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What Else Can My Quilting Ruler Do?

Summary

Most quilters use a 24-inch ruler to simply cut straight lines. I show you the different angle cuts, bias cuts, etc. the quilting ruler can do.

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What Else Can My Quilting Ruler Do?

One of the first rulers almost every quilter purchases is the 6½" x 24" (or 6" x 24") acrylic quilt ruler. This ruler is pretty much a "must have" for cutting quilt fabric that's been removed off the bolt. Since quilt fabric that has been cut directly off the bolt is folded selvage to selvage and measures approximately 22" wide at this point - the 24" ruler is perfect for cutting a strip. In this article I am using an Omnigrid ruler, but there is not one particular ruler that I think is best. Shop for quilting rules as these fine on-line quilt shops.

What Else Can My 24-Inch Quilt Ruler Do?

 

Omnigrid 24 ruler

Omnigrid 24 ruler

Quilters Rule 24

Quilters Rule 24

Creative 24 Ruler

Creative 24 Ruler

 

The 6½" x 24" ruler, a cutting mat, and a rotary cutter allows a quilter to cut strips of fabric from ½" up to the width of the ruler. Always use your ruler to measure the strip widths as needed and not your cutting mat. Once you need a strip measurement that is wider than your ruler you must count on your cutting mat for that measurement. I've been told that some quilters lay rulers next to each other to get wider cutting widths, but I find that getting an accurate measurement using this procedure is a bit iffy. Also, something that is note-worthy is telling quilters not to try to get away with using a shorter ruler by double folding their quilt fabric (creating four layers by bringing the fold up to the selvage edges) and cutting strips of fabric. This technique often creates what we call "elbows" at the halfway point of the strip. A big no-no!

As a quilt teacher, I can pretty much guarantee that quilters are using their 24" long ruler for nothing but cutting fabric strips. That's all. And those same quilters then buy lots of special rulers for making bias strips for binding, triangles and angle cuts. It IS fun collecting up an array of snazzy rulers to make some super interesting quilt designs, but do we need all of them?

So what else exactly can a 6½" x 24" standard quilt ruler do for you than cut those basic 2½" or 4¼" or 5" wide strips of fabric? You can easily cut bias strips of fabric for binding, appliqué, and more using your 24" ruler. The trick to this technique is to open your fabric fully - do not keep it folded! - and use the 45 degree line on the ruler as shown below.

Bias Cutting

 

*Please note that I am right handed and all of these instructions and photos are for a right handed person. Simply reverse your ruler as needed for the following:

Line up the 45 degree angle line on your ruler along the lower selvage edge of your opened fabric (selvage edge has been removed). Cut at an angle creating a waste piece of fabric. I make my waste piece bigger than some folks because I like leftover to use for hand applique. If you like your bias binding at 2½", then move your ruler over to the right and line up the raw edge of your fabric with the 2½" mark along your ruler. Keep the 45 degree angle running flush along the bottom selvage edge and cut a 2½" wide strip. Repeat to make as many bias strips as needed. This process will also make bias strips to use for applique - as in curved flower stems, curved tree branches, or curves of a fleur-de-lis.

To make 45 degree diamonds line up the 45 degree angle line on your ruler along the bottom of (example) a pre-cut 4" fabric strip as shown (whether it is solid fabric or stripped together). Make one cut along the ruler. This first cut and piece of fabric is considered waste. If you are making 4" wide diamonds like I am showing, you will need to mark your strip at 4¾" increments. This extra ¾" allows for seam allowance on all sides of the diamond shape. The bottom corner of the ruler needs to hit the first mark on your strip. Make sure the 45 degree line is now running along the top of your fabric strip. Make your cut. Repeat this process to make as many 45 degree diamonds as you'd like.

60 angle

 

You can also make triangles using the 45 degree line on your 24" ruler. See the diagram below and line up the 45 degree line along the bottom edge of your fabric strip. If you want 4" finished triangles, make sure that your fabric strip is 4¾" in width. Make your first cut which will create a waste piece of fabric.

45 Angle

 

Now turn the ruler to use the opposite 45 degree angle line that you just used and cut the opposing angle of the triangle. Continue to turn the ruler back and forth to create multiple triangles.

Hourglass

 

Your 24" ruler also has a 30 degree line running at a diagonal across the ruler. Have you ever used that line?

