Using Long Arm Rulers on a Sewing Machine

I have been remiss in not posting more about using long arm rulers on a domestic sewing machine for quilting. Time to share what I have learned.

Unless the ruler you have chosen already has grippy spots or something else to help prevent slipping, the first thing you need to do is to help the ruler grip your fabric. My preferred method is salt and clear nail polish, which I blogged about here. Some rulers benefit from having this done to BOTH sides, like asymmetrical shapes. These rulers can be flipped for mirror image shapes or just ease of use, especially if they have multiple shapes on one ruler.

The ruler toe (unnattached) and free motion foot (with open toe attached) is below the ruler. Regular darning/FMQ feet are above; don't use these feet for ruler work.
Even though I use the wonderfully designed Ruler Toe for the convertible machine quilting foot made by Janome, I still find that the ruler works best when held to the left or in front of the foot. (Post showing this foot) To the right gets a little tight with the body of the machine and bulk of quilt. Behind gets hung up a bit on the accufeed.

I prefer to work with the ruler to the front of the foot. On my latest quilt with ruler work above, if I had the ruler to the left or right side, I would be stitching backwards (pulling fabric towards myself) for every other line, which is something my machine doesn't like.

The surface under the quilt must be quite slick, whether it is an extension table or counter top. I always use a Supreme Slider for free motion machine quilting and it really helps. You move the ruler and quilt all at the same time against the foot. It takes a light hand on the ruler or it will be hard to move the quilt. That is why having grippy spots on the ruler and a smooth surface under the quilt is so important.

I will be posting a video soon to show how to do this. [Edited to add: I did do a video showing some ruler work, it's one of my first videos, so I really should do another.]

Note: I do NOT recommend that you try using either a rotary cutting ruler or a regular free motion quilting foot for this technique! You will most likely break a needle with the ruler!

If you found this helpful or have questions, put it in a comment and I'll do my best to get back to you. (Make sure your not a "no-reply" commenter if you want a response!)


  1. Amy, you are blowing my mind up! I wasn't aware that Janome had a ruler foot like the long-armers use. Now, I see you have a 6600 and on the Janome site it says the foot is for the 1600 models. But it does look just like the convertible feet that come with our machines. Can't wait to query my dealer about it. Thanks for having shared all this on your blog!

    1. Technically, the ruler foot is just another 'toe' for the convertible FMQ foot set for the high shank Memory Craft machines. The ruler foot comes with an open toed 'toe' oriented to the left for using the Janome 1600 in a frame system. I'm not sure why it specifies just the 1600, as any of the Janomes with 9 or greater inches of space to the right of the needle could be used in a frame system. Or so I understand.

  2. I just bumped into this blog from another one- I have never heard of using rulers! I always do my own quilting on my 6600 so I am excited to read more about this! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a lot of really great information! I had no idea that Janome made that foot for domestic machines...must add to my ever growing wish list! Thanks for the links!