Machine quilting frustration!

mejjieApril 24, 2014

Hi everyone! Sorry if this is kind of long.

I have been trying to quilt for years, and have many pieced tops waiting to be quilted. I have 2 machines. One is a Kenmore from about 1985 and one is from JC Penney and is probably from the 60's or 70's.

My problem is that I cannot do straight-line quilting on either machine. I can free-motion quilt just fine on the JC Penney. I bought a walking foot that fits both machines, but it is not really made for either machine and I think that is the problem. I have made a small practice quilt sandwich and can quilt that ok. As soon as I try to quilt anything larger, even if it's just a wallhanging, the machines kind of "bog down" and I get tiny tiny stitches that are impossible to even rip out. I have tried every combination of pressure and feed dog position that I can think of and I still get the impossibly tiny stitches.

My question is should I buy a new machine? Or is there something else I can try? I did try quilting on my friends machine and did fine, so I am leaning towards a new machine. I have almost-adult daughters who sew clothing who would love to have my old machines to call their own! I suppose I could free-motion quilt everything, but I really like the look of channel quilting and don't always like the varying stitch length I get with free-motion.

What do you think?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This does not sound like an easy problem to fix, since you've wisely tried just about everything already. It sounds like there is too much pressure on the presser foot and too little grip by the feed dogs.
I would check everything in this order:
- feed dogs engaged (up)
- stitch length set; since they've been too small, I would set them at 8 or 10 to the inch
- walking foot properly installed so it lifts as the needle comes up (the little Y bar securely in the bolt that holds the needle in place)
- setting the tension might take some trial and error

If that doesn't work, buy a new machine! :~)) I have 5 machines tho so I'm probably not a good person to give advice about that. "Buy a new machine" ALWAYS seems like a good idea to me.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 2:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Several years back I purchased fabric to try quilting - the idea fascinated me. After struggling with my old machine, I put my project away. A couple of years went by and I was once again inspired to try quilting by a friend who had made such beautiful quilts. I purchased a new machine, in my case, a Janome 6600, and a whole new world opened up to me. Two and a half years later, I'm an avid quilter with thirty projects to my name.

If you can afford it, but a new machine. It will give you a new lease on your quilting life. And if you already do FMQ on your old machines, you will so enjoy your new one. I would suggest one with a harp that is 9 to 11" wide. Let us know what you decide. Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 2:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Have you tried quilting using a regular foot instead of the walking foot? I sometimes have the same problem with the walking foot.

That said, I have 4 machines (trying to keep up with Kate LOL), so I'm not knocking buying a new one, either. There are many on the market that have quilter-specific features.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 4:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all! You could tell I was leaning towards a new machine, and I think I just wanted some validation, so thanks!
Msmeow-I tried quilting with the regular foot when I first started out and had problems with bunching fabric and also with the tiny stitches. So I tried the generic walking foot with no luck either. While I am shopping for a new machine I might revisit the regular foot though, because I think that I now have a better understanding of feed dogs and pressure (the tension is still mysterious!).
Can you all tell me which of your machines you like best? Loisf has already mentioned her Janome 6600.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 4:59PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for the suggestions Kate. My walking foot sounds a little different-it just has a straight bar that rests on the needle clamp. Maybe that's why it doesn't work as well. As for tension, if I change it at all I get weird stitches, so I've been leaving it alone.
Loisf-thanks for pointing out the harp measurement. I wasn't aware that machines varied in this way!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 5:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Make sure you have completely cleaned and then oiled the machine - with new sewing machine oil - according to the manual's instructions. If the feed dogs are filled with years of lint and fuzz, they will not work properly. Remove the needle plate and make sure it clean. Use the feet that came with the machine to get it stitching properly, before you try to use the walking foot. These old machines are work horses, but they do need to be free of fuzz & old gunky oil, especially if they haven't been used regularly. You may also need to adjust the pressure on the foot. Make sure you are using the correct bobbin (wound properly & inserted correctly) & a new needle.
I also own too many sewing machines from very old to the newest and greatest -- and I seem to prefer the old ones! :~)
I think it is a sickness. So, buy a new one if you want to, so you can enjoy sewing and quilting, but try to get the others working -- a girl needs a few machines for back-up!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 5:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I bought my Baby Lock Jane just for free motion and straight quilting. It has a bigger harp than my favorite old Pfaff Tiptronic 6270. I didn't give up my Pfaff though. I piece on it and quilt on the other and I love them both.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 5:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you wanted to be enabled, you came to the right place as far as getting a new machine goes!

How are you supporting the bulk of the quilt? If it works OK on small things and not large ones, it could just be that the bulk is pushing against the machine or there is too much drag or pull because of weight and gravity... the only other things I can say are to make sure you go slowly and use a large enough stitch length... and that you aren't alone, it has happened to me too, on all my machines, walking foot or not, and can be frustrating. ..

