Also referred to as templates, and more properly so, these are used for ruler work, to guide your free motion quilting for straight lines, smooth curves, and/or specialty shapes. Quilting with rulers can really improve your free motion quilting if you are a beginner as well as give needed structure and design to the more experienced quilter.
Many thanks to Amy's husband, Eric, for this silly picture!
Any sewing machine equipped with a ruler foot can use a thick, long arm ruler. Typically 1/4 inch (6mm) thick, these templates are easier to grasp and very sturdy. However, low shank sewing machines (How to tell the shank type of a sewing machine) and a few other sewing machines (Pfaff with IDT, the Janome 6600 and 7700) don't have enough clearance behind the foot and under the presser foot shaft for these thick rulers to be used behind the foot.
Behind the foot is an awkward place to use a ruler or template, so for most, the ruler or template would be placed in front of the foot. But some shapes wrap around the foot a bit and end up behind the foot. These rulers have a concave or interior shape. In this case, on a low shank machine, a thinner ruler is desirable.
Because Amy actually uses these rulers, we note in the descriptions which rulers/templates need need a thinner version and offer it as a choice. This may differ from what the manufacturer of the template or ruler may say. When a thinner ruler is needed, it is wonderful to have such! But in Amy's experience, thicker rulers are easier to maneuver, and in the event that a quilter with a low shank machine moves up to a bigger machine, odds are good that the new machine will be a high shank machine and will use the thicker rulers.
General thickness guidelines:
Long arm machines must use 1/4 inch (6mm) thick rulers. Their feet hop and need that extra thickness.
High shank sewing machines using a non-hopping (standard) ruler foot can use 1/4 inch (6mm) and 4.5mm rulers.
Low shank machines can use the above in some instances (to the front and sides of the foot) but also benefit from the thinner 3mm rulers.
Sewing machines using a hopping style ruler foot must use 1/4 inch (6mm) thick rulers. (These may be Berninas, Jukis, as well as a few others.)
A regular hopping free motion foot is not a ruler foot and is not safe to use with even a thick ruler. Please see our page on ruler feet.
Still have questions? We're happy to help! Send Amy an email.