Tips for Machine Quilting with Rulers
Using rulers to quilt on your home sewing machine can help you be consistent when it comes to quilting straight lines and other designs. Beth shares the accessories and tools you need to get started, along with tips for how to machine-quilt with rulers.
Hi, I’m Beth and this video is brought to you by Baby Lock. If you’re quilting with your home sewing machine, using rulers can help you get really consistent lines and shapes. Today, I’m sharing tips for using machine quilting rulers.
First, you’ll want a ruler foot. This foot has a higher side to guide along the edge of the ruler. There are two types of machines – high and low shank. Check to see which one your machine is before you buy a ruler foot. (If you don’t know, your sewing machine dealer can help you find out.) This Crescendo is a high shank machine, so we have the high shank foot. This foot is adjustable to account for different thicknesses of your quilt sandwich. You want the quilt to move freely under the foot so it’s helpful to place your quilt under the needle to adjust the foot to the right height.
Next, you will need some rulers. This 6 ruler set from Baby Lock is a great starter kit and comes in either high or low shank versions to match your ruler foot. High shank are ¼” thick and low shank are 3/16” thick. Though it’s possible to use high shank rulers with a low shank machine, there might be some sides of your foot you can’t use due to some of the mechanics of the machine, like the screw holding the foot on. You never want to use regular cutting acrylic rulers though, they are thinner and could slip underneath the foot and be hit by the needle, potentially breaking a needle and or your ruler!
The diameter of this ruler foot is ½” – which means the needle is always ¼” away from the edge of the ruler. This is helpful to keep in mind when you’re quilting so you’re getting the stitching where you want it.
Other accessories that can be helpful are ruler grips (Baby Lock included some in the ruler set), machine quilting gloves to help you grip the fabric and ruler, a super slide mat to add to the bed of your machine if you find your fabric isn’t moving smoothly. An extension table can help support the weight of your quilt too, If you don’t have one, it’s helpful to move your machine to maximize the amount of space on your table to support your quilt (likely the lower right hand side, that gives the most space for the quilt to be supported.) If your table is smaller (or if you just need more space for larger quilts), you can add an ironing board on one side of your table to give extra support. You want to reduce as much drag as possible when you’re quilting. You don’t want to have to fight the weight of the quilt while holding the ruler and stitching.
It’s a great idea to start with a practice quilt sandwich. A good ruler to start with is a straight line ruler and if it has another design, even better! This one is nice because it also has a curve and a diagonal line. This allows you to make several different designs while getting the feel of holding the ruler and pushing the quilt at the same time.
You want to move your hands at a steady rate with the machine. If you don’t have a stitch regulator, your stitch length is determined by how fast or slow you’re moving your hands. If your stitches are really long, you’re moving your hands too fast and if they’re too short, you are too slow. You can use your speed control on your machine to help you too.
Grip the ruler and push down on it to hold it in place while pushing the quilt. And you always want to be in control of your quilt so reposition your hands and ruler often. You don’t want to get to a point where your hands are too far away from the needle, that’s when you’re going to get ruler slips and bobbles. Try using the ruler in both hands and on different sides of the foot to see what feels the most comfortable for you. And the advantage about quilting on a sewing machine is that you can turn your quilt to go in the direction you’d like if you get to a spot where you’re backed into a corner or would be pushing in a way that feels uncomfortable.
If you’re stitching in the ditch or following a line on our quilt – remember the stitching will be ¼” away from the edge of the ruler due to the foot. So these notches help you line up where the stitching will be. And take note of the registration marks on the ruler, these can help you with echoing and making parallel designs.
And the biggest thing is just practice! It takes time to get used to the motions of moving your quilt, ruler, and hands in time with the machine. Don’t worry about mistakes when you’re first starting! I always think they look so noticeable when I’m looking at a small section, but once you look at the overall quilt, they seem to blend in so much more.
Quilting with rulers is a great way to get started quilting on your sewing machine! They act as training wheels for your quilting and ensure you get consistent shapes and designs. Just make sure you have all the right tools and equipment for your machine before you start and have fun quilting with rulers!