Ruler Work Quilt

April 15th, 2018


If you follow my blog, then you know that quilts like the one above are not my style.  I find it very difficult to work with pastel colors and avoid using them for that reason.  This was a very difficult quilt to work on because the colors are so far removed from anything that brings me joy.  I can’t even recall why I pieced it in these colors, but I’d put enough time into all the embroidery/applique that I felt like I should complete it. I’m glad I did because it ended up being a fun substrate for ruler work!  This is another machine embroidery applique quilt (meaning the applique and embroidery are done on an embroidery machine, then the quilt is pieced together.)  It is made from my pattern called “Kissed by a Butterfly,” which you can find by clicking here.


My favorite part is the curved cross hatching that falls outside the arched swag border design in the outermost border:



My next favorite part is the center circle of featherettes at the bases of the butterflies.  The only part of that design that bothers me is that there is no channel for the circle itself, but there literally was no space for even a 1/8 inch wide channel:



The border section on the turquoise background is a bit ho-hum but I do like the texture it created:



The part I regret was the ruler work on the outside of the yellow border.  In retrospect, the border is narrow enough that it just creates confusion about what the design is, but this was a good lesson for me to learn, so it served a purpose:


A few more pics:






It’s a good feeling to have finished something!


A Little Spring Color

April 13th, 2018


A million apologies for the silence on this blog.  My 2+ months of craziness has morphed into 4+ months of craziness and my life is no longer my own.  I’ve somehow managed to complete a few small projects during this time and will try to post about them over the next week or two.  First up is another table runner made from the Swirly Floral Quartet Pattern that you can find by clicking here.  Here is a shot of the block being stitched as a 2-part split design, just after the first half has been appliqued/embroidered:


…and here it is as that second side is being appliqued/embroidered:


…and here is that block once removed from the hoop:


Four squares were pinned to each corner, then attached by stitching along the diagonal to create a half square triangle in each corner:


…and here is the table runner once all 3 blocks have been pieced together:



Two + Months of Craziness

March 10th, 2018

Hello, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it?  My silence wasn’t planned, just one of the side effects of a very chaotic and exhausting 2 + months.  My elderly but active mom became very ill  and ended up in the ICU a week before Christmas. It’s a long and complicated story, but she opted to decline treatment after a few days and went home with hospice services.  There are 5 children and 5 sons/daughters in law, and everyone pitched in to help take care of her.  She has miraculously turned around, (perhaps a testimony to the power of being home and helped by family instead of being in a hospital), and now is doing very well.  About 3 weeks after mom became ill, my mother-in-law, (who lives on the opposite side of the country from us), began falling repeatedly.  She was doing better last week but now is teetering again, so who knows what lies around the corner.  Both Ern and I lucked out in the “mom department,” so these two women are very precious to us and are great cause for worry.  Many of you have experience with caring for ill and elderly family members, so you understand the drill of constant phone calls, texts, travel, and lack of sleep.  I just counted up, and over the course of 9 weeks, I literally traveled 17 times.  That is an awful lot of packing up, moving, unpacking, and doing it again and again.  Remember the January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course?  It seems like it happened 6 months ago but all that went on while I was in the throes of all this craziness!  I’m really proud of myself that I was able to meet that commitment, but that was literally the only sewing/quilting I’ve done outside of teaching classes in the last 2 months.  Talk about creativity withdrawl!!!  I’ve been able to snag a little time here and there in my sewing room over the last 2 weeks, though.  I finally finished piecing the quilt top below, having begun working on it 1 1/2 years ago:


I love how it came out and can’t wait to start quilting it!  Because of all the dense thread work and stabilizer, it’s very heavy so it has to be basted on a long arm.  (Spray basting cannot hold that kind of weight.)  I know that  have 15-20 hours of laborious outlining every single tiny applique shape with invisible thread before any of the “fun quilting” can begin, but I am ready to go!  Hopefully, I will be able to start working on it in a few weeks.  This quilt is a “consolidation” of a few different machine embroidery applique files that I have “re-purposed” to create this quilt.  The center blocks are created from the block used in the “Swirly Floral Quartet Table Runner:”


The first border (the narrower one) is made from the same file used for the Serpentine Floral Table Runner:”

Isn’t it weird how different that design looks when you have two mirror image “sets” of them so close together?  This is one of the things I love about MEA, you can spend endless hours messing around with placement and come out with a wide variety of designs. The outermost border was from another table runner design I made a number of months ago but haven’t had a chance to finish writing the pattern for it yet:


(Again, this is another example of how the design really changes when you mess around with placement.)  Anyway, it has been fun to finally get something actually COMPLETED, even though it took me waaaayyyy tooo long!!



