May 29 16

Ruler Workus Interruptus

This quilted table runner was the first time I had to deal with creating a ruler work design that was repeatedly interrupted by applique shapes.  Normally, I design ruler work designs so they surround or envelope applique shapes and the two designs are complementary but separate.  When I made the center block of this table runner, it just seemed natural that the ruler work design should spring from the center and radiate outward.  To do that, I had to figure out how to stitch this design in the face of numerous interruptions.  I’m naming this technique “ruler workus interruptus” to make it sound Latin-y and fancy, like “coitus interruptus.”  This closeup of the center area  gives a better idea of what I mean:
As you can see, stitching a framework that created the illusion of straight lines that flowed through applique shapes was the goal.  As a sit-down quilter doing ruler work, it’s imperative to hold the ruler on the quilt in a consistent position or the stitched line will diverge from its intended placement.  How can you do that if you have to keep stopping and then re-starting a new line of stitching?
I could only think of one solution, and you can see it in these photos.  It’s kind of hard to see it here in this really early shot:
…but here you can really see it:
If you’re noticing all those strands of thread, that’s what I’m talking about.  The only way I know to keep those lines straight if you’re doing ruler work as a sit-down quilter is to take a series of short stitches before and after each applique interruption and then resume at the other side of the applique, holding the ruler against the quilt in a consistent position all the while.  It looks better after the threads have been trimmed away.  (I left some short ones at the base of the ferns for comparison’s sake):
And now for the fun part of filling in that framework and adding some new lines that emanate from the center diamond:
I threw in  a swirl background fill at each of the ends, just to have a different texture:
I used an arc ruler to create the arched swags on the ends, then filled those in with small featherettes:
And the finished runner:
What’s on your machine bed these days?


  1. Paula Manning Says:

    This is one of the most helpful postings. I have an applique project ready for quilting, and this has been a great help! I LOVE your work and get so much inspiration from it!! Thank you!!

  2. sherry Says:

    lovely work…the appliqué really allows the ruler work to show off…a pretty good balance between the two

  3. Laura Davies Says:

    Longarmers quilt like that too! Keeps all the lines straight. Looks great Patsy!

  4. Suzy Webster Says:

    Lovely. I always enjoy your projects!

  5. Diane Evans Says:

    The answer to your last question: Papers and supplies that need filing!

    This is a great post, Patsy — I do a lot of appliqué, and I’m always trying to think of new ways to quilt around it. Great solution — can’t wait to try it!


  6. Nancy Says:

    Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing your technique.

  7. Maria Gardner Says:

    Totally minimal applique – totally exquisite ruler work and quilting. Stunning effect. Love it.

  8. Tricia Seppell Says:

    This is gorgeous, Patsy. Love your work!
    Right now I’m watching your videos on ruler work. Just bought a Bernina 880 with a 12 inch space for quilting. Can’t wait to use all that I learned from your Craftsy classes and blog.

  9. Dorothy Minett Says:

    Patsy , you are just going from strength to strength…your quilting is to die for. The table runner is amazing well done you. I have only recently tried whole cloth quilting with Jeanne Harrison and am loving it.I am thankful every day that I persevered with machine free motion quilting thanks to you… it is so much fun. Dorothy Minett

  10. Julia Bounds Says:

    OK, it’s decided…you’re my HERO – the One to Emulate (or at least TRY), da “Leader of da Pack (of FMQ Gurus…). I’m so glad I found your site, books, u-tube videos.
    My first attempts at FMQ were “less than lovely”, but I keep trying and one day, 1 day, I shall produce FMQ results that perhaps come close to yours.
    This is really beautiful work…and the way you kept the lines straight…ingenious (even though I do hate to “unsew” anything – I’m good at it – practice makes perfect). Thanks for the challenges you put forth for those of us who strive to emulate your work…