If you’ve been quilting a while, you probably have a good-sized number of acrylic rulers on hand, the ones you use every day for cutting fabric and trimming blocks plus the specialty rulers you use on occasion. And let’s not forget the ones you bought (but maybe haven’t used yet) because they promised a faster, easier, more accurate way of cutting fabric or making a block.
With a few exceptions, these rulers tend to slip and slide on fabrics. How many of you have experienced a shift in position just as you were running your rotary cutter along a ruler’s edge? My hand is in the air.
Enter a product that may already be in your first aid kit or medicine cabinet. It’s a flexible clear 1″-wide surgical tape called Nexcare made by 3M. My friend and fellow quilter Kathy Anderson told me about it and now I’m passing the word on to all my friends who quilt.
Here’s what the package looks like. If you look carefully, you can see I have applied it to my go-to 4″ x 14″ Omnigrid ruler.
For years I used a product called Invisigrip on the back of my rulers. Made by Omnigrid, it’s a roll of clear film that comes attached to a paper backing. You cut it into strips, peel the paper backing away, and apply the film to the back of rulers. Invisigrip works very well at keeping rulers from sliding on fabric but it does have a couple of disadvantages.
First, the film can loosen from the back of the ruler over time and need replacing. Second, after a package has been open a while, it becomes stale. That is, it becomes impossible to separate the film from the paper backing, rendering the rest of the roll unusable. I tried sealing the roll in a Ziploc bag between applications but it still got stale.
I found myself buying a new package almost every time I got a new ruler. Over the years I have spent a fair amount of money on this product. NexCare tape is much less expensive — I think I paid around $4.50 for this double-roll package containing 20 yards — and it is very easy to apply.
All you have to do is unroll the length of tape you need, cut it with scissors, and apply it to the back of the ruler. But, being a bit of a neatnik when it comes to my sewing tools, I like to use my rotary cutter to cut straight lines so the tape lines up with the lines on my rulers. In the photos below I’m putting it on the back of a specialty ruler that I use a lot, the Quick Curve Ruler.
I place the ruler wrong side up on my cutting mat. (I put the ruler on a piece of fabric here just so you can see the markings better.) Below the ruler I unroll a length of tape the same length as the ruler, following the marking lines on the cutting mat, and press the tape onto the mat:
Next I trim the ends of the tape with my rotary cutter, allowing a ¼” margin between the end of the tape and the edges of the ruler. I use a stiletto (a bamboo skewer, actually) to lift up the edges of the tape where it was trimmed . . .
. . . and then peel the strip of tape off the mat.
Using the markings on the ruler itself as a guide, I lay the strip of tape on the ruler, positioning it a quarter of an inch from the edges, and press it in place with my fingertips. Here you can see that I added strips to the top of the ruler, leaving the area around the hanging hole clear, and added an extra stabilizing strip under the curve cut-out.
You can put strips around all four sides of the ruler if you wish. You can put them anywhere, for that matter. Because the cutting channel on the Quick Curve Ruler comes within a half-inch of the sides, I opted not to put strips there, adding the stabilizing strip in the center instead.
When I’m ready to use the ruler, I can see clearly through the tape:
Pretty nifty, don’t you think?
Updated added June 21, 2019: Since posting this tutorial I have learned that Nexcare tape tears evenly because it has a slight grid embedded in it. If you want to avoid the steps of placing the tape on a mat and cutting it with a rotary cutter and if you’re not particular about the exact length of the piece that you are applying, simply tear off the amount you think you need and put it on the back of the ruler. Easy peasy.
Thanks for the tip, Dawn!
Thanks for the information! I am going to try this.
Thanks for the tip, Dawn. I too have had issues finding a product that works well. I’m definitely adding this to my Christmas stocking wish list. 🙂
This is so helpful — thank you! Loved browsing your blog.
This is very useful. Thank you!
brilliant my dear! i love these posts of yours…xoxo
Thanks for the great tip!
How long does the tape last before you have to change it? Sounds like a good idea.
Hi, Edna. I just learned of this tip a few months ago so I don’t know if it has a “shelf life.” I’m inclined to think it wouldn’t have to be changed at all.
I have used this tape on my rulers for at least a couple of years and none of it has ever come off but it is still easily removed.
Ah, good to know! Thanks, Connie.
I’m going out this morning to buy some of this tape – I get very frustrated when my ruler slips .
This is a great tip. Thanks for sharing.
thanks for a great tip
Love the tip, Dawn!! Thank You!!
Thank you so much for this tip. My ruler seems to be slipping a lot more as I get older. I will have to see what they have here in Australia.
We have that tape in Australia, I am in West Australia and all our chemists stock it.
Love it, had the same trouble with the tape as you! Now waiting until Easter Monday when the shops open again, pop into the chemist and see if they have it! Thank you so much for the hint, it will save me heaps in temper and money hahaha
I love this tip, sometimes those little bumps don’t work well on small rulers or cover the markings. This is really great. Thanks so much!
Thank you for this tip.
Thanks for the tip. I will go tomorrow and purchase some for my rulers.
Thank you very much for this information. I have tried other products and my rulers still slip. I am going to try this. It sounds like good advice.
Can you see thru the tape to align the edge with the straight of the fabric? I see the placement down the center of the ruler and wonder how it works with cutting different width strips. This looks like a great idea and I plan to purchase some tape today.
Hi, Sally. Yes, you can see through the tape, and you can also cut the tape lengthwise if you want narrower strips.
It costs less at Walmart.
What is the feature of the tape that makes the ruler more stable? Does the tape have a texture?
Hi, Trisha. Yes, the tape is gridded.
I’m so excited to do this…my biggest problem with cutting….I think I will try on my table too….especially with scraps!!
Thank you for this great idea. I just ordered some tape from Amazon. I am not a quilter. I am a garment sewer but there plenty of times I use a rotary cutter and I always have trouble with the ruler slipping.
Tried that Nexcare tape. It works great! I have put it on 7 rulers so far and only used about 1/2 of one roll. I found it in the dollar store ($3.00). I have bought 2 different rulers that were “non-slip”….. but they slipped anyway. Nexcare tape works much better and don’t have to buy more rulers. Thanks so much for your tip.
I bought the tape in a tear-off dispenser like regular tape. I also use smaller pieces at intervals rather than using a loooooong strip of tape. Works wonderfully!
Good tip. Thanks, Kay!
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!! Every DIY ruler slipping solution I could find was to use something I didn’t already have. I had the medical tape and it works perfectly!!!!