I have been quilting for almost 19 years and you may be thinking that during this time I have accumulated a mountain of rulers for making quilts. Well, I am not hoarding rulers!
I have a few “speciality” rulers (made specifically for a quilt, they are wonderful, but I used them once and then forgot about them!), but other than these, I own and use all the time these 5 rulers.
If you are a beginning quilter and don’t know which rulers are the most used in piecing quilts, I hope this will give you some ideas.
- A long, rectangular ruler – 6 1/2” x 24 1/2”
This is the first ruler I bought and I use it all the time.
There is a wider version, too (8 1/2” x 24 1/2”), I am sure that it is useful but I think it is easier to work with the 6 1/2” version.
- A 12 1/2” square ruler.
- An equilateral triangle ruler.
I had ONLY these three rulers for many years, maybe my first 10 years! Then I added these rulers:
- A 7 1/2” square ruler – a SMALL ruler
- A 20 1/2” square ruler – a HUGE ruler (extremely useful, including for squaring up quilts).All my rulers are from Creative Grids – my favorite brand! The marking is highly visible on any fabric and they don’t slip on fabric.
- A long, rectangular ruler – 6 1/2” x 24 1/2”
As you see, I find quickly what I need! I don’t waste time thinking which ruler should I use to cut those squares. Sometimes having fewer options is better!
How to cut equilateral triangles using a long rectangular ruler
If you don’t have the equilateral triangle ruler, I will show you below how to cut triangles with the rectangular ruler. This is good to know even if you have the triangle ruler, because sometimes you need triangles bigger than your ruler!
In an equilateral triangle all three sides have the same length and each angle measures 60 degrees.
Cut strips in the size you need.
Align the 60-degree line of the ruler with the bottom edge of the fabric strip as shown. Cut along the left side of the ruler.
Here is the first cut.
Rotate the ruler. Align the other 60-degree line of the ruler along the bottom edge of the strip and the right edge at the upper corner (see the yellow arrow), as shown.
Here is the first triangle.
Continue in the same way and cut all the triangles needed.
How to piece equilateral triangles
Now that you are able to cut your triangles, let’s see how to piece them together. I know many quilters are afraid of this! I will show you how to do it – some pins will make the job easier!
A. Piecing triangles in rows
Place two triangles right sides together and stitch using a 1/4” seam allowances.
Pressing the seams
Because just one of the triangle edges is cut straight on the grain and the other two are cut on bias, press the seams with much care to not distort the bias edges. I usually just finger press them.
For easy and accurate piecing with beautifully matched seams, press the seam allowances in opposite directions from row to row. Plan this accordingly!
1. If the seam allowances are pressed under the pink triangle, there is no problem when adding the third triangle. The edge of the purple triangle is not altered – both edges that has to be stitched together have the same size.
2. If the seam allowances are pressed under the purple triangle, the edge of the third triangle is longer than the edge of the purple triangle.
Turn the third triangle right side down aligning the top points.
There will be a tiny triangle of fabric extending past the bottom edge. It must have the same size as the one you got from the previous seam (the purple one).
Stitch along the edges.
For perfectly aligned edges, the seam should hit the intersection point shown by the yellow arrow below (mine is a little off!).
Press the seam allowances in the same direction (under the pink triangle) and trim away the “dog ear”. The bottom edges are now perfectly lined up.
If the triangles are not distorted while sewing or pressing, there is no need to use pins while piecing. But use them if you find they are helpful. Do not stitch over pins!
B. Joining two rows
These two rows will be sewn together. Note the seam allowances pressed in different directions. I always use pins when I am joining two rows.
Place the two rows together.
First I match the intersection points. Align the raw edges even and insert a pin, perpendicular to the seam line (IMPORTANT), through the two intersection points.
In the picture below the pin is not placed perpendicular only for making the picture more clear.
Then continue aligning and pinning the remaining edges.
Stitch along the edges and remove the pins just before reaching the sewing machine needle.
Sew with a SCANT 1/4” seam allowance (move your needle one notch to the right); you will sew one or two threads above the intersection points. This will allow room for turning and pressing.
Sew with small stitches if you want to press the seam allowances open.
You can press the seam open – this creates less bulk on the back side of the quilt top but it is a time consuming task. I usually press the seams to one side.
Here is one of my quilts pieced this way.
I hope you find this tutorial useful. Don’t bother if not all your seams are perfectly aligned and the points are not so sharp. Mine aren’t either, but I don’t consider this the most important thing. FINISHED is better than PERFECT!
PIN this for later!