Saturday, June 20, 2020

Quilter's Groove Ruler Rhapsody on a Theme of Blissful Borders

OH MY GOSH, you guys -- I am so excited about a funny looking quilting ruler that I already owned, didn't love when I first tried it, and never expected to use again!!  I'm GIDDY!  I am about to sound like an infomercial for Quilter's Groove rulers, but I swear to you all that I have no affiliation whatsoever, I'm not making commission or earning stock dividends or anything else.  I learned about Lisa Calle's Quilter's Groove rulers for long arm quilting when I took a bunch of workshops with her at AQS Quilt Week last year.  Lisa was an awesome teacher, funny and patient, inspirational and encouraging, and I just really, REALLY like her line of rulers.

Okay, so backing up a bit for those who may be joining me for the first time: I'm working on my Spirit Song quilt, a heavily pieced, very scrappy, and very cheerfully colored project that has no immediate purpose besides learning and exploring new techniques.  For this quilt, I've already:
  1. Designed the quilt in EQ8, with the learning objective of designing a quilt that I could cut out completely with my new Accuquilt GO! die cutting system and 8" Qube set of dies.
  2. Cut out the whole quilt, with the exclusion of the borders, using the Accuquilt GO! die cutting system.  First time using dies to cut out a quilt.
  3. Pieced the quilt top.
  4. Loaded the quilt top on my APQS Millennium long arm quilting frame, using a new-to-me batting, Quilter's Dream Cotton Select.  I fully floated the quilt top.
  5. Completed all of the SID (Stitch In the Ditch) using Superior MonoPoly invisible monofilament thread in the needle and Superior Bottom Line in the bobbin (Bottom Line is a new-to-me thread).
  6. Rolled back up to the top of the quilt, no longer floating but completely secured with SID and basting along outer edges through all three layers.  Switched to a pale peach Superior So Fine 50 weight thread in the needle, staying with Bottom Line in the bobbin.
  7. Spent hours and hours and went through several blue water soluble temporary fabric markers, marking my straight line ruler work throughout the interior of the quilt
  8. Made my own DIY vellum paper stencils and experimented with different brands of pounce chalk powder to transfer these FMQ designs to my quilt
  9. Started quilting without checking tension on the back of my quilt, was horrified when I saw the back of my quilt, and spent an hour or two carefully ripping and removing those ugly and structurally unsound stitches.  First time removing bad quilting from a real quilt, and good practice on how to do it without ripping a hole in the quilt.  Knotted and buried the loose thread tails after ripping to ensure the adjacent good stitching remained secure.
  10. Then proceeded to work my way down through the quilt again, quilting the ruler work and free motion swirly-curl designs in all of the peach/pink/orange/yellow triangles.
I designed and cut out this quilt in October of 2019, finished piecing the top and loaded it onto my quilting frame in April of 2020, and I've been working on the custom quilting for the past two months.  So, at this point, I have about 6 months invested in this project.  I am NOT a speedy quiltmaker...

Initially, my plan was to start quilting dense fillers in all of the white/off white/neutral background fabrics of my quilt next, but after doing zero quilting in the outer border and quite a bit of quilting in the interior of my quilt, the interior of the quilt has begun to draw up a little and the outer border was looking a little loose and ripply, as though I'd cut the border strips too long and gathered them slightly when I attached them.  I decided that I should quilt those outer borders before putting any more quilting in the interior of the quilt, to prevent distortion, pleats, or tucks from happening there.

I like to plan quilting designs on my iPad, where I can sketch right on top of a photograph of my quilt top in full color, over and over again until I come up with something that I like.  For Spirit Song, I wanted to kind of "ghost" the triangular piecing into my outer border, but without getting too busy or complicated since this is already a very busy quilt with a bold, busy floral border.  I got the idea for my border from a quilt by Rose City Quilter that I discovered on Pinterest:

I liked this border because it would give me some nice texture in the border, it looked fairly straightforward to quilt, and I knew the straight lines would complement the large floral print rather than fighting with it the way a feather border might.  But I had to figure out how to handle my corners.

