A learning curve is a graphical representation of the relationship between how proficient people are at a task and the amount of experience they have. Proficiency (measured on the vertical axis) usually increases with increased experience (the horizontal axis), that is to say, the more someone performs a task, the better he or she get at it. (Wikipedia)

Recently I’ve become intrigued with learning how to quilt on my domestic machine using a ruler foot and quilting rulers. It seems kind of silly for me to learn that skill since my quilts the last 10 plus years have been tile quilts and I have nowhere to put fancy quilting. Maybe it’s time for me to move on with my style or allow places in my tile quilts that I can do the ruler quilting in. Hmmmmm….ideas forming…

Most of my quilts require little thought when I machine quilt them. The tiles are all fused on with Wonder Under so I quilt each of the tile pieces in order to make sure they don’t fall off. So not much creativity in getting them sewn on. The quilting is not the star in my tile quilts.

I decided to sign up for a ruler class at a quilt shop near me, Quilting Mayhem. It is a yearly “club” using Westalee Rulers that meets every month. Last year they made a whole cloth quilt. I can’t imagine making a full-size quilt that way, but I do admire any of them that I have seen at quilt shows and on social media. The project they are making this year is the Jewel Quilt by Angela Attwood using the Westalee Design Sampler Set 1 and it is a quilt as you go pattern. So not only am I learning how to use the rulers, but I am also learning how to attach the sections to each other using sashing.  You can see from the photo on the front of the book that there is lots of open space for the ruler work to go.


Here are the rulers I’ll be using in this quilt, plus a couple others that I have in my stash.

I wondered why some of the enclosed shape ones had the little puzzle pieces taped to them. I soon found out why…I can’t tell you how many times I got my needle, thread and foot already to start a new design and forgot to insert the ruler around the needle and foot!

Here is my machine all set up, but oops! I forgot to insert the ruler!


Easy solution! Just remove the jigsaw puzzle piece and slip it around the needle and foot, then replace the puzzle piece. Saved by the puzzle piece!




It’s been an interesting process to learn how to use these rulers. It was recommended that we draw the blocks out on paper first and follow the direction of the quilting instructions given in the book using a pencil. It took me quite a few tries to figure out how to use the Spiral ruler, keeping in mind that there is a ¼” space between the edge of the ruler and where the needle goes. I was grateful for doing it on paper first. It really helped me to get the gist of it. I am not a big fan of drawing things out first. I’m usually chomping at the bit to get going and see results, however had I done that with this project, I think I would have been un-sewing a lot more than I actually did.


After I made the paper drawing, I made a fabric sample. I was also glad I did this because I got lots of practice trying to figure out how to keep the ruler snug to the ruler foot! It was also suggested that we make sure that the fabric marker we were using would come out. Can you imagine doing all that quilting only to find out that your marks were permanent? I’ve been using the Sewline pink lead. Another good lesson doing this sample was that you could hardly see all my imperfect stitches!

By the time I finished the fabric sample and washed it to make sure the fabric markings all came out I was ready to start on the real thing. I was pretty tired of drawing out this first block by now. I think I drew it 4 times. It’s 16” square.

With quilt as you go you must cut your pieces before you can begin. Each block needs to have the top and bottom fabrics and the batting cut. The top needs to be marked before sandwiching the three pieces together. Normally you make a quilt top, then worry about backing for it once you get ready for the quilting. If you send it out for a long armer to quilt it, you usually don’t even need to worry about the batting as that will be provided and included in your quilting costs. With the quilt as you go, you have to buy all the backing AND the batting. Pretty spendy to have all those upfront costs going on at once. But it will all be quilted when I’m done so I’ll just have to add the binding to the outside and be done!

And dealing with all the start and stop threads! ACK!! I don’t worry about them too much on my tile quilts, I usually just snip them off. They are going on a wall and probably won’t be coming undone. But this quilt will be a bed size quilt and I don’t want the threads to come loose. Each of those set of threads must be knotted and buried in the quilt sandwich. OMG there are so many threads! I initially started tying square knots and trying to get the two threads through a sewing needle. Fingers and eyesight were definitely being challenged! I finally watched a YouTube video and found a method that worked for both my fingers and my eyesight. I discovered Clover’s Self Threading Needles. Highly recommend having some of those in your needle stash! It made all the difference in the world, and I think saved my sanity. I LOVE these needles!

So far, I’ve finished the center block and the first round and have cut out my second round, marked each block out and sandwiched the pieces together. I’m happy with the results so far. Here is the front and the back of the first round. I’m using a line of fabrics called Grunge by Moda-Basic Grey. The blue cornerstones will get darker in each round.

The backing fabric is by Jason Yenter for In The Beginning fabrics and was designed for the Western Washington Quilt Shop Hop 2019. I’m thinking I may be able to flip it over if I get tired of the other side.

I still have a big learning curve before I become proficient at this skill, but I think by the time I am done making this quilt I will be pretty good at it! It’s kind of addicting, too.

