High shank and low shank, your machine has one

I received an interesting question from a subscriber, and have to admit that I hadn’t thought about it much. What is the difference between a high shank machine and a low shank machine? And when it comes to ruler work, which rulers can I use?

Some quick research showed me that I in fact have a high, medium and a low shank machine – no not all in one!

All longarm quilting machines are high shank machines which means that a ¼” ruler is what I know and use every day. I’ve never done ruler work on a domestic machine, so I have never checked on the difference.

The shank is the measurement between the screw that attaches your foot to your machine. A high shank machine has a big space between the base of the foot and the screw.

This is my Infinity

A low shank machine has very little space between the screw and the bottom of the foot.

This is my daughter’s Jemgold (ok, my original quilting machine)

Yes, I did a lot of quilting on the Jemgold, including a double bed quilt from start (piecing) to finish (binding). On these two photographs you can clearly see the difference that is referred to as a high shank and a low shank.

A ¼” ruler won’t work on a low shank machine.

There’s not enough space between the foot and the screw. When you have a quilt in between, and you’re trying to quilt, you’re probably going to add a nice ditch to the top of your ruler. In this case, you would use a ⅛” ruler. This is the same thickness as your rotary cutter rulers. However, if you watch my video on Instagram, you’ll see that I also talk about the length of the ruler. Your rotary cutter rulers are going to be too long to control. And, your rotary cutter ruler is going to give you a straight line – which is much easier with a walking foot on a domestic, right?

What is your solution if you have a low shank machine?

There are a number of low shank machine quilting rulers on the market, including Angela Walter’s range. I have seen Westalee rulers too and they even have a ruler foot for low shank machines. I don’t keep these in stock, but you can contact me to find out where you can purchase them, and if you’re prepared to wait for it, I can order it for you as a special delivery.

But, there’s more my friends. I have noticed that some manufacturers like Baby Lock recommend you use a 3/16″ thick ruler. So this makes things a little complicated. How will you know which ruler thickness is right for your machine? If you are using a longarm or a mid arm like a Q’nique or the Moxie from HandiQuilter, you can use the standard ¼” thick rulers like Tramlines and Keyhole. If you’re using a sitdown machine like the Q’nique or the Sweet Sixteen from HandiQuilter, the same applies. As for domestic machines, you are going to have to check with your manufacturer. They will be the best place to get accurate information.

Until next time!

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