When I teach,often there seems a disconnect between what rulers students have and what rulers they need. So I thought I’d write a post talking about the basics that I wish everyone could have. [And while I’m at it, rotary cutters need a mention, too. The largest I’d recommend in a classroom size is 45mm, for a variety of reasons. I think the larger ones are less helpful, and sometimes even dangerous.]
I got started on my ruler fetish honestly, when a mild-mannered shop owner named Carolyn hosted weekly class based on making a sampler quilt. And every week, she’d hold up a new ruler saying that we needed this to make the block that week. My friend Leisa and I would exchange glances, knowing that Carolyn was a Ruler Enabler of the Worst Kind: she made it so necessary, that you just knew you couldn’t go on without it. Because of this, I’ve used a ton of different rulers, and have two drawers and bin full of those plexiglass gridded items.
- Please don’t buy the cheap rulers. Take your time to accumulate these, and buy sturdy rulers, as too thin rulers can warp out of shape.
- Buy rulers that have some sort of coating on the back, preventing slippage.
- Please buy rulers that have accurate measurements on them, and enough gridlines on them.
- I am not partial to any one brand, but I did notice that most of my rulers seem to be from Creative Grids, Omnigrid, and Olfa.
I wish every student, every quilter had these basics:
6″ x 24″ ruler
What it’s used for: large initial cuts off yardage, long narrow cuts of yardage
6.5 x 12.5″ ruler
What it’s used for: when working in a smaller space (some classrooms are beyond tiny, and some of our sewing spaces are too), it’s useful to fold the fabric to get the longer cuts. Also good for truing up smaller parts of blocks. Good for even-ing up sewn sections.
Caveat: some people hate having that extra 1/2″ on the edges of their ruler. I got used to it and appreciate it, but for some, it can be distracting.
Small square ruler
With this size, you can rule the world. You don’t need specialty Flying Geese rulers, if you know how to use this. The small one is easy to flip around, when truing up blocks, and easy to use to cut smaller shapes, when scrap sewing.
Square rulers, ranging from 6.5″ – 9.5″ – 12.5″
What it’s used for: I use the 6.5 the most, as I believe in truing up sections of a block before sewing it together. But the other sizes are great for truing up larger blocks, helping you trim your corner of quilt borders evenly. One day I even purchased a 16.5″ gigantor square ruler, and believe it or not, I do use it more than I thought I would.
Bloc-Loc ruler for trimming up Half Square Triangles
What it’s used for: Keeping your sanity when truing up HSTs. They are expensive and I rarely see them on sale. I’d start with a 6.5″ BlocLoc and invest from there. Here are some of the others I’ve picked up over the years:
Specialty Rulers I think should be in your stash:
Some times, for some patterns, you need one of these, like when you make Annularity.
If you are a traditional quilter, or jump in on one of Bonnie Hunter’s Thanksgiving Quilt-A-Longs, you may find yourself needing one of these one day.
Bonnie Hunter’s Essential Triangle Ruler
I only purchased this because she said I would need it. Since then, I ‘ve used it a ton of times in making triangles, and now I consider it one of my go-to rulers.
Lori Holt’s 4.5″ Trim Up Ruler. Careful. You can go broke on these, as she has them in every size from newborn to old age. I have only the 4.5″ and the 8.5″ But what makes these unique is that is is a form of a “centering ruler,” a tool I had to purchase when I studied Clothing and Textiles in college (and which I still use today).
2.5″ by 6.5″ ruler. Verrry handy for trimming up.