Welcome back to my blog this week! It’s the last full week of February and that makes me happy. February was a brutally cold month here in Iowa with at least 2 weeks solid of below zero temps. Hopefully, March will be a bit milder as spring approaches!
This week, I want to talk about rulers. We use them everyday in our quilting but I think I can offer some tips to make them even more useful to you. I also like to talk about fabric cutting safety at the same time since a few years ago, I had a cutting accident… and it was not fun! So let’s get started!
My favorite brand of rulers are by Creative Grid rulers because they are clear, they have gripper dots and strips embedded on the back for less slipping and the markings are designed to be easily read no matter which side of the ruler you are working from.
The close up on the right shows one of my favorite things about these rulers. They have gripper “dots” right on the ruler that help to keep your ruler from slipping on the fabric.
It’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with all the markings of your rulers because they come in handy while you are quilting. Here’s a few tips:
Tip #1: You can use the ruler to find the center of a piece of fabric or block by using the markings on the ruler. Those intersecting white lines and the circle where they meet is the exact center of this ruler shown below. This comes in handy when squaring up blocks or when you are fussy cutting a piece of fabric.
Tip #2: The 45 degree line comes in handy when you are trimming a half-square or quarter-square triangle square. Place the diagonal ruler line on the diagonal seam of your square to guarantee that you are trimming the square evenly on all sides.
The 45 degree line also comes in handy when cutting bias strips to make bias binding or for making stems for applique motifs.
There is also a 30/60 degree line on most rulers that are used for cutting triangles and diamonds. That’s a whole blog post on it’s own and at some point I will cover those. I tend to avoid designing patterns with those types of angles though… LOL!
Tip #3: Use the extra lines between the 1″ lines to quickly identify where to place your ruler. On the Creative Grids ruler, notice the lines between the inches are different lengths. The 1/8″ lines are slightly shorter than the 1/4″ lines and the 1/2″ line is longer than both of those (see photo below). This helps you find measurements like 2 3/8″ and 3 3/4″ quickly on the ruler.
Early on in my quilting, I didn’t pay too much attention to these lines, but now I see their value!
Tip #4: My final ruler tip is to keep them close by when you are piecing your blocks. I like to keep a few smaller rulers with me by the sewing machine to measure units I am piecing. Accurate unit measurements lead to accurate sized blocks and quilts!
Cutting Tips & Safety
Like I said earlier, a few years ago, I sliced a tip of my left index finger while rotary cutting some strips. Because of this, I am very concerned about safety when cutting fabric. I also have some tips on making cutting easier. First, lets talk safety.
Tip#1: Keep the rotary cutter closed and locked when not in use. This may seem like a simple thing to remember, but you would be surprised how many people have left one open and then dropped it on their foot!
Also, make sure your rotary blade is sharp. A dull blade will cause you to push down harder when cutting which could cause your hand to slip and the cutter to skip across the ruler.
Tip#2: Use safety items to help keep your hands safe. I use a “klutz” glove and have rotary cutter safety shields on my rulers (see photo below). These are optional, but I highly recommend them to add to your safety. The ruler guard prevents the blade of your rotary cutter from skipping up onto your ruler where your hand is.
The safety shields come only in a 24″ long size for the long ruler, but I bought extra and had them cut to size to fit my smaller rulers.
Tip #3: Keeping the ruler from shifting while you are cutting is also a safety step. A shifting ruler could also send your rotary cutter “off course” and headed for an unprotected hand. Even pressure from your hand holding the ruler keeps it from shifting.
“Tent” your hand as shown in the photos above with your pinkie on the edge to keep the ruler from moving. If you place your hand flat on the ruler, you may inadvertently push the ruler forward. Tenting your hand makes the pressure your are exerting go down instead of forward. When you are cutting a long strip, you may want to stop briefly and move your hand up the ruler so you can keep the pressure even through the entire cutting of the strip.
Tip #4: Make sure your rotary cutter is straight and hugging the edge of your ruler all the way through the cut you are making. You want your rotary cutter straight like in the photo on the left, not slanted like the photo on the right.
Tip #5: Finally, While cutting out a project, it’s a good idea to use the same brand of ruler for all the pieces. Different brands of rulers can have lines of different thickness. Even if they are off by less than 1/16 of an inch, it could cause a problem when you are piecing.
So, that’s it for this week. Leave a comment or any questions below about this topic. I’ll try to answer any question you have. I will draw a winner from the comments and you will receive a Creative Grids 4 1/2″ mini square ruler that you can keep by your sewing machine to measure as you stitch!
The drawing will be on Monday, March 1st. See you next week!