I've spent the last few weeks dealing with FMQ headaches, as I get to know my Juki better. I've been teaching free-motion quilting now for several months, and have dealt with FMQ troubleshooting on lots of different brands, but this was my first Juki, so it's been a little bit of a challenge. Admittedly, my Viking Sapphire was extremely easy to free-motion on - turn it on, put the proper foot on and go, basically, but the Juki has taken a bit more tweaking. One of the things I hear most often in my free motion quilting classes is that the most challenging parts of FMQ is troubleshooting tension problems, so I wanted to share with you some of my tips and tricks to help you find the right settings on your machine for FMQ...
Free Motion Quilting Troubleshooting Tips & Tricks
So you're free-motioning, and things are going well at first...until blam - a skipped stitch! Or blam - thread breakage! What do you do? Follow these tips and tricks below and I feel sure you will find the answer to your problem.
1. Change your needle. If it's been on there a while, it may be worn out. More often than not, a new needle will fix things up for you. Free-motion quilting puts a lot of stress on your needle, and it's more prone to bend or warp during free-motion quilting than when piecing. I try my best to remember to start each free motion project with a fresh needle.
2. Cut both your bobbin and top threads and rethread both. Dig out your manual for this one, and follow the directions step by step. One of my FMQ students had been using her machine for over ten years, and threading it improperly all along!
3. Clean out your machine. Take out your bobbin and clean the bobbin case throroughly. Keep your eyes peeled for stray threads, too. Use a tweezer to grab any stray threads you find.
4. Try a bigger needle - your needle may be too small for this. Ultimately, this has been the biggest solution with my Juki. I'm now using a Topstitch 100/16 Needle for FMQ on the Juki, which seems to work best. It has a much larger eye than the 90/20 needle that I use on my Sapphire for FMQ, so experiment with your machine to find what works best. Bigger needles, in general, are more rigid and will resist bending, even when FMQ'ing, and the needle bending is what most often causes skipped stitches and broken threads.
5. Can you adjust the pressure of the presser foot? It may be too strong/high. On the Juki, my presser foot pressure guide looks about like so...
6. Give it some gas. If your motor (and therefore your needle) is moving too slowly, it can create additional pressure on the needle, often causing thread breakage or skipped stitches. Try to keep your speed nice and even, at a medium to fast pace, to keep your stitches even and your needle nice and sturdy.
7. What kind of thread are you using? Some machines just don't like certain brands of thread. I've found so far that my Sapphire despises Superior threads and the Juki doesn't like Coats & Clark threads. Each machine is different, so try other brands. The one thread brand that I can't recall hearing anyone say their machine doesn't like is Aurifil, so you may want to give that a try.
8. Set your stitch length to zero. Many machines don't need this in order to FMQ properly, but if you're still having trouble after all of the other steps, give this a try.
9. Make sure your needle and foot are installed properly. Double-check that your needle is fully screwed in and that your free motion foot of choice is installed accurately. I once had a student using a spring-loaded open toe foot who had stitch problems until we realized that the needle rest was not sitting on the needle screw as it should be. Once we reinstalled the foot properly, all was well!
10. Try lowering your top thread tension. Is your top thread breaking? If you've already followed the steps above, it's possible your thread tension may be too tight. Try lowering the tension.
If all else fails, take your machine in to a dealer for a full cleaning - it's possible that your machine may need to have the timing adjusted if all of these tips have failed you. Make sure to tell your dealer what's going wrong and what you've done to try to solve the problem.
By the way, if you're in the Tampa area, I'll actually be teaching my Beginning Free Motion Quilting class at Inspire Quilting & Sewing next Friday, and there are still a few seats available, so if you're new to free motioning or feel like you need help, I'd love to see you there! Have a great weekend :)