An Alternative to Ruler Work-The Hand Drawn Look

Machine Quilting, Lori Kennedy, Ruler WorkGood Morning, Quilters!

Yesterday, we worked on Amanda Murphy’s ruler work quilt-a-long offered by BERNINA’s We All Sew.  The downloads, video and instructions are all offered free by BERNINA.  I highly recommend Amanda’s excellent instructions and videos to anyone interested in ruler work.

I am a beginner at ruler work and am excited to be learning this technique.  I will be showing you my results every month and I  thought it would be fun to show a free motion quilted version of this project as well.  Free motion quilting creates a hand-drawn look.


I started by chalking out Amanda’s layout.

When free motion quilting, it is impossible to quilt a long, straight line–SO DON’T TRY

I stitched a slightly wavy line to create the background layout and I closely echo stitched each line.  Double stitching gives the line a little more emphasis.

( A double needle will work for this technique.)
The first area to quilt in Amanda’s quilt-a-long is the piano keys.  With ruler work, no marking is necessary.  In free motion quilting, the lines must be marked.

I used a chalk marker to draw evenly spaced lines and then I free motion quilted the lines.  Short, straight lines are possible with free motion quilting, and they don’t have to be perfect for this technique.

The second area is the Bricks.  In the ruler work method, again-there is no need to draw any lines.  For free motion quilting,   I needed to draw a few horizontal lines to keep my bricks in line. I free motion quilted the Bricks using the ( Brick Tutorial HERE).

Ruler Work, Free Motion Quilting, Lori Kennedy


Ruler Work, Free Motion Quilting, Lori KennedyThe third area in Amanda’s quilt-a-long ia the Modern Plaid.

I stitched wavy lines.  I’m not happy with how this turned out-but I don’t think the problem is free motion quilting.    I stitched double wavy lines and I think it is too much in this small space.  If I could do it over again, I would still stitch single, wavy lines.

Ruler Work, Free Motion Quilting, Lori KennedyI am enjoying the process of learning ruler work, but if YOU are not ready to jump in…there’s always the HAND DRAWN LOOK!

Machine Quilting, Lori Kennedy, Ruler WorkWhat about YOU?

Have YOU tried Ruler Work?

Do YOU like the look?

Do YOU prefer a hand-drawn effect?

How do YOU think the two looks can be combined effectively?

We’d LOVE to hear!

LoriPS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use.  Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!PS…If you like these motifs and tips, be sure to check out my book, Free Motion Machine Quilting 1-2-3 .







27 thoughts on “An Alternative to Ruler Work-The Hand Drawn Look

  1. I love using rulers! Jeanne Harrison and Amy Johnson both have great YouTube videos featuring ruler work. Lori, I enjoy your posts and your original motifs!

  2. Lori, I love your free motion work, especially all the little embellishments. Using a double needle is brilliant. The ‘hand-drawn’ look has more texture and interest to my eye. Both ruler work and free-motion require practice and both have a place in my quilting skills. Thanks for the comparison!

  3. I’ve never tried ruler work, but have seen a lot of it. I still prefer the look of something hand drawn. I like that it feels cozier. Maybe that’s because it’s not perfect…like me!!

  4. It is all beautiful when you share it Lori.
    I do love “hand drawn” quilting much more that computer precision.
    However…. each has it’s qualities
    I always read. So sorry I donot always comment.

  5. I am not interested in trying ruler work. It looks foo confining. I prefer the freedom of free motion. Straight lines work well with the walking foot.

  6. I have tried a little ruler work and Amanda makes it look much easier than it is! Takes practice and patience. There is a learning curve.

  7. I looked up the chalk marker you like. A number of reviews indicated the lines didn’t come out, even after washing and using special cleaning solutions. Obviously, you’re not concerned. Do you only use the white and it comes out?

  8. Mona – I have the same chalk tool & have had problems with the colored chalks on white fabric. I love seeing your patterns in use, Lori. Thank you for all the time that you put in to teaching all of us!

  9. I like yours SO MUCH BETTER! Ruler work seems to be a more left brain activity. I just don’t see ruler work as being very artistic or appealing, at least not to me. It looks very tedious. Your techniques free up creativity and get the right brain flowing which ultimately leads to more creativity. That is what I am looking for, not perfect lines. Thank you!

  10. I have to tell you that since following your blog I have had this happen to me three times! The other day I spotted the tea cups. Would you believe that I am planning a teacup quil?. This is utterly perfect! I happended before when you showed how to make spiders (made a Harry Potter quilt for my granddaughter) and was working on a Halloween quilts (spiders again plus the candy corn you did was perfect for my cany corn quilt! Love it! Thanks!

  11. Scrappychris here once again. I have been practicing ruler work and finally decided it was time to put ruler quilting on a quilt! Have a cardinal quilt I am quilting and found there is a “big swirly” at the quilt sparrow website. I use sticky carpet tape to hold it down as it is large. Happy to say it is really coming out well. Thanks for all you do.

  12. I have tried working with rulers. It is by far easier for me to learn free motion quilting. I come here all the time and try to do some of your motifs. Some I can do and some I can’t. Ruler work is really awkward for me but I keep trying. Thank you for all your help

  13. I love your work Lori but I’m afraid I’ll leave the ruler work to the younger women. I’m thrilled that you have me quilting your designs but know the ruler work is beyond me.
    I wish you had been around years ago when I first started quilting. I’m sure I would have been a much better quilter. Even though I won’t be able to do it myself, I do enjoy watching your progress. Thanks for the benefit of all your knowledge…

  14. A double needle has a zigzag stitch on the back. Not so pretty, to my eyes. Great for heirloom sewing and tucks, But on a quilt, the back wants to be beautiful, too

  15. I tried working with rulers before and gave up, reverting to my walking foot. THEN I found your blog and have absolutely love your free motion designs.
    With regards to the Bernina Challenge quilt, I much prefer your free motion version over the ruler version. It looks puffier and less rigid. Custom versus store bought.
    I love my BSR, but it can’t be used with ruler work. i wonder/hope Bernina decides to make an attachment for my BSR for Ruler work, don’t you?

  16. Lori I love all your work and wonderful inspirations. That being said I was never a doodler! I am trying! I’m also not a perfectionist!!! I did buy Bernina rulers and will be going to a class next week. My first quilt has both straight lines and my first attempts at fmq. I love it because it’s finally done imperfections and all. My friends who don’t quilt think it’s awesome because they can’t imagine doing all that work. I stick with you Lori and a few other bloggers because you are all about just keep trying and practice! Thanks again for helping me on my quilting journey!

  17. Doing ruler work is hard for me – even with the extra space on the HandiQuilter Sweet 16. You still have to manipulate the fabric and keep the ruler in place, then reposition with attention to the marks and it’s much harder than free motion!

  18. I frequently switch between rulers and FMQ, but only on my longarm. It looks great together. Some designs are easier to do on a DSM and some that are easier on a longarm, but you and other quilters prove that you can do awesome quilting on a DSM, it just takes practice (takes practice on a longarm too) and I find that doodling really helps with muscle memory! Love what you did with today’s quilting.

  19. Yes – I am a beginner on quilting. Doing well with the walking foot but need to practice with the free motion quilting. Love the ruler work!

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