Saturday, April 2, 2016

Featherweight Quilting Skill Series - Free Motion Quilting, Part 1

Thank you for coming to my Featherweight Quilting Skill Series! There are thousands of us who love our little 221s but need or want a little more "know-how" on using them to their fullest potential. I hope my posts and videos will help you get more know-how and confidence in using your beautiful Featherweight. Enjoy the classes!

Class #5 - Free Motion Quilting, no foot

Class supply list:
Your fully threaded sewing machine with no foot attached

stitch length set all the way down

several practice sandwiches no larger than 6.5"

Optional: embroidery hoop, feed dog cover. I did not use either of these options. 

This is a feed dog cover plate I had from a vintage buttonholer attachment. 

This is a new one I got from April1930s site. 

When you order from them, tell them I suggested you go to their store for accessories!

Let's get sewing!

The one thing I can't say enough about free motion quilting is it takes time to learn with a lot of practice! I have been doing FMQ for several years and I was having trouble doing it on the 221. After I began to feel what the machine wanted, I began to improve. 

You may see skipped stitches, twisted thread around the needle, uneven tension in the stitches, etc. in the beginning stages of performing this skill. Don't get discouraged or give up! This is all part of the learning curve in FMQ on any machine. I'll try to give you tips to keep these things at a minimum!

Oh what power you have! You take control over the fabric and the speed it will flow under the needle. Feeling the right combination of sewing in this manner will come. This is something you will get a feel for over time. Be patient with your progress and learn to work with your machine's limitations!

In order to make things easy for the start of this skill, let's sew straight, or straight-ish, lines. If you know how to draw a letter V, you can do this!

Place your sandwich under the needle and lower the pressure foot lever. 
This seems strange since there is no foot but the lever engages the top tension unit. If it's not down, your top thread will be loose and won't sew a proper stitch and will look like this on the bobbin side of the fabric-
Not the look we're going for!

Now hold the threads and turn the wheel so the needle goes into the fabric. 
Keep holding the threads and form a complete stitch or 2. You can also pull the bobbin thread to the top of the work and hold them from there. 

Now we can determine the direction to sew our first V shape. 
I am going from the top right corner to the lower center edge. 

Place both hands in line with the path you want to stitch. Remember when we did that before for stitch in the ditch? Same idea with FMQ only this time you are actually moving the fabric under the needle.

Slowly, and I mean SLOWLY, press the pedal and begin to stitch forward. Move your hands towards the needle. It feels weird but try to move in an even speed. You will feel the feed dogs moving under the fabric. Let their movement be a help as to how much you move the sandwich. You will need to stop, reposition your hands, and start again in order to get all the way across.

When you get to the opposite edge, stop and breathe! Check the needle to make sure the thread is still inserted correctly and not twisting or wrapping around the tip. Correct any issues now. 

Then Smile! This is only practice time so it's ok if it's not all you hoped for! Or maybe it is! Either way, you're doing it! Yay!

Now you can turn the fabric around and find the corner to sew to in order to complete your V shape. 
Position your hands and slowly sew across to the corner, just like before.

Turn the fabric and make another V shape. 

Keep making V shapes until you arrive back at the beginning of the first V shape. 

Wouldn't that be cute all trimmed up with the edges run through the binder? I see a set of coasters or hot pads in the making! Or a sweet quilt-as-you-go border to attach onto a bigger project!

You can sew forward and backwards when doing FMQ. You can try sewing out the same star by starting at the upper left edge of the sandwich, sew to the center edge, then, without turning the fabric, sew backwards to the upper right corner. Turn the sandwich so the needle is in the upper left corner, repeat the V shape all the way around. 
Why do it this way? You will have less skipped stitches when moving the fabric towards the right. Think how you thread the needle from right to left so moving the fabric towards the bobbin area will work in your favor!

How did you do? Admire your work and keep practicing! Show your pics at our Facebook group page for comments of admiration or for help. 

Had troubles? Here's things to look out for:

The thread begins to wrap around rather needle. 
Why it happens: When you sew too fast and the thread isn't unwound evenly, the thread can loop and the excess will wrap around the needle. You may hear your top thread spool spin wildly for a second. There's no way the bobbin thread will be caught and form a stitch because the needle thread is going off to the right instead of to the left. If you see skipped stitches and the top thread breaks, this is what caused it to happen.

How to fix it: Use the correct type of spool on your machine. The black spool on the left is the correct spool for the 221's upright spool pin. It will unwind evenly and won't twist as you sew. 
The gorgeous turquoise spool is wound like a cone (cross wound) and must be unwound from the top of the spool. If it is placed on the upright spool pin, it will twist a little in each revolution and give you problems. Use a cone holder set next to your 221 when using cross wound spools. 

Check that the thread is feeding through all of the guides, especially the one located at the top of the needle.

Stitches are skipped and picked up again. 
This has everything to do with the direction that you are sewing in. The balance of the top and bobbin threads is challenged when the machine isn't in control of movement and fabric position. Sewing from the right to the left (moving the fabric away from the bobbin area) will produce more skipped stitches.

How to fix it: Make a test strip to fnd the tolerance point on your machine. Sew lines moving from the left side of the fabric to the right side, just like when you write. Slowly sew your stitches and get comfortable with the feel of the movement of fabric. Start to sew in an up and down direction. Then sew more incrementally towards the right. When you begin to see skipped stitches, you will know your machine's limitations. 

Stitches look wobbly and loose. 
Why it happens: When a foot is not holding down the fabric, the needle can pull the fabric upwards and the stitches will appear wobbly. Your hands need to be placed firmly on the fabric to keep it down and moving under the needle properly.

How to fix it: If you see the fabric pouncing up and down with the needle while you sew, move your hands closer to the area being sewn. You cannot use a light touch with this method. Your whole hand should touch the fabric, not just your fingertips. Just remember to keep your fingertips away from that sharp point!

Homework: Take your fabric sandwich and practice straight lines. Select a fabric sandwich and free motion quilt the star shape. 

I hope you have been encouraged to use your amazing sewing machine accessories.  Please share your pics on our Facebook group page, Featherweight Skill Series, so we can see your creations! 

If you like the series, share the link with your friends, pin it to Pinterest, join my Facebook group... Most importantly, "Let's get sewing!"

See you next time!

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