6 tips for successful piecing

While I’ve been fortunate to sew on numerous different Husqvarna Viking sewing machine models, this one is truly exciting. I think the larger size, the well-lit space and well, there’s a lot of sewing machine here to love.

This week, I’m giving the Husqvarna Viking Epic 980Q a test run from a quilter’s point of view. Quilting involves some very specific techniques and they need to be done well in order to have a beautiful quilt at the end. These are the kind of techniques that you should test on any sewing machine before you buy.

We’re going to touch on piecing – that’s critical. If it doesn’t piece well, it’s going to be very hard to get a good looking quilt. I’ll look at applique and different stitches used for applique. We’ll look at quilting, binding, and a few other things as well so make sure you stay tuned all week.

Husqvarna Viking Epic 980Q

The first thing you want to do for piecing is to attach the ¼” piecing foot that comes with the sewing machine. The width of this foot is as wide as the feed dogs which helps to hold the fabric in place and feed it evenly.

One other nice feature is the marks on the bobbin case. The most common seam allowances are marked – ¼” for quilters and ⅝” for garment sewers. This is a super feature.

The other thing I love is that the bobbin case cover doesn’t just sit in place, it’s actually hooked in place but easy to remove by hitting the little button on the right-hand side and it pops out.

You want to be using a good quality needle and good thread for piecing as well.

Quilter’s ¼” piecing foot and ¼” markings on the bobbin case

TIP 1 – hold your threads when you start

I’m not a big user of the Scissor Function – an old habit that I can’t break. As a result, you can see in the photo below that I have two threads – one coming from the bobbin area and one from the needle.

When I tried the Scissors on the Epic 980Q, the bobbin thread is cut short and stays below the stitch plate, the top thread is pulled into the bobbin area and somehow doesn’t create a thread nest on the back of the work and the needle didn’t come un-threaded.

Hmm – it might be time to break that habit. There were several reasons why I didn’t use the Scissors Function on other machines – didn’t like how long it took for the scissor function to work (but this one is fast). Sometimes the needle would come un-threaded if you started off without holding the threads. And you would get a thread nest on the back because the threads didn’t know what to do.

This doesn’t seem to be an issue with the Epic 980Q. I’m going to have to play around with the Scissor Function and see what I like.

Regardless, when you start sewing, it’s always a good idea to have those thread(s) under control to prevent them from creating a nest under your work.

Hold the threads as you start to prevent them from creating a thread nest

Alternatively, you could use a small scrap of fabric to start your work and any nest of thread would appear on the bottom of the scrap and not on your work.

TIP 2 – engage the Needle Stop Up/Down Function

If you’re chain piecing, it helps to engage the Needle Stop Up/Down Function. The needle stays down and the presser foot raises ever so slightly making it easy to insert the next piece of work right up to the needle.

This feature is also extremely useful when doing applique and quilting. I use it all the time and would be very lost without the feature. This is a deal breaker for me when looking for a sewing machine. And it’s all automatic!

Needle Stop Up/Down function keeps the needle in the down position when you stop sewing

TIP 3 – trim your threads as you go

Whether you use the Scissor Function at the end of a line of stitching or you don’t, you’ll have ends of your threads to clean up. Trim them off as it makes for much neater work. And trim them as you go – don’t wait until the end of your project.

The ends of thread from using the Scissor function, trim them off

This is one of the beauties of chain piecing. The fabric pieces are so close to each other when you’re sewing.

The ends of thread from using the Scissor function, trim them off

They’re easy to cut apart even when the chain is still connected to the sewing machine.

Snipping between the pieces of fabric once they’re sewn

After clipping apart, there are no long straggly threads to contend with.

I’ve seen some quilter’s who leave the straggly threads on their work and once the top is completed, they have the lovely task of clipping them apart. That’s not a fun job. Do it while you go whether you’re chain piecing or not. It keeps your work and eventually your quilt nice and tidy. Otherwise, those long straggly bits have a tendency to come through to the top and have to be trimmed at some point.

Nice clean ends to the seam – no threads to trim

I’m off continuing with the chain and no trimming.

Adding in the next piece to sew

TIP 4 – adjust the stitch length

The stitch length is very important. The default on the Epic 980Q is 2.5. Which is perfect if you’re making garments, but when it comes to quilting, you want those stitches to be a wee bit shorter. Quilt seams don’t need the same ease as those in a garment.

The first thing I do when I turn on the sewing machine is decrease the stitch length. I’ve done it for so long that I don’t even think about it. I just do it. Alternatively, you could create a shorter stitch length and save it in your own stitch menu, but I find it’s easier to decrease that stitch length. It’s a simple touch of one button on the touchscreen.

