January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course Part IV

January 12th, 2018

We meet yet again!   This is the 4th ruler work lesson and if you missed lesson #1,  lesson #2, or lesson #3, you’ll want to go back and read those lessons and also complete the ruler work exercises that go with each lesson.  Know that each lesson builds on the preceding lessons, so it’s to your benefit to complete them in order.  Your time and my time are valuable, so I won’t keep repeating the same information in each post.  You can find the earlier lessons by clicking on the links below:

Lesson #1
Lesson #2

Lesson #3

If you find yourself struggling with these lessons, or just want to start truly at the basics of ruler work, you may find our ruler work DVD helpful.  It’s called “Ruler Work for the Sit Down Quilter Volume I, ”  and you can find it by clicking here.   These ruler work lessons are quite different than what is on that DVD.  This blog-based ruler work course presumes you already know some basic ruler work info, so if you are feeling a little lost, this really might help you.

In our last lesson, you learned how to create tapered channels using an arc ruler and today, you’ll learn how to create a different type of tapered channel using an arc ruler.   I will be using my PTD 12 arc ruler for this lesson, but use whatever arc ruler you have lying around.  We will be working inside the 4 inch wide border that lies just below the 1 3/4 inch wide border we filled during our last exercise.

Below is a photo of the ruler work framework we will be completing today:

 

 

 

Know that this is what I call an arched swag border.  It’s very similar to a swag border, but each swag comes to a point at its apex.  (Compare this to the last swag border we did where there was no central apex.  Those were just tiers of pleasing curves that never came to a “point.”)

This is a very easy type of design to stitch and learning to stitched arched swags will help you accomplish a lot of work more easily and quickly.  I say this because we have, in essence, made the ruler work framework much easier to stitch because it has been broken into 2 short curves instead of 1 plunging curve that must be repeated in 2 directions.  If this doesn’t seem intuitive to you, find yourself a true swag ruler with a  similar plunge and try stitching with it and not moving that ruler’s position against the quilt  from start to finish.  This is much harder to do as a sit-down quilter (because remember, you’re moving a big quilt as well), so arched swag designs have really become my go-to designs.  They will deliver “big time” as far as a design punch, yet they are easier to stitch than a true plunging swag design that is stitched as one continuous line per swag.

To begin, let’s place some markings inside this border to guide our stitching.  Place a tick mark 1 inch inside the left side of the base of the border, then place a tick mark every 5 inches.  Next, place a vertical line that is perpendicular to the baseline at 2.5 inches from the first tick mark, then repeat this vertical line every 5 inches.  Your sandwich should now look like this:

 

Hopefully, stitching this series of “parent arched swags” looks familiar from prior markings.  You’ll pierce your needle at the base of the border at the first tick mark, then stitch to the intersection of the apex of the soap line, change your ruler position, then stitch back to the next tick mark that falls on the baseline.  Repeat that for all 4 arched swag “units” on your border, and your sandwich should look like the photo below:

 

Check that your perpendicular lines really do hit the apex of each arched swag and create a new perpendicular line if they do not.  Add a small tick mark at 1 inch, 1 3/4 inch, and 2 1/4 inches along the vertical lines below the stitching at the apex.  Do this for each arched swag “unit,” and recall that you are merely establishing new starting and stopping points for your stitching.  Your marked sandwich should now look like the photo below:

 

 

(Hopefully, you are having a bit of a deja-vu back to when we marked a design for tapered channels using a straight line ruler in lesson 1.)

Pierce your needle at the very beginning  of of your current border design at its base, and this is what my set up looked like as I was preparing to stitch this next round of tapered channels:

 

Go ahead and stitch each of these, re-positioning your ruler, (and pivoting your quilt if you’d like), each time you hit the next tick mark.  Once the border has been stitched, your sandwich should look something like this:

 

 

Go ahead and finish stitching the remaining 2 lines that will create even more channels and when you are done, your sandwich should look like this:

 

 

If we examine it, there are 3 tapered channels and a triangle at the base.  Could we fill some or all of these channels?  Yes.  Know, however, that it is usually more impactful to fill only some of the channels.  By deliberately leaving every other channel empty, you create more textural/design interest, and it also saves you time.  This leads us to Patsy’s golden rule #3:

Avoid the temptation to fill all channels inside a given design.  The juxtaposition of a filled channel next to an unfilled channel is a subtle way of making your quilted design more interesting and drawing the viewer’s attention to it.