January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course Part IX

January 29th, 2018

We’ve made it to our final ruler work lesson, kind of a bittersweet moment.  I hope this has been a fun and educational experience for you! Learning to do ruler work has really breathed new life into my own free motion quilting and if I’ve infected you with this same enthusiasm, I’ve done my job.

Today’s lesson will take your ruler work skills into the world of framing.  Being able to frame a pieced/appliqued/or quilted motif is an important skill. You probably don’t realize it, but you actually learned one effective framing tool two lessons ago.  I’m pointing this out because we didn’t use the technique for framing so you might not have noticed it.  Remember when we learned to create a circle of crescents?  Creating a circular framework is another nice way to frame an important motif.  You would not “fill in” the center of the circle, (since the center area would actually be whatever you were framing), but if you had space, you could build your circle outward to create a more intricate framing design.    In today’s framing lesson, we will be dealing with a different approach to framing, though.  In this case, we will use the boundaries of the quilt block as the starting point and we will build our framework by working “inward.”  Here is a shot of the finished quilt once the framing and fill-in work has been completed:


Before we begin, make sure that your temporary lines that fall 1/2 inch from all 4 edges of the quilt block are very obvious.  (You do not see the “empty” 1/2 inch of fabric that surrounds the finished design in the shot above.)  These previously marked soap lines mark the boundary of your framing design and serve to warn you that any stitching outside that boundary will fall into the seam allowance.  It is heartbreaking to make a beautiful design and then have a portion of that design be “chopped off” visually because it fell within a seam.  You only need to learn this lesson once when you have the misfortune to learn it “the hard way!”

Next, ensure that all your soap lines from the original 8 lines we marked at the very beginning of lesson #7 are still visible.  If they’re not, darken them again as you’ll need to “play off those lines” in today’s lesson.

Finally, I want you to mark the midpoint between each corner and the midpoint line that you marked previously.  Measure and draw a temporary vertical line that’s perpendicular to the marked boundary line at each of these “bisections.”  These vertical lines that you’ve just marked will be the center of a series of arched swags that will run along the outer border of our design.  Mark a tick mark 2 inches from the bottom marked line upward along each of these 8 short vertical lines.  Your sandwich should now look like the photo below:



Before we move on with stitching, I want to jog your memory.  Think back to lesson #4 when we made a border design and we marked our sandwich to create a series of “parent arched swags” and the marked area looked like the marked area in the photo below:


I bring this up because we are doing the same thing here.  The marked sandwich looks a bit different because we’re working off a soap line base now and our arched swags are shallower and wider than what we made in lesson #4, but this is exactly what we did before.  Remember, in ruler work, we are really doing the same things over and over again, but we are changing our starting and stopping points, and we are altering orientations, but we are essentially just creating parent shapes followed by channels.  Understanding the simplicity in this will help give you the confidence to create beautiful and intricate ruler work designs going forward.

Now, let’s start stitching, shall we?  I am using my PTD 12 arc for today’s lesson, but use any arc ruler that is long enough and also has a subtle, or relatively shallow curve.  (*Important note: When I say you can use another arc ruler that has a shallow curve and is long enough, I am defining “long enough” as meaning that the expanse to be stitched must be less than 50% of the arc ruler’s length.  If you look at the picture below, you can see that I have positioned the ruler to illustrate that 1/2 the length of the PTD arc ruler is just slightly greater than the distance o be stitched.)  Pierce your needle in one of the corner intersections and align your ruler such that your stitched line will travel to the next tick mark.  Here is a shot of my set up before I began stitching:


