By Edie McGinnis
Remember that great big pile of rulers I blogged about not too long ago? Can you believe I’ve added more to the mix? I can hear some of you snickering. But wait, wait until I tell you about them. I wish I had bought these about a thousand years ago, when I first started piecing quilts on my sewing machine. Oh, but they hadn’t been invented then.
I’m one of those people who thinks if I follow the rules and do what I’m supposed to do, that things ought to work. That doesn’t always follow true for me when I’m sewing, though. I’m certain the reason is simply operator error.
One of the problems I consistently run into is not having my units come out the size they are supposed to be. I’ll use half-square triangles as an example. If I want them to finish at 4 inches, I carefully cut my squares at 4 7/8 inches. Then I draw a line from corner to corner once on the diagonal. I line up that line with my quarter-inch presser foot and sew on either side of the line.
I open them up, press them, take a look and sometimes get out the seam ripper and tear them apart again because they aren’t right. Sometimes, I ignore the wonkiness factor and think, “Well, it’s not all that far off.” I stack the wonky ones in with the good ones and start sewing my block together.
Surprise, surprise, the wonky ones aren’t matching up like they should be.
I’ve had friends tell me that they make their units larger than needed and trim them down. And every time I’ve heard that, I’ve thought, “Well, that’s got to be time-consuming.” And I’m right about that, but I finally figured out that it’s no more time-consuming to trim than it is to rip things out and do it all over again.
So I found these Bloc_Loc rulers and decided to give them a try. They are made specifically for trimming pieced units to the correct size. On the reverse side of the ruler, there is a quarter-inch wide groove etched into the plastic. The edge of the groove lines up with the seam allowance, stabilizing the piece as you trim. That gets rid of the oops factor we run into if we press too hard against the edge of a ruler and have it shift as we cut.
The first set of rulers I bought were squares. A 4 1/2-inch and a 6 1/2-inch came packaged together as a set. Had that not been the case, I would have just bought the larger ruler. I can always use a larger ruler to trim smaller units, but the reverse isn’t true.
When I was at Quilt Market in May, I bought a set of the flying geese rulers. There are four sizes in the package. I haven’t been making flying geese lately. so I’ve not opened the package yet.
And while I was shopping, I picked up the half-rectangle rulers. I haven’t used these, either. But I have plans afoot, and I am going to haul them out of their plastic shrink-wrap very soon.
I wish I didn’t need these rulers, but it’s clear to even the most casual of observers that I do. My sewing time is much more pleasant and productive now that I’ve decided it would be a good idea to change the way I’ve been making things.
There’s only one problem with these rulers: I wasn’t the clever person who invented them. Darn the luck!
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.