Ruler Quilting 101 – Block One

Finally! The day is here and we can start to play! If you have not read my previous posts, review them for prep and set-up. This week we are making Block One of a Ruler Quilting Sampler quilt:block1

Here are the particulars:

  • RULER: straight
  • LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: 101, Beginner Ruler Quilting, some experience Free Motion Quilting (FMQ)
    • straight line, short
    • straight line, long
    • matchsticks
    • diamonds
    • wonky squares
    • meandering rectangles

Here are the 3 rulers I will be using:  straight rulers

  1. This is the 6″ Fine Line ruler by Accents In Design. It is 1/4″ thick with a ‘hook’ strip already applied on the underside.
    • Markings: it has 4 horizontal that allow for design widths of 1/4″, 1/2″, 1″ 2″ and 2 1/2″. In addition, it has vertical and diagonal lines.
    • What I like about this ruler: This is my go-to ruler for short lines. It is sturdy and easy to use. I like the finger grips and I like having the vertical and diagonal lines in the middle of the ruler.
    • Things that could be an issue: While I like the finger grips, not everyone does. It makes storage more difficult. Sometimes they break off and some have had the finger grips interfere with parts of their sewing machine especially if you have a low shank machine. Also, I am not a big fan of the hook strip. It catches on things and makes the ruler a little tippy which affects accuracy.
  2. This is a 13″ ruler by Teryl Loy Enterprises. Mine is 1/4″ thick; it also comes 3/8″
    • Markings: It has 14 horizontal lines the length of the ruler; half of the lines are 1/8″ apart and the other half are 1/4″ apart. It also has 2 vertical line at one end of the ruler and two diagonal lines (45 and 60 degrees) at the other.
    • What I like about this ruler: I love all the reference line and this is the only ruler of the 3 that has lines spaced 1/8″ apart. Also, I love that it is 13″ long. Most blocks are 12″ so this ruler gives you that nice long straight line across the whole block – less chance of your lines going astray. This is my go-to ruler when I stitch in the ditch or have other long lines.
    • Things that could be an issue: I wish the vertical and diagonal lines were in the middle of the ruler instead of at the end and that the diagonal lines were mirrored in both direction. If your machine doesn’t have a large throat space your ability to use the ruler going right will be limited.
  3. The Westalee (Sew Steady) starter kit contains the 12″arc/straight edge combo ruler. The ruler is 7″ long, with markings for a 6″ line. The one I have is 1/8″ thick.
    • Markings: It has three horizontal 1/4″ lines and 9 vertical lines in addition to the start and stop lines.
    • What I like about this ruler: I like all the vertical reference lines. It is easy to divide your space into half, quarters and even eights.
    • Issues: I wish it had diagonal lines and at least one 1/8″ line.

Step 1: Make some basic markings on your quilt sandwich

  • Mark your 18″ square, leaving a minimum of 1/4″ for the seam allowance on all sides (I am using a friction pen for my marks). This will be the same for all future blocks and I will always show them as lines A1, A2, A3 and A4.
  • Make 4 lines that are 3″ in from the seam allowance. This will also be the same for all future blocks and will be marked as B1, B2, B3 and B4.
  • Mark a line corner to corner from the B lines. This will be C1 and C2. L1S1

Step 2: With your ruler as a guide, stitch all B and C lines. You can do this either with the feed dogs up or down but since we are practicing FMQ with rulers, consider this as extra practice.  The point where the C lines cross is the center of your block (point D).

