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Thread: Free Motion Quilting, Stitch Problems

  1. #1
    Sew much to do Sew little time's Avatar
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    Hello everyone! I'm working on my second quilt, and am having some problems with some of my stitches. This is my first time trying free motion quilting, and I'm using a Gracie quilting frame. Most of my stitches are fine, and everything looks good from the front. However, sometimes the stitches on the back are too loose. I've noticed this especially after I load a new bobbin. Do you think this is caused by too much/little tension, speed, over loading the bobbin, etc? Also, do you have any suggestions for correcting it. I plan on removing these stitches and re-Quilting those sections after I have finished. Thanks for all of your input!
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  2. #2
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    Great beginning. takes LOTS of practice. I would work on sample sandwiches first!
    Normally a problem on the back means a tension problem with the needle, a problem on the front means tension issues with the bobbin. I think you need to tighten your tension to the needle. Also, curves are tricky and need to be done a bit slower. Even with great tension you can run into issues on curves if you go too fast.

  3. #3
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    It seems that you have a tension problem. When I started, I had the same problem. Had to take the machine back to the place (LQS) where I bought it. They fiddled with the bobbin tension as well as the needle tension. Havn't had a problem since and it's been several years. I think the machine just needed to be beat into submission, and now she is behaving. You know she needed to understand that I'm in charge!! By the way--your quilts look good for just the second attempt. You are indeed brave to jump right in!!!
    Sue

  4. #4
    Sew much to do Sew little time's Avatar
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    Thanks for the information, I will try adjusting the tension on the needle and give it a few test runs to find a good setting.

    Thanks Sue... way to show your machine who's boss!

  5. #5
    Moderator QuiltnNan's Avatar
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    sometimes, you can add a [can't think of the name of it] special washer in the bobbin case that keeps the bobbin from spinning too fast.

  6. #6
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    Bobbin Genies are great to keep the bobbin from building up static electricity and preventing the start and stopping jerking. I use them in all my machine bobbins for piecing and quilting.

  7. #7
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    You do not have a tension problem! The very first thing people do is start goofing around with the tension and get the machine all out of whack. Look at the length of those stitches!! You're moving the machine way too fast for the speed of the needle. Slow down!!

  8. #8
    Super Member bibliostone's Avatar
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    Your hands are moving the quilt faster than the your foot (or start button) is moving the needle up and down. They have to go at the same speed which is very tricky on curves.

  9. #9
    Super Member ube quilting's Avatar
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    I had lots of trouble with this when I first started and it turned out to be a combination of both top and bottom thread.

    My bobbin was wound to loose and the tension screw needed adjusting so it fed the thread properly. I'm sure there are tutorials on bobbin tension. Bobbin thread should be wound tight enough so it does not feel spongy when you depress your thumb nail into it. It should only have a little give and not feel totaly hard.


    http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/...ion-every-time

    http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-114933-1.htm

    http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-127610-1.htm

    My top thread tension was to loose also.

    I had to just keep playing with it a little adjustment at a time.
    I keep a trial quilt ready to use as a test before I start a new quilt. Two solid fabrics with scraps of batting in the middle and I have it on a zipper system that I can use and remove easily.

  10. #10
    Super Member soccertxi's Avatar
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    FMQ is a dance between moving your hands, how fast the machine is stitching and your tensions. Try to change just ONE thing at a time. Try slowing down your hands, esp on curves. Steady stitch speed is a good target. Not too fast, not too slow. Its a process. Just keep track of what works. Tensions should be changed slowly and not both at once (top and bobbin). If you use a stand alone bobbin winder? Consider a lamp dimmer switch. It looks like an extension cord with a dimmer switch on it. You plug your bobbin winder into it, and it into the wall. Now you control your speed on the dimmer switch and not on the foot pedal. I get a much more consistent bobbin and I think that has helped me ALOT. I would not practice on a quilt first. Invest in a cheater panel or muslin. I made lots of dog beds! have fun and don't forget to BREATHE!

  11. #11
    Sew much to do Sew little time's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice everyone! I'll keep working at it and see if I can get the tension right, and I will focus on slowing down. I've just made a practice sandwhich with scraps...

  12. #12
    Super Member bjchad's Avatar
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    Some of your problems look like what I call the swoop factor on curves. There seems to be a natural tendency to swoop on curves. That is to go faster -- I think if I were drawing I would do that to try to keep the curve consistent and smooth. That spells a lot of eyelashes and inconsistent stitch lengths in FMQ. Fight the swoop.
    By the way, some of your stitching is quite nice and you are doing very well for such a novice.
    Keep up the good work!

