shellipsm PRO 12:44am, 22 January 2008
OK - So i'm obviously planning on doing a LOT A LOT A LOT of practice. But are there any tricks to making sure the thread doesn't bunch up and get all yucky?

What are your tips?

CampFollowerBagLady 9 years ago
Why would your thread "bunch up and get all yucky"? When I first learned to free motion quilt, it was described to me as dancing with a blind man. Drop your feeddogs and dance with your machine! It is my favorite part of the quiltmaking process. I use a darning or freemotion foot, and have not had a problem so far. Good luck and have fun!
shellipsm PRO 9 years ago

I have an Elna 2110, and I have a free-motion foot. The first few stitches are OK, but then my thread is unmatched or something. I do use dogs down, but maybe my little Elna isn't "made" for free motion?

Are there any tension tips, etc.?
CampFollowerBagLady 9 years ago
I am not familiar with Elna (I have 2 Berninas) but Elna make a nice should be able to free motion quilt. How does your stitching look on the bottom of the "quilt" if you just use a regular walking foot? If mine tension is acting funny, I normally go back to basics and see what the stitching looks like with a regular straight stitch. Try that...
shellipsm PRO 9 years ago
actually don't have a walking foot, and havent' done much top quilting, other than stitch in the ditch, and my regular 1/4 foot. I'll try to take some pictures of what I mean.
Polyquats PRO 9 years ago
I keep the pieces of wadding + backing I trim off the sides of finished quilts in a bag in the sewing room. I grap a piece that I can put with a scrap from the top of my current quilt, and use it to check tension etc each time I sit down to quilt. I also use it to practice any particular quilting motions.

I have a Janome, but a couple of problems I have encoutered are:
- not pulling the bobin thread to the top before starting and getting a 'bird's nest' under the quilt.
- having the threads get caught around the foot and preventing the free flow of the quilt
- forgetting to lower the foot. This results in the top thread 'missing' the bobin thread a lot.
- not having the weight of the quilt adequately supported. I use the ironing board dropped to the height of the machine table on my left hand side.

I also prefer to use Pam Holland's method of grabbing hold of the quilt, instead of guiding it with hands flat (though I often grip with the right and use the left flat).
mishi2x PRO 9 years ago
I definitely agree with Polyquats points. I generally get that bird's nest when I don't pull the bobbin thread up, and then hold the threads to the back.

I would also suggest doing a once over before starting. New needle, freshly and tightly wound bobbin, clean out any dust, etc.

And, once you get going, go as fast as you can. It's definitely smoother when you faster.

Good luck!
dorkyquilts PRO 9 years ago
I SO agree with mishi2x above--the faster you go the better! Make your machine go really fast and move your quilt through it at a medium pace, trying to move smoothly. Jerky motions and slow machine running speeds make giant jaggedy stitches. Going faster helps smooth things out. I also use a lower tension, a fine thread (I really like Bottom Line), and a small needle (microtek 60) that matches the thread. I only get bunches when I sew too many stitches in one when turning a square corner. Gotta remember to KEEP MOVING. Good luck!!!
shellipsm PRO 9 years ago
heh - thank you all!

"Birds nest" is EXACTLY the PERFECT description! hahaha.

Indeed, it's a good thing our "cheeky," aka 2 year old daughter still needs bibs at meal times, because it gives me something tangible to practice on. ;)

And PULLING the threads back as you begin - (insert head smack here) Fantabulous idea.

I also have the book: "quilt as desired" by Frable, and it's a gem, for sure.

As soon as I have some practice in, I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Thanks again!
A Bit of the Past 9 years ago
If you are still having tension problems, put your bobbin thread through the little finger on the bobbin case. It makes the bobbin tension a little tighter without messing with the set screw on your bobbin case. Often this is all I have to do to make problems disappear.
Churchlady2006 9 years ago
Wow you ladies ar e a lot of help however, I have just purchased a machine with free motion capabilities etc. If you want to make curves or ciircles the walking foot wont work, it only works with in the ditch straight line quilting, right? Anyway I have been practicing and find it very hard to do, my stitches are very uneven, guess it takes practice, practice, practice. ANY help would be appreciated. jerri
Polyquats PRO 9 years ago
Gentle curves are possible with the walking foot. I did the curves on 'Zing Went the Strings' with the walking foot.

