The Free Motion Quilting Project: New Ruler Quilting Class with Amy Johnson!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Ruler Quilting Class with Amy Johnson!

At MQX this year I saw so many awesome longarm rulers and found many companies that are bringing ruler quilting to home sewing machines. Of course I brought home a ton of rulers to play with, but how do I use them?

Thankfully Craftsy is on the ball and has found the best ruler work teacher, Amy Johnson, to create a new class: Quilting with Rulers on a Home Machine. What an awesome class! It just launched yesterday and already I understand this new world of quilting so much better!
A few weeks ago Amy shared an interview with me, and now it's my turn to interview her about quilting, teaching, and this new exciting class. 

Welcome Amy! Can you share a bit about yourself and your wonderful blog to get started?

Thanks Leah. I began quilting in my teens even though there were no quilters in my family. My mother had taught me to use an old Singer and we had done a little garment sewing together, but she was not a sewing enthusiast. Once she taught me the basics, I was forging ahead on my own. My mom was a thoroughly modern working woman, and I perplexed her with my interest in sewing, cooking, horses and farming.

Sewing and creating with needle and thread continued to be a presence occasionally as a young adult, but it wasn’t until I had children that quilting became my go-­to hobby. All of a sudden, the only thing in my life that stayed done was stitching. Laundry, dishes, housework, they never stayed done, but my stitching gave me a sense of accomplishment and a creative outlet. my husband was diagnosed with a rare cancer and things got very scary. One year later he was declared cancer­ free and I had passed hours upon hours in doctor’s offices and hospitals drawing my quilting designs. Drawing improved my quilting immensely and I credit the occasional escape of quilting to helping to keep myself together during that time.

I started blogging December of 2010 (see Amy's awesome blog here), just to share my work, or my quilting adventures as I like to call them, just as my hubby was undergoing chemo. When I started blogging, my kids had just turned 1, 4, and 6 and we had 4 more months of chemo to get through. I was a wreck, but quilting and blogging really did help get me through that time.

As I began to gain skill and the blog grew in readership, I began not just sharing my projects, but sharing tips. I had no idea that my blog would eventually be so well received. I have received wonderful comments from all over the world and while they thank me for teaching them, I still feel like I’m just sharing what I do, and their comments bring me great joy. Quilters really are the most wonderfully encouraging people!

What made you interested in free motion quilting in particular?

Because I liked that feeling of having something finished and staying that way, I wanted to speed things up. Up until this point I was a hand quilter and almost felt that machine quilting was ‘cheating’.

It wasn’t until I saw some gorgeous, top­notch, award­-winning machine quilting that I realized that there was a massive amount of skill and artistry involved. I finally experimented with machine quilting. When I figured out free motion quilting was like drawing with needle and thread, I was hooked.

Because I hadn’t already been piecing a lot of quilts, I found myself doing more applique and whole cloth quilts which gave me room and freedom to make the quilting really shine. It suited my free­-spirited nature since I favored free flowing designs and the graphic nature of the stitching itself over the precision of piecing. I’ve become a better piecer over time, but I still see creating a top as a canvas for my quilting.

Do you mostly quilt on a home sewing machine? Have you ever quilted on a longarm? I couldn’t get away to take classes in person, I turned to the internet. When I found videos of long arm quilters, I was fascinated. I loved their style and it seemed so effortless. I was even encouraged to long arm as a business, but a long arm was not in my future; small house, small kids, small budget.

I have tried stitching on a long arm a time or two, but it feels so out of control to me compared to the control I have at my sewing machine. I’ve enjoyed quilting on a variety of sit down long arm machines too and they are wonderful, but I continue to stitch on a sewing machine.

Granted, it’s now a nice Janome 8200 which has 11 inches to the right of the needle. It was a big step for me to move to a larger machine. I didn’t want my readers and students to think that they needed a big machine to do free motion quilting.

What do you think the biggest challenge is for us teaching free motion quilting?

