The Free Motion Quilting Project: Get to Know Your Machine - Sit Down Quilting #4

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Get to Know Your Machine - Sit Down Quilting #4

Time for another Sit Down Quilting Sunday! For the past few weeks I've quilted on practice quilt sandwiches because I was mostly making a mess as I adjusted my machine's tension and ran a speed test to get used to the speeds of the Grace Qnique 14+.

But practice sandwiches will only get you so far. To really get the feel for any machine you have to start quilting real quilts. Quilting on a real quilt feels very different because you have a different focus. You want to see only pretty, balanced stitches and anytime the machine skips stitches, breaks thread, or does anything else weird, it's going to get your attention. See what I mean in this new quilting video:

Click Here to learn more about the Grace Qnique 14+.

I'm quilting a  little pear table runner I bought at Ikea a few years ago. I always wanted to quilt this with a variety of funky designs to go with the brightly printed pears.

To set off the background design, I decided to start with simple echo quilting around each pear shape. This is a printed panel so I don't have any piecing lines or lumps or bumps from applique shapes to get in my way. I really think cheater cloth fabric panels like this are a great choice for your first quilting project on a machine because it's flat, easy to quilt, and if you make a mistake it's not that big of a deal.

I've actually designed a few cheater cloth panels for Spoonflower which can really help you if you're just getting into machine quilting on any style or type of machine. Click Here to check them out.

Now for a few things I noticed about my machine - when quilting backwards and moving the quilt away from my body for longer than 4 inches, I noticed some skipped stitches. As soon as I noticed the issue I worked to rotate the quilt more to avoid that direction and the skipping stopped, but it's still something I'm going to keep an eye on.

Sometimes skipped stitches are caused by direction and sometimes a combination of factors like the thread, height of the foot over the quilt, and the fabric you're quilting through.

I hadn't experienced this issue before so I believe it's caused by the variegated thread I'm using on this quilt. I rarely use variegated thread for exactly this reason - it's finicky.

I've found variegated threads that change thickness along with color so your tension fluctuates as the color changes on the quilt (super annoying) and I've also found variegated threads can be less durable with a greater chance of shredding or breaking as you quilt at high speeds.

It could have also been the height of my quilting foot. I just received a new open toe foot from Grace Company that has an opening that faces me with my machine set up like a home machine. This is a new foot and if you'd like to order one for your machine just contact Grace Company and mention you saw it in my video.

I played around with the height of the foot quite a bit and I'll be sharing another video soon on how to adjust the height to get it just right for any quilt.

Ultimately I found this project super helpful for getting to know this machine. I broke thread several times, skipped some stitches, and had to rip some quilting out, but  I've begun to tune into the noises the machine makes when it's not 100% happy and prevent issues before they happen. That's really the whole point!

What do you think of this idea? Have you bought a new machine recently and been afraid to use it to quilt a real quilt? What do you think is holding you back the most?

Share your thoughts and experience and any questions you have in the comments below!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. I am really finding these videos helpful. Thanks.

  2. Yes the videos are great! Is the (14) the size of the throat and also would you recommend this machine for a brand new free motion quilter?

    1. The harp space is 15 inches from the needle to the back of the machine. It's hard to say if this would be a good choice for someone new to free motion quilting. On the one hand, you would have plenty of space and it wouldn't be as finicky as learning on a home machine, but on the other hand this is a big investment and you might not like this style of quilting at all. My best advice is to find a dealer or show you can test drive any machine so you can get the feel for it before buying.

  3. Are you going to quilt inside the pair? Follow the design of the pair?

    1. I honestly haven't decided yet. I might quilt a larger design inside the pear shapes or follow the design that's printed on them.

  4. I find your videos inspiring and so helpful! I've never used varigated thread, but I really like this color! I listened again, and again, but couldn't understand what brand this thread is! Can you tell me the brand and color? Thank you! It always makes me smile, when I hear you say "Hello my quilting friends!"

    1. Sorry about that! I'm using YLI Variations variegated thread. It's a very subtle variegated thread that I really love and it feels and stitches almost identically to Isacord.

  5. My husband has just bought me the Q'nique +14 longarm machine with the stand. I am thrilled to pieces. I am seriously thinking about buying your already printed building blocks to practise on once I have fiddled with the machine on plain calico first. I have your courses on Craftsy and first got to know you when I made the Free Amy Gibson monthly blocks. This quilt is proudly displayed on a wall in my daughters house passage. I get to enjoy looking a my first fmq whenever I visit (about once a year) I am following you on the Q'nique now and I have bought your rulers so hope to work with those as well. Thanks for sharing your talent with us all. Karen RSA


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