Let’s get stuck in quickly to solving these problems. Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) does not need to get complicated, and the common issues that arise are easy to fix.
You can find details of the set up for FMQ I recommend here.
The most common Free Motion Quilting problems in classes are looping of the bobbin stitches, skipped stitches, loose stitches, puckering and thread breaking, so let’s tackle these.
Looping On The Back
Beginners often find that they encounter looping on the back of their FMQ work. The immediate thought is that the tension needs to change. The problem is down to the tension, but it doesn’t need changing. What usually is happening is you may not be moving your hands at a constant speed. If you slow down the movement on some parts of a design and speed up on different others, the thread will not be delivered at a constant rate. As you move quickly, the top thread will be pulled, resulting in too much top thread, which then becomes loops on the bottom. By keeping a slower and even speed as the design is stitched out, there will be no looping at the back. If there is still looping, switch back to regular sewing with a zig-zag foot and check the tension is OK.
A few things can cause skipped stitches. You should work through this list one item at a time.
- Does the needle need changing?
- Is the needle sticky – for example, from sewing through applique work? If so, switch off the machine, remove the needle and wipe it with nail varnish remover. Replace the needle, switch the device on and try again.
- Are the stitches completing? The needle thread may not be consistently meeting the bobbin thread and completing the stitch. If the Darning Foot is adjustable, adjust it to sit slightly lower and try sewing again. Repeat this a few times to ensure that this is not the problem before moving on.
- Is the needle positioned correctly in the machine? Needles can slip downwards over time. Switch off the machine, remove and replace the needle.
- Are your threads matched? The needle thread and the bobbin thread should be of the same weight or thickness to match the threads. To check if this is the problem, wind a bobbin of the top thread, use this bobbin and see if the skipped stitch problem persists.
Loose stitches are almost certainly a threading issue. Remove all threads top and bottom and rethreads carefully, making sure the top thread is threaded with the presser foot up, and the bobbin thread goes through the bobbin thread tension guide.
Another reason for loose stitches can be mismatched threads. Use the same method as above to check if mismatched threads are the issue.
Puckering can be down to threading or that the fabric is not stable or thick enough to hold the stitches firmly. For the thread, see my suggestions above. For stability, add in some stitch and tear paper stabiliser underneath the fabric. Finally, make sure that the needle used is sharp.
Top Thread Breaking
If your thread is old or super fine, it may be prone to breaking and if this is the case, change the thread for something more suitable for the job. If the thread is fine, then work through the following actions.
- Completely rethread and test
- Clean the machine and test
- Are your threads matched? Test
- Are you moving smoothly? Is the thread breaking because it is being pulled?
- Is the machine running too slowly? Speed up and try again.
I believe the above actions will solve ninety percent of your FMQ issues. I would love to hear how you get on. Drop me an email at email@example.com and let me know.