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Rulers of All Shapes and Sizes

Rulers of All Shapes and Sizes 

This week we talk about rulers. They make rulers for every shape and block and curve you would want. And they keep coming out with new ones. You can be a ruler junkie and buy every one. You can also decide what you like sewing the most and buy the basics and those specific specialty rulers you need.


Let’s talk about the markings on the rulers. Obviously, there are measurement marking. On rectangle rulers they have inch markings all the way across/down. The measures in-between are usually 1/8” markings. Sometimes they have ½” and 1/4" lines all the way across/down too. Some may have a corner with lines for 1” – 1/8”  all the way through. You need to decide how much marking you want on your rulers. When do the marking make it hard to see your fabric edge or become distracting. You need to beware of the added ½” to the edges. Rulers that are 6 ½”, 12 ½”, 8 ½” will have the ½” on one side of the ruler. If you are measuring from that edge, be aware that it’s there. You may measure by placing the ruler on a 3” line, but you have really measured 3 ½”. (I have a 10 ½” x 10 ½” ruler with a ¼” all the way around. I have to remember to subtract that ¼” when measuring) Be sure to read the measurements printed on the edge of the ruler. The National Quilters Circle has a video that is great for learning about your rectangle/square rulers.  Here's a written guide too.


There are also lines that run at an angle on the rectangle rulers usually. There are 45 degree lines and 60/30 degree lines. These help you do triangles, miters, other angles needed for things like Dresden Plates. You can use them for trimming squares, half-square triangles, triangles in a square, and more. The line on the ruler can be placed on the seam line and the ruler edge will be the side you trim. Make sure you read the marking on the ruler for the angle size. Here you will need to remember your basic geometry. A circle is 360 degrees. A straight like is 180 degrees. A square corner is 90 degrees. This corner split in half is 45 degrees.

Triangle rulers come in different angle sizes and different sizes depending on how big you want to make your triangles. They may also have lines for trimming half-square triangles, making diamonds in a square, and for making different size triangles. Remember that the three angles of a triangle equal 180 degrees. So a right triangle will usually have a 90 degree angle and two 45 degree angles. If you lengthen one side of the triangle, you can get a half-rectangle triangle that measures 90 degrees, 60 degrees, and 30 degrees. An equilateral triangle has three angles the same size, 60 degrees. If you want to break your circle or block into eight parts, you want a ruler with a 45 degree angle at the top. If you want to divide your circle or block into six parts, you need a ruler with a 60 degree angle at the top. You can get triangle rulers with points or a squared off edge at the top. The squared off edge will keep you from having to trim off dogears later and may help with lining up your pieces before you sew.


Curved rulers are another type of ruler. You can get these in all different sizes. Most are a quarter circle of a different diameter(measurement across the circle). Drunkard’s Path, orange peels, clamshells, inset circles, rounded corners on quilts, armholes and crotches in clothing all need a curved ruler.


Then there are specialty rulers. There are rulers for making pineapple quilts, log cabins and curly log cabins, kites, hexagons, and half-hexagons (I’m sure there are more, I just can’t remember them right now). There are also special rulers for trimming/squaring up quilt blocks.

So, what should be in your tool box. A rectangle or two – 6 or 8 x 24, 6 x 12. Or they could be 6 ½” or 12 ½”. Probably a square or two. This depends how big you make your quilt squares. A 4” square will not do if you do 6” or 12” finished squares mostly. I have a 2 ½” square ruler that comes in handy more than I thought. I’m finding many quilt-a-longs and blocks of the month have smaller parts that the 2 ½” ruler is really handy to have. Triangle rulers – 90 degree, equilateral l(60 degree).  If you like to do special blocks, there may be a ruler for them that’s worth having. There are sets of rulers that help you do a variety of blocks. These rulers help you keep everything to the right measurement. It keeps you from having to do the math and geometry. If you like to do foundation paper piecing, you should have an Add-A-Quarter and maybe Add-An-Eighth ruler


Final words on rulers, they can be slippery and they wear out. Some rulers come with dots or bottoms that grip the fabric. Many don't have this gripping ability. there are many products you can put on the back to keep them from slipping. We have gripping dots, sandpaper dots, and Invisigrip plastic sheets you cut to place on the back of your ruler. Running your rotary blade against the ruler edge, banging into the corner, etc. will shave off some of the acrylic over time. Your measurements will be a little off, which means so will your projects. Most times we just take a smaller seam allowance, tug a little, or steam like crazy. If it’s been a couple of decades since you bought that favorite ruler, it may be time to check and see if you need to replace it. We have replaced the rulers at the cutting tables many times since the store opened (don’t get me started on how often we replace rotary blades 😊).


Stop by and see our selection of rulers. We have most of the ones talked about. Right now acrylic is hard to get, so we may be out of the ruler you want. Let us know if you want a ruler in particular and we will try to special order it for you if we don’t have it.

With more of us getting vaccinated, classes and retreats may become a reality in the nearer future than thought. Make sure you are prepared for them.  My favorite ruler for these is Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Ruler. It comes in for sections that fit together. You can make a 6 x 6 ruler, 6 x 12, 6 x 18, and 6 x 24. And it comes with it’s own case. It’s great for traveling to classes and retreats.

Hope you enjoy the weather this week. Spring arrived and is pushing winter away. I can't remember a spring when my daffodils lasted so long. And my Star Magnolia!
Happy sewing everyone

Phyllis and the QA staff

Quilting Adventures                                                                     Hours: 
6943 Lakeside Avenue                                                                  Tues thru Sat  10 - 4 
Richmond VA  23228                                                                     Sun - Mon  Closed
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Richmond, VA 23228
(804) 262-0005
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