On the screen below, you can see that default numbers are in black. Since I’ve changed the stitch length, it changes color to alert me that I’m not using a default number. A few handy feature when you’re trying to find the default. Of course, you could always hit the stitch on the stitch menu again and it would automatically go back to the default.

Stitch length is set to 2.0

In this photo, you can see a nicely formed stitch on the front and the back of the work. I was sewing a backing for a quilt so the seam allowance is larger than ¼”.

Nicely formed stitches on the front and the back of the work

In this photo, you can see the end of the seam line is nice and tight. That isn’t going to pull apart very easily because the stitch length is small. You don’t want it too small or you’ll take forever to sew, but 2.0 has worked for me for years.

Notice that I can’t see the stitches along the seam line. That’s because the tension is awesome. I never did any adjustments and I like that. If the tension isn’t good and the stitches are showing through the seam, there’s a major problem. Not with the Epic 980Q.

Nice tight seam that won’t pull apart at the ends

TIP 5 – sew a consistent seam

Some people like to sew with a presser foot that has a flange on it. I happen to like this one. Whatever foot you prefer, you must be very consistent with your seam allowance. This is all the way from the top to the bottom. Don’t let the fabric go as you get to the end of the seam. If your seam allowance is bigger or smaller than the rest of the seam at the top or bottom, that can greatly affect how that piece fits together with the next block.

Use the edge of the ¼” piecing foot as the guide for the seam allowance

When I was pressing the seam below, something didn’t appear right at the end. Can you see how it appears to have a little fold at the end? When I looked at the seam, what do you think I saw?

The end of this seam appears to have a fold in it

When I flipped the piece over, I saw the problem. Obviously, I was in a hurry and wasn’t paying attention. I probably had my hands getting ready for the next piece and NOT holding the fabric in position until the sewing machine stopped. You can see that the seam vears off the ¼” towards the end of the seam.

A slight deviation from the ¼” seam allowance at the end of this seam

It was an easy fix. I didn’t rip it out, just went over the end of the seam, but this time making sure that I had that ¼” seam allowance. Much better and it helped when I went to put the next border on this project. It fit a whole lot better.

Quick fix – just restitch the end of the seam to get that ¼” seam allowance

TIP 6 – use the FIX function where appropriate

If you’re chain piecing or sewing a regular seam, (and you’re using a smaller stitch length), there’s no need to backstitch at the beginning or the end of the seams. But if you’re going to sew something that needs to have the stitching anchored at the end, use the FIX function and it’ll tie a small knot on the underside of the work. This is a huge time saver.

And did you know that you can chain piece and still use the FIX wherever you need it?

I was sewing some seams and then needed to sew a quilt sleeve. Rather than starting a new seam, I inserted the end of the quilt sleeve under the presser foot. I hit FIX (once I was on the edge of the sleeve), the sewing machine tied the knot and I kept sewing. When I got to the end of the quilt sleeve, I used the FIX function again and then continued chain piecing the rest of my blocks without ever breaking the chain! Now that’s very useful!

If you sewing inset seams of any kinds, the FIX function is a very important feature to have.

Using the FIX function at the end of the seam on a quilt sleeve

The need for speed

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet but is very evident when you start to sew. The Epic 980Q is built for SPEED. It sews amazingly fast. I love this feature. Now if you’re doing some very intricate piecing, you can simply control the speed with the foot pedal. If you have trouble slowing down, you can always adjust the speed on the function panel. I love this message that pops up when you touch the speed control button. Obviously, someone had a sense of humor.

But when you’re piecing backings or long borders or even blocks, you can go like the wind which is fabulous. I’ve had a bit of a time crunch on a deadline the last couple of weeks and the Epic 980Q came to my rescue as I speedily sewed countless seams.

Speed levels on the Epic 980Q

I should mention that when using the Epic 980Q for whatever technique, you want to make sure that you use the JoyOS advisor to select the type and weight of fabric that you’re using in order to set the tension and other stitch features. The default is Woven, medium weight which is what quilters mostly sew with.

There’s also a single hole stitch plate which can be useful for piecing and if you do use this stitch plate, I would engage the Stitch Width safety, which won’t allow you to select an inappropriate stitch that moves the needle out of the center position. A great safety feature.

There are many, many features that make the Husqvarna Viking Epic 980Q an amazing piecing machine. It sure makes piecing so much easier and a whole lot of fun.

Tomorrow, we’re going to look at how the Epic 980Q performs with applique.

Be sure to come back to check that out.

Have a great day!


This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1: Unboxing the Husqvarna Viking Epic 980Q

Go to part 3: 7 tips for successful applique every time!

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