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Problems quilting with decorative stitches and my walking foot

by Linda Justh
(Hatfield, PA U.S.)

Linda writes...

When I practice using scraps with the designs from my machine everything comes out perfect.


When I place the actual quilt on machine and start sewing, a third down I start getting unevenness or the designs are not uniform.

What am I doing wrong?

I am using a even feed walking foot and I have a Janome DC5100. There are several designs on my machine. I was just using a scroll pattern.

Julie replies...

Hi Linda!

I'm assuming that you're using the decorative stitches built into your sewing machine and not an actual hooped embroidery design—that you are guiding the quilt sandwich through your machine.

First, are you using practice quilt sandwiches (three layers) made from the actual fabrics, batting, backing, needle and threads used in your quilt?

I'm betting that you are, but it is important to test using the same materials. Different fabrics, battings, etc., can all effect the outcome.

You shared that the designs stitch out as expected for awhile and then go off. That information makes me wonder a few things:
  1. Is the needle thread catching somewhere in the thread path (i.e. like the thread wrapping a time or two around the spool pin before it makes its way through your machine, or perhaps looping an extra time around your uptake arm). That would increase the tension and cause the stitches to go wonky and/or pull.

  2. Are you letting the feed dogs do the work? With the feed dogs engaged with your walking foot, you are merely a guide to keep things moving straight through your sewing machine.

    On a small sample, it's no big deal. But move to a larger quilt sandwich, now you are wrestling with the weight and bulk, too. It's much harder to relax and 'just guide' the quilt—especially when you're quilting closer to the center.

  3. Do you have a presser foot pressure setting or adjustment on your machine? Check your manual if you're not sure.

    If you do, you might try reducing the pressure a bit.

    Test, but this time on a larger practice sandwich. It could be that the foot is bearing down too much for the thickness. The fabric and batting are pushed in front of the foot, building up at some point to actually making the stitching go off. It's worth a try.

  4. And finally, have you used enough safety pins to baste your quilt sandwich? I like to feel at least one under my hand wherever I place it on the quilt. If there's not enough basting, the layers could shift enough to mess with the stitches. It wouldn't be noticeable on a small practice piece.
If your quilt was not already sandwiched, I would recommend heavily starching the quilt top. Then layering and basting it. The starch acts as a stabilizer. You'd need to wash the quilt after it was finished to remove the starch. You'd also need to know that the fabric wouldn't bleed with the application of the starch. To know for sure, you'd use it on your practice sandwich.

I hope this gives you ideas to try to help you remedy your problem.

Readers, please share your experiences and expertise in the 'Comments' section below.

Piecefully,

Julie Baird
Editor

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