Go ahead and stitch this curve and once done, keep stitching until you meet back up with yourself where you originally began, then leave your needle down.  Here is what your sandwich should look like at that point:


We’ll now throw in a tapered channel.  To do this, place a tick mark 1/2 inch below the stitched line on all 8 of your short vertical lines that mark the midpoint of each swag.  Your swag “bases” will be the pointed bases you’ve just stitched.  Line up your arc ruler as I have below and start stitching:


…and once you meet back up with the place you began stitching, end your thread line and your sandwich should look something like the photo below:


Before we move on, I need to point out something important.  These arched swags that frame our center design are very long, and we have really maxed out the length of the PTD12 arc ruler to create them.  You know because if you look at the photo above, you can see that the centers of each arched swag aren’t quite as “smooth” as what we want them to be.   (In truth, the “wonkiness” of this is accentuated in the photo because there are small chalk lines at each center point that make things look worse.)  This won’t be so noticeable once I’ve erased the chalk lines and filled in the tapered channel, but I don’t want to pass up this opportunity to let you know about this phenomenon.  What do you do when you want to frame something but the longest arc ruler you own is actually too short to create the framing above?  The answer is actually pretty easy…create a framing design that involves more than 2 sections!  In other words, subdivide this expanse into more subdivisions as each subdivision would then require a much shorter expanse of an arc ruler.  I didn’t do that here because this is your very first framing experience so I wanted to keep it simple, but know that there is almost always a work around to accommodate the rulers you have at hand.  When those options don’t seem as aesthetically pleasing to you, that’s when you break down and buy more rulers!  This kind of gets back to what I said when we first started playing with arc rulers; these are very, very versatile “design makers,” so it really pays off to accumulate as many different arc rulers as possible.  One manufacturer’s 12 arc is different from another manufacturer’s 12 arc ruler, etc., etc, so it’s easy to accumulate a large variety of curves over time.

Now we’re ready to begin fill-in quilting.  I used my soap lines that denote the center of each swag and added a featherette inside of each arched swag.  Remember that your goal in stitching featherettes is to completely fill the “empty space,” and this is how you end up with symmetric appearing featherettes.  Here is what my sandwich looked like once the featherettes had been added:


There isn’t much “empty space” left on this quilt, but the un-quilted sections really need to be quilted to help the quilt lie flat.  My goal here is really just to create a texture, not to quilt a fancy design that will compete with the star or the frame.  I am using a polyester thread whose color closely resembles the background fabric and quilting the background fill design called”igloos” in the remaining empty space.  This next shot shows some quilted sections next to un-quilted sections and it gives you a sense of how much this quilting will add to the finished piece:


…and this next shot shows what the quilt looked like once the background quilting was complete:


The last step was adding a row of pearls inside the narrow tapered channels of the arched swags.  Besides adding another detail and a different color to highlight the frame, notice that the single row of pearls draws the viewer’s eye around the frame.  There is something about that single row of pearls that makes the frame more definitive, so it’s  a powerful design choice:


This marks the end of our ruler work journey.  These lessons are an effort to pass along some of the concepts and skills that guide my own ruler work designs.  These lessons are meant to be much more than a few specific design lessons, so don’t fall into the trap of seeing them as just that.  Know that if you can allow yourself the freedom to dream about using these basic concepts in other layouts, there will be no end to what you’ll be able to quilt with rulers.  If you don’t believe me, scroll backwards in my blog to view old posts about how I’ve been quilting more complex designs and you will probably now understand how I do most everything I create!  If you are ever stumped about how to make something, come back and re-read lessons 1-6 as these really are the concepts from which everything I create evolves.  If you’re looking for even more inspiration, be on the lookout for our new DVD called “Ruler Work for the Sit-Down Quilter Volume 2,” which will hopefully be available in late winter.

I hope you’ll stop by my blog regularly. Although I won’t be posting a series of coordinated lessons, I have always (and will continue) to use this blog as a place where I post details about what I’m making and how I’m doing it.  It has been a real pleasure to hear from so many people all over the world who are sharing the same love of ruler work that I have.  I’ve been scratching my head, wondering why it took us home machine quilters so long to figure out how to enjoy the ruler work that long arm quilters have been using for decades! I guess it doesn’t matter now that we know how to do it, but it gives me hope that someone out there is probably on the verge of discovering the next fun thing we quilters can do with our sewing machines!  Have a great day and stay in touch!


