Free motion quilting on the PFAFF power quilter 1600 [Manual Mode]

We’ve spent a couple of days getting to know the features of the PFAFF powerquilter 1600, so we can dive right in today.

The built-in four-spool thread stand

I’ve got some bobbins wound, the machine is threaded, and we’re ready to go!

As I mentioned, there are four stitching modes on the powerquilter 1600, although it’s probably more correct to say there are two stitching modes (Manual and Regulated), but within each mode, you have some choices, so there are a total of five options.

In Manual mode, the speed of the machine and how fast you move the quilt determines the stitch length. In Regulation mode, you set the number of stitches per inch, and the motor will speed up or slow down depending on how quickly you move the quilt.

Today, we’re talking about Manual mode!

The controls are on a small screen in front of you as you sit at the powerquilter 1600. The green M on the screen shows that the powerquilter 1600 is in Manual mode. Below the mode selection function, the number (2,100) represents the current number of stitches per minute if you push the foot pedal to the floor.

The control screen

Changing the number of stitches per inch using the PLUS and MINUS buttons on either side is easy. I’ve decreased the speed to 850 stitches per minute which works much better for me. As I’m stitching, the machine will not go beyond that setting.

Being able to control the maximum speed is very handy as I can quickly get up to speed by completely depressing the foot pedal, but if I need to slow down for a detailed area, I can ease back like the gas pedal on a car.

Notice the two numbers in the bottom left-hand corner beside the file folders. I can have two preset speeds, so if I prefer to use a slower speed for ruler work, I can quickly select the preset speed, and if I want to up the speed when doing free-motion, I set the other preset to the desired speed. I love this feature, so I don’t have to scroll up and down using the main speed control.

Setting the two preset options for speed control

There’s a tension mechanism on the right-hand side, and the powerquilter 1600 must be threaded correctly. It’s not a bad idea to floss the thread into the tension disks and ensure it’s correctly seated in the spring.

Using this tension mechanism can be tricky because, traditionally, there are no numbers to help adjust the tension. I’ve used this tension system for several years and learned to ‘feel’ if the tension is correct. But if you’re new to this type of tension, the screen has a great feature. In the bottom right above, you’ll see 160, a numeric value for the current tension setting.

In the photo below, I’ve loosened the tension to the value of 85. The numeric value setting for the tension is beneficial if you are changing threads, working on multiple projects at once, or are unfamiliar with the ‘feel’ of the correct tension. It’s a good idea to take note of the settings because it can significantly help you get back to work without much testing.

The numeric value for the tension is less

Now I can also baste with the powerquilter 1600 in Manual mode. When I select the B (baste) function below, notice what happens to the number of stitches indicator. It changed to 1.5s, meaning every 1.5 seconds, the powerquilter 1600 will take a stitch. The range is 0.5 seconds to 2.0 seconds. So, if I want long basting stitches, I move the quilt further between stitches, and if I wish shorter basting stitches, I move the quilt less.

The Manual basting mode

Another great feature is the needle stop, which you see on the right-hand side. It’s so important to use that feature when quilting. When you need to take your hands off the quilt to reposition it or to take a break, the needle down will prevent the quilt from moving and messing up your stitches.

The Needle Stop function

There are more options on the screen, but we’ll talk about those another day. And it’s a good idea to sit down with the User’s Guide and some scrap quilt sandwich to test out all those functions. It won’t take long, but it’s helpful to understand how they work!

OK — time to quilt! See how much room I have and how easy it is to see my work. I found a table runner I had partially quilted several years ago and decided it’s a good one to try out the Manual mode for free motion. The manual mode freaks people out, but it’s not that hard if you do some practicing, but luckily you can also use regulation mode!

Ample room to see for quilting

The first step is to bring up the bobbin thread, which is a must for quilting.

Bringing up the bobbin thread

I’ve brought up the bobbin thread, and now I’ll move the needle back to the place where the bobbin thread came up. I hold onto those threads as I take the first couple of anchoring stitches. Remember, in Manual mode, I control the stitch length, so taking a couple of stitches in place is enough to anchor the end of that line of stitching. I can also use the Needle Stop function to create a Tie-off stitch.

Getting ready to quilt

I like to use something to help move the fabric as my hands are slippery on the quilt, and I can use the Quilting Guide with a rubberized surface on the bottom.

Quilt guide to help control the quilting

Or I can wear a pair of quilting gloves. Whatever you choose, you’ll have much greater control than using your bare hands.

Quilt gloves provide control for quilting

Just because you have all that space doesn’t mean you want to lay out your project to fill the work surface. The smaller you can keep the footprint of your project, the easier it is to move, thus giving you better control. You can see that I’ve rolled the table runner to reduce the size of the project, providing better control, and less drag, which means less effort to quilt.

Reducing the footprint of the project

And here’s why we make the quilt backings larger than the top. The backing provides something to hang onto as I quilt the edge, helps control the quilting and makes it much more consistent. I’d be struggling if that backing wasn’t there.

The quilt backing is important to quilt to the edge.

Here’s another tip for free motion quilting. We tend to start at the top and work to the bottom – that’s how we read and write, so it becomes the default in other areas. By the way – if you’re interested in seeing how I created this quilted snowman table runner, refer to this blog post from a few years ago

OK – so if I start quilting at the top and work down, I can’t readily see where my quilting lines are as they’ll be behind the needle. Oh yes – I have so much space, but seeing behind the needle is still challenging. It’s much easier to start at the bottom and work up, so all the stitching is in front of the needle, and it’s a snap to see what you have already quilted.

Stitching toward the back of the work, keeping the stitches in open view

Usually, when stitching around an applique, I start somewhere along the side, where I can end my stitching at the same spot where I started. I must be out of practice because I began stitching in a corner, not in a place where I could join the end to the beginning! Oops. But when you start or stop, you can decide if you want the end stitch to meet up with the first stitch or to start your lines along a seam line or right next to your applique. Lots of options; just be mindful of the endpoint before you start.

My last stitch was along the side of the border.

Here’s the finished block with the free motion stitching done in Manual mode. It looks fantastic, and there’s so much room to work! The thing people don’t like about Manual mode is that there’s no stitch length control. If you choose the color of your thread wisely and practice, this is not an issue!

The free motion quilting in Manual mode

And here’s the back of the work. It looks fabulous. I have to say that I’m pretty happy with it, considering I don’t do a lot of free motion quilting these days. It was super easy to quilt on the powerquitler 1600 and get back in the groove.

The back of the table runner

There’s so much more to say, but I’ve run out of time today. I will say that I was quilting, and I noticed something very peculiar. When I quilt on a domestic sewing machine, I spread my arms out like I’m about to take flight, which causes all kinds of issues with my neck and shoulders. While quilting this table runner, I noticed that my arms naturally fell at my sides, which is the proper position. WOW — quilting pain-free and no visit to the chiropractor? Count me in!

The PFAFF powerquilter 1600

I’m having a blast working through this project on the PFAFF powerquilter 1600. For anyone wanting to try it, pop into your local PFFF dealer and ask for a demo. It’s so easy to learn, and it’s so easy to use.

I’ll be using the Regulation mode tomorrow, and you’ll want to know about this fantastic feature.

Have a great day!


This is part 3 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 2: More features and benefits of the PFAFF powerquilter 1600 – Get threaded!

Go to part 4: Stitch regulation on the PFAFF powerquilter 1600

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Stitch regulation on the PFAFF powerquilter 1600

More features and benefits of the PFAFF powerquilter 1600 – Get threaded!