Tip: You can stabilize a long ruler by placing a small ruler at the end, holding the long ruler with one hand and having your thumb on the other. This picture demonstrates it. tip1c

Step 3: Make a 5 1/2″ square in the center of your block. My short ruler (#1) makes this an easy job. With a center marking and the 45 degree angles, I can match the center point of the ruler to fabric along with the C seams and simply stitch from the other side of the ruler from one C seam to the next. These are E lines.L1S3a

Step 4: Make matchstick rows between point D and the E lines going in all 4 directions. Play a little; don’t worry about matching up the matchstick rows. Vary the width between the matchsticks. Get use to the feel of the ruler. NOTE: Since this is a sampler quilt and not a show quilt, I will be travelling over existing stitching lines when the distance is not too farL1S4

Step 5: Now let’s practice a little accuracy and long lines that haven’t already been marked. Place your ruler along the B line and stitch to the inside of the 12″ square. Your lines will be the width of your ruler foot – 1/4″. Make two rows and repeat for all four sides. This is where my 13″ ruler is really handy as it covers the whole space. However, if you are using a shorter ruler, just keep moving it along the line. L1S5a

Step 6: It’s diamond time, and we need a few more marks. Divide the lines you just made into 4 equal parts, and make 3 small marks at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 spots (mine are 2 3/4″ apart). Find the center of the E lines and mark that point (also 2 3/4″ apart).

Now accuracy DOES matter. You want your needle, not your ruler to go from point to point. This brings me to the most important tip you will ever learn in ruler quilting:

Tip: Put your needle down where you want to start. Determine where you want your stitching to end and use your small ruler to measure 1/4″ from that point. Line your quilting ruler up to that point, and your stitching will be be accurate. L1S6a

Make 2 rows of stitching following the diagram.  L1S6b

Step 7: We have arrived at the border of our block. It should be 3″ x 18″ +SA on all 4 sides with the corners already defined by our stitching (3″ squares). On 2 corners opposite each other, make some 90 degree lines. Do this by placing your ruler along the B line and stitch just until the outside edge of your ruler foot touches the next B line. Put your ruler along that B line and stitch to the edge. Repeat this for as many lines as you like.

Optional: If you want to practice more straight and diagonal 1/4″ lines, mark out another 3″ on either side of the corner squares. Again, use your B lines as a guide, stitch up and down to the other B line, and then from the corner of your square to the other corner. L1S7a

Step 8: Make three more 3″ squares in the two borders that are adjacent to each other, including a corner. You will have a total of 7 squares where you can practice some wonky squares. This is best demonstrated with a paper diagram. A shows you how to start each square. B shows a complete square including backing out at the end, without tying off. C, D, & E shows the progression from one square to the next.

Use any reference line on your ruler – just be consistent. I used the 1/4″ mark. This meant all of my stitching was 1/2″ apart. Move the ruler (not your fabric) from left to back to right to front, and you will see how easy and forgiving this is. L1S8a

Step 9: The remaining space (including the other corner) is reserved for meandering rectangles. This is a good filler, and another great exercise in practicing the placement of your ruler in all 4 positions. Use the reference lines on your ruler against A and B lines to keep things square. However, you are on your own for this one! Here is a picture to get you started:


That’s it! I apologize for the length of this post but the straight line is so important I tried to get in as many designs as possible. We will be using the straight ruler in every single block.

Don’t hesitate to send me any comments you have – is something unclear? are the instructions too detailed? are the instructions not detailed enough?

Next week join me as we use the 2 1/2″ circle ruler to produce this block: block2





About Judy's Quilting Studio

Creator of all things quilted
This entry was posted in 2017, my patterns, quilt along, ruler quilting, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Ruler Quilting 101 – Block One

  1. Kathy Stephen says:

    Good job. Clear instructions. Thanks Judy

  2. Marnie says:

    Judy, I’m working with the rulers right now, and following some of your instructions. Clear and helpful!

  3. Gail B says:

    Fantastic, at last I found clear instructions with arrow so I can get started with the ruler foot & 12″ arch I just bought from Westalee for my Singer 411G slant shank machine I bought when in high school (1965) I’m very excited. Thanks very much

  4. Carol Wilcox says:

    Thank you for this. I went to a Quilting with Rulers class last weekend and had a teacher who wasn’t interested in teaching a beginner. What you have done is exactly what I was hoping to get out of the class.

  5. Merridy Robb says:

    Do you have a book of these instructions on all blocks. I find it very hard to follow on the computer as my computer is across the house from my sewing room.

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