When you’re free-motion quilting, don’t let frustration stop you in your tracks!
Here are 5 common free-motion quilting problems and how to fix them:
1. The tension isn’t balanced, causing loops or dots of thread to appear on the top or bottom of your quilt.
Before working on your quilt, practice on a scrap of fabric and batting on a regular stitch setting.
If the stitches look good, then your tension is OK. If you’re still seeing loops or dots, you need to adjust your sewing speed, or the speed at which you move your quilt through the machine.
If you do need to adjust your tension, try to adjust the top tension only. If your top stitches are too tight (bobbin thread showing on the front), loosen it by lowering the top thread tension number. If your top stitches are too loose (top thread showing on the back), tighten it by increasing the top thread tension number.
Here’s another helpful hint: use the same color thread in the top and bobbin to hide less-than-perfect tension.
2. The thread breaks in the middle of your quilt or you run out of bobbin.
If your thread breaks while quilting, or you run out of bobbin in the middle of your quilt, pull out enough stitches so that you can hand-tie a knot with both ends and pop it into the batting. Then leave loose tail ends, and start quilting again where you left off.
To prevent running out of bobbin, stitch to the edge of the quilt whenever possible and check your bobbin levels. Replace it with a fresh bobbin when it gets low. Use the leftover bobbin in your next piecing project, or use it to practice quilting on scraps.
3. The amount of quilting isn’t even throughout the quilt.
If your quilt isn’t hanging well or the borders are wavy, it’s likely that there’s an uneven amount of quilting throughout the quilt.
Add more quilting in the background areas using easy free-motion fillers such as stippling, pebbles or loops. If you don’t want the extra quilting stitches to show, use a very thin cotton thread in a neutral color, or use invisible monofilament thread.
4. You can’t decide which quilt designs to use on your quilt top.
Take a picture of your quilt top or pattern and print it off on an 8½” x 11″ sheet of paper. Use this paper to draw out possible quilting designs with a pen or pencil.
Make several copies so that you can audition different quilting designs. Once you’re happy with an idea, quilt it on a separate practice block before applying it to the actual quilt.
5. After giving it your best try, you have decided that free-motion quilting just isn’t for you.
If you’ve tried free-motion quilting and have decided it’s just not your thing, try creative quilting with your walking foot. Many of today’s modern quilting designs can be stitched by using a series of straight or wavy lines that can mimic the look of free-motion quilting.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and was been updated in December 2017.