30 angle 1

 

You can make beautiful 30 degree diamonds with your ruler. The diamonds can be solid, or you can sew strips of fabrics together and make strippy diamonds. The shapes made from a 30 degree angle are quite extreme and very unique. They make pretty designs!

Butterfly

 

Line up the 30 degree angle line on your ruler along the bottom of a pre-cut fabric strip as shown (whether it is solid fabric or stripped together). Make one cut. This first cut and piece of fabric is considered waste. If you'd like to make 4" wide diamonds you will need to mark your strip at 5" increments. This extra one inch allows for seam allowance on all sides of the diamond shape. Slide your ruler over to the right so that the top edge of the ruler hits the first mark on your strip. Make sure the 30 degree line is still running along the bottom of your fabric strip. Make your cut. Repeat this process to make as many 30 degree diamonds as you'd like. Assembly for these 30 degree diamonds will take "Y" shape inserts.

30 angle 2

 

You can also make elongated triangles using the 30 degree line on your 24" ruler. See the diagram below and line up the 30 degree line along the bottom edge of your fabric strip. If you want 5" finished triangles, make sure that your fabric strip is 5¾" in width. Make your first cut which will create a waste piece of fabric. Now turn the ruler and cut the opposing angle of the triangle. Continue to turn the ruler back and forth to create multiple triangles.

When you see the elongated triangles facing each other, you may notice that the space between these two shapes is a 60 degree angle! This space should use a 9" angle to fill in.

elongated triangles

 

Lastly, I am going to show you what you can create using the 60 degree line on your 24" quilt ruler. You can make both 60 degree triangles and 60 degree diamonds. This is super easy! You can use solid fabric or sew together strips of fabric to make strippy triangles or diamonds. How about a totally scrappy looking star?

60 diamond

 

The process to make 60 degree diamonds is the same as making 45 degree and 30 degree diamonds. For creating diamonds - always add ⅝" to your finished diamond measurement. You will also need "Y" shape inserts to complete a 60 degree diamond star.

 

60 l angle
60 r angle
hex

 

For creating triangles - always add ¾" to the width of your strip to allow for seam allowances. The photo shows a full triangle center using a variegated fabric. Pretty cool!

You can create lots of your own designs using only one ruler!

 

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Glossary

Applique
Attaching individual pieces of fabric to a background to form a design.

Same As: Appliqué


See Also: Freezer Paper Applique, Needleturn Applique, Machine Applique, Reverse Applique, Shadow Applique
Appliqué
Attaching individual pieces of fabric to a background to form a design.

Same As: Applique
Bias
The direction of a piece of woven fabric, usually referred to simply as "the bias" or "the cross-grain", is at 45 degrees to its warp and weft threads. Every piece of woven fabric has two biases, perpendicular to each other. Non-woven fabrics such as felt or interfacing do not have a bias.

Same As: Cross-grain
Binding
Binding is used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun it is the fabric that's used to cover the raw edges of the quilt sandwich after it's quilted. This edging fabric is referred to as the Binding (noun). As a verb it is the process of putting on this fabric, and it referred to as Binding a Quilt.
Cutting Mat
Surface used for cutting with a rotary cutter. The mat protects your tabletop and can serve as a measuring tool when you use the gridlines on the mat to line up your fabric. Many mats are self-healing which means that the blade of the rotary cutter will not create permanent grooves in the mat.
Raw Edge
An unfinished fabric edge of a piece of fabric or a quilt block. For applique, an edge which has not yet been turned under with stitching.
Rotary Cutter
A very sharp tool that looks like a pizza wheel which is capable of cutting through multiple layers of fabric.
Ruler
A heavy plastic measuring guide that can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Seam Allowance
The width of fabric left to the right of a sewn seam. In quilting this is traditionally 1/4 inch. For sewing garments it is usually 5/8 inch.
Selvage
The outer edge of both sides of a woven fabric where the weft turns to go back across and through the warp. This is a stiffer and denser woven area of about 1/3-1/2 inch and is usually trimmed off and not sewn into a quilt.

Same As: Selvedge
Star
A large central star, made up of diamond shaped fabric or a square with right triangles, to form the star points from the center out.
Strip
A construction technique in which long, narrow pieces of cloth are joined lengthwise, sometimes with long rows of quilt blocks, to form a quilt top. The term "strip" can be used to describe the long pieces of fabric between blocks (see Sashing) or to describe the small, narrow remnants used in string patchwork.

See Also: Sashing
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