Walking Foot and Ruler Work Quilting

What quilting can you do if you can’t do Free Motion Stitching ?
I’m talking here about quilting using a ‘domestic’ sewing machine, not long-arm quilting.

In everyday sewing on a domestic machine, the machine’s feed dogs move the fabric under the needle.

For free motion stitching, the feed dogs are out of action and you move the fabric under the needle yourself. On many machines you can lower the feed dogs, on some you need to use a special cover so the feed dogs don’t touch the fabric.

There are several problems with this, including :
– your ability to move the fabric to get the pattern you want. It’s like the opposite of drawing – instead of moving the drawing tool over the drawing surface, you’re moving the drawing surface (the fabric) under the drawing tool (the needle).
– the length of the stitches depends on the speed you move your hands – quicker movements get longer stitches.

The varying stitch length problem can be solved by using something like the Bernina Stitch Regulator, which evens out the length of the stitches.
An extremely expensive tool unless you use it a lot.
Or of course – practice the skill of moving the fabric at a constant speed, and find the best combination of foot pressure and hand movement speed for a good stitch length.

But what if you have a difficulties with moving the fabric in the right shapes.
For example, I have shaky hands, so my free motion stipple quilting is not elegant !

Free motion stitching is used in both free motion embroidery and free motion quilting.
My notes here are specifically about quilting.
I thought I was condemned to a lifetime of quilting in parallel lines and simple grids, but there are more interesting possibilities.
I’ve found 2 aids to this.

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Walking Foot quilting

The feed dogs move the fabric as usual, but there are ways of getting more interesting effects.

Leah Day has videos on producing a variety of quilting shapes.
Here is her intro post.
She has free videos for 30 different quilting patterns.

In her book she also teaches how to make various more curved shapes.
Best to have a knee-operated presser foot lift for these, so it’s easy to do many little pivots.

There’s also a Craftsy/Bluprint class (not free) – Quilting with your walking foot.

If your walking foot allows you to sew wider stitches, you can also add quilting interest by using decorative stitches instead of straight lines.

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Ruler Foot quilting

This is more controlled free motion stitching.
The feed dogs are down. So you have to move the fabric yourself.
This method helps with getting a good position for the stitching, but you have to control the regular speed of movement of the fabric under the needle (though if the stitching lines are in matching thread and don’t wobble – variations in stitch length aren’t very obvious !)

(image from Cotton Patch booklet below)

You don’t just move the fabric under the presser foot, you’re also holding a ruler on the fabric and moving the fabric-ruler together under the presser foot so the foot stays next to the ruler. Actually not as difficult as it sounds.
The stitching is 1/4″ from the edge of the ruler.
(The technique is different on a long-arm machine.)

If you can manage this basic movement then, even for short straight lines and grids – ruler work can be quicker and easier than walking foot quilting, as to change direction you just have to rotate the ruler, not the whole quilt.

Here’s a general intro with video, from Leah Day (7 min.).
Here’s a more detailed intro video on ruler work from Bernina (43 min.) – gives a good idea of what’s involved. Of course it emphasises Bernina products, but there are similar presser feet and rulers from many other companies, see later.

There’s also a free 4-part quilt-along from Bernina for developing basic ruler work skills.

There are several Craftsy/Bluprint classes, such as – Quilting with rulers on a home machine.
And a class at Creative Bug. She uses Bernina rulers, but you can of course use any with the same basic shapes.

Remember that people who make free motion demo videos have had a lot of practice with moving fabric at a steady speed. Also many videos just show the stitching area and the quilter’s hands. They don’t show the person’s body, so they don’t make it obvious that it’s the quilter moving the fabric.

Ruler work can vary from simple to challenging.
Basic ruler quilting using straight lines and gentle curves is quite easy.
But as an extreme example – producing beautiful quilted feathers is far from quick this way, as each curve is sewn individually with an accurately placed ruler. But at least if you can’t get feathers all the same size and shape by conventional methods, with care using some rulers you may find it possible.

Rulers and ruler work presser feet

To do ruler work you need 2 types of special tool : the ruler/template, and the ‘ruler’ presser foot.

It’s important for the ruler/template depth and ruler presser foot to match in size, so the ruler can’t slip under or over the foot because it’s too thin, or get banged on because it’s too deep. There are several ruler depths :
3mm – 1/8″ : usually for ‘low shank’ machines, many domestic sewing machines.
4.5mm – 3/16″ : usually for ‘medium shank’ machines.
5-6mm – 1/4″ : usually for long arm machines, but the ruler foot for my domestic machine is this depth.
9-10mm – 3/8″ : long arm machines only.

Most sewing machine companies produce their own ruler foot. There are also generic feet.
You need to find out what is right for your specific machine model, as different models from the same manufacturer may use different size feet and rulers.
There’s a useful free booklet from the Cotton Patch quilting company which explains more about this foot-ruler depth relation for different machines. That booklet is specifically about Westalee rulers and the presser feet to use with them.
Here’s a pdf list of machines and Accents in Design Clarity Foot sizing.
These lists show that, with machines from some companies, choosing the right foot for your machine may not be a simple matter and it may be worth getting specialist advice.

