Using the Line Tamer ruler with the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen

28 01 2013

I haven’t done much ruler work with my Sweet Sixteen, with the exception of straight line work (e.g. stitch in the ditch) using the Line Tamer ruler from Four Paws Quilting. I love this ruler as it has channels to hold the hopping foot in place and so there’s very little that can go wrong — for example, it’s not easy to wander off line if you use it correctly.

However, I initially had a few trials and errors in using it, so this short tutorial shows you how I use it and what to watch for so that you can keep your stitching lines nice and straight.

PLEASE NOTE: This ruler is NOT for use with domestic sewing machines — it is made specifically for mid-arm and long-arm quilting machines and it comes in two sizes, depending on the machine you have.

First, let’s take a look at this ruler (click on a photo to view it larger):


The ruler is 10.5 inches long, with vertical lines laser-etched into the plastic every 0.5 inches. There are two horizontal lines — the top one near the opening is 1.5 inches down from the top, and the bottom one is 1.75 inches from the base of the ruler. On my ruler (suitable for the HQ Sweet Sixteen hopping foot), the half-inch lines near the inner edge of the slot are in effect 0.25 inch vertical lines. There are also some 45 degree lines.

You have several positioning choices when using this ruler:

  • place the slot vertical to your body position, then either pull the ruler and quilt towards you, or push it away from you
  • place the slot horizontal to your body (i.e. push/pull it to the left or right)
  • or some other angle of your choosing.

NOTE: If you are using the open-toe hopping foot, be careful if you’re trying to use the ruler at any angle other than vertical — the sides of the hopping foot need to touch the edges of the slot, and at non-vertical angles, that can be an issue.

If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see other faint ‘lines’ — this is the cut edge of the ‘ClearGrip’ I have put on the underside of the ruler. ClearGrip helps hold the ruler in place on the quilt. (UPDATE: I now use small squares of Handi Grip on the underside of the ruler — it sticks the ruler to the fabric much better.)

I tend to use the ruler vertically, and slide the slot around the foot so that the open part of the slot is furthest away from me. I then pull the ruler (and quilt) towards me. But that’s me — you’ll need to practice to find out the best position for you.

I also use Machingers quilting gloves when using the ruler as it gives me better grip. In the photo below, you can only see my left hand as I used my right to take the picture! But I’d normally have both hands on the ruler, applying downward pressure with the heels of my hands, thumbs, and forefingers as I move the quilt and ruler towards or away from me. Notice that my third finger (left red arrow) is resting against the edge of the ruler. I do the same with my right third finger, and in this way I can adjust the position of the ruler as smidge if I need to as I’m stitching just by moving those fingers to the left/right as required. I think of this finger control like a horse’s bridle — with a well-trained horse, you only have to adjust the bridle a tad to the left or right to make the horse go where you want it to go. Or, if you’re not familiar with horses, think of power steering in your car — you only need to touch it a tiny amount to make small changes in direction. In the example below, I’d use my right finger to make a tiny leftward adjustment to the ruler so that I didn’t stitch over that point (right red arrow). Actually, I’d normally have made that adjustment a few stitches back. NOTE: In this photo I’m using light coloured thread, so I’d make any adjustments in direction in the light areas of fabric, not in the dark areas where they’d be noticeable.


In the picture below, you can see how I’ve lined up the ruler — the green arrows show the alignment of the centre line with the previous stitching and how the stitches just touch/skim the dark fabric points. The red arrows show another alignment method — placing the laser-etched lines parallel or on the seam lines. Of course, this will only be successful if the elements in the block are perfectly square ;-). Notice the area where the top green arrow is pointing — see how the hopping foot is snug against the edges of the slot? Sometimes, when you move the ruler to the next position, you can end up with it sitting on top of the hopping foot if you’re not watching carefully — if you stitched with it like that, you could damage your hopping foot, the needle, the timing of the machine, and/or the ruler!


The final picture (below) shows how I’ve lined up the stitching line so that it will go exactly in the centre of the slot. I eyeball this, and with some practice have got pretty good at ‘guessing’ where that stitching line will go. Again, the green arrows show the visual cues I use to align those points with the centre of the slot, and the red arrow shows the vertical line parallel to the block.