January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course Part VIII

January 26th, 2018

Today’s lesson picks up on the design we began in lesson #7, and I am using my PTD straight line ruler for today’s lesson.  We will be converting our circular design into a star in today’s lesson and here is what my sandwich looks like at the end of the lesson:



I’m using my straight line ruler because we have been focused primarily on curves in these lessons and I don’t want you to forget about your straight line ruler.  If you would rather use an arc ruler for this lesson, go for it.  (Your piece will end up looking more like a mandala than a star if you complete this portion with an arc.)  If I were doing this portion with an arc ruler, I would choose an arc that was a somewhat subtle curve, like the PTD 12 arc ruler.

As a reminder, your sandwich should look something like this before we begin:


Today, we will work on building this design from the center outward.  Know that there is no end to how large you could “build out” any given ruler work design.  The limiting factor will be the size of the quilt sandwich that holds the design. We don’t have a ton of space left on our sandwich, so we won’t be able to “build out” very far.  We will also be saving some of our “empty space” to learn some basic ruler work framing in the final lesson, so that will limit our “build out” even more.

We’ll begin by creating some new stopping and starting points for the next round of framework.  You will recall that we were able to use “every other tick mark” to build inwardly in the last lesson.  Another way to build is to define “halfway points” between existing design landmarks, and that is what we will be doing today.  Know that if you are ever looking to build any ruler work design outward, (i.e. to make it larger), repeatedly establishing new “halfway points” between your design elements will always be an effective way to work.  Each successive “row” of work will continue to offer symmetry as well as an easy framework upon which a new row may be added.

My goal here is to place a tick mark at the point that is 1/2 the distance between the beginning and ending of each outermost swag, or crescent.  I am being careful as I do this, but I’m not stressing out and demanding precision of myself.  It’s pretty easy to find this point; I simply lay my ruler down next to the crescent and center the distance over the crescent as shown below:



Can you see that the distance is just shy of 3.5 inches?  I then position my ruler so I have roughly the same amount of “ruler overhang” at the beginning and ending of the swag, then I place a tick mark at the midpoint, which is 1.75 inches.  I do this all the way around the circle, and this is what my sandwich looks like once that marking has been completed:



Next, I’m placing a tick mark 7 inches from the cleavage point on all my long diagonal lines, and I’m placing a tick mark 4 inches from the cleavage point on my short (or midpoint) lines.  This is what my sandwich looks like now:



Again, what we’ve done here is to create new starting and stopping points for our next round of stitching.  Pierce your needle at one of the tick marks along the edge of your circle of crescents and align your straight line ruler to stitch to the neighboring tick mark, as shown in the photo below:


Once you’ve worked your way around the entire circle, moving from tick mark to the neighboring tick mark, you’ll find you’ve added an 8-pointed star to the center circle of crescents.  Stop with your needle down, and here is what that looks like:


Now we’re going to add a tapered channel inside each “ray” of the star.  I placed a tick mark 1 1/2 inch below the tip of each ray that fell on the diagonal (the long rays), and a similar tick mark 1 inch below the tip of the short lines (short rays).  Remember, the base of each ray will be the same base as during our first round of stitching; the only thing we’ve changed is the location of the point at the end of each tapered channel.   Here is a shot of my set up just before I began stitching this next round:



…and here is what the star looked like once the tapered channels had been added:


Now we can begin filling in.  Again, what matters to me is that you learn how to do this kind of ruler work, so if you don’t want the same fill designs, use whatever you’d like.  I began by stitching a free-form feather inside the long rays:


…and then added an Aztec featherette inside the short rays:


I finished this off by hyperquilting both with gold polyester thread:


There’s no denying that the highlighting effect of the hyperquilting is pretty dramatic.  If your goal is to create a more subtle effect, I’d use a thread color that wasn’t as “loud.”

We have 1 more lesson to go in this month long ruler work journey!  See you back here next week and we’ll finish off this quilt sandwich!