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The more experienced I get as a quilter and sewist, the more I realize that having the right tool for the job really makes a difference in the quality of my work. (This coming from someone who couldn’t figure out how to sew a straight 1/4″ seam for about a year before she learned that there is a presser foot for that purpose!) I’m someone who loves to MacGyver my sewing room; I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to weird sewing hacks like hemming a skirt with a cheese grater. But I’m learning that there are times when it actually helps to have a tool that is expressly designed for the task at hand, and having the right ruler is simply non-negotiable for a quilter. There are so many rulers to choose from, and often they have very specialized purposes. This can make them intimidating for new quilters; heck, it makes them intimidating to experienced quilters too.
I’d heard of the Add-a-Quarter ruler, which features a “lip” running along one side and does what the name suggests: automatically adds 1/4″ seam allowance to the cut edge. I think I thought of it in a similar way to how I mistakenly think of a lot of specialty rulers before I actually use them: “OK, but why would I need that? I can just use my straight ruler instead.” But one day I was teaching a paper-piecing class at my local fabric shop, and it was there that I was schooled — SCHOOLED, I say — by a sweet lady I know who took my class. She brought an Add-a-Quarter ruler and had taped a piece of cardboard along the ruler side of the lip. She showed me a technique that she’d seen a friend use, and I was completely transfixed. It makes paper piecing quicker, easier, and even more accurate. And here I am going to show it to you.
Using the Add-a-Quarter Ruler
1. Cut out a piece of paperboard (I used a piece of junk mail) and use some heavy-duty tape to attach it to the Add-a-Quarter, leaving a little bit of space so that you can “open” them up. Line up the lip of the ruler with the edge of the cardboard. . .
. . . so that when you “close” them, the cardboard is flush with the lip:
2. Find the line on your paper-piecing pattern where you want to make your next seam. Open the ruler/paperboard combo up and place the “lip side” of the cardboard right over the line.
3. Use the cardboard as a folding guide; so much easier than finnagling with it manually!
4. HERE COMES THE FUN PART! Without removing the cardboard, flip the ruler down. Its lip should line up perfectly with the edge of the cardboard and paper. See that 1/4″ seam? CUT THAT SUCKER.
The Add-a-Quarter ruler itself is a great little invention, but the cardboard bit makes it that much more efficient. I LOVE that I learned this technique from a student. It’s a brilliant idea, and it makes the whole folding-measuring-cutting part of paper piecing into a streamlined and simple process. I didn’t need any more inspiration to love paper piecing as a technique, but I got one anyway!
Do you have any additional suggestions either for using the Add-a-Quarter ruler or for paper piecing in general?
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