Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ruler Work

 Since getting my Bernina Q20 sit down longarm quilting machine 5 years ago, I have enjoyed learning to use rulers for quilting. More accurately called "templates" than "rulers", they allow you to create straight lines and nice curves and a whole host of designs. 

My most recent finish is the Afternoon Delight in Red, White and Blue, I made from the demo blocks I used to write my various blog posts about this 2020 Block of the Month quilt from The Quilt Show. It's about 48" x 66":

Curved crosshatching is one of my favorite designs so I put that in the perimeter triangles. I added some curves to the outer borders and filled in with "wishbone" or "figure 8" designs:

What I didn't do was carefully plan the corners. I just let them fall where they wanted to so all 4 are different. I always quilt at least one heart somewhere in a border of every quilt I make, see it in the first photo:

Books and YouTube videos have taught me a lot and I spend some time with each quilt figuring out what I want to quilt in each section. Natalia Bonner's website and YouTube videos have been especially helpful with this one. I have also learned a lot from Angela Walters.

The first thing I do with most quilts is stitch in the ditch across the quilt, stabilizing all the sections. As I do that I remove some of the safety pins I use for basting. Then I work on the various blocks, trying to keep the amount of quilting somewhat the same throughout. If you have some areas densely quilted and some with little quilting, you will get ripples and waves. This quilt needs to be washed and blocked still--that will make the borders less wavy. 

The white squares got "pumpkin seed" designs, with rulers, and the tiny red and blue squares got a simple diagonal line, using my favorite ruler, the Line Tamer. The narrow blue border got a free motion swirly curvy spiral:

For the applique blocks, I did free motion quilting around each shape--thought it might need more but decided to stop:

Threads could be an entire post so I'll just tell you I used Bottom Line in the bobbin, to match the back fabric. The white for stitch in the ditch and echo quilting around the appliques is Microquilter 100 wt. The red and blue is Quilters Select 60 wt. The Bernina Q20 makes it a snap to change thread sizes and make any adjustments to tension as needed. It is a great machine. 

I have a lot of rulers--most of us go overboard buying them when we get the bug to quilt with rulers. But the ones I use most are these:

The top two curves are from a set by The Quilted Pineapple--Linda Hrcka's company. They work great for curved cross hatching. The white stuff is grippy on the bottom and the painters tape is set where I want to line up the ruler on the quilt block. 

The middle one is my most favorite and I use it on every quilt: the Line Tamer,  from Four Paws Quilting. The channel in the middle holds the ruler foot securely and I can sew straight lines FAST! And Straight! The bottom two are my newest from Bonner's site. These are the Mini 4-N-1 and Mini Inside Out Quilting Rulers. They also come in a larger size but this size worked great for me and this quilt.

Natalia currently has a 9 PatchALong using these two Mini rulers: find the info on her site or her Facebook group for this 5 week project. Tuesday and Thursday she offers a new design and I am learning a lot and developing favorite designs I will want to use again.  This sewalong is free--many of the quilters who offer great products for sale provide free classes/sewalongs to help us all learn. A lot of time and effort goes into these and I am thankful they exist. 

My 9 PatchALong so far, the blocks are 12" 9 patches--I wish I had made the sashing wider--mine is 1.5" so I didn't have to piece a back but 2.5" would have looked better. Same with the border:

As this is a practice piece, it's good enough. It will become a baby quilt some day. As I got to the end of a cone of thread, I started having tension issues so that gave me the opportunity to figure that out too. Always learning something!

I have written about Ruler Work and the Q20 several times before. Just use the search box in the uppr left to find them--Ruler Work--the Basics is comprehensive.

Have you used rulers/templates for your quilting? Do you want to?

Let's quilt.



  1. I have been actively learning ruler work. Fortunately(?), I have several UFO's that are getting finished as I practice using rulers and learning my Q20. I am loving ruler work and have ordered several of your suggested rulers. BTW, the link for the Line Tamer isn't working.

  2. I’ve pretty much taken the same path you have. I have an Innova sit down machine. Had it about 6 or 7 years. I am also doing the 9 patch qal. I love those rulers.

  3. Great post and lovely quilt! I got my Q20 four years ago and once I got the hang of ruler work my collection of rulers exploded. I have called a halt to the purchase of new rulers...LOL...maybe I can stick to it. Cheers.

  4. I use rulers for straight line and curved cross-hatch, scallops, and a small handful of other designs, but I really would like to learn more.