Getting It Straight

I cannot quilt a straight line. I am finishing up my Ikebana/Sashiko quilt, which I will now name “Kanazawa Memories” in honor of the wonderful two women–Sensei (teacher) Endo, and Nobu Katagiri–who took me under their wings when I was a young woman all those years ago in Kanazawa, Japan, and taught me how to manage in a Japanese home. Not only did they teach me flower arrangement in the Sogetsu Ikebana School, but they taught me how to take care of unfamiliar parts of the home like tatami mats.

I really hummed and hawed with myself over how to quilt the border, and in the end I decided to stitch five rows of straight triple stitch around the border in earth tone Superior Rainbow thread. I started trying to stitch just a straight stitch, but found it did not lay down enough color, so I switched to the triple stitch. It was so hard to get it straight. I marked it AFTER it was sandwiched, which I am sure was the main problem, so I pulled out a straight ruler that I particularly like and used it as a guide.

Straight quilting

I really found this easy, and the straightness improved, though there were some drifts here and there and things I learned along the way.


  • You must come to a full stop before you move your hands or the ruler or you may get a drift or jerky spot.
  • You have to be particularly careful in turning a corner.
  • If you press down the ruler too tightly and hold it out from you too long you get some really bad muscle aches after an hour or two of quilting.
  • The triple stitch was intended for an internal stretch seam, and it does not always stitch evenly (see the picture above, where it is obvious). So very even speed is needed to make it come out nice, but even so, it isn’t like I like in the end. To add to this, it is a very difficult stitch to remove, and virtually impossible on the soft, loosely woven Peppered Cotton.
  • The border is wavy, even though it was not when I first added it with care to measure and cut it lengthwise. It stretched on this soft, loosely woven cotton, likely because of the heaviness of the stitch. I should have backed the border with a fusible interfacing like I did the blocks. I mistakenly thought that using the temporary adhesive to attach the batting would serve the purpose.

So in the end, I got the rows fairly straight, except a very few wobbles that I MIGHT be able to fix. But I am probably going to remove the border altogether and simply bind the quilt in the same color green. I might leave a narrow border in place, adding a little to the width of the visual green, but not much.

This quilt was never intended to be a show quilt. It was mostly a learning and memory quilt for me. When I get it fully finished, I will, nevertheless, take good photos of it and might try to get it into a show or two so some of my friends who go to certain shows can see it.

In the meantime, here’s a peak at the quilting in the middle.

Conclusions: The ruler was extremely helpful and I can use it with my quarter inch foot, as shown (I used it with my 37D foot, which is an exact quarter inch from the needle on both sides, making the lines on the ruler particularly useful). Soft, loosely woven cotton stretches A LOT even with some care. Even if you get the stitching as straight as you originally envisioned it, it sometimes disappoints. All good things to know.

Sew happy everyone. Try a little ruler work with your domestic machine.

6 thoughts on “Getting It Straight

    • Thanks Luann. I got word you had subscribed by email. I have checked out your blog, and something went awry when I tried to sign up for email notification. I’ll retry in a bit. Cheers.

  1. Terry says:

    It is good to connect again with you! I did enjoy your blogs; but, lost track of checking in on a regular basis.
    Thank you for contacting me with your blog address.
    I found your ruler learning helpful. I purchased a curved ruler that I had hoped to use as I FM machine quilted and found that I didn’t care for the results. It is difficult to keep even pressure on the ruler with all the other multi tasking one is doing!!!

    • Hi Terry, So happy to reconnect. I think ruler work with a domestic machine requires some learning, and perhaps even some technique development. I have found for curved rulers they cannot be too large and must be set up so they don’t slide around with some kind of grabbing thingie on the bottom. I am working on developing my techniques with them and plan on making some videos for my blog in a couple of weeks. It’s a new area that some will find helpful and others not, but I think if we can figure it out it will be a real excellent addition to the quilting tool belt.

  2. wendy (twiglet TQS) says:

    ThanksBJ for directing me here. Your blog looks great and I love how you share your methods and thoughts.

    This broderiepurse is beautiful and quite different to your other pieces.

    • Hi Wendy! So nice to have you visit. I am trying to expand and improve my techniques and so you will be seeing a different piece every now and then. My next one though is going to be another storm at sea, or one might say a redo of “Waiting…”. I have many changes I want to make to that quilt, and so I decided to make a second in the series with a different ship and some other changes. I will be blogging about that soon too. Cheers.

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