One other piece of advice I was given for free motion quilting that I found helpful was to start with the quilt on your lap, in front of the needle. That way you can see where you're going and you aren't trying to peer round the back of the machine.

And the other is the universal advice that applies to all machine stitching - don't watch the needle, focus on the area a little in front of the needle, where you are going next. It's just like walking really, we don't watch our feet, we focus on the ground a few yards in front of our feet. This gives you some 'reaction time'.

Have fun practicing.
boltandfrolic 9 years ago
Wow, this is all such great info! I'm a newbie... I have a Bernina BSR on my machine, but have yet to play with it!
Thanks everyone for sharing your experience.
Churchlady2006 9 years ago
You gals are so helpful and this all still scares me. When you say start with the quilt in your lap does this mean you start on an end? I guess I thought you started in the middle. At lease I can make a lot of potholders while I practice right? LOL
Polyquats PRO 9 years ago
By start with the quilt on your lap (probably difficult if it's a pot holder!) I meant work with the unquilted portion in front of the needle and the completed quilted bits behind the machine. When you think about it, this is how we sew normally. But when we start free motion work, it seems to be instinctive to work the other way, with the bit we've done in front of the needle where we can see it. It's hard to explain with word, but I learnt this tip from a dvd tutorial. Maybe I should take some pictures.
cyprium_misty 9 years ago
As a newbie quilter I too have many bird's nests. I found that some of my problem with the bobbin tension on my machine was wonky {technical term that!}. The single hardest thing is keeping the machine going fast, but my hands medium. It is like trying to dance a waltz to mambo music.

When I can achieve that, I get fewer thread messes.
shellipsm PRO 9 years ago
OK - So I figured out what I was doing wrong.... I wasn't holding the 'tails" taught enough.

So now? My daughter will get a LOT of bibs, as I practice! ;)

how do you get to Carnagie Hall?
ntrquilter 9 years ago
I have really enjoyed reading all this advice. I love free motion quilting but find myself meandering mostly. I am nervous about trying different things since meandering works, it's just becoming boring. I have a Ricky Tims convergence top and have not attempted to quilt it as yet. I know what I want to do, but need to practice before I actually do it. Good idea about saving cut-off edge pieces to try quilting stitches on and practice tension.

Nancy in NC
The Luskozas 8 years ago
This is obviously a bit old, but I had one of those "palm face moments" too...

"And PULLING the threads back as you begin - (insert head smack here) Fantabulous idea."

I am sort of learning, and became insanely frustrated last night while trying to quilt a small (sleeve for my macbook) I have the walking foot, and thought I had everything in order, but apparently I need to work some things out, I have MAJOR "birds nest" it was so sad!
mini_milly04 8 years ago
Using 100% cotton and a brand new fresh needle helps big time too.
byneedleandthread 8 years ago
this is such good advice ladies! i'm going to give this a whirl. i usually just do straight line machine quilting. i took a free motion class but wasn't good at it instantly so i was avoiding it. (terrible i know) with this info will try again!
shellipsm PRO 8 years ago
@Luskozas - make sure you also have a darning foot, and that you "drop your dogs" for free motion "fabric painting."

It's been a while since I've written this thread, and yes, practice does make it better - Still NO WHERE near as fabulous as some of y'all, but with each baby quilt I use as "practice," I get better - and I LOVE FREE MOTION QUILTING! :)

My next adventure? Varigrated thread!

