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6 tips to improve your machine quilting


What do you think? The Husqvarna Viking Epic 980Q is a fabulous machine for quilters. There are so many features and functions that make working on any quilting project so much easier. I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface, but hopefully, you’re getting the idea of how wonderful the Epic 980Q is.

Have you put to good use the 7 (and the Bonus) tips for successful applique from yesterday’s post?

Today, we’re going to focus on quilting. I will confess that this aspect frightens me a little bit. Normally, I do all my quilting on a long arm machine. However, I teach others how to quilt on a domestic sewing machine so how hard can it be?


Husqvarna Viking Epic 980Q
Husqvarna Viking Epic 980Q


TIP 1 – clean your bobbin case

I haven’t been sewing on the Epic 980Q for very long, but I thought I should have a peek at the bobbin case area under the stitch plate. Yikes – that’s a lot of dust and lint that shouldn’t be there. I did sew a flannel quilt so that probably contributed to the mess.

Lint in the bobbin case isn’t good for the tension – get rid of it! My rule of thumb is to wind five bobbins and when the bobbins are used up, clean the bobbin case area and wind five more bobbins. OK – so I was overdue to clean the bobbin case.


Bobbin case area is full of lint and dust that needs to be cleaned
Bobbin case area is full of lint and dust that needs to be cleaned


This is one time when I use the Scissor function. That’ll reset the rotating holder that the bobbin case sits in and by using the Scissor function, it’ll be reset in the right orientation for the bobbin case to sit in properly.

TIP 2 – change the needle

It’s not only important to change the needle, but it’s important to use the correct needle. While you might be able to get away with using your regular needle, I find that using a topstitch needle is the way to go. It’s a strong needle, with a slightly thicker shaft so it’ll create a hole through the quilt sandwich that allows the thread to pass through the multiple layers without shredding or breaking. It also has a larger eye to help eliminate friction which can also cause shredding or breaking of your thread.


Change the needle and use the correct needle
Change the needle and use the correct needle


I’ve also switched out the general purpose stitch plate for the Straight Stitch Plate. This will help to hold the quilt sandwich tighter and creates a better-formed stitch. Don’t forget to use the Stitch Width Safety feature to prevent broken needles should you decide to change the stitch.

TIP 3 – use the proper foot for the job

For this project, I’ll be starting off with stitch in the ditch quilting so I’ve attached the Dual Feed Foot which comes with the Epic 980Q. It has a couple of interchangeable feet so depending on the job you’re doing, you’ll find one of the feet that works for you.

I’m doing stitch in the ditch and I want to see where I’m going so I’ve chosen an interchangeable foot with great visibility.


Dual Feed Foot (aka as the walking foot)
Dual Feed Foot (aka as the walking foot)


Tip 4 – Use the appropriate thread for the job

I’m going to stitch in the ditch. I don’t want the stitches to show. As a result, I want to use a very fine thread. One of my favorite threads for stitch in the ditch is WonderFil Invisafil. It’s very fine, comes in lots of colors and works like a charm to make those stitches disappear.


WonderFil Invisafil thread (a sample size spool)
WonderFil Invisafil thread (a sample size spool)


I remember when I first started to quilt, I had no idea what stitch in the ditch meant and there certainly wasn’t the same number of resources then as we have now. Essentially you’re stitching right along the stitch line. That information, by the way, is in the JoyOS advisor! Having that information so close at hand would have been very handy when I was learning.

In the photo below, you can see how close I’m getting to the seam line. You want to snug that line of stitching as close as you can without touching the other side of the seam. Essentially you’re stitching on the side of the seam where the seam allowance is not. It’s not a good idea to press your seams open if you’re going to stitch in the ditch.


Stitching in the ditch
Stitching in the ditch


Depending on whether you’re using the Scissors or not, I bring the bobbin thread to the top. If you’re using the Scissor function, that bobbin thread will be too short to bring to the top of the work. Again, this prevents the threads from nesting on the bottom of your project.