I only have three machines, 2 computerized and one vintage... but I look and dream about more every day... I am with Kate, getting a new machine is always a good thing! Since you mentioned adjusting the feed dogs, I just want to point out that you may lose that ability in a new machine.... most modern machines don't offer that ability anymore... they are either all the way up or all the way down with nothing in between...

Many modern machines (mostly low end) have also lost the ability to vary presser foot pressure, so be careful when shopping...

However, the new features available are enough to make your head spin:push button thread cutters, knee lifters for the presser foot, needle up down, push button start stop, built in threaders.... A dizzying array to be sure! The push button thread cutter if you get a machine so equipped, will change your life! The only times I use the vintage machine are when I need adjustable feed dogs or when I'm feeling nostalgic!

good luck and let us know what you decide!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 7:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all for the suggestions! I am going to change the needle, clean out the fuzz, and try quilting on my kitchen table to support the weight of the quilt. Even if I do decide to get a new machine it will take me a while to research and think about features and shop and in the meantime I can keep trying with the old ones.
I'll keep you posted.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 10:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hope you get that worked out. I have found a good deal of my stitch length irregularities worked out when I developed a better support for my work in progress. The weight of a batted quilt has a life of its own and will pull the work in progress and when I started waxing the base of my machine, making sure it was not moving of its own accord from gravity, and learnt to pull my work toward me, instead of shoving it away from me the problem resolved itself. I am sold on the heavy, all metal vintage machines since they do not travel around on you as you work. The machines I use do not have a lot of bells and whistles............that is less important to me than a good machine with shafts and gears and no rubber belts to muck up timing, and a heavy foot pedal I don't have to feel around to find when it travels all over the floor. LOL

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have added a link to what you might need. It does sound to me like you need a bigger surface for the bulk to glide across. I had the same problem with my old Kenmore. Check out this extension table, I learned about it on Bonnie Hunter's site and she highly recommends it for people who have old machines that don't have the quilter's extension surfaces. Even with an extension table, on my new machine I have to make sure that the large quilts aren't hanging over the edge of the sewing area, it will cause that bog down that you are getting. Of course a new machine is a wonderful thing, but with the right stuff the old ones can do a great job.

Here is a link that might be useful: Universal Extension Table

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 5:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A quick-fix for fabric support IF you have sturdy ironing board: Set up the ironing board beside your dining or kitchen table, about 4 inches lower than the tabletop. Set the sewing machine on the board; lower (or raise) the board until the feed dogs are level with or just slightly above the table top. This gives you the full size of the table to support the fabric. I use a second ironing board on my left, sitting above the machine's board (even with the tabletop), and sometimes even a third board on my right to support the rolled quilt as I feed it through the machine. I bought 6-gauge plastic at JoAnne's to slipcover the ironing board tops -- the fabric just glides right over it!

I used the table+ironing board combo back when I sewed clothing; it works just as well for a quilt as it does for a dress. I've looked at the acrylic tables now available, but I prefer the extended area the combo provides -- 2 square feet of acrylic just isn't big enough when you're maneuvering a king-size quilt!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 10:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you for the link ritaweeda-that is definitely more affordable than a new machine. Although I have done some research online and the Brother PQ1500 is very tempting!
Meldy_nva your idea is ingenious! I think it might work for the kenmore but the penncrest machine is so heavy I'm sure it would collapse my ironing board.
Thanks again to everyone for the suggestions. Once I get some time to try them out I will be back to let you know what works.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 8:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It sounds like you have gotten your money's worth out of your current machines, so it might be nice to check out a newer machine.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 10:21AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Are you quilting this weekend? March 27-29
I stayed up late last night making a teapot block for...
QOTD - Re-posting others' pictures
Is there a rule, or convention, or prohibition against...
Jamestown Landing ready to quilt.
I got the top done and loaded onto the frame. I am...
Scouting out locations for our next retreat...
I was so excited to meet up with Linda (ToolGranny)...
Washing polyester quilt tops?
Hello, My granny recently gave me a couple of quilt...
Sponsored Products
Elegant Lighting Monarch Royal Cut Pewter & Crystal Five-Light Wall Sconce
$690.00 | LuxeDecor
Grand Basics Paprika 20-in. Pillow Set - RIZ402
$52.00 | Hayneedle
Demi Decorative Pillow
Home Decorators Collection
Modern Indoor/Outdoor Bungalow Flooring Rugs WaterGuard Navy Snow Mobile 35.25
Home Depot
Queen 400TC Classic Hemstitch Sheet Set - WHITE
$194.00 | Horchow
Serena & Lily Brahms Mount Herringbone Baby Blanket
Serena & Lily
Maria Theresa Chrome Nineteen-Light 30-Inch Chandelier with Royal Cut Clear Crys
Philadelphia Phillies Field Bear Woven Jacquard Throw
$17.99 | zulily
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™