(and I will forever be a stippler, all of the other stuff is just too scary!)
mepustejovsky 8 years ago
I am currently reading Sue Nickels' book, and it also recommends always using high quality thread--she said it has fewer tension problems.
jollywinegums Posted 8 years ago. Edited by jollywinegums (member) 8 years ago
Get yer bicycle clips out and roll the quilt sides up in them ! Then start in the middle , holding the rolls L& R tightly. Have the quilt well supported to the left if you can't roll it.
.Drop the feed dogs/cover them and lower the tension a little.Lower the foot -or it's instant bird's nest time.
Put the needle into the fabric ,and "pick up the bottom thread ",by hand -turning the wheel ,and take both threads to the back, holding them firmly for the first two stitches.
It' s easier if you have a clear /open fronted darning / free motion foot - and practice on a scrap before starting.
Practice for 15 mins every day,and preferably after a glass of wine to ensure YOUR tension isn't too tight.
PS - don't forget to breathe....
(hope this helps a little)
brighteyestish 8 years ago
If you are having a major birds nest on the bottom side, it could be your tension or you need to hold the threads as you make your first few stitches. A walking foot will help both sides of the fabric feed evenly. Jollywinegums has got it right, instant nest if you dont put down the presser foot
corry_melissa 8 years ago
I am just starting with free motion quilting and am finding that the front looks great but the back doesn't look like individual stiches. Rather just a line of thread. Any ideas on how to correct this problem?
LittleWhimsies Sews 8 years ago
Are there little loops of the top thread showing thru on the back? If so, you might want to adjust the top thread tension a little tighter. I like to "warm-up" on scraps of fabric from my quilt and the batting I'm using. Different combos of fabric, batting and thread might require changes in your machine settings. Usually I can just tweak the top thread tension until I get a nice looking stitch on both the top and bottom. You might also check the bobbin to be sure nothing is catching the bobbin thread and making it too tight. Good Luck!
jasper2sooty 8 years ago
I had the same problem, just a line of thread on the back...had to send machine in for settings to be adjusted . It came back and works well now. I had tried to change the tension etc but without any luck, it was a technical fault.
kritta22 8 years ago
Great ideas! Going to practice now!!!!!!
Cindy's Quilts Posted 8 years ago. Edited by Cindy's Quilts (member) 8 years ago
Machine goes fast! Hands go slow!!

Check out Ricky Tims' CD called Grand Finale.. great video on FMQ.

Cindy in Seattle
esteemarlu 8 years ago
I was afraid to start free motion quilting also until I found the coolest gadget, The Handi Stippler, you attach it to your sewing machine and it controls your speed. It has about twenty different speeds so you can sew as fast or as slow as you want without having to worry about how fast you're going and worrying about your stitch at the same time. I think making bibs is a wonderful way to practice.
H.e.l.e.n. 8 years ago
Does anyone use a Janome? I have a rather old model (I think the model number is V/74088/650) - my mum bought it when I was 4, so it's approaching 30 years old.

The instruction manual says, for darning and embroidery, just remove the presser foot, which ends up looking like this:
DSC03200 by H.e.l.e.n.

Is this correct? I can't find any sort of darning foot made to fit this machine.

I've found when quilting, the bottom of the shaft tends to catch on the seams (which I rarely bother to press open).

I've also found things seem to go a little smoother when I have the feed dogs slightly raised.
kritta22 8 years ago
I don't have a Janome and am no help with this. Sorry!

i just wanted to share with you girls, that i have noticed that the thread has a lot of do with your 'bird's nests' too. I have a Viking Sapphire 870 and she is QUITE picky about the thread i can use in her.
If i use the wrong kind, it bunches, and knots and just isn't happy.

Just a thought for those still having issues.
I had a Janome and I had a darning foot. it is an ankle included foot. that means that you take off that thing that you clip all your feet to by undoing the big screw and attach the foot ... I bought mine at a Janome dealer. It was ordered.

