FMQ and tension

calverttxSeptember 29, 2012

I have a Jamone 4120 and it sews beautifully, perfect stiches. When I put on the FMQ foot and the sandwich in it all goes to H in a handbasket. The bottom thread lays on the bottom and all of the top thread peaks through. I started at the bottom of the tension and slowly turned it up. It gets better set on 9 (all the way up) but not good enough. I have changed the needle (90/12)and rethread the machine. This is not a new problem but really making me unhappy. I can only think of 2 more things to do:

1. Tamper with the SCREW on the bobbin or

2. Purchase a walking foot. I know nothing about a walking foot.

Any ideas ladies? As always, thank you for your help. Nancy

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It's obviously your top tension and I wouldn't screw with the bobbin tension at all.

It's possible you have lint or bits in your tension plates. Where you thread the machine, the thread slips between two flat, round plates where that tension knob is. If you unthread it and then take a piece of fabric and try to slide it between the plates and run it back and forth every which way, it will clean between them. It should take out anything stuck in there. On my machine, I'd just dismantle the whole thing but you might not be used to doing that. When they are cleaned out good, rethread it and try again.

At least , that's what I'd do.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 8:44AM
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I agree with toolgranny - clean the tension discs. I routinely run 2 strands of a non-linty thread between the discs, and try to remember not to pull the thread backwards when rethreading or changing top thread.

If the machine is pristine clean and no random lint,
On my machine, with the feed dogs down, the tension or stitch quality is controlled by the movement of the quilt sandwich.

You should post a few pics of the stitch quality/problem.

Have you looked in your manual for the recommended FM settings?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 8:56AM
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Are you using a machine quilting needle? They are shaped a little bit differently than a regular sewing/universal needle.


    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 9:04AM
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All the above advice is good. I am not an FMQ expert, but I have learned to do all the above and the following: Always clean out the bobbin area with each bobbin change. I mean really get in there, pulling off the thread plate and all. Then, there are many times where I've done all that and had problems only to realize that I haven't re-threaded the top thread properly or that I've put the bobbin in backwards. I also keep a practice sandwich on the side to test everything out before going back to the quilt. It's very frustrating to pick out stitches on the quilt. Finally, if you do buy a walking foot, that is only for sewing straight seams. You can't do the curley-que's and fancy designs on that. I do recommend you get one though, they are great for straight-line quilting and for sewing on bindings. Also even if everything is right on the machine, if you are not moving the fabric evenly with FMQ on the curves, you will still get what appears to be tension problems. This will get better with practice.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 9:18AM
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Good advice so far...

With FMQ there is a very precarious line between how fast you move the sandwich to how fast your machine is working. It takes a LOT of practice to get it just right.

A walking foot will work for you, but it will do a completely different job. You won't be able to move your quilt freely. This foot works best for straight line quilting.

FMQ is quite a challenge to learn, but if you keep trying, you'll get it.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 9:20AM
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One item I missed saying, raising your pressure foot first releases the pressure on the tension disks. It's easier to clean out with the foot up.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 9:20AM
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I have cleaned and rethread. I took the bottom apart, lots of lint and changed the needle,cleaned between the plates. Guess what, its the same. I am sure part of the problem is red thread on top and white on the bottom. It is a wall hanging so no one will see it, I just wanted it to be better. Thank you all for you help. I am 40 miles from a fabric store but the next trip in I will check out the machine quilting needles. Did not know about them at all. Thanks to all, you are great. Nancy

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 11:12AM
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I didn't know there were machine quilting needles either. Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 12:56PM
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Lots of good advice here!

I almost hate to mention this but since we all forget the details sometimes, I'm going to: did you drop the feed dogs? Those are the serrated things under your sewing plate that move the bottom fabric forward while doing regular sewing. With a walking foot you get both the top and the bottom moving at the same time so it doesn't bunch up and this is great if you are doing straight line sewing on thick stuff, like when you are quilting. But when using that free motion foot, you want the fabric movement to be totally in your control, not the machines. You need to drop those dogs down so they don't grip the fabric. On my machine, the switch is in the back.

If you were already doing this, then I'm sorry I brought it up!!!


    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 1:09PM
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Kate, don't apologize, this may be the one itty-bitty but important detail that we all overlooked!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 1:52PM
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I will make an additional suggestion: Thread!

When I was first learning to FMQ I was having problems with the bottom (bobbin) thread, particularly when going round curves where there would be "lines" of thread perpendicular to the stitch line. (Hard to discribe). I was using a cheap(er) cone thread from JoAnn's. I bought Isacord thread which is a polyester thread from Leah Day's online quilt shop which is what she uses for all her FMQ on her home sewing machine. Be sure to use the same thread in the top & bobbin. I have not had a problem since. The thread type is important. My SIL uses Mediera thread & has good luck with it.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 9:52PM
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I changed the bobbin thread to match the top thread but nothing changed. I will call Jamone on Monday and see what they recommend. I bought this machine about 6 months ago and this has been a problem since day one. I did quilt the border with an ice pattern. It turned out well if you do not look at the back. I will post a picture in a few days.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 10:35PM
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Maybe I will call Janome instead of Jamone and then again maybe someone known as Jamone will know something.Thank you all for your help. I did lower the feed dogs but sure wish it was that simple. Nancy

    Bookmark   September 29, 2012 at 11:27PM
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I am far from being a guru in this area, but even though the foot is 'jumping' all around, I think it still needs to be lowered on the machine. This might have to do with tension.....not sure though.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 9:40AM
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Sharon, you are correct... The presser foot lever needs to be in the down position. If it's not down, you get a major rat's nest on the back...doesn't sound like that's the problem.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 10:18AM
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I can so sympathize with your plight but have nothing to offer. I just spent almost three hours doing some free motion work. The first hour and a half the top thread matched the bobbin thread and then I switched to a colored thread on top. What a mess the back is and when I look really closely I can see that the part where the top and bottom threads were the same are not that great either. I am dealing with it by pouring myself a big glass of wine and putting it all off until tomorrow. No matter what I have decided I'm not picking out all that quilting. It will just have to be the way it is. The baby won't care!!!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 5:21PM
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