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All About Longarm Quilting Rulers

What’s the secret to getting great results on your longarm quilting machine? For many quilters, the trick is to use a variety of longarm quilting rulers. Also called quilting templates, these tools can help guide the machine to make straight lines straight and curved lines curved.

longarm ruler
Photo via The Gadget Girls

Longarm quilting rulers are 1/4” thick plastic, unlike rotary cutting rulers which are only 1/8” thick. Quilting rulers can be used along with most any mid-arm or longarm quilting machine to help guide the needle during quilting.

Photo via Anderson’s

To use rulers for longarm quilting, you’ll just need to make sure you have the right foot for your machine, which is called a hopping foot. A hopping foot, or ruler foot, has a taller base to rest against the edge of the ruler.

ruler base

A ruler base like this one from Handi Quilter is a tool that is installed around the base of the hopping foot, to give the longarm quilting ruler more stability during use. It is important to stitch very slowly and with a longarm ruler or template, so it does not slip and hit the needle under the hopping foot. For more tips on how to use longarm quilting rulers to create specific patterns, refer to this presentation at Handi Quilter.

The types of quilting rulers or templates vary by brand, but the most common types are:

  • Straight edge or stitch-in-the-ditch
  • Right angle
  • Waves or clam shells
  • Half circles or full circles
  • Nesting shapes (circles, stars, etc.)
  • Combination rulers offering different shapes on each side

Because longarm quilting rulers can be pricey, costing around $20 to $60 each, many longarm quilters recommend buying a few basic rulers at a time to see how often you end up using each one. Many quilters like to get a straight-edge ruler when they are starting out, adding a few curved longarm templates as they grow their collection.

This video from Vanessa Wilson of The Crafty Gemini demonstrates how to use a Stitch-in-the-Ditch ruler on a longarm machine. This ruler has a groove cut along one straight edge, which makes it easy to hold the ruler at the seamline and accurately stitch in the ditch during quilting. The video also shows a ruler base and hopping foot in action.

straight edge ruler

A straight edge ruler like this one from Heartbeat Quilting can be used to create a variety of grid designs, including squares and diamonds. Look for accessories that fit comfortably in your hand while you quilt. Right angle ruler can help quilters stitch in the ditch around sashing and corners, as well as create triangle designs.

rotating ruler

This longarm quilting ruler from Top Anchor Quilting, is unique in that it rotates around a stationary anchor point, gliding across the quilt top as you sew.

clamshell ruler

Clamshell rulers like this one demoed by Debby Brown for Quilt It come in handy for tracing a clamshell design with perfect curves.

circle rulers

A set of nesting circle longarm quilting rulers can create a design similar to this sample by Kimmy Brunner. For more ideas on how to use quilting rulers or templates in your longarm projects, check out Kimmy Brunner’s online class Machine Quilting with Templates: Creating Design Perfection. Or check out the blog post Machine Quilting Designs for Borders to put your rulers to use.

If you use longarm quilting rulers, what’s your favorite one to use in projects?



Surely there’s a way for dsm quilters to use this concept. Please address this –I would love to make truly round circles and long, pretty lines without marking them.

Mary Honas

Unless your DSM is on a frame, you’d need three (or four) hands to make the rulers work. It’s the frame holding the quilt that makes ruler work without marking. On your DSM you need to have one if not both hands guiding the quilt.


I love the Teryl Loy 3/8″ thick longarm rulers. That extra 1/8″ makes ALL the DIFFERENCE. I have never had one of Teryl’s rulers slide under the foot.

Amy@Free Motion Quilting Adventures

It IS possible to use long arm rulers on a DSM! Though we can’t make use of all the ruler options out there for the long armers. Straight lines and gentle curves are done well with a ruler on a sit-down system, whether a sewing machine or one of the newer sit-down style long arm machines.

Being able to use a special foot for FMQ with rulers helps (Janome has one) but isn’t completely necessary. I write about using these rulers while I quilt on my blog, Amy’s Free Motion Quilting Adventures.


I’ve been using the straight, curved and circle rulers on my janome Horizon successfully since I saw them on Amy’s blog and am taking the course on Craftsy as well. Great fun!


Where can you buy the rulers?

susan alcala

google “longarm rulers”


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