Here we go with some more tips on how to take the stress out of free motion quilting.
This Doodle tree was stitched directly onto white fabric without tracing or drawing beforehand. Just like a real doodle. It started as a warm up piece when I was quilting the Doodle Birds and ended up as a tree full of patterns. I fused on a few pieces of green fabric cut in tiny leaf shapes and used Inktense pencils to draw on some pears and added a little bird.
I turned it into a cushion for my friend. Waste not want not!
So, now your machine is clean and you have a few squares to practise on, here are a few more things to try out.
get yourself comfortable....
Get yourself comfortable and well positioned. I think this is the most important part of preparing to be successful with free motion quilting. Unless you get this right you will strain your back and neck, end up tense and tired and your quilting will suffer.
Stitches too long
The speed is too slow, and / or you are moving the fabric too much between stitches. Speed up the machine a little.
Stitches too tiny or on top of each other
The speed is too fast and you are not moving the fabric quickly enough to keep up. Slow the machine down a little.
Thread shredding or breaking
Is the machine still threaded properly? Sometimes the thread can jump out of its guides. This can happen in the bobbin too. Is there dust or an odd piece of thread in the works causing problems? Rethread the machine and try again.
Not that? Take a look at the spool/reel of thread. Has it wound itself around the supporting pin or has it got in a tangle? If it has, try putting another empty spool underneath it so that the supporting pin is not sticking up above the spool.
Nor that. OK, check the bobbin. Has it been wound evenly? Are there any bumps or nicks in the bobbin that are catching the thread? Is there fluff or loose threads in the bobbin area? Try rewinding the bobbin, rethread and try again.
Not that either. Hmmm. Then take a look at how the thread has been wound onto the spool in the first place. Is the thread criss crossed or is it smooth and straight? The way the thread unwinds from the spool can cause tangles or tension issues if it does not come off smoothly. As a rule cross wound threads like the green spool below are best placed on a horizontal spool pin on your machine or on a thread stand. Stacked threads like the multi-coloured thread below are best placed on a vertical spool pin. Make sure your thread is happy!
Not that either? There are still a few things to check.
Is your needle inserted into the machine correctly? Sometimes they come loose or slip down. Undo the screw and take a look at the needle. Is it old, bent, blunt, sticky with glue or does it have a little burr? (To find a burr rub a cotton wool ball down the shaft of the needle to the tip.Clinging fibres may indicate a burr) If the thread cannot pass through the eye of the needle completely smoothly it will cause friction and shred or break the thread. Change the needle if you think this may be the problem. If it seems fine then refit the needle making sure it is snugly in place.
Still stuck? Were you stitching really fast? Sometimes the heat generated from stitching very fast can cause the thread to weaken. Rethread and try again, but stitch a little more slowly.
OK, I am running out of ideas now....................... try a different thread. Maybe this spool is just old or brittle or just downright rubbish.
My last idea..... Switch off the machine. Go and have a coffee. I don't know why, but sometimes it works!
If you find you have loops or a bird's nest of thread as you stitch you may need to adjust the tension slightly on your machine. BUT - before you go twiddling, check a few things.....
When was the last time you cleaned your machine? Take a small soft paintbrush, unplug your machine from the electricity supply and poke about gently in the bobbin area and remove any fluff and threads you find. You might be surprised how much you find!
Is the machine correctly threaded? Lift the foot and remove the thread completely. Give it a quick check to make sure it is smooth and has not begun to fray. Carefully rethread the machine with the foot in the UP position (this makes sure the tension discs are open inside the machine). Double check you have the thread coming off the spool in the correct direction - check your handbook. For years I found I was sewing with the thread the wrong way around on one of my machines!
Take out the bobbin and check you have that in correctly too. Replace the bobbin, checking it is also travelling in the right direction.
Check the needle is not damaged - even a tiny burr can make a huge difference.
Once you have eliminated all these issues, try again and see if your stitches are now forming nicely. If not, adjust the tension slightly and see whether that sorts it out, however, in my experience I almost never have to alter the tension - fluff or bad threading is usually the culprit.
I hope these tips help you to get started with free motion quilting - it really isn't as difficult as it seems. With a little practise and the right preparation you will be quilting beautiful designs.