The biggest challenge is to convince students that there’s nothing to fear from free motion quilting, and that it’s a skill only developed by practice. Those long hours I spent doodling quilting designs helped me immensely.

Beginners are afraid to mess up their quilts and aren’t sure where to stitch next when quilting. Drawing and working on practice pieces address both of those fears.

So tell me about your awesome new Craftsy class! I hear it's about quilting with rulers!

I am so excited about my class, Quilting With Rulers on a Home Machine. I’ve had blog readers asking for an online class for some time. Even though I’ve got quite a few YouTube videos available, I haven’t been able to go into the detail with them like I can in this class.
Using rulers on a stationary machine (whether a sewing machine or sit down long arm) is an adaptation I developed from a common long arm technique. It was made possible from discovering a ruler foot made for a frame system could actually be used on my sewing machine.

This allowed me to safely guide my free motion quilting with a ruler along my free motion foot. Best of all, you don’t have to be an advanced level quilter to use the technique. You only need to be comfortable with the basics of moving the quilt sandwich under the machine.

Advanced quilters love how ruler work creates the structure or bones of the design from which they can build upon with their regular free motion work. Newer quilters enjoy having the rulers guide them where to go next as they follow the edge of the ruler.

What made you want to use longarm rulers on a domestic machine?

Having been a fan of traditional hand quilting designs, and seeing these designs recreated by longarmers with the aid of rulers, I wanted to try it with my sewing machine. I loved how crosshatching, swags, and other line­based designs combined with feathers and fillers for a beautiful effect but I hated doing a lot of measuring and marking in order to create similar designs on my sewing machine with a walking foot or regular free motion quilting.

Ruler work allows such great design opportunities. First of all, it makes straight lines incredibly straight and curves are nice and smooth. It helps give a quilt structure and ‘resting places’ for the eyes. Ruler work also yields beautiful designs without necessarily being as dense as a lot of jaw­dropping free motion work.

What is your number one goal with teaching quilting?

My number one goal is to take the fear out of free motion quilting and encourage my students’ creativity.

What question do you get asked the MOST?

Right now with ruler work, the biggest question is what foot to use with rulers on various brands of sewing machine. But there are several sources for these feet listed on my blog here.

Beyond that, the next question is where do I go next? That question is often answered by encouraging students to draw their designs with an eye for what I call mapping. Mapping is figuring out how to change directions when quilting a design to get where you need to go.

What question do you wish you were asked more often?

That’s easy! I want them to ask, “What’s next?” When they ask that question, I know they feel a measure of confidence with what they are currently doing and are ready to move on to something new or take their quilting to the next level.

If you had no quilts in process, no projects in the works, what would you want to start fresh right now?

That is the hardest question you’ve asked, Leah! I’ve got so many projects in the works, quilts unfinished, and projects I want to make that I have trouble looking ahead with a fresh eye.

I’d probably sit down with a quilt sandwich made from a single piece of a beautiful solid fabric, mark a few registration lines to create a scaffold with rulers and then quilt to my heart’s content.

Beyond quilting, I feel like I’ve just started a fresh new season of my life as the kids are now all in school, my quilting business is expanding in ways I never imagined, my husband is healthy and so encouraging, I’ve got a wonderful community of online quilty friends, and life is good.

Life is good! I love Amy's perspective on quilting and I hope you've enjoyed learning more about this awesome quilting teacher. Click Here to check out Amy's new class and save 25% on your class pass.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Looks like a very cool tool--am going to ask my long armed quilter if she uses these

  2. Hi, in the photo it shows your machine and it is a Janome. I have an 880 Bernina, and wondering about your teaching not using the machine we own. Have you used a Bernina?

    1. Hi Dawn - All of these photos are from Amy's class with Craftsy and I believe they were all shot on a Janome Horizon 8900.

      Yes, I do own an older Bernina 1230 machine and have also owned several Bernina's over the years. I don't think it matters much which machine you use so long as you can apply the info you learn to the specific feet and quirks of your machine. In this case, you'll need to be sure your machine has a ruler foot in order to enjoy Amy's class.


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