I recently polled my friends on Instagram asking if it was a good idea or a bad idea to ruler quilt a giant throw sized quilt with a clam shell design. You need to understand, my friends often encourage me to do things just to see what happens. They don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea, but they know it will be fun to watch me do it. I did have a few people warn me not to do it and that I will regret my decision. But, I didn’t listen to them, I dove into this project head first!
Am I an accomplished “ruler quilter”? No.
Have I “ruler quilted” anything before? Yes, one time.
I used Janome’s Ruler Work Kit to make this fun ruler holder! I did that 2 years ago and haven’t really tried anything again. So can we all agree that I may be considered a dabbler? I know the concept and basics but I am no authority on it. Still, I’m going to write you this blog post because I’m a fifth of the way done my quilt and I’ve learned so much and if I share with you all the things I’ve learned then you can start ruler quilting and not make the rookie mistakes I made.
I’m ruler quilting on my Janome Continental M7 but ruler quilting can be done on many of our Janome sewing machines. If you are unsure if your machine can ruler quilt, talk to your dealer and they should be able to get you all set up with the correct Ruler Work foot. One thing I love about the Janome Continental M7 is the Sewing Applications menu, which is basically the machine asking us what we want to do, and having it all set-up automatically for us with the touch a button. There is a Ruler Quilting mode! At the press of a few buttons my machine is all set up for ruler quilting! I just have to attach my ruler foot and I’m almost good to go! For more info on the actual basics of ruler quilting check out this blog post.
Here are a few things I learned:
- There are rules on which rulers you can use for Ruler Quilting on your domestic sewing machine. You should not use the rulers you use with your rotary cutter to cut fabric. Rulers for domestic sewing machines are at least 1/8″ thick and rulers for Longarm machines are 1/4″ thick. You can use Longarm rulers on your high shank domestic sewing machine, but you can’t use domestic rulers on a longarm quilting machine, which has a hopping foot, instead of regular presser foot. The thickness of the rulers and of the ruler work foot prevents you from accidentally slipping the ruler under your presser foot and sewing over the ruler. I used a 5″ half circle ruler from our Janome Sew Comfortable 1/4″ Half-Circle Templates.
- Before starting on the quilt I auditioned a few arcs out making sure I had the right size. Then I really played with my ruler making sure I felt comfortable with it. I tried both the outside and inside curves and determined the I prefer using the inside curve. Use what works best for you.
- Add grips to the bottom of your ruler so it holds the fabric better. There are many different things you can use for this. I’m using a grip tape made specifically for this purpose.
- I was having some thread breakage when I started on the right edge of the ruler and moved to the left. There are a few possible things going on here. One thing that is definitely happening is that I’m not as smooth moving in that direction. This is something that I will probably get better at with more practice.
I did, however, remember that I should be using a Janome Purple Tip Needle and a Janome Low Tension/ Blue Dot Bobbin Holder. The Janome Purple Tip needle is size 14 with a slightly rounded tip and a flared “Cobra” head to help separate the fibres of your quilt layers so the needle thread and bobbin thread connect more easily through the thicker layers. The flared head also helps prevent skipped stitches. The Janome Low Tension Bobbin Holder is often called the “Blue Dot” bobbin holder as it has a small blue dot (it’s actually a triangle) indicator on it. This helps provide the right tension for free motion quilting and ruler quilting to eliminate eye-lashing on the back of the quilt.
With these 2 thing in use I had a lot less thread breakage. I’m confident that with more practice this will decrease even more.
- Due to the way my quilt was pieced together there were seams which were bulkier than I would like to admit. I was having issues getting my ruler foot over the top of these seams. This resulted in a few rough curves. Did you know that in many Janome sewing machines you could adjust the height of your foot? You can! The tricky part is if your foot is too high you get bouncing in your fabric and skipped stitches. I would sew to a thick seam, adjust the height of my Ruler foot to get over the seam, then adjust it back to the original default (DFT) setting to finish the curve.
- Last but not least, if you start to go off track gently guide yourself back on track and keep on going. Learning a new skill is not the time to worry about perfection. By the end of the quilt you will look back at the first rows and be amazed at just how far you have come!
I can’t wait to see your ruler quilting!