Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Many thanks for the good wishes last week.  They helped me get back up on my feet and I am now 100% again.

In a previous post I talked about striving for perfection, but that in some quilting designs total perfection is not really required.  I can now prove the truth of that statement.

I was so excited to have a post pop up on Facebook about using rulers on a domestic machine for quilting.  It suggested using the zipper foot with the machine in free motion mode.  Wow!  What a great idea.  I will explain and show photos, but first let me give the dire warning.

WARNING:  You should use the heavier, 1/4 inch thick rulers and a thick free motion quilting (FMQ) foot.  The special foot will prevent the needle from ducking under the ruler causing damage to the needle, ruler, and worst of all the machine.

Danger:  thin ruler with quilting foot. 

Zipper foot (thick base) --  Quilting foot (thin base)
I decided to try it with a thin ruler as I didn't want to purchase an expensive, thick ruler without having any idea if it would work for me.  I was VERY careful to line up the ruler securely against the side of the zipper foot before sewing each line.  The needle was a decent distance away from the ruler.  Since the machine was in free motion mode (feed dogs down) I could move front to back and sideways with no problem.  You adjust the needle right or left until you get it where you want.

FMQ with zipper foot
TIP:  Please note the warning above.  I don't want you to ruin your machine because of this post.

I used a 6" square ruler and a 3" square ruler and found that the 6" worked better.  I didn't have any trouble moving ruler and fabric with my left hand and a glove on my right hand.  However, I decided that some grabbers might help on the back of the ruler.

Adhesive backed grabbers
Four grabbers (larger white circles) on the back of the ruler
They are great!  It was much easier to move the fabric in any direction.  It took some practice to get my stitch length regular.  Below are my best practice results.

Not perfect, but definitely acceptable!
Now it was time to try it on my quilt to fill in triangles that are 1-1/4 inch tall.  First I ripped out all the stitching that I had previously done with FMQ.  The purple lines are only guides.  The stitched lines will be closer together.

Triangles waiting for fill lines.
I did three triangles with my new method, ripped out two.  Replaced them.  Ripped out one.  At that point I ripped out all three and put my FMQ foot back on, hung up the ruler and did the lines without the ruler.  They are not perfect, but they still look nice without any ripping, and it went so much more quickly.

FMQ fill.  Ruler idea discarded!

TIP:  Try new methods.  Some work.  Some don't.  I think the problem here was that the lines are so short.  I finally used a micron pen to put a tiny dot on my quilting foot which I can use as a guide to maintain spacing and direction as needed by lining it up with previously sewn lines.

I will eventually get a thick ruler because I know now that I can do this.  My daughter tells me there are places on the Web where I can get a proper foot that will adapt to my machine.  More research needed.

TIP:  Perfection is still a worthy goal, but sometimes reality looks just as nice, is easier, and saves time.

Sew a happy seam this week.


  1. Good job trying out a new technique! I don't know how anyone can quilt on a DSM - totally in awe of anyone who can!!! On my longarm, I'm willing to go short distances like on your triangles without a ruler, but rulers are definitely a huge help in keeping lines straight, circles circular and curves the same. Many quilters are now using rulers with their DSM...awesome job!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I've been intrigued by rulers but haven't tried any work with them yet. I usually use a hera marker to mark my lines. My work tends to be wonky (sometimes intentionally) and I'm okay with that. I always wash my quilts when I finish quilting them and then straight lines become slightly wavy and bumpy anyway. I do enjoy seeing the beautiful work others are doing with the rulers, though.

  3. Rulers, like any other tool, have their place. I sometimes do straight lines without one because it's not that important to have lines perfectly spaced on some projects. I would definitely recommend a proper ruler if you do want to use one in FMQ; they really are so much safer to use.

    I remember when I first tried a ruler with my DSM. I did the same as you - a regular ruler just to see if it would work. I was so excited when I found that I could use a ruler on my sewing machine! But I did sew on top of and under the ruler a time or two - that's when I knew I had to get me a ruler made specifically for free motion quilting.

    Thanks for sharing on Main Crush Monday! I hope you had a great sewing week. :)

  4. I have a sit down longarm machine (Babylock Tiara) and the first time I tried to stitch a "straight" line on it, I couldn't believe how hard it was. Good thing I'm flexible and didn't obsess about it. I've thought about getting a small ruler, about 6", for doing straight lines, but they're so darn expensive!

    1. Practice makes almost perfect. Keep doing them and they get better. I still rip and I will use rulers again, but for longer lines that are more difficult to keep straight.

  5. Interesting post. I think I'll start picking up some small rulers so I can start practising as i struggle doing straight lines of any length over a few inches.

    1. Please pay attention to my warning so you don't wreck your machine. I plan to purchase the right kind of ruler and foot to avoid disaster before I try it again. Part of the reason it didn't work in the end for me was that is took so much extra time to be so extra careful.

  6. Sounds interesting Mardi! I'm going to have to try it with my vintage Singer!