Friday, September 28, 2018

In which an Old Dog Learns a New Trick

So, have you seen how people are using rulers for machine quilting on domestic sewing machines? I guess it's been common in the long-arm world for quite a while, but I think using rulers on domestic machines is a more recent development. I judged a quilt show this past May where the quilting on one quilt just wowed me (as it did others, and the quilt ended up winning several big awards.) After the judging was all done, we learned that the quilt maker was there, and she said that yes, she'd done all of that gorgeous and precise quilting on her domestic machine -- with rulers.

I was intrigued. And since I have a rather large stack of tops that need quilting, I started watching videos about it. Just google " machine quilting with rulers" on Youtube -- there are many. (Angela Walters has a whole "machine quilting with rulers" playlist on Youtube, here, and Patsy Thompson has some demos there, too.)

So, I bought some starting equipment. Ruler quilting on a domestic machine requires a free-motion foot with a high edge, like this:

 The edge of the foot is thick, so it will ride along the edge of a 1/4 inch thick ruler. I think most machine brands make a ruler foot, and there are companies that make adaptable feet depending on your machine -- I invested in a Bernina #72 foot.

As for rulers -- once I started looking I found oodles, in all different shapes and sizes! I decided I just wanted to play with straight lines and simple arcs, so I bought Patsy Thompson's starter set which includes one good sized straight edge and three different arcs.

By the way, have you seen Patsy Thompson's quilting? I will trust anything that woman tells me about machine quilting.

 I watched a bunch of videos, and then decided to dive in on a practice block from a star quilt I was getting ready to machine quilt. I really thought it would be difficult, or at least awkward, to hold the ruler with one hand and move the quilt under the needle at the same time. But it wasn't awkward at all! I'd ordered some "Handi Grip Strips" to make the rulers less slippery, and attaching small squares of that stuff to the back of each ruler worked perfectly.  I was so encouraged by the process on my little practice block that I decided to just jump in and start working on the big quilt. I mean, why not?

This quilt (La Conner Stars, a free quilt pattern here) has stars and squares with background space between them. I decided I wanted arcs in the star points and basic free motion stippling in the background spaces. You can probably see the quilted arcs in the pink star block above.

I used the straight edge for the ditch-quilting around the star. It was fun and really made ditch quilting easier -- and straighter, of course.

I used a smaller arc for the three sides of each star point triangle.

Then, for the square inside of the star I used the biggest arc to make overlapping cat-eye shapes.

You can see on the pink star up there that I was having so much fun I decided to add arcs to the inner border, too.

The biggest learning thing, I found, was figuring out the spacing on where to hold the ruler. The foot slides along the ruler, and the needle is about 1/4 inch away from the ruler's edge -- so you have to estimate that 1/4 inch distance to make sure the quilting goes where you want it. But I found that I could adjust the ruler was I went along, and after a few blocks I was good at having the end of the arc land just where I wanted to. 

I finished the machine quilting this yesterday (yee haw!) and will be happy to get this finished and delivered to a special friend. But gosh, I'm proud of myself for trying something new. I am now looking at my quilt tops with a new "what can I quilt on it" eye -- I'll be thinking about what rulers might work.

Have you tried quilting with rulers?

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