Let’s talk a bit about arched swag designs in general because this is a particularly useful quilting design.  Remember that you can always alter the “look” or “feel” of a given design by playing with scale.  Arched swag border designs become far more impactful as they increase in size, and this is mainly because you can “subdivide the real estate” underneath the arched swag in so many different ways.  I make a lot of quilts that have 4 1/2- 5 inch wide borders, so I play around a lot with arched swag designs that would fit those border widths.  By increasing the length of each arched border swag “unit,” I dramatically increase the “real estate” underneath the parent arched swag, and this means there is much more room to play with.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

 

 

That first arched swag border design is composed of a series of parallel channels underneath the parent arched swag “unit.”(coming up in the next lesson).  Contrast that idea with the arched swag border design below that merges parallel channels and tapered channels within the same ached swag border:

 

 

 

…and this one is the same ruler work framework as the last arched swag border design, but it’s filled differently:

 

I hope this is giving you a sense of how much fun it is to play around with arched swag designs.  The examples I’ve shown you today are all used in border designs, but you’ll see that arched swags can be used for much more than that.  Rest up over the next few days because I’m going to really push you in the next lesson…

 

 

January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course Part III

January 8th, 2018

Welcome back!  This is the 3rd ruler work lesson and if you missed lesson #1,  or lesson #2, you’ll want to go back and read those lessons and also complete the ruler work exercises that go with each lesson.  Know that each lesson builds on the preceding lessons, so it’s to your benefit to complete them in order.  Your time and my time are valuable, so I won’t keep repeating the same information in each post.  You can find the earlier lessons by clicking on the links below:

Lesson #1

Lesson #2

Before we get to today’s lesson, know that there really is a logical order to what I’m presenting here.  I’m actually spending several hours preparing for each of these lessons, and I’m not counting the time I’m spending thinking about the info and the best way to present it to an audience filled with quilters with wide-ranging skill levels.  I’m telling you this because I’m receiving some questions about how to take these designs and use them in a customized fashion on your quilt.  That info is coming, but I need to lay a solid foundation before we get there.  So, I’m asking you to trust me for a little while longer.  If you read what I wrote at the end of the last lesson, then you know that my goal is to give you the wings to create all kinds of designs once this is over, so know that your desire to use this info in a “customized way” is very much my goal as well!

You’ve learned how to create tapered channels and parallel channels using straight line rulers, and now we will embark on creating these same types of channels using curved rulers.  For the next 3 lessons, we will be using arc rulers and I should tell you up front that arc rulers are by far my favorite and most used rulers.  I would recommend building your ruler arsenal by investing in and  gathering as many different arc or curve rulers as you can afford, because your quilting life becomes very easy (and very fun!) when you have a nice stash of curves available to you.  I say this because we are using these rulers to create designs to fill-in all kinds of “empty spaces” on our quilts, and the more different curves you can create, the easier and faster you’ll be able to do that.

The picture below shows you some different arc rulers:

 

 

These are all similar to one another, yet all different from one another.  Remember that arcs are formed by either “cutting away” the outside edge of part of a circle or the outside edge of part of an ellipse.  (Don’t freak out and tell yourself that you can’t understand this stuff because you sucked at math or hated math.  This is an easy concept and you need to know it, and frankly, math matters, so if you’ve managed to get through life trying to avoid math, you really do need to buck up and get over it!  I remember once watching something on PBS and one of the presenters said “Let’s just face it, MATH=POWER.”  That was one of the most profound comments I’ve ever heard and like it or not, it’s true!  Ok, I’m getting off my soapbox now…)  Just to remind you, an ellipse and a circle are both curved “structures,” but they are very different:

 

Imagine that we cut out a section of the perimeter of that circle to create an arc ruler…wouldn’t the curve on any part of that arc be the same as the curve on any other part of that arc?  Yes, it would.  Now, imagine that we cut out a portion of the perimeter of that ellipse.  The same would not be true since the curve on the edge of an ellipse is not constant.  When you pick up a given arc ruler, you don’t know whether it’s “parent” was an ellipse or a circle, so in general, assume it’s an ellipse and you will always be “safe.”  This means that if you make it a habit to try and roughly “center” the center of the arc ruler over the area you want to stitch, you should come out w/a symmetric curve.  I don’t want to belabor this point, so just know that this is a good habit to develop, and it won’t be hard to develop if you’re just starting out.

One more thing before we get started…you can ride along the convex or the concave side of an arc ruler (meaning you can ride along the inside or the outside curve.)  Most people develop a preference over time and when you have the ability to choose, always choose to stitch in the way that is easiest for you.  Sometimes you won’t have a choice, though, so learn to stitch on both the concave and convex sides of arc rulers.  Some rulers have the exact same curve on each side of the arc but others do not.  You need to know if the 2 sides are identical or you may end up with a design that was not what you intended!   (This is easy to determine:  trace along the concave part of your arc on paper, then move your arc and try to align the convex side along your traced curve.  If they line up, then both sides of your arc have the same curve.  If not, they are 2 different curves)

The photo below shows you the ruler work design we will make today; this is a series of swags with tapered channels:

 

 

I will be using the PTD 12, 8, and 6.5 arc rulers for today’s exercise.  These have the same curve on both sides, so feel free to ride along the inside or the outside curve.  You do NOT need to have these same 3 arc rulers to do today’s lesson, but you DO need at least 2 arc rulers whose curves are different enough from one another to be aesthetically pleasing in order to complete today’s exercise.  You will also need a 13 in x 24 inch quilt sandwich.  We are going to create 3 “border zones” across the width of your quilt sandwich that we will later fill with ruler work designs.  Using a temporary marker, draw a horizontal line across the 24 inch length of the fabric that rests 1-1 1/2 inches from the base of the top fabric.  Draw another horizontal line that falls 4 inches above the bottom line, then a second line that falls 4 inches above the first line, and then a 3rd horizontal line that falls 1 3/4 inches above the last line.  Next, go to your sewing machine and stitch these  horizontal lines and once you’re done, your quilt sandwich should look like this sandwich below:

 

 

For today’s lesson, we will only be working inside the 1 3/4 inch wide border zone, so we need to mark that zone for stitching.  (Note: just like before, the uppermost and lowermost fabric zones will remain empty as they exist only to save you from having to work right at the edge of your sandwich.)

