So we’re still making friends here, my new Bernina and I. Doing some free motion quilting and getting to know each other better. When I used the machine in the workshop at the Museum, I was working on sample sandwiches with no patchwork, just two pieces of plain fabric with batting in between. The quilt sandwiches moved and glided like a hot knife through butter. I’m having some issues with that gliding thing here at home though, when I’m working on an actual quilt, and it’s more like slogging through mud sometimes than gliding. Some of this can probably be attributed to the difference in size: the samples were about 18″ square, and this Irish Chain quilt is, well, lots bigger obviously.
The foot on the Bernina sits lower and closer to the quilt than the free motion foot on the Pfaff…
I ordered a Free Motion Supreme Slider to hopefully help with the drag. I thought maybe just the difference in the machine bed texture and angle could be causing me some adjustment issues. Got the Slider, love it (the Supreme is way better than the first edition, BTW, since it has the self adhesive back, you have to get one of these things!), and things are better, but free motion quilting is still a drag in spots. What is this??? I’ve finally realized today that the problem is the free motion foot! The foot on the Bernina sits lower and closer to the quilt than the free motion foot on the Pfaff, and the Bernina foot catches on thick seam allowances sometimes, and creates way more drag on the whole quilt. I’m quilting along just fine, and then the drag starts, and I get smaller stitches. Then when the foot finally makes it over the lump of the seam allowance, the whole quilt jumps and I get a giant stitch before I can compensate. Even on wide open spaces, I also notice the fabric being pushed around by the foot more sometimes than it ever was on the Pfaff, just from the thickness of the batting. What to do??
I begin to wonder if the people who design and engineer these machines ever actually make a real quilt with them. Do they have real quilters test them out at all? If they did, wouldn’t this kind of thing have been noticed before? I’ve heard quilters mention this in the past, about how sometimes the foot gets caught on the seam allowances during free motion quilting, but I’ve never had it happen to me on the Pfaff. I’ve always just kind of wondered what the heck these quilters were doing, or how many layers of fabric were these catchy seam allowances anyway? So now it’s happening to me on this lovely Bernina, and I’m a bit less than impressed. So what, do I quilt the wide open spaces with the Bernina, and anything where I might have to get too close to a super scary seam allowance with the Pfaff? Really, how high maintenance and difficult does all of this have to be?
I took a good long look at the Bernina free motion foot and decided to get out the Leatherman tool and some wire. What’s the worst that can happen? If I mess it up, a new one is cheap, and if I can fix it, the reward will be invaluable. The foot has a spring that keeps it down, but will let it raise up slightly (which is probably meant to help it over seam allowances and high spots, but obviously doesn’t work very well). I wrapped a bit of wire around the little pole below the spring, so that the foot will stay up a few millimeters higher all the time. Check out the before and after pics:
The foot on the left is an unmodified free motion/darning foot, and the one on the right shows the wire, where the arrow is pointing. Click on the pic for a much bigger version, so you can see it better. This looks like such a small thing, but even just the millimeters of height that the wire added help a lot. It’s easy to do: press on the top and bottom of the foot so that the spring compresses and a space opens up under the black clip. Thread the wire (No. 20 soft galvanized, for what it’s worth), through the space and use pliers to shape it around the pole tightly. Trim off both closely ends with wire cutters, and move the cut ends around to the back of the pole, so that there are no rough edges showing.
Problem solved. The quilt now glides just like it should, because the foot is sitting too high to catch the bumpy seam allowances. I think I’m getting a tiny bit more quilt hop as the needle goes in and out, if you know what I mean, but nothing serious or distracting (and probably exactly like what happens on the Pfaff anyway), and the thread tension wasn’t affected at all. Such a simple thing to do for such a big payoff. The Bernina and I are one step closer to being friends, but I still wonder why things like that aren’t taken care of in development. Couldn’t Bernina produce a different free motion quilting/darning foot that sits higher than the regular one? Hasn’t anyone else ever thought of this??