Overview On Quilting Rulers


We love our quilting rulers for our projects, but they are not all the same.  Quilting Contessa dives into quilting rulers.

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Overview On Quilting Rulers

Quilters know that you need rulers to make quilts and I think we would all say that we have bought at least one that we have never used. I'm thinking that the reason for this is that designers know that the way to keep their designs proprietary and make money is to invent and sell a new ruler, or better yet, a ruler set.

Overview On Quilting Rulers


Sure, we all must have the basic rulers, and there are many articles online to help you select which ones are best for a first purchase. I don't want to make choosing a ruler sound easy. A quick search of Missouri Star Quilting Company shows 240 rulers listed in their website.


Even the most basic rulers vary a great deal. These two rulers are the same size, made by the same company. Can you guess which one I use, and which one stays in the drawer? Yes! I use the one with the lime highlighting over the black lines. It's easier for me to see. Not everyone would choose the one I chose. People like what is easiest for them. Keep in mind that the ruler should work well with both light and dark fabrics.



For a little history, Omnigrid started marketing rulers in 1985. Not as long ago as you think! After all, rotary cutters were not introduced until 1979. Cutters and rulers became more widespread in the 1980s and by the 1990s were the way to do things.


Rulers are made from acrylic, but the depth varies depending on the use of the ruler. Size is important and they need to be straight, accurate, and durable. Non-slip is important, but there are different systems for achieving this. My husband hated the little round feet that stick on the bottom because they added height away from the fabric, so ours have been removed. A flat tape that grips is probably a better choice. Some people also like to attach a handle to their rulers, especially in a quilt shop.



Specialty rulers include Dresden Plate, Drunkard's Path, hundreds of triangles of any angle, and proprietary rulers like the Squedge. Whether you purchase specialty rulers depends on how often you may use them. Rulers used only once might end up being sold in your guild's garage sale.



If the template you need is included in the pattern, you may choose to make your own ruler from plexiglass or purchased plastic sheets from the craft store. My guild is learning to make a tree ornament for the December meeting. We need a six or eight inch hexagon. You can easily find a template online for the hexagon and make your own ruler.


Rulers used for machine quilting are a whole other universe. This photo shows the difference in thickness between cutting rulers and quilting rulers. The thicker one is the quilting ruler and works next to the hopping foot on a longarm. Rulers must be kept in good condition, so woe unto the quilter that uses a quilting ruler for cutting and puts a "skip" in it.



Because there is so much to know about both types of rulers, maybe someone needs to write an encyclopedia of rulers?


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Accessories that are available for sewing machines and are especially made for quilting.
Machine Quilting
Creating quilting stitches on a quilt using a sewing machine instead of sewing them by hand.
A heavy plastic measuring guide that can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
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.
Pattern pieces made out of paper, cardboard, plastic or metal, giving you something to draw around so that you can accurately replicate any shape.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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