The Free Motion Quilting Project: Quilting Basics 13: Ruler Foot Quilting for Beginners

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Quilting Basics 13: Ruler Foot Quilting for Beginners

On Monday we learned how to piece a beautiful Pointy Eight Dresden Plate quilt block and next Monday we'll learn how to quilt it with many awesome free motion quilting designs including ruler foot quilting!

So today let's learn more about ruler foot quilting and how to get started with this new style of free motion quilting on our home machine with a new Quilting Basics Video:

Click Here to find the pattern for Block #2 so you can practice ruler foot quilting on a real quilt block.

Wait? Did I say ruler quilting is another form of free motion quilting? What?

Yep, a ruler foot is just a type of darning foot so that makes this another form of free motion quilting.

That means you can quilt with rulers a bit, set your ruler aside and wiggle around with Stippling, then pick up your ruler again and get back to quilting straight lines, which is exactly what I did in the video.

This also means that whatever settings you use for free motion quilting are the same settings you should use for ruler foot quilting. For me that's stitch length 0 (or the lowest setting) and the feed dogs covered with a Queen Supreme Slider.

But this also means that your stitch length and quality is 100% up to you. You still have to balance the speed of your hands moving the quilt with the speed of your needle bouncing up and down. My best advice when getting used to ruler foot quilting is to quilt slowly. Move your hands slowly and steadily, keep the ruler / template in position on the quilt, and against the ruler foot and make smooth, steady movements as you quilt.

It's good to quilt slowly because it will feel easy to push the quilt under the needle. The additional ruler / template on the quilt will act as an extra grip, giving you more control over the quilt movement. It will feel very easy to shift with the help of the ruler, and very temping to move it quickly.

But that will result in big stitches so take it slow until you can balance that extra hand speed with extra machine speed.

What to Watch Out for with Ruler Foot Quilting

At the beginning of the video I shared the most important tip for ruler foot quilting - never drop your needle with the foot in the up position.

When you drop your needle to bring your bobbin thread to the quilt surface, always double and triple check that your foot is in the down position.

Take a look at the difference between the needle area on my Grace Qnique 14+ longarm on the left and my Bernina 1230 on the right. See the difference in the needle bar?

On the home machine, I have a long needle bar that sticks out more than 1/2 inch to the right. The needle attachment on the longarm is completely different, which a small screw sitting almost flush with the metal rod above the needle.

When your ruler foot is in the up position, it has a tall enough base that it could potentially hit your needle bar and SMASH! there goes your needle bar, your timing, and potentially some other very expensive things in the top of your machine.

So save yourself a lot of money and hassle and never, ever drop your needle with your ruler foot in the up position. Easy peasy!

Explore Ruler Foot Quilting

Now what can we do with ruler foot quilting? How can this help us quilt our quilts?

A ruler or template basically acts as a guide for the foot. As you push the ruler, plus quilt through the machine, it gives you a guide to keep the foot in the correct place as you quilt.

Instead of veering off in wild wobbly lines like a drunken sailor, you can now quilt perfectly straight, evenly spaced lines without marking by using a straight edge ruler as a guide.

You can also quilt perfectly round circles, arcs, and any other shape that's been cut on a ruler. Think of the ruler as an assistant and it, combined with the ruler foot, allow you to quilt certain shapes perfectly.

This also means that quilting rulers are a new thing to collect. Oh yes, every ruler opens a new world of shapes and designs for you to quilt, but a good place to start is with straight lines, arcs, and circles and you can find rulers to quilt all of these shapes in the Dresden Plate Template Set.

This set of templates can cut dozens of Dresden Plates AND can be used for ruler foot quilting - how's that for multitasking!

The key is keeping the ruler in position on the quilt and next to the ruler foot. I like using True Grips which help keep the templates in place so they don't slip as I quilt. I also like wearing Machingers Gloves, which I always wear while quilting, but they seem especially handy for gripping both the quilt and the template at the same time.

After you get your templates ready to go the next step is just to practice! I'd start with a small block or fat quarter sized practice sandwich. This will feel just like free motion quilting, but managing the additional ruler on top of the quilt might take awhile to get used to.

I do think straight lines are the easiest so give them a go first. Mark some straight lines on your quilt as a guideline, then try quilting evenly spaced lines 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 inches apart.

Once you feel comfortable with straight lines, branch out with other designs. Here I've used Template #7 from the Dresden Plate Template set to quilt overlaping shells. I marked straight lines 1 inch apart in order to space these shapes perfectly:

The lines etched on the back of the rulers will help guide your ruler placement and I really think a quilting ruler is only as good as the guidelines provided on the back. Those guidelines help you align the ruler so you can easily quilt the same shape repeatedly and create cool stacking designs like all the pictures above.

