Japan Fan Club: The Pfaff QE 4.2, Metallic Thread and FMQ

It sounds like the beginning of a dodgy pub joke, doesn’t it?

The Pfaff QE 4.2, metallic thread and FMQ walk into a pub.  The landlord looks up and says, “Sorry, I don’t serve mangled anecdotes.”

Ahem.  Anyway.  I am pleased to report that not only am I finally getting to grips with my FMQ demons, I’m doing so with metallic thread!  And it is WORKING!Japan_Fans_0503_1

(Well, kind of.)

I’m trying to do a sort of stipple effect that replicates that swirly, stylised cloud look often seen on oriental drawings and prints, with mixed success.  Sometimes it comes out quite well, other times I get lost, trapped in a corner or my hands decide to move in a direction other than the one I had in mind.  And I definitely have quilting density issues.Cloud swirl close up

However, at least I’m managing to do FMQ without lots of skipped stitches and broken thread, which is a MASSIVE win for me.  I have had the odd skipped stitch, true, but on the rare occasion it’s happened I’ve felt it was my fault for moving the quilt at the wrong moment rather than weird Pfaff-diva strop behaviour over a wrong thread/needle combo.

Japan_Fans_0503_4Initially, I started off by using white cotton piecing thread in the bobbin and my metallic thread on top in a vague effort to be a bit thrifty with my pricey speciality thread.  It worked, ish, but the white thread made its presence known, especially at any point where I made a sudden change in direction and it was pulled through to the front by the top thread.  You can easily see the build-up of white thread on the pointy bits.  :s  Not great.  Despite fidgeting with pivot height, tension and even balance, I couldn’t eliminate this effect, so after doing (and arguably making a mess of) six blocks I tucked the whole lot away until I was in a mood to tackle it afresh.

After I signed up this project as my goal for the March ALYoF challenge at Sew BitterSweet Designs and Fiber of All Sorts, I figured I’d better have another bash at it, so after polishing off some work this morning I pulled it all out, set up the Pfaff for FMQ, and got stuck in, this time with metallic thread in the bobbin as well as on top.  For any interested Pfaff owners looking for settings and pointers, here are the settings I used:Pfaff metallic FMQ settings

Feed dogs dropped, IDT system disengaged, and I’ve set up a personal stitch based on stitch 1 with the length set to 0 (because I found that if I used a pre-programmed stitch then the dratted thing kept resetting itself while I wasn’t looking) and no auto thread tie-off or cutting.  I’m using the new FMQ foot that Pfaff brought out recently, which feels like it’s doing a more competent job than the wider plastic one.  The needle I’m using is a Schmetz 80/12 metallic needle.The new Pfaff FMQ foot

You can see that I’m also using a straight-stitch plate (and have the corresponding setting enabled in the tools menu on the machine), and a Supreme Slider.  Oh, and I have a lil Teflon bobbin ring in there, too, that’s supposed to help stop thread nests.  And my wonderful (and wonderfully cheap at a whole £1.50!) FMQ gloves, without which I cannot grip and move the fabric effectively.Yes, theyre just light-weight gardening gloves!

Yes, they’re totally just light-weight work gloves, but they’re brilliant!  I’ve been reliably informed that thin cotton pimple-grip riding gloves work very well too.  Who needs to pay silly money for “special” quilting gloves?  😉

Basically, ALL of the FMQ gadget bases are covered!  I love the straight-stitch plate and can’t see it coming off the machine much – the Pfaff’s great at piecing anyway but this just makes it even better.  <3

Japan_Fans_0503_2With metallic thread also in the bobbin, the look is better.  I’m not convinced that the pull-through effect of the bobbin thread has been eliminated, though I think it is better with both threads the same.  And at least it’s much harder to detect now everything’s the same colour!

My muscle memory for the quilting pattern is improving the more I do it, though I’m finding that it’s quite an intensive process both mentally and physically, so I take little breaks often to loosen up.  I think my machine’s bed is a bit high relative to my seat height, but there isn’t a vast amount I can do about it at the moment.

Starting and ending with metallic thread

This stuff is seriously sproingy.  It honestly has a mind of its own, which makes it somewhat incompatible with the Pfaff’s built-in thread catching, tie-off and cutting features because of its irritating habit of coiling wilfully and never being in the right place at the right time.  Metallic thread has taught me about the importance of bringing both threads to the top and securing them before starting to sew in earnest, since I’d already had trouble with the metallic straight-line quilting.  It’s almost become second nature already.

Bringing the bobbin thread to the topTo bring the bobbin thread to the top, I position the needle where I want to start and use the handwheel to lower the needle to just above the fabric.  Making sure I have hold of the end of the needle thread, I give a couple of gentle taps on the pedal lower the needle and then raise it again, and a gentle pull brings up a loop of bobbin thread.  This can be easily caught and brought all the way through with the point of a seam ripper.  (Using my seam ripper for tasks other than seam ripping makes me very happy!)Japan_Fans_0503_5

Holding both threads, I sew slowly and do several very tiny stitches before setting off “properly”.  At the end of my quilting, I reverse the process to end the thread.  It’s a bit more wasteful of thread than the Pfaff’s own tie-off and cutting mechanisms, but more effective and neater.  I did have an oops moment fairly early on, though, when I managed to break a precious needle at the end of a quilting line:Japan_Fans_0503_9

I think I was pulling the needle thread too tightly and when I tapped the pedal to drop the needle, it hit the stitch plate and snapped.  I was furious with myself!  The second needle is faring better though, and I’ve completely done one curtain and am almost half-way through quilting the second. WOO!

