Ready to start using rulers?

Last May I mentioned the wonderful three part series that Patsy Thompson was writing about ruler work on a domestic machine for MQU. Since then I’ve taken the plunge and am loving working with rulers on my own machine. It’s really fun!

I am in no way as expert as Patsy is, but, as a relative newcomer to this type of work would like to share a few tips that have really helped me.

  • As always, having a large flat surface to support your quilt makes the job easier.
  • Consider making a practice quilt to improve your skills.
  • A little marking can help a lot. Most rulers have a variety of marks etched on them to help guide you as you quilt, but I’ve found that especially for circular designs having additional marks to follow is very helpful.
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My first try at this design. I used the seamline as a vertical mark, and only drew one reference line, the horizontal one. As you can see my center flower is not symmetric.
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The third time is almost the charm. This time I marked the 45 degree angle as well, and my flower is not perfect, but better. I’m sure that practicing it didn’t hurt either.
  • Most of my errors have occurred when I finished a line of stitching (or a circle) and moved the ruler. It’s important to be sure that you gently snug up the ruler right to the foot to create an accurate design.
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More than one oops! is visible here. Some of the errors are due to misplacement of the ruler, the error in the coral section is due to not nestling the ruler foot up to the ruler.
  • Be sure to add some type of grippy material to the back of your rulers. Handigrip is one popular brand. Some of my Westalee rulers came with a grip that reminds me of shelf liner with adhesive on the back. Either way it helps to keep your ruler in place as you manipulate your quilt under the machine.
  • If you hold your ruler in place it’s relatively easy to backtrack over previous lines to maneuver. However, remember that if your design requires backtracking that a thinner thread that matches the color of your fabric will produce less noticeable thread buildup.
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You can see some thread buildup in the areas where I traveled from circle to circle. It’s primarily apparent because of the contrast between the thread color and the fabric colors.
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These circles are much smaller than the others in real life, nonetheless the backtracking is much less apparent since the thread and fabric colors match so closely. One unexpected benefit of the backtracking here is that I can rip out that one really apparent mistake since the circle will still be complete.
  • People who make rulers want to sell them, so most of them have great videos that demonstrate how to use rulers on a domestic machine. Just search for “domestic machine ruler work videos” , or go directly to a manufacturer’s website, and you’ll find plenty of demos.

Remember to breathe, take regular breaks, and have fun! I certainly can’t wait to keep playing with this new-to-me technique.

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