Some sewing machine companies produce their own ruler/templates, but you can use any rulers of the correct depth for your foot.
Bernina produce a basic ruler/template set.
Janome have ruler/template sets which appear to be Westalee rulers under the Janome name.
I don’t know which other machine companies produce their own rulers.

See below for generic feet and general rulers.

Holding the ruler in position

On a domestic machine, you press down on the ruler to move fabric and ruler together.
But the ruler can easily slide around on the fabric – not a way of getting an accurately placed smooth line. And most rulers don’t give any help with holding the ruler securely in place.
Several add-ons are useful.

gripper dots :
True Grip rings
Fabric Grips

gripper tape :
Handi-Grip gripper tape
Westalee stable tape

gripper film :
Omnigrid Invisi-Grip

There are also various ruler handles – they help with holding a ruler, so can be good for long-arm quilting, but they don’t help with moving ruler and fabric together, so they’re not much help on a domestic machine.

Some machine-independent companies which supply rulers/templates and generic ruler presser feet

More and more people are producing rulers, so I’m not trying to list them all. These are just some that come up easily in the UK.

Examples of specialist sources :
USA : Quilter’s Rule have many of their own ruler lines.
UK : Quilt Direct sell several brands.

For long arm quilting (some also usable on some domestic machines) :

Amanda Murphy Good Measure
rulers with non-skid backing
Examples of what you can do with them, with links to videos.
She has a book on Rulerwork Quilting

many rulers, suggested designs, videos

Silesian Quilt
6mm-1/4″ rulers, some presser feet

For both long-arm and domestic machines :

Leah Day
1/8″ and 1/4″ rulers, videos
Scroll down for other rulers, her Dresden templates are also usable.

3mm and 5mm rulers, some presser feet

3mm, 4.5mm, 6mm rulers, various presser feet, many tutorial videos.
There are also several books on using their Sampler Set 1.

For many domestic machines :

Angela Walters at Creative Grids
non slip rulers, videos

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Ruler collecting can get addictive and expensive, there are so many ingenious shape possibilities !

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Design – not free

Kenneth D. King has a class at Craftsy/Bluprint on designing, drafting, and sewing pockets : Designing details : pockets. He emphasises pocket placement for flattery. Techniques include : patch pocket, single welt pocket, double welt pocket, zipper covered by double welts.

Pockets as embellishment – Diane Ericson has a pattern for 60 pocket variants, Just Pockets.

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Specific techniques – free tutorials

There are 3 different groups of pockets, roughly of increasing difficulty to sew.

A. Pockets which are applied outside the garment or bag surface, so the whole pocket is visible :
– patch pocket.

B. 2 types of pocket where the pocket bag hangs behind the garment or bag surface, so the opening into the pocket has to be part of the design :

B1. Pockets which hang from an existing seam, or a specially added seam :
– in-seam pocket.
– slant/hip/jeans/western pocket.

B2. Pockets which hang behind a specially made opening in the middle of the fabric :
– letterbox pocket, usually with exposed zipper closure.
– welt pocket.

Many many variants on each of these. I’ve just listed the basics.
All pocket types can have an added zipper closure to the opening. The only one I’ve mentioned is the exposed zipper pocket.
In bag making, pockets without a zipper closure may be called ‘slip’ pockets.
All pocket types can have an added flap covering the opening. I haven’t given links about flap making.

Patch pocket

Patch pockets are one of those techniques said to be easy for beginners, which actually need care to get a good result.
As the whole of a patch pocket is visible, they need to be carefully shaped when pressing, and when placing on the surface. The quality of a patch pocket may not matter on a garment made from a busy print and worn for moving around, or inside a bag. But when a patch pocket is noticeable in a stable location, such as a chest pocket on a shirt, it needs more care.
At the extreme, couture and bespoke tailoring patch pockets are sewn on by hand.
As usual in sewing, several methods, so try them to find which technique and result you like best.

Here’s a video from Sure Fit Designs, on several shapes of patch pocket (from 5.05).
And a photo tutorial on sewing a patch pocket with curved corners, from Jules Fallon of Sew Me Something patterns.

She uses a pressing template. I prefer to press angled corners over a template too, as the shape is more accurate.
You can cut your own card pressing template for the specific pocket.
You can also buy pressing templates.
For angled corners there’s the Prym marking/ironing set.
And this metal pocket template has several different radius curves.

There are many variants to patch pockets which add capacity with pleats or gathers, or add depth with gussets.
As patch pockets are added on the surface they can make a strong design element. Many ideas for patch pocket shapes and flap shapes on this pinterest board.
This pattern from Rebecca Page is for a variety of patch pockets.
Starter ideas for piecing and embellishment in Diane Ericson’s pockets pattern linked above.

Lined patch pocket :
This pdf from U. of Kentucky is about making a lined patch pocket with curved bottom corners.
Lined circular patch pocket, photo tutorial from Sew Me Something patterns.

Pockets hanging from a seam

In-seam pocket :
In-seam pockets, photo tutorial with pattern piece, for a pocket in a vertical seam, from Sew Over It patterns.
I add a square of light fusible interfacing at the upper and lower corners, to support these stress points.
This tutorial and pattern from Rebecca Page adds french seams to in-seam pockets.

