This is all pretty new and exciting – I just have to share. Last night I attended a reception and received a couple awards.
The Red River Exhibition had one prize for one year only under the category – what Canada Means to Me, in celebration of Canada’s 150th. It was the category I thought there might be a chance of winning. The stipulation was that the quilt had to have a maple leaf on the front. How much competition could there possibly be? The prize I did not expect was 3rd in the Self-Guided category. This is the first time I have seen a quilt of mine hanging in a display. It was special.
Moving on, today I want to talk about rulers. Not rulers for cutting, but rulers for quilting. Long Armers have kept ruler quilting somewhat of a secret, but in the last few years Ruler Quilting on domestic machines has gained popularity. I have 7. Six came together in a starter kit, and I recently added another one.
Why use rulers? Let’s start a list:
- Rulers will improve your Free Motion Quilting (FMQ). Don’t get me wrong. You have to be comfortable with FMQ to start with, but whatever your skill level is with FMQ, rulers will improve the result. Consider this example – if you write your signature in pencil because you want to get it perfect, and then go back over it in ink, the chances are that you will not be able to perfectly follow the pencil lines. Quilting is the same. After marking the pattern in chalk, ink or pencil very few achieve the perfection they would like when they retrace the lines with thread. Rulers, on the other hand, guide your stitching so that your lines are straighter and your curves smoother.
- You will save time. Instead of marking the whole quilt, you just need a few dots and dashes. Don’t call us lazy. Call us efficient..
- You will not have to worry about all the quilting lines that eventually need to be removed when you are done. I am one of those people who hate marking up their quilts. I have seen pencil marks on quilts decades later. I have seen chalk stains that did not come out, heard about marks that reappeared in the cold, and acid lines that disintegrated the fibers of the quilt. As far as I am considered, the fewer lines, the better.
- You can be more creative with rulers. Most stencils will only give you one pattern but one ruler can give you many different options. It’s also easier to ‘stretch’ or ‘contract’ a border.
- They are fun, fun, fun! At the beginning it feels like you have a third arm that you don’t quite know what to do with, but stick with it. In no time, your ‘to-be-quilted’ pile will shrink, and you might be making quilt tops just so that you have something to quilt!
But, let’s face it. It’s a confusing ruler world out there. Everyone is selling rulers. What to buy? There are so many different sizes, shapes, thicknesses.
First consideration – your rulers have to be compatible with your machine, so find out what kind will work best with the machine you use for FMQ. If it is a high shank machine you can use thicker rulers, if it is a low shank you will need thin rulers. Your throat size also makes a difference. Some of the rulers I have are too big to use comfortably. They keep bumping against the sides of my machine and I have to keep readjusting them. That is why I added a small straight ruler to my collection. However, it has handles which will work on my high shank machine, but will not work as well on my low shank machine because there is not much clearance between the handles and the threading elements of the machines. It sounds complicated but once you know what kind of machine you have, you will not feel so overwhelmed with the options.
You will also need a ruler foot. I was told I did not need a ruler foot as long as I used rulers that were at least 3/8″ thick. It did work – kind of. But it is so much easier with a ruler foot and I have added one to my collection.
The next important element is shape. Manufactures and shop owners would love to sell you a ruler for each shape, but you do not need them all. A few select ones are all you need. If you are thinking about buying rulers and don’t know where to start, I hope you will stick with me. Over the summer I want to make samples to show you many different patterns that you can make with just one ruler. It might help you decide which ones you like or don’t like.