First, mark a small tick mark at the base of the border 1 inch inward from the left side, then mark a tick mark every 5 1/2 inches thereafter.  This is all the marking we need to do for this design, so there is no need to mark a midpoint vertical line like before.  We are ready to begin stitching!   In case you are confused by how easy this is, the photo below is a closeup of some of the marking:

 

 

Mount your ruler foot, set your machine up for free motion mode, and see if you can find a  re-run of an old “Law and Order” TV episode to play  in the background.  (Don’t you still messy Lenny the cop?  I just never got over losing that actor…)

Pierce your needle in the first tick mark.  I’m going to be stitching with my 6.5 arc first because this arc will give me the most protuberant curve in this design.  Here is a shot of my set-up just before I begin stitching:

 

 

(Just like before, one edge of the ruler is against the ruler foot and the other is 1/4 inch away from my desired endpoint for the swag.  The only NEW thing here is that I have roughly centered the arc ruler across this space.)  Take a few short locking stitches, then follow the edge of the ruler until you arrive at the next tick mark, then stop with your needle down.

Sometimes when I teach “live,” I see some folks doing some twisting and turning with their shoulders/arms as they follow the curve of an arc ruler.  Avoid doing that as you will end up with very sore shoulders after a session of ruler work and it’s not necessary.  Just follow the edge of that ruler and the curve of the ruler will do all the work for you.  This really is much easier than one might think!  Your challenge here is to stitch that entire swag without allowing the ruler to move in the process, as this will cause a deflection of your stitched line.  You can make this easier on yourself by stopping partway through the swag with your needle down and leaving your hand on the ruler.  With your other hand, steady the ruler, then raise your “ruler hand” and place it in a new position where you’ll have better control to complete the swag’s stitching.  This is the only sure-fire way I have found to alter my ruler hand’s position when I need to re-position my hand part-way through a line of stitching.

Go ahead and pick up your ruler and align it to stitch the next swag, then go ahead and stitch the remaining swags in this short border.    Once done, your design should look like the photo below:

 

 

Starting with this lesson, I am going to illustrate this in a way that will mimic a “real quilt” situation.  Remember that on a “real quilt,” you would have stitched this first round of parent swags on all 4 sides of the quilt and your needle would have ended up exactly where you had begun.  In order to mimic that, end your thread line and pierce your needle where your first stitched line intersects the base of your border.  Swap to a different arc ruler that has a curve that’s different enough to be aesthetically pleasing, (I am using my PTD 12 arc ruler) and align it to stitch the tapered channel.  Here is my set up before I begin stitching:

 

 

Now go ahead and stitch each swag.  Remember that your target “end points” are the place where the stitched line meets the baseline; ignore those tick marks as they will be gone at the end, so you want to “honor” your stitched points, not the soon-to-be absent tick marks.  Once done, end your thread line and your sandwich should now appear as the photo below:

 

 

This is a 2-tiered tapered swag border design.  It is lovely and you could stop stitching now and have a lovely design.  If all you have available are the 2 arc rulers you used to stitch these 2 swag lines, you are done stitching for today.  I am going to go ahead and add one more tapered channel using my PTD 8arc ruler, and if you have a 3rd arc ruler whose curve is different enough from the other 2 arcs, please go ahead and use it to add a 3rd tier.  Once done, your border design should look something like the photo below:

 

 

There you have it-tapered channels using arc rulers to create tiered swag designs!  Could you fill some of these tapered channels?  Of course!  Could you throw in some kind of design at each of the “cleavage points” where 2 swags join at the baseline?  Yes!  Tapered channel swag designs are easy, fast, and fun and they look great all by themselves as well as “all dressed up.”  One word of caution about quilted swag designs in general though… pay attention to their orientation before you begin stitching.  It is very easy to orient them in a way that will not “make sense” on your quilt, and it’s a hard lesson to learn after you’ve finished stitching!

We have used this technique to create tapered channels in a border design, but know that these same tiered swags work great in framing large blocks as well as small blocks.  In fact, this basic skill you just learned will give you lots and lots of design mileage if you let yourself think about it:

 

 

More food for thought:

 

 

See you back here in another few days and we’ll take another step together.

January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course – Part II

January 5th, 2018

 

Welcome back!  Thanks so much to all of you for returning, and a special thanks to all of you who’ve written comments to me about the class.  It is so wonderful to hear your thoughts and to know I’m helping you get hooked on this fun FMQing skill!

