- Do not use low Quality Thread
I like to use Gutermann thread most of the time.
- Do not use low Quality Batting : I always use Warm & Natural — I used to use the polyester batting all the time (because it’s cheaper). However, I have found that using a high quality batting prevents the majority of this problem!
- Work on getting the timing between how fast you’re moving your fabric through the machine and how fast you’re pushing your pedal on your machine down to a science. Play around with your machine and practice free-motion quilting. Sometimes, moving the fabric too fast under the machine can cause bobbin thread issues.
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, here are a few things I look and feel for while free motioning to indicate if my bobbin stitches are going crazy:
- Within about 20 seconds of beginning your free motioning, take your hand and feel under the quilt along the stitches that you have already made. [For the most part], good clean stitches should not be easily “felt”. However, when there is a problem with the bobbin thread (or, the back side of the quilt), it is easily felt. It has a distinct texture.
- If you are not sure about if what you’re feeling on the bottom of your quilt is “good” stitches or “bad” stitches, simply lift up your quilt sandwich and take a peek.
- For the frequent free-motioners: You know what your specific machine is supposed to sound like, look like, and feel like while free motion quilting. So, be on the lookout for ANYTHING out of the ordinary. It could indicate bad bobbin stitches. If so — you want to catch it as early as possible so there are not as many stitches to rip out and re-do!
Here are a few things to try if/when this happens to you. I put these in order according to how I try to fix the problem. If the second tip fixes the problem — I just continue free-motioning. However, sometimes it is just not that simple and I am forced to continue trying different things.
- First: Remove the quilt, grab your seam ripper, and take out all of the bad stitches. You only need to remove [starting] where the bad stitches begins and [ending] where you quit free-motioning.
- Second: Remove your bobbin and re-insert it into your machine. Sometimes, bobbins just act strange in the free motion process. They get a little “off” and just need refreshing. Try to free-motion again. If you continue to get “bad” stitches, move to the third tip.
- Third: Remove your bobbin again. Re-insert it into the machine. Then, remove your top thread completely and re-thread it into the machine. Try to free-motion again. If you continue to get “bad” stitches, move to the fourth tip.
- Fourth: Remove your bobbin and top thread. Try and clean your machine as best as you can. Sometimes, particles from batting, fabric, and thread “lint” gets into the machine and clogs it up — causing problems. Try to free-motion again. If you continue to get “bad” stitches, move to the fifth tip.
- Fifth: Get a fresh bobbin! Sometimes, although I don’t know why… bobbins just don’t cooperate. So, at this point, just try a completely new bobbin. Try to free-motion again. If you continue to get “bad” stitches, move to the sixth tip.
- Sixth: Change your needle. Sometimes a dull needle can cause a lot of unwanted problems while quilting. Although I am NOT a proponent of changing the sewing needle on every new project — sometimes needles do get too dull to do a good job. Try to free-motion again. If you continue to get “bad” stitches, move to the seventh tip.
- Seventh: Make sure your tension is set to “auto” or “0”. **Depending on your machine, this tip might be a slight bit different. Make sure to look in your machines’ manual to see if it has any instructions on the bobbin tension while free-motioning. Try to free-motion again. If you continue to get “bad” stitches, move to the eighth tip.
- Eighth: Let your machine rest. If you have tried ALL of the other tips above and your thread is still not behaving right, there is a pretty good chance that you are EXTREMELY frustrated and burnt out of trying to fix this problem. So, if possible, put your quilt away… shut your machine off… and come back to it later.
I have had times that walking away from the machine was the ONLY option. I had already tried all of the other tricks — and none had worked.
Although I am an experienced quilter — these tips are not a “fix all” strategy. These are just things that I do to try and fix the thread problem when this happens to me. The majority of the time, all it takes to fix the problem is to re-do the bobbin. However, sometimes fixing the problem takes alot more time and effort than simply changing the bobbin.
These tips are strictly from my experience while free motion quilting.
If you have any additional tips and tricks to fix this problem — I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to comment!