Free Pattern,  Tutorials

Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting Checklist

I have been trying to get back into teaching quilting in my area – and I have been really enjoying it! I taught my first Free Motion Quilting class as few weeks ago, and have another one tomorrow morning. The last class we had a lot of issues with getting our sewing machines to cooperate. It was a mix of inexperience quilting with the all important need to get that perfect balance set up on the sewing machine. This handout addresses both sides of the issue.

To help (hopefully) with folks getting started off on the right foot (it is soooo frustrating to want to be able to sew and your machine just won’t let you!) I have created this handout – scroll down for the text version on-line and click here for the printable pdf: FMQ Troubleshooting Checklist

I thought it might be something people on the internet would like – in fact, I looked around on-line and couldn’t find any nice handy checklist that I could print out! I made this one using bits and pieces of tutorials that have helped me over the years, plus some good old fashioned experience.

Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting Checklist

Skipped stitches, eyelashes, bird’s nests, snapped threads, oh my! It’s a common story – your machine is working perfectly until you try to free-motion quilt! Try each item, and then try quilting before moving onto the next one.

  1. Practice, practice, practice! If you are getting loops in some areas and not others, the tension is probably not the issue – the ratio of speed and movement is most likely the issue. Usually your machine controls the ratio of speed and movement using the feed dogs. So you may have to practice a while to get as good at it as your machine is! Often, you need to move the needle faster – your foot pedal is not keeping up with your hands. As your hands move the quilt faster, your machine can’t keep up. This gives you long stitches, but can also cause the bobbin thread to pull the top thread to the back of your quilt, causing dots, loops, or eyelashes on the back.
  2. Re-thread your machine, slowly and carefully. They can get pulled out of whack. You may also wish to try a new thread – some machines like polyester better than cotton and vice versa. You may have an easier time with a finer thread (try 50 wt).
  3. Change to a fresh needle, or try a needle with a larger eye– like a topstitch needle – or try a quilting needle.
  4. Adjust tension. If your top stitches are too tight (bobbin thread showing on top) loosen top tension. If your top stitches are too loose (top thread showing on the bottom) try tightening tension.
  5. Clean and oil according to your manual and/or bring your machine in for servicing. You may also ask people who have your same machine if there are tips or tricks that helped them – each machine has its own special preferences!

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