Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Beginner Tutorial 1 - Cutting Tools Part C: Rulers

The Ruler! The 3rd and final part of the basic cutting tool trio!

Rulers that are created for patchwork are most often made out of a thick perspex style plastic. The ones I have used are 2.5mm - 3mm thick. The plastic is just the right thickness to keep the rotary cutter on track, but not so thick that it makes the ruler too heavy and impractical to use. They are always see through and have an imperial or metric grid marked on them. Like the mats they often have a series of angle lines on them also. Although you would assume you use the ruler for ruling or measuring your cut, I actually use a combination of the mat and the ruler to achieve a higher degree of accuracy. I keep hinting at a technique post and that is where I will cover the actual method of cutting.

There are many many brands and many MANY many types it is VERY confusing to know what you do and don't need. Although it is handy to have 1 of every size and shape, it is certainly not necessary. Having a couple of basic shapes will get you through most projects. It is also handy if you have friends that patchwork; consult when you are buying equipment like this as then you can buy different specialty rulers and lend them to each other.

Most rulers on the market have the grid printed onto the back. There is one major issue that I have found with this that is problematic. Simply, over time the printing rubs off! This has affected the usability of the ruler somewhat but not entirely. As you can see it would be tricky to measure anything that is between 10" & 12" but anything under 10" is perfectly fine. It is also perfect for squaring up a block, as long as I need that block to be 12" finished. Given that this ruler is around 10 years old I guess it is not too bad, but I did stop using it regularly around 5 years ago! You can get printed rulers in a wide range of colours, usually depending on the brand. If you buy this type of ruler think about the colour of the line in relation to the fabrics it will work on...will you be able to see the line?

My preference if for rulers that have the markings etched in. Obviously the markings will not rub off, that is a good start! They also have another quality that I love and I have tried to capture it in the photos at the right. The etched lines have a fiber optic affect, as in the etched lines seem to capture light and focus it. The picture on the left is taken in direct light. For the one on the right I stood in the path of the direct light, therefore casting a shadow. To my eye, the lines on the right are actually more readable, in low light?? Seems a bit mental really but it is true. It would be great if we were all working in wonderfully well lit area's but I we don't do we? The only thing I DON'T like about this brand is the sometimes hurts my eyes. LOL
What I DO love about these rulers are the massive range of sizes and shapes they come in...AND that some are available in left and right handed options. I also love that they are made locally just down the road from me! It is great to be able to support local business.

Rulers can also come with gadgets. Be careful is all I can say! Gadgets often add to the price but do they add to the value?? Try and see a demonstration or use a friends to see if it is really worth the hype! I have a couple of dinosaurs I regret spending money on!

Just a quick word on the units of measurement.

If you are new to patchwork you may still be puzzling over why everything is referenced in Imperial measurements. Well everything other than your requirements which are almost always given in Metric if the pattern originated here. I have asked this question myself over many years and the answer always seems to be that we had to source so much information ie patterns fabric tools etc from the USA that that is just the way it came! Remember we only switched to Metric in this country rather recently (FYI it was an 18 year process to convert every facet of Australian industry, business and education from imperial to metric. We were not completely converted until 1988!!!) So there is a whole generation of patchworkers that are comfortable working in metric, but some of the newer metric babies might find it a challenge. Trust me it is easy to get a hold especially if you make sure you tape measure has metric one side and imperial on the other. Just flip and check!!!There has been some attempts to revolutionze the Australian patchwork industry and covert on mass....but they have never really gone anywhere and I think there is good reason for that. So rather than fight it, I embrace it and see that rather than a standardised unit of measurement for a particular country, I recgonise the universal language of Patchwork. And really, what does it matter?

What sizes would I recommend for starting out?  The most useful sizes I have are:
  • Rectangle 14" x 8"
  • Square 12.5"
  • Square 5"
Or close enough to those sizes. I have many others, but these are honestly the sizes I find myself using the most. I have listed them in order, so if you can only buy 1 at a time, start at the top and work down. Once again shop carefully and compare prices and features and then buy the best you can afford.

I use and recommend  Matilda's Own Fiber Optic rulers and templates. Take the link HERE to the shop to see what I am currently holding. If you don't see the size you need I can get them very quickly. Don't forget if you are lefty there is a WHOLE wonderful range of rulers I can get for you and they don't cost one cent me to discuss a special order.

I am still collection entries for a prize draw....I have a few more posts to go in this first series and I will let you know soon when it will be drawn and exactly WHAT is up for grabs. For this post all I need to you do is comment, just simply say hi! AND share this post and the others with your friends....tell me you have and I will give you another entry!!




Sooli said...

I have to say I love the fibre optic rulers as well. I have two standard type rulers and a 12.5" square fibre optic ruler and its much easier to see the lines on almost every colour!

Lindi said...

Hi! Loving these posts. You learn something new every time!
(Sharing on FB)

Jeanette said...

I love my green rulers do have a printed one but dont use it unless I really need to, it is a large square, didnt realise the difference until today had never really thought about it, still learning.........

jennyg said...

Hi I had one of there rulers 6 1/2 x 24 but I gave it to my daughter because they color really affected my eyes.

Kerry Davidson said...

I also like the psychedelic ruler - it IS very bright, but I really do find it easier to read.

Thanks for a great tutorial.

Gene Black said...

I have never seen those fiber optic rulers before. I can see how they would be nice to my old tired eyes.