Ruler Work – Free Motion Quilting

Thank-you for attending my lecture on getting started with rulers on your domestic sewing machine. I hope that I was able to answer a few questions and inspired you to jump in!

Tips for Getting Started:

  1. An extension table that attaches to your sewing machine is a must. The ruler & your hands both need a solid flat surface to the left of the needle. The sewing machine’s bed is not wide enough.
  1. A slippery sheet to cover the bed of the sewing machine. The “Sew Slip” has a non-stick top surface which is bonded to cured silicone. The tacky back holds the “Sew Slip” to your machines surface. “SewSlip” eliminates the drag on your free-motion sewing and quilting projects. Best of all, you don’t need to tape the “SewSlip” down to have it stay where you put it.
  2. Quilting Gloves are needed to grip the ruler and the quilt
  3. Attach gripper stickers to the underside of the ruler.
  4. There are many different rulers to assist you in your free motion work. Some are curvy, wavey, straight, angled, round, oval, large and small. For anyone just getting started, I recommend the Handi Versa Tool from Handi Quilter. This ruler is a multi-purpose ruler with a different angle and curve on each of its four sides.
  5. Rulers for free motion quilting are thicker than rulers used for cutting fabric with a rotary cutter. They are ¼” thick.
  6. The free motion quilting foot for Ruler Work is also thicker/taller than a standard free motion/darning foot. This foot is a must for ruler work. Standard free motion feet are “flat” (the area of the foot through which the needle passes) a standard foot may slip under the ruler with disastrous results! Important! Due to the height (thickness) of the ruler foot, make sure to NOT put the needle down while the foot is in the up position. The needle and needle bar may crash into the foot with damaging results to the machine, foot and needle!Test test test, your machine’s limitations.
  7. The ruler foot is adjustable in height. It is important to be able to adjust the foot to the height which allows the quilt to move freely under the foot. Secondly the foot can be adjusted to the optimum height for your specific sewing machine and ruler type.
  8. Download a pdf with suggested uses of this ruler:…/HandiVersaTool-Instructions.pdf
  9. Watch this video to see a quick overview of the uses of this ruler:
  10. Free Motion Quilting and Ruler Work go hand in hand. Use ruler work to add precise quilting to your Free Motion Quilting projects.
  11. You can purchase a “Generic” Ruler foot for your machine, especially when you sewing machine model’s manufacturer does not offer a Ruler Foot. Simply establish whether your machine is a “HIGH” or “LOW” shank machine. Once you attach the ruler foot to your machine, make certain that the needle will not hit the foot and adjust the height of the foot to suit your machine.
  12. Check out Patsy Thompson’s video on Youtube, she has lots of information about choosing a foot that fits your machine.
  13. Liz at Janome has lots of information for Janome and Elna machines
  14. Google Instructions for the “BERNINA RULER PANEL INSTRUCTIONS PDF” to get the free download of the instructions

Tips for using rulers:

  1. Always have the presser foot in the down position before taking the first stitch. See #7 in the paragraph above, “tips for getting started.”
  2. Don’t press too hard on the ruler. Relax, let the little grippers you have placed on the underside of the ruler keep it from slipping. It only makes it harder to move the quilt smoothly.
  3. Use “three point pressure” on the ruler:
  4. Press the ruler down against the quilt B. Press the ruler gently against the ruler foot. C. Press the ruler foot against the ruler.
  5. Adjust the height of the Ruler Foot. There is a screw on the foot that allows you to raise and lower the foot. The foot should be as low as possible, while allowing the quilt to be moved freely under the foot.
  6. The foot will float on the quilt. If your machine is set to make the foot “spring” up and down, turn this function off.
  7. Proceed with caution: Whether the Ruler Foot is specifically designed for your machine or not, make sure to test all possible limitations.

For example, height restrictions: Inspect the back of the Ruler Foot. Notice the clearance at the back of the foot to the quilt. Is there enough room for the ruler to fit against the back of the foot? If not, you will never place the ruler against the back of the foot.

Is the needle aligned with center of the opening in the Ruler Foot? If not, move the needle to the center position.

If the needle is too close the front or back of the Ruler Foot’s opening, consider that this foot is not suitable for your machine. This should not be a problem if you chose the correct foot for your machine.

  1. TEST putting needle down in the fabric when you are ready to quilt: Either turn the fly wheel manually to sink the needle or press the “needle down” key. If the Ruler Foot is in the up position, the needle bar (above the needle) may hit the foot. This can happen because your machine was not designed to function with such a tall foot. Easy and simple remedy: ALWAYS LOWER THE RULER FOOT BEFORE SINKING THE NEEDLE INTO THE QUILT.

DO this test your machine manually, (don’t press the needle down key)If the needle bar hits the foot, always make sure to drop the Ruler Foot into the down position before using the “needle down” function or whenever sinking the needle down into the quilt.





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