Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Ruler Foot Alternative: Parrs Reel Ruler

One of my passions in free motion quilting is doing ruler work. As I've posted before, the right foot for making these smooth lines and curves while quilting with long arm rulers and templates is an absolute must. This is a bit of an out-of-the-box technique right now, which takes a creative solution.

To use a regular free motion foot with long arm rulers/templates is to risk the ruler hopping over or under the foot, resulting in a broken needle at best, or a broken needle and a machine with the timing gone awry. It can be done, but isn't recommended.

In fact, even though I first put a ruler toe from the Janome Frame Quilting Foot Set (for the Janome 1600) on the Janome Convertible Free Motion Quilting Foot Set (High Shank) for my Janome 6600P nearly 3 years ago, it wasn't until recently that Janome gave me the thumbs up on the use of the toe this way.

Anyone with a Janome machine should be able to use the ruler toe on a Convertible Free Motion Foot Set for their particular machine. Some of the lower end machines may not be specifically listed, but should still be able to use the Janome Convertible Free Motion Quilting Foot Set for Low Shank Models .

The product links in the above 2 paragraphs are Amazon Affiliate links, which may provide me with some pocket change should you order something from Amazon after clicking them. This costs you nothing and helps compensate me for all the time I put into this blog.

There are some other brands that can use Janome feet, though some experimentation may be in order. Because fitting these feet to a non-Janome machine can be tricky, it is advised that you buy the feet from a Janome dealer in person, if possible, so you can test the fit before spending your money. (Besides, it's just a great idea to support local dealers over internet shops when possible!)

Juki has a hopping style ruler foot available on Ebay. Finishing Touches also has a ruler toe for Juki and a few other machines.

Most sit-down long arm machines should have a ruler foot available or be able to use the feet available from Finishing Touches.

Reneah has given us a fabulous tutorial on fitting the Janome ruler toe to a Bernina.

And finally, a reader had given me a heads-up on a new source for a ruler foot that she found at Fall Quilt Market. This new company bills their foot as available to fit nearly every model of machine and makes a version to fit the Bernina Shank Adapter.

I happen to have one sent to me by another reader and the creator of the Top Anchor Quilting Templates.

Now here's where it gets a little tricky, so it's best for me to state a disclaimer of sorts:

I am a Janome user. I have no access to the majority of machines available to test these feet to see what does or does not work. As I stated in the first paragraph of this post, it's a bit out-of-the-box. I am doing my best to let you know of suitable feet as I come across them, but I cannot assume responsibility for your results on your machine.

I think for the most part, my readers understand this.

So this new foot comes from all the way across the pond in the UK. It is called the Parrs Reel Ruler. It was not designed particularly to use with long arm rulers and templates as I have shown here, but instead to use with their own ruler system.

I am not particularly interested in their rulers, just the foot. The company has a wonderful series of videos on their site to see the rulers and foot in action. Check them out.

The foot that was sent to me also came with one of their rulers and I believe I have been spoiled by the thick, high quality rulers and templates made from 1/4 inch thick acrylic here in the states. The Parrs Ruler was thin and very lightweight in comparison, made from clear plastic. I was surprised to see they were only 1/8 inch thick. One drawback to their system is the need to 'break' (cut) thread to reposition the ruler away from the line of stitching. You are to use the groove in the center of the ruler to guide your stitches.

So the foot: It is a hopping style foot, which means it's a bit noisy, and in the down position presses pretty far down on the bed of the machine. As it hops, it does clear the quilt fine. At least on my machine it did. Betty, who sent me the foot she bought for her machine, a high shank vintage Singer, said the foot didn't allow room for the quilt to move under the foot.

This is the clearance in the high position. There are directions included to bend the bar over the needle bar and adjust the position somewhat.

Here's one big draw back: The ruler foot is smaller than most, as it's made to ride snuggly in the center groove of their rulers. This means you can't use their rulers with a standard 1/2 inch diameter ruler toe. It will not allow for the precise 1/4 or 1/2 inch spacing using lines on a standard long arm ruler. The Parrs Reel Ruler that came with the foot seemed to have adjusted the ruler lines to accommodate this variance. You also can't use this root on any rulers or templates that need a 1/2 inch foot for proper spacing as in TopAnchor's rotating templates or Quilter's Groove ProLine rulers.

Size comparison between my Janome foot and the Parrs

The smaller size of the ruler foot gives me a bit of worry as there is a bit of play (wiggle) to the foot in its shaft. I did have to move my needle position to the left a few spots to get it closer to the center of the foot. This did leave my needle a bit front of center and I was worried that pressure from a ruler could lead to a broken needle on this foot, so in my "test drive" I didn't use a ruler positioned against the front of the foot. Given that this particular foot was not bought/fitted for my machine (but for Betty's), I can't say that this is a flaw on their part. Though if the foot was a standard 1/2 inch in diameter, there would be plenty of room around the needle.

The foot has excellent clearance for a ruler all the way around the foot. In fact, it has better clearance in one spot than the Janome ruler toe combination. Even though their rulers are thin, the sides of the ruler foot are sufficiently high to keep rulers from sliding over or under the foot.

Their website states that they can adapt the foot to a variety of machines, including Janome. The options given are for low reach, high reach, or Bernina machines. I assume that reach is equivalent to shank. I would definitely contact them to make sure the foot would fit before ordering as the order form gives no other fit options than those three options. The video shows the foot on what looks like a Janome.

The cost is pretty high, but you also get the #1 ruler and a Sew Slip mat (similar to the Supreme Slider). It has to be shipped from the UK, though they seem to be working on setting up a US distributor.

I will post a video review of the foot as soon as possible. Edited to add: I totally forgot to post the video for 4 months. You can see it now at Parrs Reel Ruler Foot Review.

My verdict? If you have yet to find a ruler foot for your machine, or live overseas and shipping from the states is cost prohibitive, you might want to try the Pars Reel Ruler foot. With it's smaller 'foot print' and slight wiggle to the shaft I can't recommend it over a Janome foot if you are trying to make that choice. If they ever change their design to 1/2 inch diameter (unlikely since they'd also have to change their rulers), I might be tempted to choose it over the Janome foot, despite the hopping, for the 360 degree clearance and better view around the foot. Would I really want both? Not at the current prices for either.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Amy! I'm the one who told you about finding this foot in Houston. At first I was also concerned about the rulers being not quite as thick as the others, but I've discovered that this lack of height has one very distinct advantage I hadn't thought about: the ruler never gets "hung up" around the part of the foot that juts out from its shank. IOW, that ruler can accommodate any angle of stitching! Yay! I've just finished doing several nested diamond shapes in some blocks, and this capability was just wonderful.

    Another note: the Bernina shank comes as part of the foot for the Bernina models, so no extra shank purchase is needed. Oh, and I haven't had any wiggle on my machine, so I'm thinking that the problem you experienced may indeed have to do with the fact that it wasn't for your particular machine. I did need to make a slight adjustment (explained in the literature) to the part of the foot that hooks over the needle bar so that it would slide evenly over my quilt sandwich, but that's not difficult to do.

    That said, everyone needs to make the decision that fits his/her situation. I was lucky not to have to pay shipping for my foot, and I didn't need the SewSlip mat (I already have one), so the price was adjusted. I'm really liking this foot, but of course that doesn't mean I'd never find an even better one. ;)