Happy Creating!
Tesi Vaara



22 thoughts on “LEARNING CURVES

  1. Well this should certainly look very good when you have finished it. I’ve never heard of Welsh quilting called Ruler quilting before, but then I didn’t know it could be done by machine. Off we go into the future!
    Just think, not so long ago these quilts were all done by hand, such tiny stitches and usually by candle light too (no doubt in a stone cottage half way up a mountain!).
    I hope you’ll let us see your quilt when you have finished it. I’m sure it will be worth all your hard work.

    1. I had to google Welsh quilting and OMG that’s a another whole rabbit hole to go down. The author of the book I am following, Angela Attwood is from Birmington, UK so I can kind of see where her learnings may have come from. I’ll have to pass that info on to the ruler group I belong to. Doing it by hand??? Not for me!
      I’ll be sure to post the progress of it as the year goes on.

  2. It looks to me like you are learning quickly, Tesi. I always wondered how these types of quilting accessories were used and then to realize that the quilting I admired was this method, duh… Best of luck finishing your quilt. Please do show us the end result.

    1. Thanks Ruth. LOL If you could see the stitching up close you’d laugh! I figure that once I get the feel for keeping the ruler tight to the ruler foot and relax a bit more I’ll be able to focus on trying to keep my stitch length equal in size. Right now I’m all over the place but I’m amazed that you can’t really see all the mistakes.

    1. The rulers are quite amazing! I look forward to seeing what I create with them on future quilts!

  3. I love this about all the posts within FFS. There’s always something new to learn and I have learnt a heck of a lot today reading through your post. Thank you Tessi. The quilted design looks so intricate and is quite beautiful. Thank you for your tip on the clover needles – I must check them out. If I find them, they will be treated like my fabric scissors – hidden away from others within the household!

    1. I was hesitant to post about quilting. Most of you do such awesome work with your felt fibers and I consider you lucky that you don’t have to worry about quilting your work. But the learning process for any new skill is pretty universal. Practice, practice, practice! I’m sure we can all relate to that!

  4. Very beautiful sample, Tesi. I know nearly nothing about quilting (the only one I ever made was supposed to be a ‘quilt in a day’ which took 5 days & left me rather angry!) but I can definitely appreciate all the work and how lovely it looks.

    1. Thanks Lindsay! I think if I hadn’t done all the pre-work of drawing and making the sample it would have frustrated me to the point of giving up. I’ll be curious to see how I feel when I get that last round finished!

  5. Tesi, I can totally appreciate the skill required to use those rulers, and make such lovely patterns in your quilting pieces. I can feel anxiety mounting, at the thought of such a pursuit. I am the 6th generation failure, in 5 generations of seamstress’s and tailors. (My maiden name was Mettler, like the thread. Not sure about a connection, but it gives me anxiety all the same.) My father was a strip quilter the last 25 years of his life. He had health problems, and spent most of his days quilting in his studio. He would create colorful strips, cut them in multiple width cross sections, then re-assemble them to get the most amazing results. For those in the UK, one of my father’s quilts was hanging at Goldsmiths College. After he died, my mother found over 70 quilt tops that still needed finishing. 😱 Bless her heart, she spent the next 2 years backing and finishing the edges of the quilts. Eventually they will need to be quilted, but it won’t be me doing it. ☺️

    1. Oh Capi, please do a blog on your dad’s quilts if possible. I’m not really into quilting per se but I do like to quilt my own art quilts, especially if I plan on entering them into an exhibit. I find I have been kind of intimidated by the process of figuring out what design to use and by my free motion machine skills. Using the rulers really helps control the stitch direction and placement and has been giving me confidence to be more bold!

  6. Wow, even with special rulers to help it looks like so much work. You are doing amazing. it will be beautiful when your done and I do hope you keep us up to date on your progress. I have some of those needles . they look like H’s. I found the thread pops out if you put any pressure on them. I like the ones that the thread slides in the side, like these:

    1. Ooohhh I’ll have to try those needles out! Thanks for the link! So far I haven’t had any trouble with the thread popping out though.
      This project is a lot of work but fortunately I can work on it in sections. I hope to have it done by the end of the year if not sooner. I plan on adding one more round to the number of them shown on the book cover. That way it will fit on my queen size bed. I’ll keep you posted on future blogs.

  7. I’ve been curious about these rulers but busy with other projects. Now you really have me intrigued! I’m looking forward to your updates. I suspect I’ll be eyeing some rulers for myself soon.

    1. They are kind of addicting! I got hooked after seeing some of the quilting done by Kathy McNeil on some of her art quilts.
      I like the idea of doing zentangle type quilting in sections of the quilt.
      I’ll be sure to share my progress as the year unfolds!

  8. Great job, Sis, on accomplishing the ruler quilting! It looks lovely and intricate. I’m so happy that you are learning this quilting method and hopefully you can give me advice when I try it out. I’ve been intrigued with quilt as you go as well as rulers and I look forward to the process. I’m looking forward to seeing your finished quilt.

    1. Thanks for forwarding this Ann! Fascinating read. So happy to see that these quilts are finally being valued at such a high price. AND that they are being rescued!

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