I wanted my quilted border triangles to align with the pieced triangles within the center of my quilt, but I have a narrow 1" blue border separating the interior of the quilt from the outer border. That meant I needed to come up with something different for the corners, because if I just stretched the last triangles out at the corners to incorporate the width of the inner border, I'd either have triangles with different angles than all the others, or triangles with their outer points chopped off by my quilt binding.  Back to the iPad, I sketched out a few different options and liked this one the best:

Now that I knew what my border design was going to look like, I had to figure out how to actually quilt it.  One option would be to use a ruler and some kind of temporary marker to draw every single line onto my quilt top before quilting it.  Well, that wasn't happening, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, neither the purple air erasable marker nor the blue water soluble marker was going to show up on my deep purple and red border fabric.  My only options were going to be white chalk pencil or the Clover white marking pen that takes a few seconds to show up on dark fabric.  The Clover marker makes a nice, clear, very fine line on dark fabrics, but that delay between drawing a line and SEEING the line you just drew makes the marking process take even longer, especially if you need to see your previous line in order to measure where the next line should be drawn.  And the chalk pencils are annoying because either they make a thick, smudgy line or, if I try to sharpen them to a really fine point, then the point keeps snapping off and in 30 minutes I've only drawn about six lines and ground the entire pencil into shrapnel with the pencil sharpener!  But the main reason I wanted to mark my border design as minimally as possible was sheer fatigue after spending hours and hours and hours marking, quilting, and then removing marker lines all through the interior of my quilt.  

The lines I definitely felt I needed to mark were the zigzags delineating the triangles in my border, so I'd know when to switch the direction of my quilting lines (and avoid having to do additional stitch-ripping practice on this quilt).

My first thought was to mark these lines with one of my rotary cutting rulers, but the ones that were long enough just didn't have the 45 degree angle line etched in a convenient place.  I'm scooting my long arm machine head along the border as I'm marking so I can press down against the flat surface of my machine's ruler base to draw my lines, and the big rotary cutting ruler was knocking into my hopping foot.  But then I tried my Quilter's Groove Pro ruler, designed by master quilter and long arm quilting teacher Lisa Calle, and discovered that she put a 45 degree angle reference line in the exactly perfect spot that I needed it to be.  Brilliant!  All I had to do was eyeball the corner of the ruler to be where the triangle point landed on the inside of the blue border, line up the etched 45 degree angle line with the outer seam of my blue border, and mark a chalk line straight out to the edge, no measuring necessary.  In fact, if I was a little more confident, I probably could have used this ruler to just quilt the zigzag reference line all the way across the quilt without any marking at all.  

Ah, buy what about those half inch spaced lines that fill in my triangles, you might ask?  Did I mark all of those lines on my border before quilting them?  Did I make little tick marks every half inch so I'd have some kind of spacing reference for aligning my ruler as I stitched all these lines?  No, I did neither of these things, because I used my Quilter's Groove ProLine 2 ruler gizmo, which is ingeniously designed for quilting perfect half inch spaced lines without doing ANY MARKING AT ALL!

You guys, I almost SOLD this ruler because I never thought I'd use it again.  I am so glad I didn't!  This is one of the rulers that was included in the kit for the Rulers for Rookies workshop that I took with Lisa Calle at AQS Quilt Week in Paducah in 2019.  At that point I was very new to my long arm machine and had done very little quilting with rulers at all, so I was still getting the hang of how to position my hand on the ruler for the best control, how hard to press down on the ruler so it doesn't slip (but not so hard that my quilting machine can't move), etc.  And at that point, I had never marked a quilting design onto a large quilt before.  I had marked small areas for practicing on muslin practice quilts, but I did not have any sense of the hours and hours it takes to do that on a big quilt, or the additional time that it takes to remove those marked lines after quilting them.  So a ruler that eliminates the need to mark lines before quilting them didn't seem like a game changer to me at the time.  Also, as the true ruler rookie that I was when I was in that class, I was still having my ruler slip out of alignment on me periodically as I was quilting, which made my lines crooked and made me want the security of a marked line to follow on my quilt top.  (I have since then discovered the inexpensive solution of NexCare Flexible Clear first aid tape to prevent rulers from slipping).  So, I was underimpressed with the ProLine ruler concept when I first tried it, didn't understand why not having to mark the lines would be a bit deal, and didn't plan to purchase this ruler in other sizes.

And here I am, totally in love with this ruler, sending warm fuzzies out to Lisa for designing it and for including it in her class.  After using this ruler on my border for 30 minutes last night, I had to stop quilting, go to Lisa's web site, and order the other sizes right away!

The best way to understand how these rulers work is probably to watch one of Lisa's demo videos that you can find on her web site here.  For those who don't feel like watching a video right now, I'll do my best to explain.

