thing. But when it comes to choosing thread, we tend to use whatever we have on hand or buy basic white or black. Remember, it’s the little things that count!
Let’s talk thread.

Dsc03622 When doing applique’, it is always best to match the color of the thread to the fabric you are sewing. If you are sewing a yellow flower, your thread should be a matching shade of yellow. However, you might be using your machine for machine applique and choose a clear (transparent) thread. The benefit of this is that you can use the same thread no matter what color you are sewing. If you use a clear thread, put a pale grey thread in your bobbin so it won’t show on the top. Another option is to applique’ with a decorative buttonhole stitch. In that case, you WANT your thread to show, so you should choose a black or contrasting thread for machine or hand stitching. Even an embroidery floss or pearl cotton is acceptable for this method!

DSC02723For piecing, again it is best to match the color of your thread to your fabric. But what if you are making a scrap quilt? With many different fabrics and colors to work with, it can be difficult to decide what color you need. I normally piece with a neutral color: beige, darker tan or grey. Or, if it is a scrappy quilt all in green fabrics, I will select one soft green to use throughout the quilt. By “soft green” I mean a green that isn’t likely to jump out at me when the quilt is completed. It should blend in wherever it is seen, like a moss green (not a bright lime green).

DSC02109 When it comes to the actual quilting (hand or machine), the choice of color is a matter of preference. Older traditional quilts usually were quilted with white or black thread. Now we have so many solids and variegated thread choices that the rules for quilting thread have all been tossed in the basket. If you prefer a traditional look, white and black are still good choices. If you’re a more contemporary quilter, you’re safe going with a contrasting thread or something variegated. It’s your choice!

DSC03280 How should I store my thread? Don’t follow the old wives tale that says keep it in your freezer. That’s not necessary. As long as you keep it out of the sun in a clean, dust-free space, you will be fine. A clear plastic storage box with a lid is an easy solution that allows you to DSC03290spot the thread that you have yet keep it clean. I keep small spools of thread for applique in a zippered bag with a clear vinyl window. It’s easily portable and tucks away in a tote  bag quite easily.

If you’re a thread-a-holic like me, you’re always on the hunt for more glorious threads. Go ahead, enjoy yourself! Every thread has a purpose, and you can never have too much.

Happy Stitching!

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Michigan Quilt Bloggers: Kelly Smith

 Michigan Kelly Smith, from Coloma, Michigan, is quite a prolific writer.  She’s written for magazines, online, and is working on a novel.  She’s also a teacher with some great tips!



Ten things to remember when teaching a quilting class

I recently signed up to teach a beginner’s quilting class at The Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph, MI. I wrote up my instructions and decided to have a friend be my guinea pig and test them out. My friend is an experienced quilter and didn’t need some of the nitty-gritty step-by-step instructions. Still, we did not accomplish as much as I thought we would.

KellyAppliqueFlowerThat experience led me to modify my approach somewhat. I hope these tips are helpful to you next time you teach someone to quilt, or to make a new quilting pattern they haven’t tried before.


1. Allow plenty of time.

If you can complete the task in five minutes, allow fifteen for a beginner. If you have a large class it can take time for the new quilters to catch up to the others and you want to make sure everyone has learned one task before moving on to the next.

2. Provide detailed instructions, even for common tasks.

Your students may not know how to do many common quilting tasks. For example, when I wrote my first set of instructions, I said, “Make 8 half-square triangles.” Upon review I realized that a new quilter would have no idea how to do that. So I had to write instructions for it and include those in the class notes.

3. Use correct terminology, but go easy on the jargon.

Like every hobby, quilting has its own language. There are many words and phrases that you just don’t use much (or at all) in everyday life if you are not a quilter. Fat quarter, rotary cutter, scant quarter inch – these are all mysterious words to the non-quilter or new quilter. When you use them, make sure to explain them.

4. Have a sample of each step in the process.

Of course you’ll have a sample of the finished product, whether that is a specific pattern, or a quilted item made using the technique you’re teaching, but you also want to make samples of each step along the way. For example, if you’re teaching how to do fusible appliqué, have some shapes traced onto the fusible, some pressed to the back of the fabric, and some fused onto the background fabric. You might also want some that have already been stitched down.

5. Pack everything you could possibly need.

As I prepared for my class I kept thinking of additional tools I could bring that would help my students work more efficiently or more precisely. Some things I don’t normally pack, but which I thought would be helpful were: a ruby beholder for demonstrating value and a Teflon pressing sheet for the fusible appliqué. New students probably will not own these things, but you can suggest them and if they decide to continue quilting, they might want to invest in them.

6. Allow for student questions and feedback during and after the class.

Allow enough time during each segment of the class for people to ask questions. Give the students leeway to ask anything. If they are new to quilting remind them that there are no quilt police and there is no such thing as a stupid question. As for feedback, encourage students to rate you (either in person or anonymously) so that you can improve as a teacher.

