Grounds for Cautious Optimism

After my woeful efforts with FMQ on the Pfaff the other day, I dodged further quilting adventures in lieu of doing more piecing for my Damask Suns quilt while I waited for my FMQ bits ‘n’ bobs to show up.  After Quilt Club on Friday, I popped into town to see what thread alternatives I could find at the haberdashery stall in the market, and plumped for some reels of polyester Guetermann thread to try, plus some plain white cotton for piecing because I’d almost finished my current reel (1000m of thread goes nowhere when you’re doing patchwork!).  When I got home I found that my new open-toe FMQ had arrived, and Sunday evening I finally had a chance to try it out, along with the new thread:

Left: Top.  Right: Bottom.  Funnily, the bottom looks better.
Left: Top. Right: Bottom. Funnily, the bottom looks better.

Well.  Although I think there’s still room for improvement, the very brief trial of new foot + Guetermann thread was very encouraging.  With the same thread in both needle and bobbin and an 80/12 needle, I dropped the feed dogs, took off the IDT, set the machine to the spring foot setting and the stitch length to 0 and doodled a little on a charm-square quilt sandwich.  Immediately, I was pleased to note that the thread did not break and no stitches were skipped.  WOO!  No, seriously.  That’s a BIG THING for me.  The tension seemed off, however, and decreasing the tension bizarrely seemed to make the problem worse, not better.  I could see big loops of bobbin thread being pulled up through the fabric during sewing and on tighter curves it looks like the top thread is pulled too tight, yanking the bobbin thread through the layers.  Hrmmm.

Left: Top.  Right: Bottom.  They look the same!  No loops!
Left: Top. Right: Bottom. They look the same! No loops!

I set up a new charm-square sandwich and decided to play with the pivot height, recalling Karin’s advice about the open toe feet not grabbing the fabric firmly enough and wondering if this was a root cause of my above-mentioned tension trouble.  With a pivot height of -2, the result was very good – no skipped stitches, no tension issues, no broken thread.  In fact, it was perfect until the thread that had sneakily wrapped itself around the spool pin drew tight enough to break the needle!  Ooops.  Clearly, the Guetermann spools are best used horizontally.  Lesson learned.  But otherwise, I’m quietly pleased – and will be even more pleased if I can repeat these good results consistently!

With some trepidation, I turned my attention to metallic thread.  My intention is to quilt some of the Japan Fan Club with FMQ in metallic thread, but I was having trouble getting up the courage to try metallic thread after my woes with cotton thread.  However, after changing the needle for a specialised metallic one and loading metallic thread in the needle and bobbin, I found that the Pfaff actually behaved itself… until the needle broke randomly.  No idea what caused it that time, I couldn’t see any issues with the thread path.  I did notice one single skipped stitch, which may well have been my fault anyway.Pfaff_FMQ_6

Out of curiosity, I also tried the metallic thread paired with a light-weight cotton thread in the bobbin (given the cost of metallic thread, it’s good to be able to conserve supplies where possible), which seemed to work, although it’s clear that I need to work on getting the correct tension when using metallic thread (or I need to not expect very tight turns).  Or it might be a speed issue.  Further practice and experimentation is required.  It should be fine for the Japan Fans, though – I’m hoping to do some closely echoed cloudy shapes around them on the “sky” parts of the attic windows.  I ought to be able to manage that once I’ve done the straight-line quilting of the fans themselves.

Left:  An 80/12 needle broken due to thread wrap.  Right: An 80/12 metallic needle broken due to WTF?
Left: An 80/12 needle broken due to thread wrap. Right: An 80/12 metallic needle broken due to WTF?

All in all, possibly yay?  I’m down two needles but up some almost reasonable FMQ samples.  I’m still waiting for my bobbin washers and straight-stitch plate (and supreme slider!) to show up; hopefully they’ll be the last pieces of the puzzle I need to really get FMQ with the Pfaff QE 4.2.  Hell, at this rate I may even manage QuiltShopGal’s free-motion quilting challenge for this month (I’ll try the leaves, if I can; the book she recommends isn’t out yet in the UK and I doubt I’m up to feathery hearts). *mops brow*

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