Bring the bobbin thread to the surface of your work if you're not using the Scissor function
Bring the bobbin thread to the surface of your work if you’re not using the Scissor function


In the photo below, you can “see” the stitch in the ditch stitches. On the left-hand side of the blue, I stitched on the white fabric and on the right-hand side, I stitched on the blue fabric. It all depends to which side the seam allowances were pressed. That’s where a very thin, neutral thread helps to hide those stitches.


Invisible stitches for the stitch in the ditch process
Invisible stitches for the stitch in the ditch process


Even though my project is small, it was fabulous to have so much room to the right of the needle. I normally don’t suggest pivoting when doing stitch in the ditch, but this piece was so small and there was so much room that it was easy to pivot around the corners and not cause any bunching of the project.

And the light? Well, there was no danger of not seeing the work. This light system is AMAZING.


Lots of room to move the project around to the right of the needle
Lots of room to move the project around to the right of the needle


And when I needed to roll up the project on the last block, there was plenty of room to support that project. Can you imagine what it would be like to work on a large quilt? There would be so much room. No more squishing the quilt into a tiny space.


Plenty of room to support the quilt project
Plenty of room to support the quilt project


TIP 5 – use gloves and a quilting table

I don’t find these two tools critical to stitch in the ditch quilting, but they are essential to free motion quilting. The extension table is beautifully designed with a curved front edge to help the fabric or quilt glide over the edge of the table as you work. While you don’t need huge amounts of space, you certainly need somewhere for your left hand to help “drive” the quilt. The extension table is a must. I use it all the time, even when piecing.

The table has supporting legs beneath it that fold into the table making it very compact to carry. A good tip – the legs are adjustable – make sure the bottom of them are sitting on the table! I couldn’t figure out why the table was a wee bit rocky. When I looked, I had a good laugh as one of the legs was about ¼” above the table. Aha – no wonder! Now it works like a charm.

And gloves – gloves are essential. If you don’t use them, you won’t have nearly as much control as if you did wear the gloves.


Gloves and a quilting table are essential tools for free motion quilting
Gloves and a quilting table are essential tools for free motion quilting


TIP 6 – check the back of your work – OFTEN

Once I finish quilting every element, I check the back of the work. Do I have any tucks? No! Do I have any puckers or rippling in the next section that needed to be quilted? If so, then I fix it before I moved on?

I sometimes give the piece a quick, light press after every element of stitching, just to make sure the layers are well secured and to iron out any ripples towards the outer edges.

Whether you’re doing straight lines or intricate work, you need to periodically look at the back of the work. If you’ve got a tuck on the very first line, you’re going to make it worse if you don’t fix it right then.

If the piece requires any stitch in the ditch quilting, I do that first. This helps to anchor the three layers and then once I’m comfortable that the backing is well secured, I can start to do the free motion quilting and I know I shouldn’t get tucks or puckers on the back.


No tucks or puckers on the back of the work
No tucks or puckers on the back of the work



Stitch in the ditch is completed - no tucks or puckers on the front
Stitch in the ditch is completed – no tucks or puckers on the front


Free motion quilting

Free motion quilting seems to put a fear into everyone. Here’s where you just have to let loose and go. There are lots of tricks to improving the actual free motion stitch, but the best tip I can give you is to use a thread that blends into your project so no one can see all the little booboos. And practice, practice, practice. I can’t say that last one enough. It’s important to doodle your designs on paper and then doodle them on practice quilt sandwiches.

You want to use the correct foot as well for free motion. I really like the spring action foot.


Spring action free motion quilting foot
Spring action free motion quilting foot


Here’s one thing I love about the Epic 980Q. There’s a button on the interactive touchscreen that automatically puts the sewing machine into free motion quilting mode. No need to remember where the feed teeth switch is. No need to remember to put them back up when you’re done.

When you hit the button, you get a choice of which foot you’re using – the spring action or the floating. I like the spring action. I like the fact that you also get some information to help you decide which foot you should be using.