If you missed lesson #1, you’ll want to go back and read that lesson and also complete the ruler work exercises that go with lesson #1.  You can find lesson #1 by clicking here.  Know that each lesson builds on the preceding lessons, so it’s to your benefit to complete them in order.  Your time is valuable, so I won’t keep repeating the same information in each post.  Unless I state otherwise, assume that all stitching is to be done using a ruler foot, and we’ve already been through the drill of how to set up your sewing machine for ruler work. 

Hopefully, you are now appreciating the power of channels and how channels empower quilting designs.  In lesson #1, we worked with a straight line ruler to create a ruler work border design that featured tapered channels.  In this lesson, we’ll again work with a straight line ruler, but we’ll learn about creating parallel channels.  By the conclusion of this lesson, you should understand the difference between the two types of channels and you will have put that knowledge into action by creating both types of channels using a straight line ruler.  Let’s get down to business!

Pull out the small sandwich that you created last week.  Today, we will be working on a border design to fill the 4-inch wide border zone that lies just below the 2 inch wide border zone we filled earlier.  Again, use whatever straight line ruler you have lying around.  Below is a photo of the ruler work framework that we will create:

 

 

…and here’s what a framework like this might look like once filled:

 

 

Each of these “parent triangles” is 5 inches wide and 4 inches tall.  To begin, we again need to make some temporary tick marks to guide our ruler work.  Place a short tick mark at the base of the border about 1  inch from the left edge of your sandwich, then place tick marks every 5 inches across the border.  Next, draw a temporary vertical line (from the bottom of the border to the top of the border),  2.5 inches from your first tick mark, then repeat this vertical line every 5 inches.  (Know that you can easily throw in these vertical soap lines that are perpendicular to the border’s baseline by lining up a line on your marking ruler with your stitched baseline, then tracing along the edge of your marking ruler.)  At this point, your marked sandwich should look like this:

 

 

This is just like before; all of these temporary marks are merely stopping and starting points that will guide our stitching as we create this design.  We are ready to begin stitching.  Remember, marked lines are where you want your stitched line to fall; they are NOT where you want to place the ruler’s edge!

Always begin by piercing the needle at the tick mark where you want to begin stitching.  Next, align the ruler’s edge so it rests against the ruler foot, and then align the other edge of the ruler so that it falls 1/4 inch away from the desired endpoint for your stitched line.  Here is my “set-up” just before I begin stitching this design:

 

 

Take some short locking stitches and you are off!  Stitch this exactly like you did before, triangle after triangle, until you reach the final base of the 4th triangle.  Once there, stop with your needle down, and your sandwich should look like this:

 

 

A couple things before we proceed…remember that on a “real” quilt, you would have marked all 4 borders before starting, and you would have sewn all 4 of these 4 border sides and your needle would normally be right back where you started.  In our case, we will be working backward since we only have a short stretch of this border design.  What I want you to know, though, is that you want to always be efficient in your stitching.  This means that you would completely sew the ruler work framework for this design in one, continuous thread line.  We will do that here, but we’ll be doing this a bit backwards at times just to accommodate our quilt sandwich.

Just like yesterday, look over your vertical soap lines to ensure that your stitching at the apex of each triangle “hits” the soap line.  If you were off by a teeny bit, erase that soap line and mark a new perpendicular line before proceeding.  Know that you need to do this every time you stitch a design like this where we have marked a center line that we will use to “play off of.”  (Pardon that ending of a sentence w/TWO prepositions but it is what it is!)  I won’t repeat the need to do this in future lessons, so please remember to get into this habit.

Now, this is where today’s “new information” begins.  We are going to create a 1/4 inch parallel channel inside each of these triangles.  This is a different type of channel than the tapered channel we learned earlier, so we will create it in a very different way.  This will, however, be much easier than you think, and we don’t need to make any new marks!

Recall from lesson #1 that when the needle has been centered inside the ruler foot, the distance from the needle to the outside edge of the ruler foot is_____inches.  If you answered “1/4 inch,” congratulations!  If you didn’t know the correct answer, slap yourself in the head a couple times and then go back and re-read lesson #1!  This very basic fact is essential to all parallel channel ruler work, so commit it to memory.

To create a 1/4 inch parallel channel, I need to get my needle 1/4 inches to the inside of the triangle, right?  You bet we need to do that!  So, I am slowly and carefully backtracking over my baseline until my needle is 1/4 inch inside the triangle, still piercing the baseline (and by the way, the baseline, on a real quilt, would be the seam’s ditch.)  How do I know that I’ve backed up by 1/4 inch?  Since the distance from the needle to the outer edge of the ruler foot is 1/4 inch, if the edge of the ruler foot is just barely visible inside my stitched line, I know I’ve hit the jackpot.  I align the ruler’s edge so that one end is adjacent to the ruler foot, and then I line up the edge of the ruler with my already stitched line.  Here is a photo of my setup before I start stitching:

 

 

Stitch that line, ensuring that you keep that ruler edge on the already stitched line, and stop stitching when your needle hits the middle soap line.  Alter the position of the ruler so it abuts the other stitched side of the triangle, (and pivot your quilt if you wish), and stitch your way back to the triangle’s base.  Your first triangle is stitched!

