Are you new to quilting and wondering what rulers you need to start rotary cutting? Or are you a ruleraholic, needing to bring your entire collection to guild meetings because you can’t stomach the thought of being without one of your 50+ rulers for a few hours?
When I began quilting and rotary cutting, I was extremely intimidated by all the ruler options in the shops. Big ones, little ones, rulers for parallel lines, rulers for curves: it seemed like there was a quilting ruler created for every project. And you know what? Those suckers are EXPENSIVE. A large ruler will cost you close to $20, with the small ones not less than $10. This leaves a lot of us shopping at THE MASS-MARKET FABRIC STORES OF DOOM, using our 40% off coupons to pay a reasonable price for Ruler #21. And you might wonder, are all these even necessary? Should I buy a certain-size ruler because a pattern tells me to, or can I subsist on my own?
Thankfully, though, you probably already have a lot of the quilting rulers you will need 90% of the time. With a few solid investments, you’ll be able to walk safely past the ruler aisle without falling prey to another impulse buy. Here’s my list of the top five essential rulers for every quilter.
FCC disclosure: this post contains affiliate links, where I receive a small commission for each sale. I own all of these rulers and purchased them myself, so I would not recommend them if I did not believe they were of good quality. Thanks for your support!
A Big Square
Every quilter should have a big square ruler. This is the one that I use most for diagonals, and its big size (12.5″, in my case, but they also make 16″ ones) lets me square up good size blocks. If I ever need to square up something smaller, I just use painter’s tape to mark off the dimensions. I can’t recommend this one enough; it paid for itself (by retaining my sanity) in almost no time at all.
A Long Rectangle
You also definitely need a rectangle ruler that is 24″ x 6″. This type of ruler is essential for cutting strips; the 24″ means that you can cut a strip of folded quilting fabric all the way across. If you find the length too much and your ruler wiggles around, try the little ruler grips that attach to the bottom (they should be available at your LQS). This is the first ruler I had to replace; I used the other one so much that I actually started shaving pieces off the edge.
A Small Rectangle
In addition to my long rectangle, I have a shorter and smaller one (6″ x 12″) that I easily pop in my travel bag. While I don’t use it for long strips, I love this one for trimming paper-pieced blocks and for cutting smaller shapes when Daddy Long Legs up there would be too unwieldy. It’s super lightweight and small enough that it doesn’t have any
jiggery-pokery wiggle-waggle. It’s also a good size to have next to my machine with a small cutting mat.
The Add-a-Quarter Ruler
Listen, I don’t want to be a corporate shill here, but the Add-a-Quarter ruler is THE BOMB. I use it for cutting fast and perfect ¼” seams when I’m paper-piecing (tutorial here), but I would also recommend using it for anything requiring templates (special shapes, English paper piecing, etc.). It has a little lip on the side that you place against the paper or template, and then it literally “adds a quarter” to that measurement so you can cut an automatic seam allowance. I don’t know what I used to do before I started using this ruler. Actually, I do: I measured. Like a caveman.
The Ruler Designed for Your Project
Here’s the hard truth: there are a lot of patterns out there that are made by ruler manufacturers. If you happen to buy one of these patterns, you may not be contractually obligated to buy the ruler that goes with it, but TRUST ME, it is often worth the $15. Google the name of the pattern for alternate construction techniques; classic blocks often do not require fancy rulers because the blocks precede the ruler in the first place, back when quiltmakers cut their fabric with scissors and walked uphill both ways to the LQS. (There are a few notable exceptions here that will make your life easier if you buy the ruler; Drunkard’s Path and Storm at Sea blocks are a few and I have literally no idea how people made these before there were rulers for them.) But if it’s a newer design, you are probably better off borrowing the ruler from a friend or sucking it up and buying it.
What rulers do you find indispensable?