  • Rulers work best with the machine set to the ‘needle down’ position. If you have to make adjustments, you won’t have jumps in your stitches if you use ‘needle down’.
  • You only need to make small adjustments to change direction.
  • You need to apply downward and push/pull pressure to move the ruler and quilt under the needle.
  • Make sure the hopping foot is snug in the slot before you start stitching.
  • Use the laser-etched lines on the ruler as guidelines. You can line them up with seams, with other stitching lines (for an exact echo measurement), or with other elements on the quilt.
  • When stitching long lines, you don’t need to stitch the full length of the slot before adjusting the ruler. Stitch as far as you’re comfortable with (this might only be 4 or 6 inches), then stop. Adjust the ruler and start stitching again. With practice, you’ll be able to guide the ruler a smidge with your fingers as you’re stitching, but initially stop, then start again.
  • You WILL improve with practice! On my Sweet Sixteen, I can now stitch straight lines at 60-70% speed; when I first started using this ruler, I was going at about 15% speed.

Quilts I’ve stitched using this ruler:

Community Quilt 58

28 01 2013

Another large quilt. This time a ‘Road to California’ (or similar) block.

Like Community Quilt #22, I stitched straight lines for this one, with a free-form (not marked) circle in the centre of each inner square. Again, I used my trusty Line Tamer ruler for the straight lines and knocked this big quilt out in an afternoon.

(Click on a photo to view it larger.)

quilt58_03  quilt58_01


Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec Glide ‘Cream’ (40 wt, trilobal polyester, colour #20001)
  • Bobbin: Wonderfil Deco-Bob (80 wt, colour DB 414)

Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here:

Too cute!

26 01 2013

I was checking out exercise bikes the other day when I came across these ‘penguin bikes’. According to the sales guy, some people were buying these as combination bikes and bar stools so their guests could exercise while having a beer etc. 😉


While these were cute, they had no facility for adding resistance, checking heart rate etc. so I bought a conventional one.

Community Quilt 57

26 01 2013

This was a BIG quilt, with heaps of lovely autumnal fabrics. In the photo below, there’s about a 12″ fold at the top to stop it dragging on the path.

(Click on a photo to view it larger.)


How to quilt it? I decided to start with the light areas of the snowball blocks (I think they are snowball blocks…). I picked out a lovely variegated thread in tans and golds and stitched a small centre circle around the joins in the fabric, then radiated out with nice big bulbous feathers (with echoes), thus creating big flowers. I decided not to do these flowers for ALL the light coloured blocks — there were a LOT of them, so I only did flowers every second row.


What to do with the other light coloured centres? Ah! My favourite — bird feathers! I knew I’d have to curl them around so stitched the spine of each one first in a big ‘J’ shape, then came out to the edges of the space with the ‘S’ curves needed for each feather.


Again, I used the variegated Sulky thread, but I had to change to a different thread after doing about five of these blocks with that thread. It played up something awful — shredded, snapped, bunched up in a mass on top and below the quilt. It had been mostly OK when I stitched the flowers.

I tried all the tricks I knew — I changed the needle to a brand new one in a larger size; I oriented the needle at the 5:30, 6:00, and 6:30 positions; I rethreaded the thread from different spool holders and through various tension holes; I adjusted the top and bobbin tension; I slowed down the speed dramatically… NOTHING would make that thread behave. It would stitch for a minute or so and then something would go wrong and I’d have to stop and fix it and unpick etc. This was becoming very tedious… So I eventually bit the bullet and swapped to a soft gold thread in a single colour and from a different manufacturer. This thread behaved perfectly. I wasn’t going to unpick all those other feathers I’d already done and redo them, so someone with a keen eye will see that they are slightly different, but for most people, they probably wouldn’t notice.


Next, how to quilt the half blocks on the edges of the quilt… I kept with the bird feather motif as these would have been bird feather blocks had they been full size. But instead of trying to do half a feather, I just did a double stitched arc for a ‘spine’ and radiated out on only one side with the ‘S’ curves. It looks a bit like a rising sun.


Finally, I did a large meandering stipple in all the dark areas, in a tan coloured thread. I figured it didn’t need any more close quilting 😉

I like how the quilt sort of ended up looking a bit Japanese with the big flowers and the bird feathers.

