Mastering ruler work on your longarm quilting machine

July 2, 2024

When you’re diving into the world of longarm quilting, the precision and control provided by rulers can elevate your work to a whole new level. However, working with rulers on an APQS longarm quilting machine requires some special considerations due to its hopping foot system.

In this post, we’ll walk through crucial tips to help you master ruler work and achieve those perfect, crisp lines without mishaps.

Choose the right rulers: stick to ¼ inch tall

Your APQS longarm quilting machine features a hopping foot system where the foot moves up and down to form stitches. This means you need to be particularly cautious about the height of the rulers you use. Rulers that are too short may slip under the hopping foot, which can be startling and lead to several issues, such as needing to relevel your hopping foot, chipping a ruler or even breaking a needle.

Always use rulers that are at least ¼ inch tall. This height is crucial to prevent the ruler from sliding underneath the foot, ensuring safe and smooth quilting.

Mastering ruler work on your longarm quilting machine - using a ruler while longarm quilting

Use a ruler foot

The APQS longarm machine comes equipped with a ¼ inch ruler foot, which is specifically designed for ruler work. This foot provides the perfect height and surface area to guide the ruler without slipping underneath. Additionally, APQS offers an optional open-toe ruler foot that you can purchase separately. The open-toe design enhances visibility, allowing you to see your stitching path more clearly and make precise adjustments as needed.

Using the correct ruler foot is essential for maintaining control and achieving consistent, professional results in your quilting projects.

Mastering ruler work on your longarm quilting machine - ruler foot on a longarm machine

Mastering ruler work on your longarm quilting machine - ruler foot displayed on a quilt

Utilize a ruler base

The base of an APQS longarm quilting machine is relatively narrow, which can make controlling a ruler challenging. To maintain control and precision, it’s essential to use a ruler base. This attachment provides a wider, stable platform to support your ruler, allowing you to guide it accurately along your quilting path.

Without a ruler base, the narrow arm of the machine can cause your ruler to wobble or shift, leading to uneven stitching. By using a ruler base, you create a sturdy and reliable surface for your ruler work.

Mastering ruler work on your longarm quilting machine - Ellie longarm machine with a ruler base

Reposition your hands for longer rulers

When using long rulers, remember that you can only effectively control the area between your thumb and index finger. For rulers longer than this span, you’ll need to pause and reposition your hands as you work your way down the ruler.

Maintaining control is key, so take your time to move your fingers to the next section of the ruler, ensuring steady and precise guidance throughout your quilting process.

Mastering ruler work on your longarm quilting machine - longarm quilter who is quilting using a ruler

Apply light pressure

The secret to effective ruler work lies in how you apply pressure. When teaching new longarm quilters, I often start with a ruler and a piece of paper on a table. The goal is to push down on the ruler just enough to hold it steady but not so hard that the paper can’t be pulled out from under it.

Too much pressure can hinder the movement of the longarm and impact the tension on the quilt’s backside. Aim for a light touch that keeps the ruler in place without restricting the machine’s natural glide.

Start with the needle down

On an APQS machine, starting with the needle down ensures it will also stop with the needle down. This feature is particularly useful when working with rulers, as it makes repositioning your hands or the ruler itself much easier and more precise.

Keeping the needle down helps maintain your place and keeps your quilting lines consistent, reducing the risk of misalignment or slipping.

Slow and steady wins the race

Ruler work is an art of precision. To achieve the best results, take your time and move slowly. Going at a slower pace allows you to react to any issues that might arise, ensuring that your lines stay clean and your stitches remain even.

Rushing through ruler work can lead to mistakes and uneven lines, so embrace a steady, deliberate pace for the best outcomes.

Choose user-friendly rulers

For those new to ruler work, some rulers are designed to be more beginner -friendly. Since your needle will be a ¼ inch away from the edge of the ruler foot, aligning the ruler can be tricky.

Rulers with alignment “bumps” on both ends can help with this. These bumps act as guides, making it easier to place the ruler precisely where you want to stitch. For example, when stitching in the ditch, align these bumps with the ditch to achieve accurate stitching.

Mastering ruler work on your longarm quilting machine - ruler displayed on a quilt that is loaded on a longarm quilting machine

Add grip to your ruler

To prevent your ruler from sliding on the fabric, consider adding some grip to its underside. Sandpaper dots, ruler grips or specialty ruler film can all enhance the ruler’s traction.

Some quilters even use a light spray of hairspray to create a slightly tacky surface. The key is to ensure your ruler stays put and doesn’t slide during quilting, providing stable and consistent guidance.

Ruler work on an APQS longarm quilting machine can transform your quilting projects with stunning precision and detail. By following these tips and taking your time to practice, you’ll soon master the art of ruler work, creating beautiful, professional-quality quilts with ease.

Happy quilting!