You need to carefully inch your way 1/4 inch into the neighboring triangle, so feel free to use your straight line ruler to help you as below:

 

Once into the next triangle, repeat this process and then finish placing a 1/4 inch wide parallel channel into all 4 triangles on this sandwich.  Once you’re done, stop with your needle in the down position.

Now, that was easier than you thought, wasn’t it?  Next up, we are going to stitch a 1/2 inch parallel channel inside the “new” parent triangles.  If you are lucky and have markings etched on your straight line ruler, you can do this easily by aligning the first marked line on the ruler with the lines we just stitched.  Quiz question:  Since that first etched line on the ruler is 1/4 inch from the edge, how the heck will using it as a guide result in a 1/2 inch wide channel?  Answer:  Remember that the ruler foot will add another 1/4 inch, and since 1/4 in + 1/4 in = 1/2 inch, we are good to go!  (Again, if you couldn’t answer that question correctly, you really do need to go back and re-read lesson #1.  Hate to say it, but 3 strikes and you’re out!)  You will need to carefully stitch along the baseline so that your needle is 1/2 inches inside the innermost triangle.  You could place a little tick mark at 1/2 inches, but if you are lazy like me, you just “eyeball it,” then place the ruler do that the first marked line is directly above the stitched line, and then alter the position of the needle so it’s abutting the ruler foot’s edge.  This is what my set-up looks like just before I begin stitching:

 

 

 

Note that the etched line is directly above the stitched line.  Go ahead and stitch, but once your needle hits the middle soap line, stop stitching in needle down and re-position your ruler (and pivot your quilt if you wish), then stitch the opposite side that will take you back to the baseline.  Because you’ll need to sneak along that baseline a fair distance to arrive at 1/2 inch inside the neighboring triangle, definitely use your straight line ruler to help you stay neatly on that baseline.  Once you’re there, repeat the process and then finish stitching the 1/2 in parallel channel inside each of the remaining triangles.  Once done, stop with your needle down and your sandwich should look like the photo below:

 

 

 

We’re not going to do it here, but does anybody know what we’d do if we wanted to stitch a 3/4inch wide channel?  How about a 1 inch wide channel?  If you guessed that you would use the remaining etched lines on your ruler, you are correct!  Each of those etched lines will add an additional 1/4 inch, so it’s really pretty easy to stitch parallel channels using etched rulers and there is no marking needed.  Isn’t it great when things are easy like this?!

Back to our sandwich…we’re going to stitch one more 1/4 inch channel inside each triangle, so stitch inside the innermost triangle at one end by 1/4 inch and go for it!  You know how to do this and if you’ve forgotten, read the paragraphs above where it has been discussed.  Once done, end your thread line and know that your ruler work framework is complete!  It should appear like the sandwich below:

 

If we examine it, we have a 1/4 in parallel channel, a 1/2 in parallel channel, a 1/4 in parallel channel, and a small triangle at the base.  This is a good place to introduce Patsy’s Golden Rule #2:

Never fill a parallel channel that is 1/4 inch wide or less because it is so narrow that it will only look messy.

So, think of your 1/4 inch parallel channels as existing only to add intricacy and detail.  This also means that if you have plans to fill a given channel with a specific design, make sure you create a channel that is larger than 1/4 inch wide.

So, let’s start by filling that 1/2 inch wide channel.  Visibility with a ruler foot is always compromised, so feel free to swap to your favorite free motion foot for this part.  What I’ve stitched here is a design I call “fingertips.”  Take care to orient the design so the fingertips point away from the center triangle, and as you work, keep them perpendicular to the baseline.  I always work to have each side “end” at the center mark, and then I throw a tiny teardrop into the apex.  Here is what my sandwich looked like once I’d filled the 1/2 in channel on all 4 triangles:

 

 

For the bottom triangle, I stitched a short chain of loop-d-loop, stretching the tips of the loops to fill the space.  Notice that I made use of my center soap lines that we marked at the beginning to aim for a large loop right in the center:

 

 

If it’s helpful to you, here is a closeup shot of a completely filled triangle:

 

Hopefully, some questions are racing through your head, like:

*Could we have filled this framework with different designs?  Yes!

*Could we do the same thing on the opposite side of the border that is now empty?  Yes! 

*Could we have filled the opposite side of the border with a different design?  Yes!

The photo below is of a different design, but the red middle border gives you an idea of how dramatically this changes the border aesthetic.

 

One more thing before you leave today’s lesson…know that your goals and my goals for all these lessons may not quite be the same.  When I teach in any setting, my goal is to teach your broad skills and concepts that will help you spread your wings so you can apply those concepts/skills in a wide range of applications.  The specific designs we stitch out as you are learning this are nice in and of themselves, but to me, they are merely practical examples to help you learn something.  You will grow much more from this experience if you can allow yourself to think about what we’re doing in a larger context.  (i.e. “What else can I do with tapered channels/parallel channels outside of just today’s border design?”)  If you approach this class with a very literal black and white attitude, you will learn how to stitch some nice designs but you won’t be able to fly.  I know you’re scared, but sometimes it pays to take that leap!