So what do you think about ruler foot quilting? Have you ever tried this type of free motion quilting before? Make sure to post your questions to the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. I have been using rulers to quilt with my Juki for about a year. The first foot I used was a custom modified version of the standard Juki quilting foot but I could not have the needle fully down with the presser foot up and rulers didn't fit under it from the back.

    I thought I would pass on this news to you for other Juki owning followers. Juki now makes a ruler foot for all the TL series machines although you will really have to search to buy one. It works beautifully with needle down and the presser foot up and rulers fit under it from every angle. This foot does not hop but has a height adjustment screw. According to Juki it will fit the following machines:

    Juki TL98
    Juki TL98Q
    Juki TL98e
    Juki TL2000Qi
    Juki TL2010
    Janome 1600P
    Janome 1600P-DB
    Janome 1600P-DBX
    Janome 1600PQC
    Brother PQ1300
    Brother PQ1500s
    Brother PQ1500SL
    Viking Megaquilter
    Baby Lock Jane
    Baby Lock Quilter's Choice Pro
    Pfaff Grand Quilter

    Thanks for all your wonderful videos and sharing all your tips and techniques.

    1. Excellent info Jane! That's super helpful! I wonder why Juki is making it so hard to find? That's frustrating.

    2. I have a dealer that carries the complete Juki line including the longarm. They had the correct foot. When I wanted the new front open toe quilting foot they didn't have it. Kindly suggested I find it on the Internet. I found it at Ken's Sewing Center. I've ordered from them before and been pleased with their service.

    3. Interesting Jane; could you tell me who made your custom modified version, as I can't find a Ruler foot for my Singer 411G slant shank. Thanks

  2. Hi Leah, enjoying your ruler work videos. You say take stitch length to 0, cover your feed dogs with Supreme Slider. Does that mean you are ruler quilting with your feed dogs UP. Cheers, Tricia

    1. Yep, I free motion quilt with my feed dogs up, so I also ruler foot quilt with my feed dogs up. I find this creates better tension and stitch quality to not drop the feed dogs.

  3. Love your videos - thanks for learning us :-D Nice way to use the ruler.

  4. Enjoy your videos and narratives on using rulers to quilt. Even though I am not doing quilt with you at this time, I gollow you daily. Reading and observing has built my confidence to do fmq and use the rulers. Attitude is yes I can and practice. Thank you.

    1. Absolutely! It's something I found really interesting and only after trying it did I realize just how awesome ruler quilting could be. So many possibilities!

  5. Leah
    Did you get rid of your sit down Juki?
    Thank you

    1. It's boxed up and I'm thinking about selling it. It just wasn't the right machine for me.

  6. It shows that your Dresden Plate Template Set is sold out. When will it be available for order again?

    1. They should be back in stock early this week!

  7. Hello Leah! Can your rulers be used with a machine with a high shank? I have a Janome 6600 for which it appears I can purchase a ruler foot. I am a relatively new quilter and am learning so much from your machine block quilting party as well as your additional courses and videos. Thank you!

    1. I think it's okay to use these rulers on a high shank machine, but you'll need to test it. If the foot hops and seems to hop high enough to hop over the edge of the template, then that might not be a good idea. You can test it with a regular cutting ruler (they're the same thickness) if your cutting ruler seems safe to you, then this should work fine.

  8. I have the same Bernina 1230 that you have so I was wondering what type of ruler foot are you using? Is it a low shank or a medium shank?

    1. I'm using a low shank ruler foot with a low shank adapter on my Bernina 1230. You can get the low shank adapter from your Bernina dealer.

  9. As much as I would like to try this, this technique is usually done on a block, not a full quilt, which would be a lot more difficult to maneuver.

    1. It's an interesting technique and for now I'm just using it in blocks to get used to using the ruler to move the quilt. It's a lot to manage at once!

  10. As much as I would like to try this, it seems it is done on a block and not a full quilt. Are you using quilt as you go blocks?

    1. Yes, this video is part of the series of blocks we're working on this year. You can learn more at

  11. Works for my Elna 6003, old machine now but still sews so good! Loves the Westalee quilting foot, same as above, and I have a lot of rulers too from Westalee in Australia

  12. How do you decide what design to put on a block? I don't care for stiff quilts

  13. Is a ruler foot available for an older Singer 411G Slant-o-matic?

  14. I just started and I'm having an issue! I have a circle template and my ruler foot doesnt seem to clear it it scrapes it .and being new I don't know whats wrong! My templates are 1/4 inch and I have a brother Cx205la which I think is a low shank but not sure. Maybe that's it maybe its a high shank .it stinks being a newbie with no one close by to help

    1. It sounds like the foot is hitting the edges of the ruler. Most likely you need to use thinner templates or only use them to the left, right, or front of the machine. It's when you position the ruler to the back and it hits the bar that attaches to your foot that things can stop working right. Try limiting your direction and try a thinner template and see what works best.


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