One Ruler to Rule them All?

Well, no, not hardly…but I’m a terrible Lord of the Rings nut…so there you go.  If you don’t know already….I MADE A THING.  I am pretty surprised at myself actually, deciding to make my own line of rulers. But, several things have pushed me into it.  I am actually a pretty low maintenance quilter.  That surprises people when they see my show quilts…they think I must be so over the top.  But I just want simple materials, that work.  Im not a fan of gizmos or jumping through hoops.

Like many longarmers, I have a drawer of rulers…nearly every one of which sits in there collecting dust and I tended to just use a few basics.  I do have a few speciality rulers for really specific purposes that I cant live without.  My friend, Lisa Calle, makes a line called ProPebble that I can NOT even imagine doing without for small perfect circles and grid work.  DeLoa Jones makes some arcs called Boomerangs that are awesome for curved crosshatching.  I like them because the inscribed arcs all maintain a consistent radius.  So, quilted lines and inscribed lines actually match.  That isn’t something you think about much, but just dropping a line back 1/4″ on a curved surface is actually reducing a circle’s diameter by 1/2″.

But, by in large, the shapes I own were bought as one-offs for something specific…and that doesn’t make them very handy.  Then enters the visibility issues.  I won’t lie…the last few years have been hell on my eyes.  I have at least a pair of reading glasses in every room these days and at least 3 different strengths at my longarm.  Getting older is a drag sometimes.  I have completely lost patience with clear rulers for everyday work.  Not only do they have the annoying habit of being set down and doing an invisibility act, but the engraved lines are, well, clear.  I struggle to see them on light fabrics.  I struggle on dark fabrics.  Some rulers have wider lines that seem white…but then…they fail in accuracy.  (Something that IS important to me).  Other rulers I own have tried to deal with the invisibility problem by being a bright neon color.  Well, it is true I don’t loose them…but their value cancels out the underlying fabric value/color and I cant see my piecing lines, rendering them useless for anything except stitch in the ditch work.

So, I made my own.  I wanted my rulers to most of all be multipurpose.  I don’t want to find a stitch in the ditch ruler, then a curved ruler, then a ruler with fine markings…and deal with visibility.  I wanted it all together.  I want a ruler, or small handful I can just keep at my machine and handle %95 of all my ruler needs.  I started with researching the visibility problem first, and found a specialized acrylic.  It is called compressed light emitting acrylic.  You can feel the compression if you put it together with a “normal” 1/4″ ruler.  I couldn’t put a math number to it…a human hair maybe.  The compression aligns the molecules in the acrylic to make them light refractive.  So, the acrylic itself is a pale pale green, practically clear.  But this trick of refraction means that light entering the surface gets bounced around and concentrated when viewed on any edge or inscribed line.  (VERY geeky cool).  So, you can’t loose them on a quilt, because you just tip your head and scan the quilt and the edges glow at you.  Better though, is the inscribed lines.  They change color.  On light fabric they read as aqua and on dark fabric as white.  Coolest of all is when they glow.  This happens when a shadow passes over the ruler and light only enters the acrylic from the side.  This occurs whenever you hold a ruler in a cross grip, like when you hold with your left hand with the ruler on the right side of the foot, blocking the light.  This is also when a “normal” clear ruler is hardest to see the lines.  Watch…it is pretty cool….

I started with exactly what I wanted in my everyday rulers.  Good stitch in the ditch rulers.  Clear, fine, 1/8″ marking…everywhere, with additional angle registration that makes sense for versatile crosshatching.  I don’t do a lot of 1/8″ line work, but some, and it is a pain without a good tool.  More often, I actually want an accurate 3/8″.  I frequently want something a little bigger than a classic 1/4″..but a 1/2″ feels too big.  For my block tools, I wanted versatility too, some curves that make sense for block sizes.  I also like the tabs on my stitch in the ditch rulers. Snug them into a seam and I have braindead easy SID.  The small cut outs on my smaller Lavender Lines rulers make the two shapes I use most frequently, and hate marking.  A sewn 1″ half circle, and a 1″ at the base, equilateral triangle.

My next ruler that I always wanted, but no one has is French Curves.  I design with swooping curves but there isn’t a good selection of multipurpose curving tools…and the few that exist are just blank.  I need precision.  So I designed my own with highly precise marking for direct sewing on the machine, which I named Lily Lines.  It is pretty useless to be able to design a lovely shape, then fumble it once Im sewing.  I use a drawing wheel when I design on paper, so my drawn line is exactly what I will end up sewing.  But sewing directly on the quilt is easy.  All you really need is a few registration lines and dots.  The ruler will do the rest.  I have several videos with some design ideas on my video tab..and I will be doing several more over the next few weeks.

In the videos I will mark on my rulers with sharpie.  I know! AHHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAA!  It is ok.  I promise.  Pick up a box of isopropyl alcohol prep pads at any pharmacy or grocery store.  I just keep a box in my studio.  They wipe off the sharpie no problem.  Don’t use dry erase pen.  Not only will it slowly rub away as you flip it face down onto the fabric, but it can get stubborn about coming off plastic, and you’ll need to use a magic eraser, which actually scratches. Only use the sharpie on the smooth side though…it is a pain to get out of the grooves.

I do have one other idea for a ruler down the line…but I am really hoping to be making multipurpose tools for my legitimate everyday use, not dust collectors.

For now, the only place to get my rulers is here, at my store.  I do have a few international wholesale dealers who can help out in Australia, South Africa, and Norway.  Im not sure I will wholesale elsewhere in the US.  I don’t for my books either.  And chances are, I won’t be renting booths at quilt shows either.  I have no interest in being a vendor.  I didn’t become a potter after art school because I had no interest in loading up a trailer and going to craft shows, and Im certainly not about to start now.  It just isn’t my thing.   I will always have my stuff in my classes, and I try to partner with a vendor at the shows I am teaching at to give non-students a place to shop…but the best thing is just to order.

Many thanks to all who have supported my business and my creativity!