  13. #13
    Super Member snipforfun's Avatar
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    Slow down! Youre breaking the speed limit!

  14. #14
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
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    I think your problem is two-fold. Upper tension may be an issue, but I think the biggest problem is your hand and machine speed.

    Looking at the very first photo, the curves on the top are nice and flat and the stitches are of good length and uniform. Now compare the length of the stitches on the curves on the bottom. They are all larger, and not uniform in length.

    I think your hand speed is too fast for your machine speed, especially on the curves.

    Speed your machine up a bit, slow your hands down a bit. And remember, when you are on the curve you need to slow your hands down even more.

    I would fiddle with speed first on practice sandwiches before I change the tension. And try EVERYTHING else first before you even think about changing the bottom tension, and even after that ... try them all again.

  15. #15
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    Also I have found that I sometimes forget to put the presser foot down while doing FMQ on my Brother..It makes it look like that if I don't..Otherwise speed has alot to do with it...

  16. #16
    Super Member tjradj's Avatar
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    IMHO, I found that if the tension/stitches are ok when stitching a straight line, the tension is ok.
    If you start having problems when you do curvy lines it tends to be a speed of machine vs speed of operator problem. Either the speed of the machine is not fast enough for how fast you are moving the fabric, or you have to slow down the movement of the fabric to catch up to the speed of your machine.
    This sometimes shows up when you start getting more confident and start moving faster without speeding up the stitch speed.
    Keep practising. It gets easier.

  17. #17
    Sew much to do Sew little time's Avatar
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    Thank you for all of the help... I think I finally got it!

    It was a combination of a little of this and a little of that. I cleaned the machine (found a lot of fuzz and even thread wrapped around an axle). I also did the bobbin tension test in my hand and the "yo-yo" tension test and tightened it up a bit. I have really sped up the machine, and I think it is consistant with the pace I'm moving the fabric now. I have practiced on the scrap sandwhiches and I think I'm ready to tackle the quilt again!! Thanks again!

  18. #18
    Sew much to do Sew little time's Avatar
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    You are right, I feel like I have to move through the curve fast enough to keep the line smooth. I will try to remember to slow down!

  19. #19
    Super Member LivelyLady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen
    You do not have a tension problem! The very first thing people do is start goofing around with the tension and get the machine all out of whack. Look at the length of those stitches!! You're moving the machine way too fast for the speed of the needle. Slow down!!
    I believe you are right as that is how my stitches w/eyelashes looked when I first started FMQing. I was told that you have to move the fabric slower than the machine is running. It worked :D

  20. #20
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    I solved a lot of my fmq problems by using the same thread in the top and bobbin.

  21. #21

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    It could be the top tension is too loose, or the bobbin tendion is too tight (both draw the top thread to the back). Try tightening the top tension a little bit, test, then tighten a little more on a scrap quilt made up of the same batting and with the same fabrics and thread. This is a common occurrance for us with longarms, so we're always adjusting our tensions like this. Good luck!

  22. #22
    Senior Member pscott392's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaperPrincess
    Great beginning. takes LOTS of practice. I would work on sample sandwiches first!
    Normally a problem on the back means a tension problem with the needle, a problem on the front means tension issues with the bobbin. I think you need to tighten your tension to the needle. Also, curves are tricky and need to be done a bit slower. Even with great tension you can run into issues on curves if you go too fast.
    Thanks for this tip. Even though I haven't tried FMQ yet, being forewarned is being forearmed.

  23. #23
    Sew much to do Sew little time's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pscott392
    Quote Originally Posted by PaperPrincess
    Great beginning. takes LOTS of practice. I would work on sample sandwiches first!
    Normally a problem on the back means a tension problem with the needle, a problem on the front means tension issues with the bobbin. I think you need to tighten your tension to the needle. Also, curves are tricky and need to be done a bit slower. Even with great tension you can run into issues on curves if you go too fast.
    Thanks for this tip. Even though I haven't tried FMQ yet, being forewarned is being forearmed.
    Absolutely, I am new to quilting and learning as I go. Being able to draw on the experience and talent of others has made it a great experience!

  24. #24
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    Mine looks like the first picture (or worse) when I forget to put my presser foot down. My machine has a half-down position for FMQ and it's not easy to tell if it's down or not. If I don't lower the foot, the tension disks do not engage.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Cagey's Avatar
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    These a good suggestions even if you FM on a sewing machine.
    Thanks for posting the pics and asking the question.

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