With the ProLine rulers, you are stitching inside the channel that is cut into the center of the ruler, and the width of that channel determines how far apart your lines will be spaced.  Taking the diameter of your hopping foot into account, the ProLine 1 ruler has a channel that is sized to create lines spaced 1" apart, and the ProLine 2 that I'm using in my border has a channel sized to create lines spaced 1/2" apart.  The ProLine 4 gives automatic 1/4" spacing, the ProLine 8 gives 1/8" spacing, and the ProLine 16 gives you perfect 1/16" spacing.

If you think of that channel inside the ProLine ruler as a river, I'm always quilting my straight lines with my hopping foot riding along the left bank of my river.  Then, after I complete that line of stitching but WITHOUT moving my ruler, I quilt straight across the river (in the ditch of my border) until my hopping foot hits the right riverbank.  My needle is now exactly 1/2" away from my previous line of stitching.  Now, with my needle down and machine stopped, I slide my ProLine ruler to the right, keeping that 45 degree angle line right on my border seam, until my hopping foot hits the left river bank again.  Then I quilt the next line along the left riverbank again, repeating all the way along the border.

It is so easy, and it worked so well!  There are alignment lines etched into this ruler for 90 degree angles, 60 degree angles, and 45 degree angles.  It worked just as well for the horizontal and vertical lines in my corner as it did for the diagonal lines in the triangles.  These rulers work for piano key borders, bead board borders, crosshatching...  And the smallest sizes, the 1/8" and 1/16" versions, are going to make short work of dense background fills.

I selected a slightly contrasting shade of dusty blue thread, Superior So Fine in Misty Blue, for quilting my border, and now that I see how nicely the border is coming out, I'm glad that I didn't go with the purple blending thread I was considering.  Since I'm all threaded up with blue right now anyway, I might go ahead and quilt the circles in the skinny blue borders and quilt all of those little blue triangles at the same time.

It has taken me a lot longer to write about all of this (typically!) than it took me to actually quilt this little section of the border last night, but I was so excited about it that I just had to write about it.  Especially since I'd been so nervous about quilting the borders!  And yet I'm delighted with how this is coming out!  Can't wait to get back in the studio for more quilting today!

[By the way, when I putting in the links for this blog post, I discovered that Lisa Calle offers FREE video versions of her Rulers for Rookies class on her web site here.  There is one version of the class for quilters who are using a domestic or sit-down machine, and another version for long arm quilters.  The kit for the Rulers for Rookies class, consisting of a fabric panel and all five rulers used in the class, is available for purchase on Lisa's web site here. ]

Before wrapping up this post, I just had to share this picture of me and my 7 1/2 month old Rottweiler puppy, Sam.  He weighs about 93 pounds now, but he's still a snuggly, cuddly lap dog!  Do you know how hard it is to breathe with a 90+ pound dog laying on your chest?!  That's why I'm not smiling in this picture!!

I'm linking up today's post with:


·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  


·       Let’s Do Some Ruler Work at The Quilt Yarn


Gretchen Weaver said...

I love the border design!! You're becoming a real professional with this quilt. Happy stitching!

The Joyful Quilter said...

I'm SEW excited that you find a use for the ruler from the class, Rebecca! Thanks for sharing the news here. Off to check out that video...

chrisknits said...

Love Pro rulers!!! I have the circle and feathers and now I am getting one of those line rulers!!

Nancy @ Grace and Peace Quilting said...

Rebecca Grace, so glad you found your groove in your ruler!!! Your excitement is contagious! That custom quilting is looking beautiful!!!!

Nancy said...

Wow, what a beautiful quilt! I love all the brights together. Reading subsequent posts I see that you're machine quilting it. I can't relate since I hand quilt but I can admire the time and attention you're giving it.

Sam! He's adorable. I can almost imagine his thought as he looks at the photographer: "Hey, you're interrupting my cuddle with my mom. Go away and leave us alone." But perhaps I'm reading him wrong. Lucky you to have a pup to cuddle no matter that he weights 90+ pounds!

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

what a nice small "puppy" you have LOL

Carol R. said...

I'm so glad that you posted this today. I have a quilt that's border is going to be done in triangles (of sorts)and I've been trying to figure out how to do the corners... your solution to your corners is going to work perfectly with it! Now, just to get the ambition to get up to the machine and DO IT!