Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ruler Roundup

While almost every quilter enjoys notions ... I think a lot of us really love to collect rulers. Each new one we add to the collection promises to make cutting easier, more fun, more accurate, and faster. I've been quilting for about a year, but I've already amassed a nice collection of rulers, both basic and specialty. I can say which ones I can't quilt without ... and which ones I could bear to clear away to make more space.

Basic Rulers

  • 8.5" x 24.5" - the most commonly used ruler in my sewing room. If I had to pare down to just a few, I'd keep this one.

  • 16.5" x 16.5" - a great size for those large blocks to square up, but too large for normal usage.

  • 12.5" x 12.5" - my 2nd most commonly used ruler in the sewing room, it's a great size for most blocks.

  • 9.5" x 9.5" - nice to have but not necessary if you have the 12.5" x 12.5".

  • 6.5" x 6.5" - not necessary at all

  • 4.5" x 4.5" - a fairly common block size so it's nice to have, especially if you work with charm square a lot.

  • 2.5" x 2.5" - too small to get a good grip. This one is completely useless to me.

    As far as brands go, Creative Grids is by far my favorite because of their readability and non-slip bottoms. They're quite a bit more expensive than the other brands, but to me it's worth it to invest in good tools in order to reduce hand strain and cutting mistakes from ruler slippage. After Creative Grids, I like Omnigrid for its readability. I dislike Olfa's due to the smoky color making it hard to read, and I despise Fiskars as I've had too many slippage issues with them.

    Specialty Rulers

    I have a number of specialty rulers, such as a standard dresden ruler, a Hex n More ruler, and a Super Sidekick, which are all for cutting different shapes. They all work well and I'm glad to have them. However, there are 2 specialty rulers I want to talk about in particular, because while they aren't a necessity (other rulers can do their job) they do their job exceedingly well and are a joy to use.

  • Stripology by Creative Grids - This is my favorite specialty ruler. I couldn't quilt without it. It is very expensive, but worth its weight in gold. I use it to cut strips, and most importantly, to subcut. It is several times faster to use this ruler to do subcuts than to use a normal ruler, and the cuts are so beautifully accurate, *and* it doesn't slip. I can't say enough about how much I love this ruler. I had to cut over 1000 little pieces for a recent quilt, and with this ruler, it's really no problem at all.

  • 6.5" Bloc Loc - What a clever ruler this is. I use this to square up half-square triangles, and the little ridge it has makes squaring up HSTs so accurate and so much fun. This tool however is best when combined with a rotating mat. Again, it's expensive, and not essential, but since I do a lot of half-square triangles, I love having it.

    Cutting Related Tools

    When I first started quilting, I think the most challenging thing for me was rotary cutting. It looked so easy when other people did it, but my cutter was either nicking and slicing up the ruler, or it cut a wonky line and made the cut useless, or my ruler slips and I get a smaller cut. For my first patchwork project, I was so frustrated with rotary cutting that I ended up drawing lines with a marker and using a scissor to cut them, and it was a disaster. (I admire quilters in the past who did this for every quilt!)

    So naturally I looked for a lot of tools to help me make rotary cutting easier. Some have worked for me, and some have not.

  • Invisigrip - I picked this up after someone told me it would make ruler slippage less. I was having a lot of issue with ruler slippage, but I don't find this product to have made much of a difference. My ruler still slipped even with this on.

  • Gypsy Gripper - This is another product that I picked up to reduce ruler slippage and hand strain, and I know some quilters swear by it, but I hated mine and returned it. I found it didn't make a bit of difference to me. My rulers still slipped. It might reduce hand strain, though, I don't know, I didn't keep it long enough to find out about that.

  • Quilter's Slidelock - I saw this at a show and picked it up. This ruler definitely does the job of not slipping. However, it has no measuring marks and basically functions as a straight edge. In other words, it needs to be used in conjunction with another ruler or template. I find it too much work to use this ruler for regular cuts, but I love using this when I need to cut irregular shapes (with straight edges) with the plastic quilting templates. I simply put the template in place, then butt the Slidelock against the template, remove the template, and cut. It works great for that purpose.

  • AccuQuilt Go! - Ah, the AccuQuilt. Since rotary cutting is so hard on the hands, this is a godsend for people who have arthritis or excessive hand strain. I don't have that problem yet, so I use mine just to cut curves. It is great for that purpose, but the dies are very expensive, and they only come in very limited sizes. I've found myself redoing the math in some patterns in order to use the dies I have.


    Before I was a quilter, I once overheard a conversation on an airplane, where a woman commented that now that she's retired, her friends think she should start quilting, but they warned it's expensive. As it turns out ... they were right! Not because of what we absolutely must have to quilt, but because of all the extra non-necessities that tempt and lure us.

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