This table runner below is a nice example of how simple straight line parallel channels can add an architectural “feel” to the overall design and really make a simple applique design rock:

 

Here’s another table runner with straight line parallel channel work whose overall design is really heightened by the graphic nature of the ruler work background:

 

Lots to think about and we’ve just gotten started…

 

Ruler Work 2018 Winter Course – Part I

January 1st, 2018

 

 

Welcome to the first installment of the 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course!  Follow along with me each week as we tackle a topic in ruler guided free motion quilting  each Monday and Friday in January 2018.  I am teaching you from the standpoint of a sit-down quilter, but all of the information here will help you whether you are a sit-down quilter or a frame quilter, so there’s good information and inspiration for everyone.

In today’s lesson, we will explore the 2 basic ruler work skills that are the hallmark of more than 95% of ruler work designs.  I am referring to parallel channels and tapered channels.   These represent the 2 broad categories of channels that can be used to create ruler work designs and frameworks on your quilts.  I suspect you may be yawning out of boredom right now, but trust me…understanding these very basic concepts can completely transform your free motion quilting design aesthetic!  They are honesty the basis of everything you see me do.

To understand these 2 types of channels, we must first define a channel.  A channel is created when 2 lines are stitched near one another, and the channel is the “empty space” between them.  This doesn’t sound like a very important thing, but turning a design created with a single line of quilting into a design that has a channel in it will change things up in a BIG way.   Let’s start by looking at the quilted motif below:

 

 

 

 

Can you see that this motif is a series of swags?  That would be really pretty stitched across a border, wouldn’t it?  But…a design like the one above has much more power and impact when it is stitched using channels.  This is because it is very easy for a design to be “lost” when it’s stitched as just a single line.  Let’s see what happens when we take this same design but stitch it using a channel:

 

 

The difference is pretty striking.  Adding a channel has made the swag border design much more impactful.

It’s given the design strength and power.   This design will not become “lost” as the earlier type of design did.  Somehow, creating that simple channel has made the design more definitive.

Now, let’s talk a bit more about the channel above.  Notice that the space within the channel is not consistent throughout its breadth, and that’s because this is what’s called a tapered channel.  It’s called a tapered channel because the space occupied by the channel is narrowing toward the base of each swag.  Now, let’s look at the second type of channel, which is called a parallel channel. To understand a parallel channel, let’s first look at the arched swag border design below:

 

 

 

Again, it’s pretty and would make a nice border design, but it needs something, doesn’t it?  Here is the same design after we’ve added a parallel channel:

 

 

 

This is far more striking, isn’t it?  The difference between this type of channel and the earlier one is that the space inside a parallel channel is constant.  This happens because they are parallel channels and there is no tapering of the space between the lines.  Is a parallel channel “better” than a tapered channel, or visa-versa?  No!  They are just 2 types of channels that will become very useful to you as you do all kinds of ruler work because they are pretty much the basis of about 95% of ruler work designs.  Sometimes, you will choose one channel type over another because that type of channel will fill the available space on your quilt better.  Other times, both types of channel would work great and you may choose one over the other because of the design aesthetic.  Other times, you may choose one over the other just because you “feel like it!”  The point it, you want to learn the difference between the two types and you want to learn how to stitch both kinds of channels because they will enrich your ruler work more than anything else you do.  If you learn nothing else in this ruler work winter course, please, please, please learn to appreciate the power of channels and how to create them!  We’re about to start stitching our first design, but before we start, remember Patsy’s Golden Rule #1: 

Channels will always enrich your design, and the more channels within a given design, the more intricate and powerful the design will be.  This means that you  always want to create at least 1 channel within a given design.

Ok, enough said, let’s put this new-found knowledge to work with some practical stitching!  Today, we will be focusing on straight line channel work and you’ll need whatever straight line machine quilting ruler you have lying around to do this.  To  begin, whip up a  9 inch x 24 inch quilt sandwich, using a solid colored fabric or a gently mottled fabric that “reads” as a solid for the top fabric.  We are going to create 2 “border zones” across the width of your fabric that we will fill with ruler work designs.  Using a temporary marker, draw a horizontal line across the 24 inch length of the fabric that rests 1-1 1/2 inches from the base of the top fabric.  Draw another horizontal line that falls 4 inches above the bottom line, and then a 3rd horizontal line that falls 2 inches above the middle line.  Next, go to your sewing machine and stitch these 3 horizontal lines and once you’re done, your quilt sandwich should look like this sandwich below:

 

 

(**Note:  the uppermost and lowermost zones will remain untouched.  They exist only to make it easier to quilt these designs since working at the edge of a quilt is difficult.)

