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!
(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.
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.
Initially, 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:
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.
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, 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
With 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.
To 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!)
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:
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!
After 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!