Quilt in Progress – Exploring Ruler Work

I’m currently remaking one of my quilts from Piece and Quilt with Precuts while trying out something new at the same time. After all, if I’m not constantly pushing myself to try new things, the hobby that I love can get really old, really fast!! I’m creating another version of “Starstruck” from my new fabric so that I can showcase it at quilt market in the fall right before the fabric releases. (FYI  – it’s called Modern Marks from Benartex – available in November!)

Christa Watson Machine Quilting - Modern Marks Fabric

To keep a densely quilted quilt soft, I use cotton fabric, thread and batting. I’m using one layer of Hobbs Tuscany cotton and it is the softest ever. I love it!

I’m also trying out free-motion quilting straight lines using rulers rather than marking or using a walking foot. I have to say up front that it’s been a bit of a struggle and a HUGE learning curve! It’s a whole new movement for me, holding onto the quilt while also holding onto the ruler.

It’s also a bit awkward because where you stitch is actually 1/4″ away from the edge of the ruler to account for the width of the ruler toe. Like I teach my students, practice makes progress, so I’m not taking out any wobbles or wiggles in this quilt – it’s all part of the learning process!

Christa Watson Ruler Work Practice

I love combining straight lines with curvy motifs to create contrast in the quilting.

Right now I’m trying out two different rulers – one has handles on it to help better grip the quilt but the posts can get caught up on the back of the foot when I move it, causing tiny stitches to occur. I find that I get much better results if I keep the ruler on the front or side of the toe while I stitch.

Leah Day Ruler work template

Don’t you love how Leah’s template matches my fabric??? Serendipity at it’s best!!

The other rulers I’m trying out are from Leah Day’s set of Dresden Plate acrylic templates. She gave me a set to try out when we met for lunch at QuiltCon earlier this year, and I love how she so cleverly designed them to double as rulers for ruler work! I seem to get smoother lines without the handles. The smaller size is also ideally suited for a domestic machine since there’s not a lot of room on the bed of the machine.

Working on this quilt gives me renewed appreciation for any of my beginning students as they try free-motion quilting for the first time! Just as I teach my students that they will get better with practice, quilting on “real quilts” is the best way to learn and improve!

Christa Watson ruler work practiceI’m having fun trying out lots of different quilting motifs in the stars!

In this quilt, I’m outlining each of the starts by first stitching in the ditch. Then I quilt the middle of each star, then quilt two lines around each star. To make the quilting continuous I’m traveling over a small line after I complete each pass around the star, rather than starting and stopping.

Then I’m quilting a different free-motion design on the outside of each star to add more texture. Most of the quilting motifs I’m stitching come from my books, and a few are new ideas I’m trying out.

Christa Watson free motion quilting Starstruck from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

I love the “pattern on pattern effect!”

To keep it somewhat organized, I’m alternating with a pairing of curvy and geometric free-motion designs in each block. I chose to use a shade of yellow 50 weight cotton Aurifil thread from my Piece and Quilt Collection. It blends in nicely with most of the fabrics and adds a fun layer of pattern on pattern in some of the contrasting areas.

There are definitely some areas of the quilt that look better than others, but I love being a “perfectly imperfect quilter!” (I’m also a perfectly imperfect photographer, but I’d rather show real in-progress pics than nothing at all!)

I’ve learned by trial and error that the best way to hide imperfect stitches is to surround them with more imperfect stitches. 🙂

Yummy Texture created with free motion quiltign by Christa Watson

Can we say “yummy texture?!”

Because I have a longer time frame in which to complete this quilt, I’m really enjoying the process of quilting just a couple of stars each day, without feeling rushed.

I’m liking how this block below is turning out, using the ruler to free-motion quilt my “wonky square spiral” design that I usually teach using a walking foot. I definitely prefer quilting straight lines when they don’t have to line up perfectly!

Ruler work practice

(If you want to improve your ruler work skills check out Amy Johnson’s Craftsy classes on the subject: Quilting with Rulers on a Home Machine, and Creative Quilting with Rulers.)

I’ll be sure and share the final reveal later in the fall, so stay tuned!! Now I just have a few more blocks to finish and then I can relax and enjoy one of my favorite steps beside machine quilting – the hand binding….

What’s your favorite part of the quilt-making process? I’d love to know!


10 thoughts on “Quilt in Progress – Exploring Ruler Work

  1. springleafstudios says:

    I’m with Paige. Can’t wait to see your new fabric in person. Also wondering about the stitching in the ditch as I recall you do this a lot to stabilize the top before you jump in and free motion. Do you press your seams to the side? If they are pressed open, can you safely stitch in the ditch? It seems like this would weaken the seams. I’m sure you’ve addressed this before but I missed it.

    • Christa says:

      Thanks! I pressed all of my seams open and stitched in the ditch with no problems. I’ve been making my quilts this way for years and have never had any problems with the seams. In fact, it seems to make them stronger because they are stitched down right to the quilt! One tip is that I shorted my stitch length while sewing, to keep the seams from splitting open.

      Christa Watson Instagram @christaquilts website/blog: ChristaQuilts.com Click here to join my facebook group: Quilt with Christa

      On Mon, Aug 14, 2017 at 7:39 AM, Christa Quilts wrote:


  2. Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts says:

    I have that same ruler with the posts but find it cumbersome to use. I prefer to use a flat ruler so there are no handles to get in the way. Handi Quilter makes a tape called HandiGrip that is perfect for helping to keep the rulers from slipping or sliding as you’re using them. It is adhesive on one side (to stick to the ruler) and almost a sandpaper texture on the other side to grip the fabric. I’ve had a lot of success using the HandiGrip – it just takes a couple of small pieces on each ruler (you can cut it to the size you want). I was really pleased with how well it works. The actual quilting of a top and seeing it ‘come to life’ is my favorite part of making a quilt. I *love* using rulers! Have fun!!

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