Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dr. Quiltlove: Or How I'm Learning to Stop Worrying and Love Free Motion Quilting: Day 2

I'm taking a quick break from my usual programming for a mini-series on working up the gumption to free motion quilt. Check out Day 1 if you missed it!

close-up of machine quilting

Another thing I've discovered is that my machine can be quirky sometimes. Don't get me wrong. I love my machine. It is a workhorse, and for the most part, as long as I'm kind to it, it's kind to me. (Photo above was taken during a particularly happy time in our quilter-sewing machine relationship.) But I do have to keep special circumstances in mind sometimes. For example, I know that if I'm using less than premium thread, I need to take my time when I quilt curves as I head towards the upper left, or else my thread will break. All other directions pose no problem. You know how I figured out this quirk?

{this} close to being done 

One night last winter, when I was pebble quilting like mad (on the quilt above), my thread broke Every Blasted Time I quilted a curve towards the upper left. After a few minutes of frustrating trial and error, I discovered that I could solve this persistent problem in 1 of 2 ways:

1) I could swap out my thread for more expensive thread, but I'm cheap, and I'd rather have nice fabric than super-fancy thread.
2) I could stick with the mid-grade thread and slow the heck down as I quilt curves towards the upper left.

Moral of the story: There will be trying times as you practice your machine quilting, but it's all part of the process. Notice that I just ran into this problem late last year. I've been quilting on this machine for at least 5 years now. Sometimes, it takes awhile for these quirks to come out.

Other things I've learned the hard way about my machine over the years:
  • Despite the fact that it's labeled as "machine quilting thread" at JoAnn's, my machine does NOT like Coats and Clark thread for quilting, no matter what.
  • It needs to be oiled and given a new needle every 6 bobbins or so.
  • Despite what I've read elsewhere, I actually *do* need to cover the feed dogs on my machine when I FMQ, or else it sounds like someone's firing a tommy gun in my sewing room.
You know how I discovered all this? I practiced (see tip #1).

Sewing Machine HK

So tip #2: It can be tedious, but it's important to get to know and make nice with your machine. You'll fight with it sometimes, but it's okay. It's all part of building a relationship. Also, like relationships, all machines are different. What holds true for my machine might or might not work for yours. So you can read and study other quilters' troubleshooting advice until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, whether you're quilting on the latest, greatest top of the line machine or a Hello Kitty piece of equipment, you need to get to know *your* machine.


  1. I agree. What kind of sewing machine are you using?

  2. Just FYI, I have very good luck quilting with serger thread! It works on everything from my basic Singer to my Juki and even on my long arm! Plus you seldom have to worry about running out of thread before you finish a quilt....

  3. My machine hates C&C quilting thread too! HATES it!
    I'm in awe of your pebble quilting!