Saturday, October 23, 2010

Skipping Along

I am back home from my wonderful time in Paducah at the National Quilt Museum and two classes for 39 terrific quilters.  The weather was amazing, the best I've ever experienced there, cool at night, dry and sunny and 70's in the day with autumn color and deep blue skies.  Lovely.

We quilted and we learned.  I always learn so much from those in class and we laughed a lot too.  One of the techniques I stressed this time was curving parallel lines, and learning to echo quilt well so that anything is possible. 

Depending on the batt, thread used, fabrics, as well as design choice, switching to a smaller needle gave a better result unless one of those things wasn't quite right, and then we had problems. 

One problem can be skipped stitches, see sample in photo above.  Everything was working fine for one student until she put in a #60 needle with a fine cotton thread.  A combination of the thin batt and the small needle caused skipped stitches.  Going back to the #70 needle solved the problem. 

Almost always skipped stitches are caused by one of the following:
  •  the needle being too small for the thread
  •  the batt being very thin and flat
  •  the presser foot pressure too low
  •  a defective needle
  •  threading done incorrectly
  •  hands too fast for the speed of the machine
Sometimes it is a combination of things, so try one thing at a time.  Re-thread, try a bigger needle, check the pressure on the foot for the thickness of the batt.

The thicker and poufier the batt, the lower the pressure on the foot should be so the quilt will glide smoothly and easily.  I switch mine to a lower pressure if I need to quilt over an island of puff without causing pleats,  increase it for doing free motion straight lines for a bit more control.  I usually decrease the pressure a bit for any free motion quilting for ease of movement, and to avoid the dreaded snowplowing of excess fabric, and the inevitable pleat that results.

Also, slow down your hands to a smooth even consistent motion.  If you want to move them faster, increase the speed of the machine to keep up with them.  Needles stop breaking and skipped stitches will be a memory.

By the way, in the photo, above, the thread tension is perfect.  You want a softly curving stitch, no visible bobbin thread, that showcases the thread, that doesn't stretch it flat and tight.  I usually recommend for all free motion quilting lowering the top tension one number.  Some of the newer machines might need less, or some not any depending on the thread, but a little leeway for the stitches to go in all directions is a very good thing.  And I didn't really have skipped stitches; I moved the needle over a bit and then continued to get a facsimile of a skipped stitch.

Try some curving, echoed lines for an interesting new way of quilting.  The bowl, above, should give you some ideas and a challenge!

I will be teaching at the museum in Paducah, KY next October in 2011, an introductory class first for quilters with free motion experience, and an advanced class for returning students to continue the adventure.  Check the museum's website for information; there are still openings in these classes, and I have not booked any more events after '11.

It's great to be home, Oliver really, really missed me and spent all day yesterday playing, attacking me, helping me unpack, scratching my suitcases, and having an ecstatic cat day.  I wish I could take him along, but perhaps his adventures will have to remain sniffing my shoes and clothes and wondering where I have been.

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day!


Doodlequilter said...

HI Diane, I'm glad you had a wonderful class. I love this challenge! If you can get comfortable with smooth curved echoed lines, then you will probably be ready to conquer the world. Thank you for the check list on skipped stitches. I have also found that I have more of a problem with skipped stitches on a machine with a "drop in " bobbin rather than an under the presser plate vertical bobbin carriage.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Doodlequilter, yes the key to good free motion quilting is the even stitches, good spacing in all directions--without turning the quilt, of course, :-). That's interesting about the drop-in bobbins. I prefer the vertical ones as well for stitch quality in general. Tougher to load them, but worth it.

Paducah was lovely, and demolition on the Executive Inn is underway. The big "E" will be no more.....lots of good memories there for me.

Linda and Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Diane Gaudynski said...

Linda said: "Some more great ideas for me!! I would love to order your book - it's on my wish list for hubby."

And Linda, I know how it is to confuse people! Her last comment which was deleted above referred to another Diane entirely. I tried to fix it but only compounded the problem, now it looks as if that comment was somehow offensive. I'll read more carefully next time.

SewCalGal said...

Great tips Diane, as always. Thank you.

And I'm sure Oliver missed you, very much!


Sue said...

Appreciate the list of what to look for on skipped stitches. One other problem I had was that the bobbin case assembly (not really sure of the name for it) on my old but faithful Bernina 180 was worn and rounded off. (It had always made gorgeous stitches and never skipped.) After prodding the repairman to look at the machine closely, he found that part of the machine was worn off from all the use it had been given-I do love my machine and to quilt. $250 later I have a great machine again. It was worth the money to get a new part.

I am hoping to enroll in your class in Oct. 2011. Love reading your blog.

Diane Gaudynski said...

SewCalGal, yes Oliver missed me so much he is showing his happiness by once again chewing on my computer power cord! It's hard to hide it when it goes to your laptop....on your lap. Ah, what to do.

Sue, I neglected to mention if these solutions don't work and you still have skipped stitches, do exactly what you did, have your service tech check that machine carefully, and explain the problem.

Sometimes it is timing, or needle alignment, or a worn, damaged, or faulty part. Definitely worth replacing on a machine like yours!

I think my Bernina 180 made some of the best stitches ever. My 200 just had a wonderful workout in my museum classes and sounds much better now. It had sat too long without some consistent use, because it is my backup machine to my Bernina 730.

If you can't get to the bottom of a machine problem, go directly to your service person for help. Sometimes even a routine cleaning and checkup will solve problems you've been having.

Quiltinjeni said...

I am SO GLAD I am registered for the 2011 class! I have been trying for years to get to one of your classes. Looking forward to it greatly! Are you going to teach after next year?

:) Jennifer W.

Diane Gaudynski said...

Jennifer, I am so glad you'll be in my class, that's great. There are still a few spots.

I haven't scheduled anything for '12. Keeping my options open.

Ivory Spring said...


This is a most timely post! I recently had the same problem with doing buttonhole stitches. My stitches would skip, causing me to have incomplete button stitches. Using needles one size up solved the problem!

BarbaraShowell said...

needle inserted incorrectly! That one, and threading wrong (usually thread has jumped somewhere along the path) are the reasons that get me 99% of the time. Sometimes just loosening, ensuring the needle is inserted all the way up, and then retightening work. Recently fiddled with my vintage singer for a day before taking the needle OUT and seeing once again! I had the flat part of the needle in the wrong place.