Japan_Fans_0503_12After I’ve finished all the cloudy bits, I’ll need to decide what to do about the window frames (I think they will be quilted at least a bit, they look odd now next to the heavily quilted windows) and the back (attach next, or after more quilting?).  Decisions, decisions!  😀

Linking up to Free Motion Mavericks!

A Billion WIPs

Doing that WIP Wednesday Thing again!  Does twice count as a habit?

I’ve been muddling along with quite a few different projects recently.  Why is finishing things so hard?  But actually, I am beginning to feel more on top of my current projects.  Woo!

Continue reading A Billion WIPs

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.

Continue reading Grounds for Cautious Optimism

Creative Oozings #29 – Christmas Presents (Part 1?)

One day, I will totally follow through with my intention to start making Christmas presents early and finish them on time.  However, Christmas 2014 was no break from my usual tradition of being up in the wee small hours of Christmas Eve/Christmas Day frantically trying to finish making something, and I didn’t manage to finish anything like the amount of things I wanted to make.  That’s par for the course too, and a “tradition” I’d really like to give up!

Continue reading Creative Oozings #29 – Christmas Presents (Part 1?)

Creative Oozings #24 – Frus. Tra. Tion.

I’ve managed to get very little done recently.  Partly because I’ve had nowhere to set up a sewing machine and partly because all my sewing machines seem to be in various stages of death.  Mum’s Huskystar, which has been my principle machine for at least a year, got caught in a plumbing leak we had and was found sitting in a puddle of water.  I took it to my trusty sewing machine repair man and he worked minor miracles to clean out the rust and get it working again (fortunately it’s a purely mechanical machine), but when I came to use it at Quilt Club I found that the tension seemed to be all over the place, it was not sounding completely right, and then a screw fell out while I was doing a bit of free-motion quilting on the border.  Ack.  And Toby’s quilt is now partially quilted but I think I’m going to have to rip it all out and start again because the back is a nightmare of loops.  I’m going to take it back to Mr Knight to see if anything can be done to salvage it (again!).  But that’s ok, I thought – I have my cheap-ass AEG machine that I bought in Germany!  It’s been serviced and sorted after I accidentally nadgered it, let’s see how that works out.  It won’t FMQ (can’t drop the feed dogs), but maybe I can make a start on piecing Jess’s quilt!

Continue reading Creative Oozings #24 – Frus. Tra. Tion.

Creative Oozings #21 – Joining the Japan Fan Club

When I entered the Pembrokeshire Country Show, at pretty much the last possible minute, I had more ideas than actual finished articles.  I knew I wanted to do the two baby quilts for the patchwork quilt class, and had high hopes of finishing off mum’s door curtain and making up a new bag to enter into the patchwork items class, so I paid for two entries for each class and set to.Japanese fans Continue reading Creative Oozings #21 – Joining the Japan Fan Club

Creative Oozings #19 – A Crafting Holiday: Star Baby Quilt

I love batik fabrics, and had collected quite a few batik fat quarters with no specific plan for what to do with them.  With my sister’s baby due at the end of August, I decided to use my batik pretties to make a quilt for the new baby.  The advantage of my batik collection is that it isn’t particularly male or female oriented; a bonus because the gender of the baby was going to be a surprise!  To make sure I actually got on and finished it in good time, I also planned to enter it into the Pembrokeshire County Show.  I took a week “off” from editing to concentrate on finishing this quilt and the Birds and Bees quilt.  (I had hopes of making some other things too, but underestimated how much work even two smallish quilts would be for a comparative quilting novice!)

I’d taken a great fancy to the Sparkle Punch quilt on the Oh Fransson blog, and thought it would look very well with a vibrant selection of batiks.  I bought a few more fabrics to round out my colour palette, and decided on the size of my squares to make up the stars.star_layout Continue reading Creative Oozings #19 – A Crafting Holiday: Star Baby Quilt

Creative Oozings #17 – A Busy Couple of Months

Long time, no post.  Not because I haven’t been doing things, more because I’ve not stopped doing things.  August and September have seen several completed quilty bits, several shows of varying sizes, and a new member of the family, among other things.  It’s not been dull!

Below are some sneak peeks of things I’ve made over the last couple of months; I’ll add links to the specific posts as I write them.

Continue reading Creative Oozings #17 – A Busy Couple of Months

Creative Oozings #16 – A Splash of Sun

I’m a member on Craftster, and while browsing around on there the other day, I spotted the Challenge Section for the first time and the upcoming challege – 100 things – caught my eye.  Some time ago, I’d been reading the blog over on Oh Fransson and had admired her Postage Stamp tutorial.  100 things, I decided, could *definitely* be 100 squares of fabric!

Yellow squares Continue reading Creative Oozings #16 – A Splash of Sun