Thursday, May 10, 2012

Straight Line Quilting Woes

I haven't been happy with the quilting on the last couple of quilts that I've straight line quilted. I love my sewing machine (Janome 1600p) but I just haven't been able to figure out the right settings so there's no puckering or pulling. When I bought my machine the guy I bought it off said that I didn't need to change any of the settings for quilting, just put on the quilting foot. So for quilting I normally set the stitch length on 3, the thread tension on 3 and the presser foot pressure on 3. This is obviously not working. So lately I've been on a quest to figure it out.

The other day I read this post by Rita where she mentioned that she changed the pressure on her Juki (which is very similar to mine) when straight line quilting. Okay, so I think pressure is the key to success here.  Then I watched this video pointing out how too much pressure on your presser foot can cause the quilting to bunch and pucker.

So I made a little demo quilt to practice on (with the fabric and batting I would be using for my next project). I put on my quilting foot and decreased the pressure. It still pulled, so I decreased the pressure some more until it didn't pull any more, but then the stitches became really really small because the feed dogs couldn't pull it through properly. It didn't help if I increased my stitch length.  Okay, so now I'm starting to pull my hair out.

Think, think.... there must be an answer. So I put on the normal foot that I use for piecing, and voila! It started quilting beautifully. Pressure 1.5, stitch length 3.5, tension 3.

Now it's time to bring out the big quilt. And that's when it all went pear shaped! You can see the terrible puckering on the back.

So now it was time to call Jody at All About Sewing. She knows everything about these machines - the Grandquilter, Juki, Megaquilter and Janome 1600p. Her advice - use the normal sewing foot, and keep reducing the pressure to one or even lower. Make sure the quilt is supported at the front and the back so that there's no pulling.  It worked! Thanks Jody, you're a guru.

BUT then... it started pulling just a little, and I remembered that trick to turn the quilt around and alternate sewing from each end. Not a good idea! I will be doing a lot of unpicking tonight.....aghhh!

I have reduced the pressure to almost 0 (about 0.25) and it's finally quilting pretty well - touch wood. I just have to watch that the stitch length remains even. What a saga! Any advice?

Thanks for all of your suggestions. I am going to try pinning it more closely next time. A couple of people have commented about using a walking foot for quilting. I don't think I was clear - when I said "quilting foot" I meant "walking foot". I do have a walking foot that is made for this machine (pictured below), and when I use it the quilting gets worse. If I reduce the pressure too much the walking foot doesn't work anymore and the stitches become tiny, so I've found that it's much better with the normal foot pictured above. Weird isn't it! Maybe there's something wrong with my walking foot.

By the way, I've unpicked, restitched and almost finished the quilting, and it's not pulling at all - yay! Also, I wouldn't exactly call it straight line quilting, more like 'go with the flow', or 'organic' straight line quilting.


  1. Most of that will be invisible when you wash the quilt, right?

  2. First off want to say it looks great from where I am standing so I wouldn't worry. Secondly, what I do is spray baste and heatset the quilt front and back. You still get the occassional pucker if you are not careful but it pretty much is set. Then use masking tape as a guide. You can pull off and reset several times before you need a new one. I must say, in some quilts it looks better when it is not all straight straight.

  3. Hi Kate,
    I was just looking at your quilt and it looks like you don't have enough basting pins in it. The pins need to be at least every 2-3 inches apart in both directions. The more basting pins the less the quilt layers can move. Or if the pins are going to get in the way you should baste it with a needle and thread. I know it sounds like a lot of work but it's worth it to not unpick.
    I have the mega quilter and for quilting I have the foot pressure on or under 1.
    I hope this helps. If not give me a call and we'll get it worked out.
    Hope this finds you and your family well...
    Leanne xo

  4. Two things come to mind: More pinning, as mentioned above, and Walking Foot! I'd never even attempt straight-line quilting without will solve all of your "pulling" problems and is worth the investment. Hope that helps.

  5. oh bummer! Sorry to hear you're having problems. I have a grandquilter, and actually don't use it for straight line quilting for this very reason (though i've been meaning to practice and play around with the settings, particularly the pressure). I kind of rely on my walking foot for straight line quilting (I think they make one for these machines? Haven't looked into it...) Hope you are able to solve the problem!!

