Essential Quilting Rulers for Beginners

Kimberlee Tanner

Essential Quilting Rulers for Beginners

It can be very overwhelming (and expensive!) trying to figure out exactly what you need to buy to begin quilting. When you start looking at rulers, there are hundreds of different ones to choose from. While I would love to be able to buy them all, budget and storage space don’t allow it. So, as a beginner, what exactly do you need to get started? This week we are sharing our basic recommendations and giving tips on what we look for in quilting rulers.


What Quilting Rulers do I need?

Many years ago, our grandparents quilted by cutting everything out by hand. I have a few tops I’ve inherited that were made this way and I’m always in awe! With the addition of quilting rulers and rotary  cutters, quilting is now much faster. If you are just beginning as a quilter, what rulers do you need? What should you look for in a ruler? and what about all of those other fancy ones that claim to help make techniques faster and easier?

When starting out, there is one quilting ruler we absolutely recommend you buy first. This ruler regularly comes in a kit with a cutting mat as well, making it easy to purchase. We have a couple other rulers we use all of the time and highly recommend grabbing as your budget allows it. I’m going to include links to examples of these rulers, but we highly recommend shopping at your local quilt shop whenever possible for supplies. They can be a great resource and we love supporting them!

Our First Quilting Ruler

The ruler we recommend you buy first is always a 6×24″ ruler. This is one of the most basic rulers and allows you to make almost every cut you need when starting out and in continued projects. There are a couple different options for the 6×24″ ruler and either one will work. The first option is one that is 6×24″ exactly. These are easy to find at any quilting shop or online. The second one we’ve used is a 6 1/2 x 24 1/2″. When quilting, you always want to cut your shape 1/2″ bigger than your desired finished size. By having this extra half inch built in, you can cut pieces up to 6″ finished, instead of having to add on an extra ruler or use your cutting mat lines. If you can find one with the extra 1/2″, we recommend getting it instead of the basic 6×24″.

When looking at which brand ruler to get, there are a few things we recommend watching for. Make sure that the lines are legible and easy to see. Some lines will have borders around them, and while this seems like a good idea, some are so big it makes it hard to see exactly where that line is. Watch for rulers that either don’t bold lines or have small bold lines so you can still see what’s behind them.

We also like rulers that include 1/8″ marks as well. We don’t use them often, but we do use them enough that we miss them if they aren’t there.

The last thing you’ll want to make sure your ruler has is angle lines. Usually the ruler will have 30, 45, and 60 degree angles on them. Sometimes we need to cut shapes that aren’t square and having these lines on the ruler makes it quick and easy to chop off these common angles in quilting patterns.

Omnigrid 6 1/2 x 24″ Ruler

Our Most Favorite Quilting Ruler

While we love a good 6×24″ ruler for cutting out our fabric and getting ready to sew, we always have one ruler sitting next to our sewing machine, it’s a 1×12″ ruler. This little guy is so handy for marking blocks, trimming up seams, and for foundation paper piecing. When trying to mark lines or make FPP blocks, it can be cumbersome and frankly annoying to try and finagle the larger rulers around your blocks. This ruler makes the process quick and easy. One thing to keep in mind, it is small and there aren’t many places for your fingers to go, so when trimming with the 1×12″ ruler, mind your fingers and be careful not to nick them!

Omnigrid 1×12 ruler

Quilting Rulers for Techniques

After you get started quilting and find the techniques you like to use, you can customize which specialized rulers you will actually use. One that we use regularly, is a ruler made specifically for trimming up Half Square Triangles. We use HST often in our quilt designs (and they are very common in the quilting world) and this ruler saves time when trimming those to size before sewing them together. There are a few different options, find one that has a variety of sizes marked and again, has lines that are easy to see. Some version also have notches for cutting off the dog ears (little seams that poke out of the sides).

Quilt in a Day Half Square Triangle Ruler

While we have other quilting rulers as well, these are the three we use most often and would be sad to go without! When you are just beginning, we recommend starting simple with the 6×24 and if possible, the 1×12 and then grow from there. Don’t feel like you have to buy all the things at the very beginning. Save your funds for more fabric and patterns and add extra rulers as you go. Later on, we’ll share different rulers we use and love to help you decide which ones might be worth spending your quilting budget on.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Happy Quilting

Kimie and Missy

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