Threads used:

  • Top: Robison-Anton ‘Penny’ for many of the bird feathers in main quilt top (rayon, 40 wt, colour #2332); Robison-Anton ‘Date’ for the stippling in the dark areas(rayon, 40 wt, colour #2290); Gutermann Sulky variegated thread in tan and gold tones (rayon, 40 wt, colour #2120)
  • Bobbin: Wonderfil Deco-Bob (80 wt, colour DB 115)

Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here:

Jelly Roll Race

20 01 2013

I keep looking this up on YouTube, so figured I’d link to it on my blog so I don’t have to remember where to find it 😉

I might sew one of these today…

The main part starts at about 2 minutes in.

Later the same day…

I had a green batik jelly roll I picked up in Bali last September. I have three baby quilts to make, so thought I’d use this technique and that jelly roll for the quilt tops.



Here’s all those strips sewn into one long 1600″ strip:


However, I was disappointed in the final result.

I think there were a couple of reasons — the jelly roll seemed to have a lot of medium and dark fabrics and not many lights, and the technique of just grabbing them off the roll in the order they were in meant that like colours were stitched together giving double strips of the same fabric; even where different fabrics were joined, the contrast wasn’t enough to be noticeable (see picture below where there are two strips that have joins).


Had I realised this earlier, I might have started again and mixed in the pink jelly roll strips with the green (the yellow is to be used for something else) or deliberately picked a light, then medium, then dark, the light again etc. instead of stitching them straight off the roll as per the instructions in the video.

While this took me longer than an hour (probably about two hours), it was a very quick way to make a quilt top. I have enough to make four baby quilt tops, but as I’m not happy with the effect (I just got stripes, not that slashing effect that you see in the video), I may well use what I made as the backs for the baby quilts. And as I’ve sewn and cut down the finished top to about 25″ wide, I’ll use one of the clever techniques for backs that Elizabeth Hartman shares on her free Craftsy lesson to make the backs a bit bigger:

I was glad I tried this technique and would use it again, but next time I’ll be more careful about the fabric contrasts in the jelly roll and perhaps pick and choose what fabric goes with what, instead of just doing them in the order they are on the roll.

Update: There’s a new Jelly Roll Race video, showing how to add little squares between the ends of each jelly roll strip:

Cool Google Doodle

17 01 2013

I was only writing about the ‘big bad banksia men’ the other day, not realising that today is May Gibbs‘ birthday — May Gibbs wrote and illustrated all those great Australian children’s books about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the big bad banksia men.

Well, Google Australia have honoured her birthday with a great Google Doodle. As non-Australians are unlikely to see it, I’ve copied it here for those of you who can’t view today.





Community Quilt 56

15 01 2013

This was another busy quilt, with a lot going on in the blocks (stars and large appliqued hearts) and in the border fabric. I decided to only quilt the ‘white space’ and leave the star points, the hearts, and the first border unquilted.

I started with the diamond shapes between the big stars, quilting a free motion heart (with curlicues) in each and finishing the hearts off with free motioned feathers. I did something similar in the large cream squares.

Next, I did the cream triangles along the blue border — also doing another featherlike motif. More feathers for the rectangular shapes along the blue border — I got the idea for how to quilt this odd shape from the ‘Create Your Own Dream Feathers’ book by Peggy Holt (thanks for this book, Glenys!).

I then stitched feathers around each appliqued heart. And stitched some plainish hearts in the very centre and the corner squares. Then the main part of the top was finished.

For the border, I decided to just follow (in general terms!) the design motif of the fabric using a similar coloured thread. This fabric was already very busy and I thought that doing something equally as busy but using another different quilting motif was going to be overload in this area. I’m glad I stuck to my original decision, even though it took much longer to quilt than I expected — there must have been thousands of curlicues in that pattern!

As an aside, I must be getting more confident in my quilting as I did all the quilting at 60-70% speed on my Handi Quilt Sweet Sixteen! That’s pretty fast!

Click on a photo to view it larger.





Threads used:

  • Top: Robison-Anton ‘Maize’ for the main quilt top (rayon, 40 wt, colour #2264); Robison-Anton ‘Old Gold’ for the border (rayon, 40 wt, colour #2201)
  • Bobbin: Wonderfil Deco-Bob (80 wt, colour DB 115)

Photos of all the Community Quilts I’ve quilted are here: