Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Of Westalee Rulers, Ruler Thickness, and a Giveaway



Yesterday was my day for the Craftsy Instructors' Blog Hop and I announced my own giveaway of two prizes. One entrant will win a Westalee Ruler Foot Starter Kit and another will win 3 rulers, also from Westalee. Both prizes are courtesy of my shop, Amy's Quilting Adventures. You can enter this giveaway and the Craftsy giveaway here and the winners will be chosen December 14th. (Giveaway is closed.)

Take a few minutes and visit the other stops on our blog hop:

Monday, December 7 
Jackie Kunkel  - Canton Village Quilt Works 
Kate Colleran - Seams Like a Dream   
Tuesday, December 8 
Wendy Gardiner - I sew  
Wednesday, December 9 
Maureen Cracknell - Maureen Cracknell Handmade 
Thursday, December 10 
Jan Newton - Newton Custom Interiors  
Friday, December 11 
Laura Nownes - See How We Sew  
Saturday, December 12 
Kelly Ashton - Kelly Quilter  
Sunday, December 13 
Lindsey Stephens - Poetry In Yarn  

This ruler giveaway is a great time to talk about rulers and ruler thicknesses. It's a lot more complicated to choose rulers now than it was when I first adapted this technique for use on sewing machines. It's not a bad thing, having greater choice and new designs is fabulous.

The first rulers available were 1/4 inch thick rulers for use on long arm machines (more or less, the QPC rulers I carry are slightly thinner). They're still great rulers and fairly good to use to the front and sides of the foot on a domestic machine. Many high shank machines can use them behind the foot as well. They're easy to grip in the hand and are nearly indestructible.

Enter Aussie company Westalee into the mix. They had been making long arm rulers and tools for some time when they saw the potential of the domestic machine market. They were willing to not only design a ruler foot that would work on a vast range of machines, but also to cut rulers from thinner stock.

 Now, if a quilter were to only get their rulers from Westalee or a Westalee-only retailer, ruler thickness choice could be very straightforward. You buy the rulers they sell for the foot you've bought from them. Low and medium shanks use the 3mm rulers while the high and high shank special shanks use 4.5mm.

But at the same time there was this American quilter who was playing around with a Janome ruler foot and sharing how it could be used to quilt with rulers on sewing machines. She didn't want anyone to damage their machine so she stuck with the conventional long arm wisdom of not using rotary cutting rulers to quilt with. This was because long arms have feet that hop and because even a non-hopping Janome ruler foot could be set too high off the quilt top and possibly allow the ruler to slide underneath the foot. Cutting rulers are 3mm, as are the thinnest Westalee rulers.

That American is me and I've taught a lot of people to how to use rulers to guide their free motion quilting on a variety of stationary machines. I admit it, I have a bias against the 3mm rulers. Maybe it's unjustified, but as I teach those who use the Janome ruler foot as well as the Westalee foot, I think my guidelines are sound. Read on to see why I prefer the 4.5mm rulers and also where you might still want the 3mm if you have a low shank machine.

Westalee ruler foot (left) and Janome ruler foot combination seen from bottom.

The Janome ruler foot (one half of the Janome Frame Quilting Foot Set, mounted on the Convertible Free Motion Foot Set) has a smooth, curved, cup at the bottom of the foot, as well as a spring adjustment for height. This makes it very easy to adjust the height and also allows it some give when hitting a thick bulky seam. It also means that there's a potential for the 3mm rulers to wedge underneath the foot.

I love the option of the 4.5mm thick rulers! They're easier to grip in the hand and feel sturdier than the 3mm rulers. They fit under the presser foot bar of nearly all low shank machines, yet are a substantial thickness against the edge of the ruler foot so they won't slip under the foot.


 In both of these pics, the foot is adjusted too high on the machine in order to show the presser foot bar peeking out from the bottom. Above is the 4.5mm ruler in quilting position, below is the 3mm ruler in position.


The measurement from the bottom of the Westalee Low Shank Ruler foot to the bottom of the shank portion that attaches to the presser foot bar of a machine is 1/4 inch (6mm) so it appears there is plenty of room for a 4.5mm thick ruler to run all the way around the foot. And this is the case for many low shank machines. With my low shank Janome 3160 used in these pictures, I can even use the Quilted Pineapple Curves rulers which are 5mm.

In talking to the folks at Sew Steady, the distributor for Westalee here in the states, as long as even one low shank machine can't fit a 4.5mm ruler all the way around the ruler foot, they're going to recommend the 3mm rulers for all low shank machines. It makes it easy for them to just make that recommendation.

So when might a 4.5mm ruler not work with a low shank ruler foot?

  • When the presser foot bar sticks out from under the bottom of the shank portion of the Westalee low shank foot. This might only happen on some machines when using a thick batting and the foot has been raised higher. It could be the case for some machines all the time. Remember, this issue only affects use of rulers under the presser foot bar, behind the foot where we don't place a basic ruler most of the time. It is an issue when using interior shaped rulers or specialty rotating rulers on machines with this set up.
Here you can see the foot is set very high on the shank and the presser foot bar is poking out from below. It's actually too high to quilt in this position, but done as an example.
  • When the hand screw for the shank attachment is excessively large. So far this issue actually has happened to at least 2 of my students and from details given to me by one of them, they had room for the 4.5mm rulers under the screw, but had 1/4 inch rulers they wanted to use. This might not always be the case, the 4.5mm might not fit on these machines with a thick batting.


I actually find the second scenario more troubling than the first, as to the left of the foot is a prime position for working with rulers. In the latest case, it was a Singer S18 machine. This is a clone of the Janome 6500. (I've got a few possible solutions and adjustments for this issue that I'll save for the end of this post for those who are interested)

It is important to note that since I began selling the Westalee products in September, I haven't had a customer tell me they couldn't use their 4.5mm ruler with their low shank machine. Whether that means they couldn't fit one behind their foot completely, I don't know. I think the number of machines who can't is pretty small.


In the examples in this post, I'm using a Hobb's 80/20 batt which is a fairly thick batting. Immediately above and below, I've doubled the sample for explanation purposes while the foot remains set on the presser foot bar in the highest position possible. (On this Janome 3160, I could have reduced the presser foot pressure and drop the foot down for a bit more room.) You can see below that this set up leaves very little room for the 4.5mm ruler behind the foot. That's some seriously thick batting! Even thicker than using one layer of 80/20 and a layer of wool.


The same guideline that makes it easy for Westalee to recommend the different thickness of rulers, makes it hard for me to carry a good selection of rulers in both sizes (I'd have to nearly double my inventory), plus the thicker rulers from other manufacturers. My preference to sell the 4.5mm rulers has made it a little harder for Westalee. I've talked to the folks there and they do get some "Amy said..." questions, but they don't hold it against me too much. They know I'm selling to a variety of customers using a variety of feet and give them a lot of free press. I'm not an affiliate, nor do they pay me to promote their stuff, so I'm free to give my full opinion.

Here's the Westalee Ruler foot in the proper position for quilting on this sample with Hobb's 80/20 using the 4.5mm ruler. Plenty of room.

I like to carry rulers that I've actually used frequently and I keep it to a fairly basic but very useful assortment. So far there have only been a few rulers with an interior shape that low shank machine users might prefer to have in the 3mm thickness. I am now adding that option. I will also be adding some other Westalee rulers that will wrap around the foot and I will stock these in both thicknesses.

I do my best to give detailed descriptions of the products I sell so that you can make informed decisions. If you have concerns about the suitability of a template or ruler for your machine (or the ruler foot) just send me an email at amy@amysquiltingadventures.com

Additionally, if there's a Westalee product that you're dying to have and it's not listed in my store, I can place special orders!

Now, about that large screw of the S18 and Janome 6500. There are 3 options plus a tweak:

  • replace the screw with something with a smaller head. You may be able to get one from a sewing machine repair center or even a good hardware center.
  • Buy thinner rulers.
  • Alter the screw- A recent customer had her husband file the thumbscrew portion down! She was serious about wanting to use that Double S ruler and I admire her willingness to think outside the box.
  • The tweak: make sure the presser foot pressure is reduced as much as possible and lower the ruler foot to a lower position. This is a useful tweak for all low shank machines if they've got this feature.

That's all I have on ruler thickness, but I'm open to questions! Hit me up in the comments. I'd also like to hear from anyone that has a low shank machine that can't use the 4.5 rulers well with their low shank machine. Let me know what brand and model you have as I'd like to create a list.

16 comments:

  1. Great ideas....I have the babylock tiara. So don't need the foot conversion. Thanks for this chance

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    1. But you have quilting friends I bet.....pass it on. :-)

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  2. I am waiting for the Bernina foot!

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    1. I have somewhat vague news on this! I'll report what I do have for you soon.

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    2. Oooh, can't wait to hear! The last thing I heard was that it was in development, which could mean almost anything.

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  3. I have just tried doing ruler work, so far not too bad results. I have the westlee toe and one ruler. Thanks Amy for the inspiration.

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  4. Not to sound totally dense/clueless, but I have 3 different Viking machines and no one has ever said whether they are a low or high shank machine. I know I'm interested in learning how to do quilting on my own machine and have been following your blog and during October during the all access pass period, I took your class to learn more than I knew before.

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    1. This page, http://amysquiltingadventures.com/pages/faqs , has a graphic and instructions to help you figure that out. Not dense or clueless at all!

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  5. Hi Amy, I have got started on my 8200 today. it is so much easier than on the Janome 6500. I still don't have the perfect set up as it wont fit into my current cabinet so DH is going to build me a new one - he's really useful. can you give me some ideas on your cabinet or table size. thanks Brenda in the Boro

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    1. My table is an old dining room table, measures 3x5 feet. Got to love a handy hubby! Have you checked out my post on making my sewing table? There's a link on the left sidebar.

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  6. Hi Amy, I can't wait to see if Westalee will make some basic rulers and thinner ones as I still like them better on my low shank because they will work in the back.How ever Now because of the screw issue being resolved and the additional pointers you gave today I know I can use the 1/4" rulers on both sides of the foot as well as the front.

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    1. If you want some basic rulers from Westalee, my favorites after the one that comes in the ruler foot package, are the 6", 8", and 12" inch arcs. They're based on the curves of those sized circles, so they play well with others.

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    2. I was wondering what size curves to order, as I'm completely new at this and until you experience it you don't quite know. Thanks

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    3. Check out the rulers I carry at http://www.amysquiltingadventures.com I carry my favorites there.

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  7. Thanks so much for sharing, I have learnt so much from your blog, both in techniques and items to use.

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