7. Suggest alternatives.

Mistakes happen, and it’s not the end of the world. Often a “mistake” in quilting can be resolved in a way that makes the finished product even better. For example, my friend somehow managed to sew a pucker into the center of a sunflower she was appliquéing. Instead of taking it apart (which is always demoralizing!), I suggested she stuff the flower center so the little pleat would look intentional as the flower center puffed up. She liked that idea and it worked well.

8. Encourage students to experiment.

Sometimes new quilters are scared to explore and experiment. They’re afraid they’ll pick the “wrong” fabric or their color choices won’t be “correct”. Remind them that quilting is art and art has no rules. If they want to make a quilt that incorporates fuchsia and bright orange, tell them to go for it! (I’ve done exactly that, and the naysayers in the class had to admit when it was done that it looked very nice.)

9. Be patient and cheer them on.

Patience is a requirement in any kind of teaching, but more so, I think, when you’re teaching an art that involves not only knowledge, but creativity. Some people have creativity beaten out of them as children, or grew up hearing and believing that they have no talent. It takes a lot for some people to open their hearts to the possibility that they could create something that is not only useful, but also beautiful. Encourage them and cheer them on, even for small victories. (A perfectly straight ¼” seam is a huge victory for a new quilter!)

10. Inspire them.

In every class there will be some people with a bit more experience or who catch on more quickly. There will be people who want to move beyond the basics and go their own way. Do your best to inspire these people by showing them more advanced patterns or techniques they could try, or allowing them to make a small sample where they experiment with techniques. Knowing that there is someone nearby to ask questions of can embolden some students and before you know it, they’re off doing their own thing and creating beautiful art.

Kelly Bio:

Kelly Smith is the author of Open Your Heart with Quilting: Mastering Life Through Love of the Patches (Dreamtime Publishing 2008).

She also writes about quilting for Examiner.com, and was published in Quilter’s Home magazine’s November 2008 issue. You can read her blog at http://www.redheadedquilter.com.


Michigan Quilt Bloggers: Liz Burt

Michigan I love Mackinac Island! It’s a quaint place in Michigan that we rarely visit, but that I adore. As a former teacher, I always thought it would be fascinating to teach on the island. I was thrilled when I discovered Liz through her blog and learned that she is both a teacher and quilter!


quiltstackHi, I’m Liz and I am guest blogging today. I’m nobody special really: I’m almost 40 (insert audible gasp here), a quilter, the mother of two, a school teacher, and I’m one of the 500 people who live year-round on Mackinac Island. Cars are illegal on the island so we do everything by horse, by bike and by snowmobile. If you’re curious about my little island life, grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and read all about it here.

I said that I’m a quilter, but I haven’t quilted much lately. I discovered, as many quilters do, that not much quilting gets done once children come in to the picture. My children are now three and five, and this is the first quilt I’ve completed since they were born.

yellow brick rd1I love this quilt; it’s just so sunny and warm. My friend Maggie made one years ago with the same colors and I just loved it. She has always been my quilting inspiration because she is so prolific. (Just check out her blog and you’ll see.) I borrowed her pattern before my son was born and started collecting fat quarters. I had it all pieced and ready for the boarder when I got pregnant. (Which was wonderful news since it took us two years to conceive.) Now, here we are, six years after I started it and my Yellow Brick Road quilt is finally finished.

yellowbrickrdquiltingUsually I quilt my own quilts on my trusty Bernina, but let’s face it, I wanted this one done. So I sent it to Marsha, a wonderful machine quilter in Fowlerville, Michigan. Marsha is amazing. She’s talented, willing to help you through the quilting design process, and her rates are very reasonable. I’m just so happy with this quilt; it hasn’t left the bed since I finished sewing the binding. Now I’ve just got to find the time to finish the other quilt top that has been languishing since I became a mom. All it needs are the borders and a little of Marsha’s time and then I can enjoy that one too. Hopefully it won’t take me another six years to get it done!

March Calendar Block


The March calendar block is based on a traditional quilt pattern called “Snails Trails.” It was made using paper piecing, which is an easy way to get perfect blocks. If you haven’t done paper piecing before, this is actually a good block to begin with, as it only utilizes triangles! I was going to do a tutorial on paper piecing, but found an excellent one by Marcia Hahn at Quilter’s Cache. Why reinvent the wheel when she has done such a nice job?

The block is done in the colors of the Irish flag, in DSC03201celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. There are some great green prints out there to choose from… I loved this one which kind of resembles a four leaf clover if you scrunch your eyes up. See what you can find! I had some left over white-on-white fabric from my January block, so that worked for me.

Please don’t forget to post pictures of your blocks for the rest of us to see… and let us know where to find them!

Happy sewing!