Archive for May, 2013

The Truth About Rulers

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Through out my years of quilting, I have gained a great appreciation for the 1/4″ and even more understanding about how to use the 1/4″.  One of the most important things I have learned is that every one’s 1/4″ is not the same. Its not the same on your sewing machines. Berninas tend to be the most accurate. Pfaff sews a scant 1/4″ and Janome is a little big. Now with that said, I harken back to many Simply Quilts episodes when the enchanting Mary Ellen Hopkins was a guest and touted the importance of your own personal measurements. Her motto was whatever your 1/4″ happens to be, its fine as long as you are consistent.

As I get deeper and deeper into the ruler and pattern design of things, I’ve come to find out that’s really not true. What is most important is that the 1/4″ on the ruler that you cut your fabric with needs to be the same 1/4″ you sew your seams! This has become extremely evident as I create more blocks with odd angles and many, many pieces. For instance, six 15-degree fans when sewn together equal a 90-degree angle hence a square block. But if your seams are too large or slightly narrow, you change the angle of the fan. It is no longer 15-degrees. It might be 14, 13 or even 16 degrees now, none of which when multiplied by 6 equal 90.

Irregardless of angles, this is where I first noticed a difference. Two brands of rulers I started out with pictured here. I would cut my strips with the 24″ long ruler then cross cut those fabric strips with my 6″ square and invariably, the strips would be wider than the square.  As you can see, the square, when compared the 24″ ruler does not quite measure up! And, the lines on the rulers are different widths – that in itself can be a problem because one never knows exactly where to line up the line on the fabric…


So lets compare it to another square – here ya go. It seems to fit on one side but not on the top. So maybe its not square after all – This larger square is from even another manufacturer (my favorite, I might add).


But how about this big difference. As many of you know, I have designed a 15-degree ruler. When compared to another 15-degree ruler, the numbers don’t match up. A lot of that has to do with where one decides to start counting, I suppose.  But it can make things confusing…

15 degree rulers

So, I know sewing machine manufacturers have come up with all sorts of 1/4″ feet and buttons to shift needles left and right. Or one can always result to good old tape along the side of the needle to measure a 1/4″. No matter how you do it, make sure it matches the ruler you cut with. And with that said, it might be a good idea to keep faithful to one brand of ruler since they seem to have their differences too.  And I, of course, prefer those great rulers with the non-skid stuff on the back – you know which one I mean. Its not one that can be bought with a 50% off coupon either. That’s how I got those yellow lined ones, by the way. So I guess I got what I paid for…

My goal is to slowly turn over my ruler supplies to my favorite brand as time and money allow. Its something to think about…

PS I’ve been getting a few questions about my favorite brand – I didn’t mention it in order to be politically correct, I suppose, but its Creative Grids. You can only find them in quilt shops and on-lone stores so there’s no using a coupon at JoAnn’s to get a discount. But you may find that these rulers are worth the money!