Once you find something that works, I like to stick with it so spring action works for me! Notice you’re even reminded to use the Straight Stitch Plate. It’s like having a quilting teacher beside you when you’re quilting. It doesn’t get any better than this!


Free Motion Options on the interactive touchscreen
Free Motion Options on the interactive touchscreen


One thing I found in the setting menus was a clock! Wow – I’ve never had a clock on my sewing machine before. This is great – or maybe it isn’t. You know how easy it is to lose track of time when you’re having fun!

The clock is totally configurable – you can position it on the top menu bar. You can use the 24-hour clock or the 12-hour clock. And at one point in the day, I came back to the sewing machine and saw the clock ticking away as my screensaver! How cool is that!


The 24-hour clock is positioned at the top of the interactive touchscreen
The 24-hour clock is positioned at the top of the interactive touchscreen


Anyway, back to the free motion. There’s no way around it, but practice is the only thing that makes perfect for free motion. I think I need a wee bit more practice on some of these stitches. But one of the things that I did to make my life easier was to reduce the speed. It’s easy to get working away and next thing you know you’re going at a great rate of speed and your stitches are getting smaller and smaller. Once I reduced the speed of the sewing machine, that eliminated one variable that I didn’t have to think about. That helped a LOT.

A little bit more practice and I should be good to go. But I had no time to delay, I needed to get this runner quilted. I actually enjoyed the process and I have a lot of other small projects, I think I might just do a wee bit more quilting on the domestic machine. It’s nice to have options.

The other thing that I noticed is the power of the Epic 980Q as the needle penetrated the quilt sandwich. I was using a fairly thick fabric for the backing that had pigment on it. The background fabric on the front was the same fabric. Add in the seam allowances and you have a recipe for disaster.

The Epic 980Q penetrated through all thickness without so much as a hiccup. It was great. I have to say that I actually enjoyed the quilting process and it wasn’t because of my skill. It was because I’m working on an awesome sewing machine that works as it’s supposed to. And as I want it to.


The front of the quilted table runner
The front of the quilted table runner



The back of the quilted table runner
The back of the quilted table runner


There you have it – some great tips on quilting with the Husqvarna Viking Epic 980Q. I’m very excited about this sewing machine. It’s an amazing sewing machine and I’m in love with it.

Tomorrow, I’m going to give you some tips on trimming and binding that table runner. This year is all about finishing projects so binding is a very important part of that process.

Have a great day!



This is part 4 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 3: 7 tips for successful applique every time!

Elaine Theriault is a teacher, writer and pattern designer who is completely obsessed with quilting. Elaine’s Tech Tips column (originally published in A Needle Pulling Thread magazine) is now available online in e-book format at When not quilting, she enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Lexi and Murphy, or can be found cycling across the country. Her blog is


  1. Rose Sivers

    You mentioned how to get to the free motion quilting options but I don’t see one on my 980Q. Where is this option? My apologies but when I bought this new machine a few months ago they only give the new owner classes during the week and I work M-F, so I’m learning as I go.

    • Rose — there should be a button on the main screen with a squiggle in the box. Hit that button to move the 980Q into free motion mode. Let me know if you can’t find it. Elaine

  2. Cecilia

    Thank you for the great tips.

  3. Shelley

    What settings do you use when you use a 50 wt thread in the bobbin and top? I want to use Aurifil 50 wt for straight quilting and free motion quilting. My bobbin thread is pulling up and my top thread looks like it is one continuous stitch.

    • Shelley — if we look at your top tension as the problem only because it’s easier to touch the top tension, then the top is TOO tight. You need to lower the tension on the top. But I’d ask the question – what does the stitches look like when you’re piecing? If you’re using the same settings as when you piece, you shouldn’t have to make any changes. Elaine

  4. Manon Lepage

    Thanks for all those little reminder. Will help me.

  5. Sandy Allen

    Thank you for all the information and the GREAT pictures! It helps me to see what is going on more than to read about it. 🙂

  6. Nancy Wright

    Thanks for the great tips, Elaine! What thread do you use in the bobbin when you use Invisafil in the top? Thanks!

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