Ah, the Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2. It’s a finicky beast, to be sure. I’ve owned mine now for a little over a month, and I’m on the fence as to whether it’s the best thing since sliced bread or a very expensive error.
To be fair to it, it pieces beautifully. We’re talking gorgeous, perfect seams, especially when using the IDT system. And straight-line quilting with the IDT system is a similarly joyful experience. So, what’s my problem? The free-motion quilting. It is a BASTARD, excuse my French, to use in FMQ mode. Skipped stitches. Stripped thread. Broken thread. ALL of the above in one nightmare of thread hell. I just cannot get on with the damn thing, which is incredibly infuriating given that I bought the thing with the express purpose of improving my FMQ skills. Right now, I feel like I should have saved my money. I could already piece things with good accuracy on the Huskystar, what I needed was to not fear and avoid the quilting process more than I already do. Right now, though, I dread the prospect of quilting on this machine. Not. Helpful.
Fortunately(!), I’m not alone in having problems of this nature with the QE4.2, and have found a sympathetic and knowledgeable ear in the shape of Karin from The Quilt Yarn, who has honestly become a bit of a personal hero of mine. She’s also had these issues and has documented and discussed them extensively on her site. I find it encouraging that she has conquered her 4.2’s FMQ demons, but frustrating that such an expensive machine can apparently perform so poorly.
Karin has given me some valuable advice on managing FMQ on the QE4.2, above and beyond the posts on her site. It’s up to me now to try to apply this advice as best I can, though I am also considering taking the machine back to the shop for a check-up. While I suspect that most of the problem is my relative newness to FMQ, it would be good to eliminate any possible mechanical issues (I don’t like the sound it makes when doing FMQ, even if it’s *not* making a horrific mess of it).
To follow Karin’s good example, I will do my best to document any FMQ experiments I conduct, along with the results.
Things To Try
As well as following the advice on Karin’s site regarding settings, I have some Little Genie Magic Bobbin Washers on order, to see if they help. I’m also waiting on a straight-stitch plate, which I was a little reluctant to purchase but I think it will also help with straight stitching too. And I’ve also ordered the newer Pfaff open-toe FMQ foot, to see if it’s an improvement on the sensormatic (which I’m not sure I like) and the older style plastic FMQ foot, which doesn’t seem to hold down the fabric effectively during the stitch (or not unless the pivot setting is set to some negative number, anyway).
Karin also noted that the interplay of needle and thread can be critical in the success or failure of FMQ on the QE4.2. She recommends starting with a 80/12 needle and 50/3 weight thread, which I will also try. I already have plenty of 80/12 needles, but I’m rather lacking in the appropriate weight of thread – a lot of machine quilting thread seems to be 40 or even 30 weight, and that’s what I have. 🙁 So, I will be looking around for some different thread to try and will be testing the better class of polyester threads too. Until now, I’ve mostly used cotton thread to quilt and reserved (cheap) polyester thread for piecing, but anything is worth trying at this point.