To start, we will be working ONLY inside the 2 inch wide border zone today, so focus solely on that zone for now.  This is the ruler work border design we will be making:

 

 

Before we begin, know that this is a border design created by stitching a series of tapered channels inside the original parent shape, and the parent shape here is a triangle.  Go back and look at the photo of the tapered swag border design I showed you earlier.  Can you see that this is identical, except the design is different since we are using a straight ruler instead of an arc ruler?  It will help you to take the time to “see” these similarities as you are learning ruler work, because you will realize that you can make a ton of unique designs if you can think about designs and channels in this way.  Now, back to today’s exercise.  Remember that we are working inside the 2 inch border zone for today.  Each “triangular unit” is 5 inches wide and 2 inches tall.  In ruler work, you must always have a plan.  This means you must always know exactly where you want your line of stitching to begin and exactly where it should end, before you ever start stitching.  We need to place a series of temporary tick marks that will guide us as we stitch.  Beginning at least 1 1/2 inches from the left side of the border zone, make a small tick mark at the base of the border, then make a series of identical tick marks every 5 inches.  Now, mark a vertical line that is perpendicular to the baseline at the 2.5 inch mark, then every 5 inches thereafter.  In doing so, you have marked the starting and stopping points for each line you will stitch using your ruler.  Before you begin stitching, your marked sandwich should appear as below:

 

(Again, note that the tiny tick marks at the base of the border will be the bottom-most point of the triangle and the long vertical lines mark the center of the triangles.  If you can’t see that clearly, enlarge this photo so you understand how the marking will work.)

As we move forward, know that every time I ask you to make a temporary mark on your sandwich, this mark is where you want the stitched line to fall; it is NOT where you place the ruler edge.  Keep this straight in your mind and your actions or you won’t end up with the design you intended!

Mount your ruler foot onto your machine and center the needle if it’s not clearly centered.  (you will determine this by eye-balling the needle’s position and if you don’t know how to center the needle on your machine, then you need to look this up in your sewing machine manual!)  I recommend using a zigzag throatplate for ruler work in case you need to alter the needle position.  Know that once the needle has been centered, the distance from the needle to the outside edge of your ruler foot is 1/4 inches.  This means that regardless of where you place a ruler against your ruler foot, your stitched line will always fall 1/4 inches from the needle.  You will come to rely heavily on this consistency.  (Note-every time you turn your machine off, you will need to re-center your needle.  It’s very easy to forget to do this!)

Ruler work is ruler-guided free motion quilting, so set you machine up for FMQing, straight stitch, stitch length zero, and if your machine has a “needle down” option, make sure it’s in “needle down.”  (If your machine doesn’t have a needle down option and you are serious about any form of FMQing, it’s time to think seriously about investing in a new machine!)

Pierce your needle in the base of the border at the very first tick mark toward the left of your sandwich.  Since you will be using your straight line ruler to guide the stitching of all these straight lines, place the edge of the ruler up against the ruler foot, and place the other edge of the ruler 1/4 inch away from the intersection of the vertical soap line and the upper edge of the border, as shown in the photo below:

 

 

Why didn’t I place that ruler directly on the intersection where I want my line to end?  Remember, the stitched line will always fall 1/4 inch away from the needle itself (since the ruler foot will “add” 1/4 inch, so you must account for this each time you place the ruler to begin a new round of stitching.  If you are new at this, expect that it will take you time and practice to be able to “guesstimate” a 1/4 inch distance, but in the meantime, you can use a small ruler or one of those measurement gizmos by Westalee.)

Just as you would with any FMQing, take 4-6 very short stitches as your “locking stitches,” then stitch the straight line that takes you to the intersection of the vertical line and the top of the border.  Once you arrive there, stop stitching with your needle down.  Move the ruler (and feel free to pivot your quilt sandwich if you’d like),  and place your ruler so that it will guide you in stitching to the next tick mark at the base of the border.  (Remember, this means you’ll want to place one edge of the ruler against the ruler foot and the other edge of the ruler 1/4 inch in front of the desired tick mark.)  Go ahead and stitch this line, and then continue this process from bottom of the border to top of the border again and again.  You will stitch 4 of these “triangular units” and then stop with your needle in the down position.  Your quilt sandwich should look like the photo below:

 

Look closely at the vertical soap lines and ensure that your stitching is hitting the top of the line at the apex.  If you are a teeny bit off, erase the soap line and create a new vertical line that’s perpendicular to the base.  (Remember, these temporary lines will all be gone at the end, so no one will ever know if you were a teeny bit off.  Once you’ve stitched your “parent design,”  you honor what has been stitched, not the original marks!)  If you are more than a teeny bit off, sorry, but you’re kind of hosed and you need to rip out your work and start over.  (Sometimes life is hard!)

Now you are ready to add the final tick marks that will allow you to complete the tapered channels.  These tick marks will all fall on that vertical center line, and the measurements I am giving you are measured from the very tip of your stitched line at the apex of the triangle and measured downward.  Make a tiny tick mark 1/2 inches, 1 inch, and 1 3/8 inch from the very top of each apex.  Once done, your sandwich should look like this:

 

These tick marks are the new “stopping” and “starting” points for the midpoint of each tapered channel inside the parent triangle.  You should be asking yourself  “Why didn’t she have us mark this right from the start?”  The reason is that you will sometimes need to “correct” your center vertical line as discussed above, so I always wait and do this kind of marking once the parent shape has been stitched.

