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The Ultimate Guide to Rulerwork Quilting: From Buying Tools to Planning the Quilting to Successful Stitching

The Ultimate Guide to Rulerwork Quilting: From Buying Tools to Planning the Quilting to Successful Stitching

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The Ultimate Guide to Rulerwork Quilting: From Buying Tools to Planning the Quilting to Successful Stitching

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Apr 25, 2020


The perfect technical companion to Amanda Murphy’s Rulerwork Quilting Idea Book, this in-depth guide has everything you need to know about rulerwork quilting on domestic and longarm machines. Learn how to choose the right rulers and feet, plan out your quilting design with rulers, and combine rulerwork with free-motion quilting. Useful photos teach you how to execute quilting designs with basic straight-line and circle rulers, as well as specialty shapes like waves, clamshells, and feathers.
Apr 25, 2020

Informazioni sull'autore

Best-selling author Amanda Murphy's handy guide provides more than one hundred original ideas inspired by the elements around you—water, air, stones, fire, and more.

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The Ultimate Guide to Rulerwork Quilting - Amanda Murphy


Why rulers?

Well, to answer that, we have to go back to the beginning of quilting itself. Rulers have always been used in piecing to allow us to be precise and to create repeating designs. And, with the advent of rotary cutters, rulers became a must-have tool. Ask any piecer if they could limit themselves to just one ruler!

In the age of hand quilting, various methods could be used to mark quilts and we could place stitches precisely along those lines. Have you ever seen a beautifully hand-quilted feather wreath? Usually marked by pouncing chalk through a template, they are exquisite and very uniform. But try to free-motion quilt that on a machine—it isn’t so easy, is it? And so, as more machines capable of quilting came onto the market, our visual vocabulary of feathers began to evolve. We came to expect, and even find beautiful, asymmetrical feathers with a wide variety of plume styles. After all, our free-motion feathers are no more varied than nature itself! (Well, maybe just a little more varied.)

Then came the advent of longarm quilting machines, which allowed us to move a sewing head along a frame upon which a quilt was mounted. But how to quilt straight lines around the blocks or along the seams? Longarms don’t have feed dogs like domestic machines. They can quilt straight lines in a horizontal or vertical direction with channel locks, but many times the seams on our quilts aren’t perfectly straight. (At least mine aren’t!)

Rulers to the rescue! Thick plastic quilting rulers, sometimes called templates, can be used to quilt straight lines in any direction! And they can be adjusted as you quilt so if your seam is a little wobbly, your stitching will still lie right along it!

Well, it didn’t take creative quilters long to realize that they didn’t have to settle for just straight-line rulers. There are a ton of other shapes just waiting to be explored. …

Quilting, using my Good Measure Every Angle quilting ruler on a BERNINA Q 24 Longarm Quilting Machine

A free-motion quilted feather A world of rulers! These are from my line of Good Measure quilting rulers for Brewer Sewing.

Technology and Art

In the modern world, technology and art are constantly spurring each other on, and we are seeing the effects of this in the beautiful quilts that people are creating!

So, longarm quilters began to create designs with large, dynamic shapes made possible by rulers and, to no one’s surprise, once again our quilting aesthetic began to evolve.

As domestic machine quilters began to see these quilts in shows, they wanted in on the fun, and domestic ruler feet were born! The method of quilting is a little different on domestic machines, but the same results can be achieved.

Quilting with rulers on domestic machines has the added benefit of minimizing the need to rotate the quilt under the machine. As any domestic quilter can attest, that in itself cuts down on a lot of effort and time. Plus, when you quilt with a ruler, you naturally change quilting directions more easily than you would with a walking foot, and quilting in many directions generally ensures a squarer top than quilting in just one. (Quilting parallel lines in just one direction on a quilt can result in a diamond-shape quilt, which is all well and good if that was what you intended, but it can be pretty disappointing if you were going for a square.)

I am lucky enough to teach rulerwork, on both domestic and longarm machines, to hundreds of people across the nation and around the world every year, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Want to see how it is done? Read on. …

BERNINA Rulerwork Sampler

This is a piece I did for BERNINA and it is quilted exclusively with circle and straight-line rulers. The instructions and how-to videos are available at WeAllSew (

Photos by Amanda Murphy


This chapter describes some of the tools you will need in addition to quilting rulers (for more information, see Rulers).


Domestic Machines

For rulerwork, choose a machine with free-motion capabilities and excellent stitch quality. I’ve quilted on both my BERNINA 5 and 7 Series for years, and I highly recommend them. One of the things that I like about BERNINAs is that when you lower the feed dogs, they actually turn off rather than keep running, which minimizes the vibration on the machine bed.

A bigger throat space is hugely advantageous, particularly for larger quilts, but it is not an absolute necessity, especially for smaller projects. Don’t let having a small machine discourage you from trying out these techniques. As your skill set broadens, you’ll be able to better judge what you can accomplish with the tools you have, and you can do a lot with a little machine and a little creativity!

For domestic quilting, you will be moving the fabric in tandem with the ruler, and the larger the machine bed, the more contact it will have with the fabric and ruler, making the entire assembly easier to move. Of course, you can extend your machine bed by seating it in a cabinet or Sew Steady Table. See more details about this and other modifications you can make in Accessories.

Note: Choose Your Dealer Carefully Regardless of what brand of machine you buy, a good dealer network is important. Your dealer is your main contact for any problems or questions about your machine—choose one you trust and are comfortable with!

Quilting with a ruler on a BERNINA 790 Plus

Longarm Machines in a Sit-Down Configuration

When I saw the BERNINA Q 20 Sit-Down Longarm Quilting

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