Quilting Straight Lines Using Free-motion

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Hello Quilters,

Recently I have been asked about the same issue in several different situations, so I thought it was time to blog about it.

The topic is stitching straight lines on a domestic machine with the machine set up for free-motion quilting; feed dogs lowered and free-motion foot attached. Some of the domestic machine manufacturers are now offering a special thicker free-motion foot that can be guided along a ruler, which is one option. The look of these feet and the process for their use appear to be copied from the long arm world where the practice of guiding the foot along a ruler to produce straight line is common. Let this be a lesson that we domestic machine quilters can benefit from this and other techniques from the long arm industry and we need to keep our eyes open and learn from any source.

The thickness of the hopping foot on a long arm quilting machine makes it ideal for guiding with a ruler.

The thickness of the hopping foot on a long arm quilting machine makes it ideal for guiding with a ruler.

However, when I learned free-motion 15 years ago, I didn’t know I needed a special foot, and I have been using the same foot I use to stitch curved lines. And, if you have ever taken a workshop from me where I teach one of my checkerboard patterns, you learned the technique in this way. Since this is a technique I found easy to do myself and one that many students have been successful with, I never considered a needing different foot, I just used what I had and made it work.

Machine quilting checkerboard

This is a checkerboard texture from my how-to DVD, Background Bonanza, available from the SHOP! page.

First let’s consider why we want to stitch straight lines with free-motion when we could use a walking foot on our machine.  Remember the main challenge when using the walking foot for quilting a large quilt, the entire quilt bundle needs to be rotated at every turn. Using the free-motion foot allows us to avoid rotating the bundle.


Here is how simple it is to try this with the foot you already have. Choose a short ruler (a long one just gets in the way), such as a thick, rotary cutting type if you have one, but I find a drawing ruler works fine too.

The ruler acts to guide the foot in a straight line.

The ruler acts to guide the foot in a straight line.

Place the quilt bundle under the needle with the machine set up for free-motion quilting. Place the needle on the straight line you wish to stitch and lower the presser foot. Now align a short ruler next to the line kissing the side of the foot. Be sure to keep the ruler parallel to the line as you apply pressure to advance the bundle.

Stitching straight line

Stitch the line, realign the ruler and continue until the space is filled.

Joanie’s TIP:

It is always a good idea to pause to readjust your hands or the ruler the when line of stitching is at an intersection. Your stitching to restart the line will be less conspicuous than in an open area.

Joanie’s TIP:

When you begin stitching again, start out with one tiny locking stitch (about 0.2 in length) to avoid that wonky stitch that wants to jump out of line as you restart stitching. You know what I mean, right?

Keepsake Baby Bib Pattern available from the SHOP!

Keepsake Baby Bib Pattern available from the SHOP!

Let me know if you find this technique helpful. And keep you emails with questions and suggestions for future blog post coming. It is nice to know somebody is reading this!

Thank you for following my blog. If you feel you would benefit from more of what I have to teach, look further into the website, consider purchasing a book or how-to DVD. Or if you think it is time for a class, click on the UPCOMING MACHINE QUILTING tab to learn about opportunities to learn from me in person. I consider it a privilege to share this skill I love so much.  Please read about the classes and the recommendations from other students that have taken the workshops.

Give it your best!



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  1. Linda Cordonnier says

    I am just starting to find out more about ruler feet for free motion. I own a Husqvarna Topaz 50 machine and wanted to know is there a good ruler foot for this purpose that will fit my machine? Thanks for your time.

    • Hi Linda,
      Each Manufacturer of a machine offers feet that are specific to the model and I am not sure if a foot is available for your machine. I am sure your dealer would be happy to assist you with that information. I do not use a roller foot, rather I just use the open-toe free motion foot and guide it along a 6″ ruler. 🙂

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