Your needle should still be piercing the fabric in needle down.  (If it’s not because you pulled it out to mark, it’s no biggie.  Just know that you can stitch this entire design in one continuous thread line.)  On a “real” quilt border, you would stitch all 4 border sides with this parent triangle and you would have ended up exactly back where you began.  Since we’re only doing 1 short border zone, you are now at the “end of the border,” so you will now be working backwards.  You will now stitch the next size triangle inside each already existing triangle and you will easily travel from one triangle into the next, ultimately ending up at the beginning of the short border.  Here is what my “set-up” looks like as I prepare to begin stitching the second series of triangles:

 

 

Remember, one edge of the ruler is against the ruler foot and the other is 1/4 inch away from the desired endpoint for stitching.  Once you stitch the next set of triangles across this border, your sandwich should look like this:

 

Before you reverse direction and stitch the next round of tapered channels, I want you to notice that my left-most inner triangle’s apex isn’t quite where it needs to be.  It’s close enough that I know I can “get away” with it, so I’m not ripping it out.  I didn’t do this on purpose, I did it because I’m not perfect. By the end, you’ll see that you can get away with tiny errors!  Now, stitch the next row of tapered triangles and when you get to the end, reverse direction and stitch that final row of internal traingles.  At the end, your sandwich should look like this:

 

 

Once those temporary marks are removed, you should realize that you can get away with some small errors, can’t you?!!  This design looks great as is and it certainly stands alone.  However, I want to use this exercise to teach you one more thing.  When you have a design with multiple channels within it, you can add a little more “punch” by filling in some of the channels.  In a situation like this, you could fill in every other channel and this would cause the unfilled channels to “pop” a bit.  These are fairly narrow tapered channels, so the only fill I would add would be something like a scribble or micro stipple.  The goal here would only be to lay down color.  If you do this, leave the left 2 triangles just as they are (so you’ll have a record of what this design looks like “empty), and fill every other channel in the remaining to 2 triangles.  Here is what my filled version looks like and honestly, I like my empty ones better in this case:

 

OK, so this ends our first lesson.  You’ve learned about the 2 types of channels and you’ve learned how to create tapered channels using a straight line ruler.  Again, this may seem drab, but channel work is really, really important.  We will keep building on both skills and concepts and if you are patient, this will pay off for you in your ruler work adventure.  Happy New Year!

 

Do you see the straight line tapered channels in the design above?

 

 

 

 

Curved Cross Hatching in a Feathered Wreath and a Reminder

December 30th, 2017

I’ve been meaning to create a ruler work feathered wreath with curved cross hatching and finally finished one today.  Here is a closeup so you can get a better look at the curved cross hatching inside the spine zone:

 

This is created in exactly the same way you do any curved cross hatching except that the “zone” we are filling with CCH is in a circular layout.  I used my Westalee Circles on Quilts templates to create the ruler work circular zones, then added my inner and outer plumes.  You can see that I’ve filled the inside and outside channels of the spine with a row of pearls (innermost channel) and with the fingertips design (outermost 1/2 inch channel) in the shot below:

 

If you look really closely at the shot above, you will see tiny tick marks just outside channel filled with peals.  These, coupled with the long soap lines that run from corner to corner and midpoint to midpoint, were used to subdivide this wide channel with arched swags.  These were stitched using my PTD 12 arc ruler:

 

Do you see small tick marks at roughly 1/4 inch below the apex of each arched swag?  I used them to create a tapered channel inside each arched swag:

 

We now can begin to work on the zone that will be filled with curved cross hatching!  Remember that in curved cross hatching, you will need to repeatedly make short lines of “backtracking” along the bottom and sides of the zone you are filling.  Because of this, I first used my PTD12 arc ruler to create a parallel channel in the same lavender thread that was use to stitch the circle that forms the bottom of the zone which we’ll fill with CCHing:

 

As shown above, this is easily done by placing the ruler edge on the previous line of stitching.  Here’s what it looks like at this stage once the entire section was complete:

 

(I know, this looks a bit weird now, but trust me, it will all work out!)  Next, I used the same PTD12 arc ruler to create a series of 1/2 inch parallel channels across each arched swag.  This is what it looked like once this was complete:

 

You may be freaking out right now, but I promise that it will all work out!  I repeated the same process except that I placed my ruler along the opposite side of each arched swag and stitched the same series of 1 1/2 inch wide channels.  This completed the CCH’ing and here’s what it looked like at that point:

 

We’re nearing the end now!  I used turquoise rayon thread to throw a featherette into each empty arched swag, then did 2 rows of echo outlining around the inner and outer plumes:

 

And last but not least, filled the background with the “igloos” background fill design:

 

And remember, the great January 2018 Ruler Work Winter Course begins on Monday, January 1, which is the day after tomorrow!  Meet back here for some ruler work fun and chase those winter blues away!!