  6. Aren't our machines a mixed blessing sometimes! I have a Janome MC6500 and I set my pressure to 0,tension 4.5 and stitch length you can switch up if the feed dogs are dropped so it stays at 3.5. Lots of support to include two tables to form an "L." Pins and pins and pins I agree with the other 2 ladies as well.

    I hope you get it working as I know it is VERY frustrating at times:(

  7. I have avoided straight line quilting for all the same reasons.

    Good Luck with the suggestions that everyone has given.

  8. Quick said you removed the quilting foot, was that a walking foot? I'm all for using a walking foot and I prefer basting spray.

  9. I would try a new walking foot. I do much the same as you have been doing and have no issues straight line quilting. I use a 90/14 topstitch needle, leave the settings the same as for piecing, set the stitch length to 3.5 to 4, and use the walking foot. I pin baste no more than 6" between pins. I sew at a steady and not fast pace and keep the part of the quilt that is around the needle nice and smooth. I make sure there is no drag caused by any sides of the quilt hanging over the edge of the table. I hope you figure it out.

  10. Oh dear! I just got this machine, it was a toss up between this and the Juki, but opted for Janome as I have a Juki F600 and haven't fallen in love with it. I have not tried quilting on the Jannome yet, still piecing, but am worried now. Sorry I don't have any advice, but I will be watching this space in case I need help too :)

  11. Walking feet don't work for quilting on all machines... The 1600 Janome is one of those machine's, I have had mine in the shop since we opened and we would use it everyday. (actually i have 2) it's all about learning what works well for different types of Fabrics, Wadding and Threads etc, and is different for all machines.
    But i agree with Leanne must baste quilt correctly... I get Leanne or Jan to Baste my quilts now on there quilting Frames. It's like having your quilt professionally Quilted but you actually quilt it yourself.It's cheap to get it done and it saves me heaps of time...

  12. Oh Kate, I could have written this post! More pinning is what I need to do I think and ditch the walking foot. My last quilt did this too, but I just washed it and posted it away to the new baby!

  13. Kate, I use a basting spray. I've never had any pulling on my quilts, no matter what machine or setting I use for quilting. It's wonderful! you should try it.

  14. Hi Kate, I hope you will take this as the compliment it's meant to be. I love straight line quilting but I have been afraid to attempt is for fear that my lines wouldn't be perfect...aka approved by the quilt police! Now that I see your beautiful quits but can see from the closeup shots that your lines aren't perfect, I feel empowered to try myself. Thanks for the inspiration and BTW, I've posted a number of your patterns on my Pinterest board, I love them!

  15. Hi Kate, Just coming back here for a question. I am needing to order some needles for my machine and curious what size you use? My machine came with a 14 in it which is what I've been using for paper piecing with regular 50wt cotton thread. The book says 11 or 14 for cotton. I get all confused when it comes to needle sizes as my other machine likes using a 12...

  16. Hi there...I've just bought a Elna Excellence 740 for quilting. My daughter asked me to quilt a sheet over her silk quilt that wore at the i was quilting straight lines around edge and middle with sheet as top,,the sheet was a satin one!!!...all the stitching on the underneath side didnt just actually gathered!..t he whole thing was out of shape..i gave up trying to unpick it!!..My daughter was very forgiving bless her..but i am upset as didnt expext new machine to do this..or was it the materials?..did pin and baste and released foot pressure ect...didnt try walking (or differential feed) foot as had enough of unpicking and was late at night..couldnt keep using the main piece as a practice piece either!..oh boy...take awhile to attempt this again!

  17. I have the same problem when I do straight line quilting. I have a Pfaff Quilt Expression 2.0 which has a built in feeding system (so you do not need to attach a walking foot). You activate it and use a regular foot. Unfortunately, I do not think mine has a tension adjustment on the foot (at least I do not see one in the manual). But when I do straight line it does press down too hard and make puckers etc. I've discovered the best answer is to free motion your lines! I know sounds scary, and they will not come out perfect every time, but the over all look is great! And you don't have to turn the quilt. You go up, then back. Draw some lines on a practice sandwich and try it. (btw I spray baste too) I've found the FMQ to be very relaxing too! Good luck!


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