Tips-as-we-go quilting (5)

My writing has fallen behind my doing! Here is a brief catch-up of the past four days. On Friday I bit the bullet and began free motion quilting leaves. This went better than hoped and I continued to stitch leaves on Saturday. I discovered that all that muscle memory stuff fades when I get tired – I had to stop when the leaves lost their shape and I was struggling to make decisions about where to start the next leaf etc.

On Sunday I fully intended to return to the sewing room but after a morning in Church the lure of sunshine at the allotment won and I wheeled the tool-laden barrow along the road to the little site behind our local food store. Plenty more leaves to deal with but these could just be heaped in a pile – no arranging required!

Here’s my little plot with the ASDA loading bay close by – weirdly I can get so engrossed in the allotment work that all the noise of reversing lorries and the raised voices of the warehouse guys doesn’t disturb me at all!

8am Monday morning I sat down at the sewing machine and got out my practice sandwich to do a five minute warm up. Oh! Boy! What a disaster! All over the piece were skipped stitches.

You can see the needle holes where the needle has gone through the fabric layers but not captured the bobbin thread, causing the long, skipped stitches.

I ran through the check list – re-thread top and bobbin,  no improvement; change needle, skipped stitches a plenty; clean out bobbin race – first with little brush then with vacuum cleaner – skipped stitches continued 🙁  At this point I was starting to feel desperate, running through options: try using my old machine?; ask a kind friend if I might borrow her machine?; eat a bar of chocolate? (Actually, my tummy was knotted so tight that the thought of chocolate was not welcome – that’s how bad things were!).

More than an hour had passed, my thoughts were on the deadline to complete and post the quilt and the need to do some housework in preparation for guests coming next weekend (please don’t feel guilty about this Dear Guests, I do enjoy having a clean, tidy home, guests are my motivation 🙂 ) I did take my Pfaff machine out of the sewing table and set up my, smaller, Brother for fmq. I broke a needle almost immediately! Perhaps my technique was all to pot? Next move: employ the verb ‘to google’. Here are links to two helpful posts tackling the problem of skipped stitches:

Skipping the Skipped Stitches in Your Free Motion Quilting

Ohh! Of course, I should have considered tension (not just my own – which was taut – but the machines too). I set up the Pfaff and fiddled about with the tension dial and the practice sandwich. Turning the tension down from 5 to 4 did the trick. Phew! But the morning was almost gone and I was feeling too ‘tight’ to begin fmq. I walked into town and did my two hour shift in the pop up shop. The shop was very quiet so I worked through a stack of scrap paper doing a bit of muscle memory work, this time drawing flower shapes in preparation for the next phase of quilting.

In the evening I switched the sewing machine back on and we got on fine – all the leaves quilted 🙂 There was even a bit of time to practice stitching a few of the flower shapes and do some pebbling – I’m considering using this as a filler in some of the path areas of the quilt.

The quilting tips for today:

  • Start each session of quilting with a few minutes on your practice sandwich – better to come across problems on this than have to pick out poor stitching on the quilt!
  • Clean out the bobbin race mid-quilting as well as at the beginning and end – that fluffy lint builds up fast.
  • I use a vacuum cleaner to suck lint out of the machine – I’m not keen on those air cans that can blow lint further into the machine. If you do use a vacuum cleaner remember to move the little needle plate screws, bobbin race and your tools well out the way before you begin 😉
  • Accept there will come a time when your brain, back and shoulders have had enough fmq for one day – be prepared to stop even if you’ve not got to where you’d hoped to be.
  • Don’t put off having a sewing machine serviced. Note to self: my next project is not more important than giving my hard worked machine the TLC it deserves! 

I thought there might be some ups and downs to share in this venture into free motion quilting… post (1), post (2),  post (3) and post (4).

Linking with Yvonne for Tips and Tutorials Tuesday and Connie for Linky Tuesday .


6 thoughts on “Tips-as-we-go quilting (5)

  1. Sucking the lint out of your machine is a HUGE tip and something well worth sharing! I am sorry you had to troubleshoot skipped stitches, and I am very glad you found a good solution; that can be very frustrating when it happens out of the blue like that! Thank you for sharing and linking up.


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