Slant pocket :
Here’s a photo tutorial on pattern making for and sewing a slant pocket, from By Hand London patterns.
The pocket edge is typically horizontal on jeans, vertical on other styles.

Variants in the bag of a slant pocket :
The next examples are about making denim jeans, but the methods apply to slant pockets in any garment made from any thicker/stiffer fabric.
Photo tutorial for sewing slant pockets with thinner fabric lining, from Closet Case patterns.
And a photo tutorial for a simplified method for that, from The Last Stitch.

Pockets behind a special opening

Exposed zipper pocket, zipper set behind letterbox opening :
Exposed zipper pocket insertion, video from Fashion Sewing Blog TV, for a letterbox opening in woven fabric. Make the opening at least 5mm-1/4″ wider than the widest part of the zipper pull.
(Pocket bag : cut a rectangle of fabric about 25cm-10″ x length of zipper.
Sew one zipper-length side to one side of the zipper, the opposite side to the other side of the zipper. Close the sides of the pocket bag.)

An alternative method is to make the letterbox opening using a facing. Video demo at Sewing Quarter, from 1hr.24min. to 1.32.

This pocket is much used in non-fraying fabric such as fleece, as you can just cut out the box shape opening to put the zipper behind.

Welt pocket :
Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy – in marking, stitching and snipping.
Single welt pocket tutorial from In House Patterns.
Double welt pocket tutorial from Andrea Brown at Craftsy/Bluprint. Similar technique to a bound buttonhole, so sometimes called a ‘buttonhole’ pocket.

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The Book of Pockets, by Gorea, Roelse, Hall

Out-of-print books :
Pat Moyes : Just Pockets
Claire Shaeffer : Patch Pockets, Set-in Pockets

Interfacing fusing instructions

It’s important to use the correct combination of temperature / moisture / pressing motion / pressing time / cooling time for the specific product, to get a good lasting fuse.

Pellon products listing
download product pdf for instructions.

Vilene Vlieseline products listing
click on product name for instructions.
Product name printed on selvedge.

Small interfacing companies
These often have no on-line information, so keep the packaging for the instructions.

If you have to use interfacing without instructions :
make samples using a 2-dot iron, press for 10-15 seconds, and try pressing dry, with steam, and with a damp pressing cloth, to see which works best.

Choosing interfacing

There are hundreds of big company and small specialist company interfacings.
Most of us experiment a bit and then choose a small range of ones used in the types of item we usually make.

If you have not used a particular fabric-interfacing combination before, do make a sample to check that the result has the ‘hand’ you want. Does it feel and hang as you want it to ? How well will it stand up to stretching ? to compression ? Would you prefer to use a lighter or heavier, thinner or thicker, softer or stiffer product ? The answers will depend on your personal style, as well as on what you are making.

Fusibles are much loved by people who wear structured clothes, crisp blouses and tailoring. My style is soft and casual, so for clothes I just use interfacing at specific points where fabric needs extra support. ‘Light’ interfacing can be good for the same ‘hand’ with more stability. I usually prefer sew-in or fusible woven and knit for clothes, and mainly use fusible fibrous-texture for bags.

In the UK, MacCulloch & Wallis probably has the widest selection of tailoring support materials.

Choosing and applying fusible interfacing when making clothes

Fusible interfacing in clothes making is pressed from the interfacing side, best done using a pressing cloth which is just used for fusing – to protect from the glue.

If you just want the minimum basics, here’s a photo tutorial from Tilly and the Buttons.

More specialised detail about choosing and using in this photo tutorial from I Love Fabric.

Video class from Linda Lee at Craftsy/Bluprint (not free).

Using fusible fleece and foam in bag making

You can fuse fleece/foam without crushing it, if the iron is not too hot and you don’t press heavily.
Both fleece and foam are fused from the fabric side.

Fleece :
Here’s a video about using fusible fleece from Pellon (content 1.20-2.45).

This photo tutorial from Sacotin is about adding stiffness.
She recommends using 2 layers, a ‘regular’ interfacing (not batting, fleece, foam) fused on before the fusible fleece. So try light and medium, woven and non-woven fusible, and see which gives the effect you want.

If you would like an even stiffer result, here’s a video from Australian bag pattern designer Nicole Mallalieu, showing the result of using ‘pelmet’ interfacing as the extra layer with fusible fleece.
Note for Pellon users :
Vilene/Vlieseline S320 is a light-weight, soft and flexible fusible ‘pelmet’ interfacing.
Vilene/Vlieseline H640 is fusible volume fleece.

Foam :
Foam has more structure, so is inherently more supportive and does not need extra interfacing.

Here’s a video about using fusible foam, from Poorhouse Quilt Designs.
And here’s a photo tutorial from Stina’s Quilt & Sewing Supplies.

Bosal (no instructions on site) and ByAnnie (sew-in only, matt surface so sticks without fusing) are companies with specialist foam products for bag making. Foam is also available from the big interfacing companies.

Fusing is easy enough, but not a quick process if you want a good result !

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Links available March 2019

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