Quilting with your Domestic Machine Part 4: Ruler Work & Free Motion Quilting

Welcome to the fourth installment of this series about quilting large quilts on your domestic machine. If you missed the first three segments, click to see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.


Today’s segment will cover Ruler Work and Free Motion Quilting (FMQ). Many times we see beautiful quilting done on long arm machines and we want to replicate those techniques and skills on our domestic sewing machines. It can be done easily with planning, patience and practice. Let’s get started!


Our quilting space set-up for ruler work and FMQ remains the same as in our previous segments in this series. Lots of support for our quilt sandwich, body position and good ergonomics. I like to have the table that my machine sits on to be empty  so that my quilt can be placed around the machine.  When setting up our sewing machines for FMQ, we need to remember the following things: Blue dot bobbin case and straight stitch needle plate installed, lower the feed dogs, wear quilting gloves and be patient with yourself! Before we get to the actual quilting however, let’s talk about machine settings.

First of all, you need to determine what kind of FMQ you are going to do. I started with ruler work. Ruler work is really fun and enjoyable once you get the hang of it. If your machine was recently upgraded (like the Janome Horizon MC15000 Quilt Maker; Janome MC9400 and Janome MC9450), you will have the new QR foot and new settings in the SET menu for ruler quilting. You can find more info about that new foot here.


If your machine does not have QR foot capability, you can use the Convertible Free Motion Foot Set  and also the additional feet for that foot. For an excellent post on this attachment click here.  Some of our machines have automatic presser foot lift – If your machine has this (Janome MC12000, Janome MC14000, Skyline S9, Skyline S7), click check out this recent janomelife post for  very good video’s on ruler quilting feet options for our Janome machines 


Now that we know which foot to use, let’s get back to our settings. If your machine does not have a setting for ruler work in the quilting menu, choose Straight Stitch 2 from the Free Quilting menu. (Fun fact: There is a difference between Straight Stitch 1 and 2. #1 is for ordinary and bulky quilts, #2 is for flatter quilts and free motion. It allows you to lower or raise the presser foot height from the stitch menu to customize for your fabric thickness.)


Auto Presser Foot Lift is on. This is NOT the setting you want.


Auto Presser Foot Lift is OFF. This is the correct setting for the Convertible Free Motion Foot Set.

Make sure your auto presser foot lift is turned OFF if using the Convertible Free Motion Foot Set. You can also adjust the height of your presser foot using the screw on the right side of the foot. It raises or lowers a spring to position your foot according to the height of your quilt sandwich.

I find that when I am quilting specific areas, like I did in Part 3, it helps to completely quilt one section before moving on. This allows you to make the most of your set-up without moving your fabric unnecessarily. When ruler quilting, practice moving your rulers more than moving your quilt. You will quickly find which method you prefer with some practice. For me, I find it easier to quilt backwards-forwards as opposed to side-to-side.


The Ruler Work Set from Janome is full of excellent rulers to get you started with Ruler Quilting, including a very helpful block marking tool. For my block today, I used the 6″ curve ruler and the straight ruler. I love that the markings are engraved in the plexiglass so they won’t rub off. I also found making some marks on my block with a washout marking pen helped me to line up my rulers straight.


In addition to using rulers while free motion quilting, you can also choose to follow your fabric or your own designs. The machine set up remains the same: blue dot bobbin case, lowered feed dogs and your choice of quilting foot. I left my convertible foot on for the second part of my FMQ today.  There are other feet that work very well for FMQ, you can find them here.


In terms of your set-up for FMQ, I find it the easiest to use this form of quilting on borders and areas that are close to the edge. Along the edge of your quilt allows you to maneuver your sandwich relatively easily without having large amounts of fabric clogging up your throat space.  There are many different ways to apply free motion quilting: Stippling, feathers, pebbles etc. In order to have as consistent stitch length as possible, I like to set my speed using the slider on the face of the machine and then press the foot pedal down completely (flat to the floor). This allows you to focus on moving your fabric evenly beneath the presser foot.


Click here to see the video showing ruler work and FMQ.

I can’t believe there is just one more segment in this series: Attaching binding with the Quilt Binder. Look for it coming soon here on Janome Life!

Until next time,


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5 Responses to Quilting with your Domestic Machine Part 4: Ruler Work & Free Motion Quilting

  1. Wayne and Gerri says:

    these are great – keep up the good work how about step by step on the technology of the skyline 9 thks


    • lizafrica says:

      Hi Gerri,

      We are always adding more content although we have already done MANY posts on the Janome Skyline S9 and the Apps. Please just do a search in the search box on the home page of janomelife and they will come up. You will be searching for topics like : Skyline S9; AcuDesign; AcuMonitor; AcuEdit; AcuSketch; AcuSetter and so on. We have offered lots of information already. You just need to look in he right places for it!



  2. Pamela Moore says:

    This a really helpful series — thank you. But what I’d really like to know is the name of the quilt pattern that Erin used 🙂 🙂


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