Shellipsm: so happy to see getting in there and quilting! hooray!
H.e.l.e.n. 8 years ago
Thanks 2ndAve - looks like I should make some phone calls and try to track a proper foot down.
jollywinegums Posted 8 years ago. Edited by jollywinegums (member) 8 years ago
2ndAveStudio is absolutely right.Take your Janome to a shop that sells Janome machines, ask them to fit a darning / free motion foot for you,and watch how they attach it.
I have a machine like yours.It requires that you cover the bottom feed dogs, rather than drop them(cover should be part of your accessories- if not, buy one, they're quite cheap).
Undo the large knob to the left of the *stem* and remove any accessories / feet. Screw on darning / free motion foot.Practice on a 3 layered scrap with top tension a little lower than normal.(by 1 maybe)
for the 1 st stich-wind wheel towards you to take the first stich - by hand, slowly, As the needle comes up, get a long pin and sweep both the top and bottom threads up and behind the needle. Hold these taut , and begin stitching using the foot pedal.Go over the first couple of stitches to secure them, take regular breaths, get a good steady speed with your foot, and move the fabric sandwich under the needle , always looking where you are going next, rather than the end of the needle.
Does this make sense??? Hope so. Then it's just a matter of practice, to keep stitch lengths as you want them Happy quilting !
poshoz [deleted] 8 years ago
Ok, I'm completely new to quilting and want to start free motion quilting. I also have a Janome machine, and ordered a darning foot from Janome directly and they sent out the foot. I know it screws into the left hand side and can do that without any problems. The problem is that even with the presser foot down (and dogs down) there is quite a gap between the darning foot and the fabric. I'm assuming this is why I keep getting the "birds nest" at the back. Am I doing something wrong? How do I get the foot to sit on top of the fabric rather than above it?
Polyquats PRO 8 years ago
The free motion foot won't make contact with the fabric until the needle is also in the down position. So as long as the presser foot is in the down position, and is attached properly, this is not the problem.
Grey Cat Quilts 8 years ago
Poshoz - if you look at the foot, there is also a knob that adjusts the height of the darning foot (at least if it's the same as mine). You want to fiddle with that until it's low enough to just glide over the fabric, rather than drag over it.
poshoz [deleted] 8 years ago
Thanks gyrmalcyn I'll be at my machine in the morning and will give that a go. Polyquats, yip I had the needle down and the foot was still sitting way above the fabric.
Thanks ladies
bohemiannie Posted 6 years ago. Edited by bohemiannie (member) 6 years ago
Superior Threads...among many other websites...all have tons of knowledge about free motion quilting and it's challenges. You can also go to You Tube to watch videos that are extremely helpful. The first place I'd look though - would be your machine's manual. It is your friend. Many manuals will have free motion stitching under 'darning'.

The main things I've found that work are...a large eyed needle and a clean, well oiled machine with your tension set properly.
chloe & ivan PRO 6 years ago
sweetfe 6 years ago
Okay so I am also new to free motion quilting and had been having tons of trouble with the birdnesting. I kept tightening the upper tension and as a reward my 1909 Model 15 treadle Singer stopped picking up the bobbin thread. I tried all kinds of things. I cleaned the bobbin pieces parts. I took off the cover for the needle bar and cleaned the pieces in there. I rethreaded a ton of times. I re-wound the bobbin thread so it was sure to be even. I stared at the timing and it looked okay to me. I reset the needle a dozen times. Finally I took the darning foot off and reset the needle and viola'! The little metal bar that holds the foot together was hitting the needle bracket and screw. I took the bar off and put it back on backwards and it seems to be okay now.

The darning foot is still squishing the fabric more than desired but I am hoping that will be sorted out soon. I would appreciate hints on that topic.
Sears sells the freemotion foot for this machine. You probably have to remove the screw to completely remove the shank. That is the part that is left after you remove the foot. Do not lose the screw or the shank as they are expensive and important. The freemotion foot you need is about $12.
QuilterMomOf3 4 years ago

Hold the starting threads firmly while you start sewing to avoid then getting tangled on the back...

Also, I use Bobbin washers...(
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