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Machine quilting causes tucks!

by Kim
(Smithville, OH)

I am quilting my very first quilt. It is a very simple block with some sashing. No matter how much I pin or baste, I still get a little tuck at the end of some of the seams. I am using a walking foot, everything was ironed and pinned pinned pinned, re-pinned, etc... please help!


Reply

Congratulations! I am so glad that you've come this far. Just like the piecing part of quilt making, everything gets easier with practice!

Tucks form because of excess fabric. The problem you're having could come from three different sources...

  • Sewing machine setup
  • Layering and basting
  • Quilting the layers
...or a combination of some of them.

Your sewing machine setup

Does your sewing machine have a control for presser foot pressure?

Both of my sewing machines have this control (the oldest was purchased in 1992). Check your sewing machine manual if you are not sure. Then double check the instructions for installing your walking foot. The suggested pressure setting will be in either the manual, the foot instructions or both. You should expect to be instructed to reduce the pressure setting for quilting.

You'll want to test the suggested setting on a practice quilt sandwich made from some of the leftovers from your quilt—it doesn't have to be big or pretty, just enough to be able to stitch on).

Stitch some lines of quilting. Adjust as needed. If you have the control, but no instructions, then stitch a little and adjust, repeating until you are satisfied.

If the pressure setting is too high, the walking foot pushes a bit of fabric ahead of it as you stitch and the tuck begins. Reducing the pressure helps to eliminate this.

Layering and basting

Do you secure your quilt backing to the table or floor before smoothing the batting and quilt top onto it for pin basting?

If you have a tuck(s) on the back of your quilt, it's probably due to an inadequately secured quilt backing.

Traditionally, your backing is secured to a large flat surface (usually the floor, sometimes a table) with masking tape to hold this layer in place while you add the batting and quilt top.

For a fuller explanation of this technique, there are several articles on the website at...

If getting down on the floor is too uncomfortable for you (and it gets more so as I get older), then check out this video on a quilt basting technique by Sharon Schamber that uses long boards and table for basting. (You'll need to scroll down that page just a bit.) See my notes that follow the video.

As you layer and baste more quilts, the job becomes easier and tuck free machine quilting becomes the norm.

Quilting the layers

If you are quilting along with your walking foot and start to see a 'bubble' of fabric growing before the toes of the foot—STOP—that is a tuck in the making.

At this point your quilt is completely basted and part of the quilting is stitched.

What should you do?

Stop the machine, needle down through the quilt sandwich. Raise and then lower the presser foot.

Yes, raise and then lower the presser foot but don't take a stitch.

Slowly resume quilting.

This simple action can release just enough fabric to reduce or eliminate the tuck. You may need to repeat this maneuver several times. The key is to watch as you are quilting. The smaller the bubble, the easier it will be to get rid of it, so catching the problem early helps in its solution.

Sometimes this won't be enough to distribute the extra fabric. This tends to happen when you are ditch quilting between the blocks to stabilize the quilt top. As you are quilting in the ditch, gently ease your hands apart as you hold/guide the quilt sandwich.

If you've done any dressmaking, you'll remember that set-in sleeves are eased into the arms eyes by gently gathering the sleeve cap.

Pulling your hands gently apart will, in effect, add little teeny-tiny gathers to the upcoming quilting line. You will probably notice a slight ripple or pucker in the finished quilt, but you will have avoided either a full-blown tuck or having to rip out quilting.

One final trick is to add extra straight pins perpendicular through the line of quilting to help distribute the excess fabric. Straight pins are easy to put in and take out for this quick fix. Do pull out the pins as you come to them; don't sew over pins.

These techniques should help you eliminate most of your problems with tucks. Let me know how it turns out.

Thank you for your question.

Readers, please do add any suggestions you have via the 'Click here to post comments' link just below. Thank you!

Piecefully,

Julie Baird
Editor

Comments for Machine quilting causes tucks!

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Thank you!
by: Lori

This helped me so much!

For me it was the 3rd problem. It's my first time machine quilting and I thought the walking foot would eliminate tucks from forming at all. But your techniques work great to ease in the fabric so it's hardly noticeable at all.

Thanks for taking the time to share this!

From the Editor: You're welcome! Glad to have been of help!

~ Julie

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