Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2

Heaven or Hell? Thoughts on the Pfaff QE 4.2

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2Ah, 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.

11 thoughts on “Heaven or Hell? Thoughts on the Pfaff QE 4.2”

  1. Hi, just come across your issues with the pfaff quilt expression 4.2, I am having the same problems, I have just come back from the sewing shop armed with, 100% polyester thread, a pack of strong needled and a open toe free motion foot, all in the hope I can use my pfaff machine what I bought it for. Will check in later with the results.

  2. Hi, I am back, changed needle and thread, it has done the trick, no thread breakages, haven’t use the open toe foot yet, but it’s not looking like I will now. Problem solved.

    1. Hi Cheryl, glad to hear you managed to make headway with it! It does take practice and familiarity to master, and I certainly am much more aware now about thread/needle interactions than I used to be before I bought my Pfaff. It does get easier, though – I also found that part of the solution was also to get a “feel” for the machine’s speed and synchronise better with it when moving the fabric. It took me a little time to get the hang of this, but now I can FMQ quite happily without suffering broken thread or needles. 🙂

      1. I am glad to hear things are getting easier…I believe it truly is important to get used to your machine and I think also useful to stick to the same thread for some time for that reason.

  3. I had my QE4.2 back to the shop twice in the first two weeks because of free-motion issues. A bit of tweaking was the best they could do. Eventually, completely demoralised by the machine, which would start FM ok but then lose tension, break threads, tangle, etc., I took it to my local serviceman who couldn’t solve the problem. Eventually he took it to a seminar for sewing machine technicians and gave it to the Pfaff specialist who admitted that there were problems with a part – something to do with the bobbin casing I think – which he replaced. I’m just getting up courage to try out the free motion again!

  4. I have this machine and amid struggling to fmq! I have bought thread, needles, feet but still not getting a good result. There are definitely tension issues and I’m needing to lower the tension to 2 to get anywhere near how the stitches are to look. I’m beginning to think I have a lemon! I don’t pretend to be an expert at fmq but could do a good job on my janome, I wonder if I need to ‘start’ all over again from scratch and relearn with this machine. Normal straight line sewing is beautiful but I bought this specifically for fmq and am so very disappointed in it

  5. I purchased the 4.2 about a month ago and have had no luck with FMQ. I have tried quilt needles, universal needles and top stitch needles. I have tried different top threads, pre-loaded and machine loaded bobbins. Sensormatic and spring foot. I bought the straight stitch plate. I have adjusted tension many ways. I have adjusted speed control, pivot height. I have tried #1 and #52 stitches. I have cleaned the bobbin area. I have verified with shop that I am threading machine properly. NOTHING solves the skipped stitches on my quilt. Bought this machine for the sole purpose of FMQ. I have an old Pfaff Creative 1475 that will FMQ without a single problem but needed a bigger machine to do larger quilts. So disappointed.

  6. Hello, has anyone had any problems with the thread binding up in the bobbin case. Not the case itself but with a small metal piece (approx 1″ x 1/4″) that sits just to the upper right of the bobbin case. Hard to explain. This little ‘metal rod’ will come loose and catches the thread and binds it. It’s now at the repair shop for about the 4th time in a year. I’m totally frustrated.

    1. My Paff 4.2 has had the same problem with thread catching in the bobbin area virtually since new and the dealer told me how to fix it. It’s mostly caused by fluff.
      Remove the bobbin and unthread the machine.
      Remove the piece of grey plastic that covers the bobbin case.
      Remove the bobbin case and brush the whole area well to remove any fluff.
      Press the thread cutter button. The little hook on the right in the bobbin area should move back into position. Maybe repeat pressing the button to watch what happens.
      Put it all back together again!
      I have to do this very regularly but it stops haveing to pay repair bills!

  7. I hate the Piaf machine bought 4 years ago. The bobbin winds erratically. The thread breaks between chain piecing. I cannot free motion quilt on it as I cannot ever remember how to release the black foot behind the regular foot despite going to the shop every time to see how it is done…next time I want to release it I have forgotten again.

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