Free Motion Quilting Options and Spools?

It’s my second week guest blogging about the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q. There’s lots more to explore this week. Today we’re going to look at free motion quilting options and spools. I have a great project lined up and in a couple of days, I’ll recap it all with my Top Ten list. Stay tuned!

I’ve been involved in the quilting process for 16 years. As I teach and chat with friends, guild members and online groups, there are a couple of themes that seem to be very common.

1. People do NOT have the time (or they don’t want) to experiment with their sewing machines.

2. People are afraid of change.

I was playing around with the 690Q this morning and I discovered something. Well – not that it’s much of a discovery, but let’s just say that I can now document the situation.

Spools of Thread

I’m going to discuss this topic some more tomorrow – it’s that important. Here’s the deal. You put your thread on the sewing machine, load up a bobbin, select the stitch and start to quilt. Wait a minute! This looks horrible. And then people proceed to blame the sewing machine.

Let’s STOP right here and discuss this. Is it really the sewing machine?

This morning when I grabbed a spool of thread, I never really gave much thought to it. OK – it was orange and that was good enough for me! I loaded it on the sewing machine. The spool was TOO large to be loaded in the horizontal position (trust me I tried to make it work), but the spool was just slightly too big. The thread kept rubbing between the spool and the machine, so I put the thread in the upright position.

My LARGE spool of thread in the upright position.

Now technically, this is correct, however, that spool of thread is big (and heavy). As the sewing machine start to sew, it has to labour to pull the thread and on one side of the spool, the thread will come off more easily than on the other side. I pulled my line of stitching off the machine – had a look and almost died. Oh boy – this is NOT going to work.

Not only was the stitch length extremely uneven, but the tension was way too tight on the top.

Hmmmmm – this is a major problem and has nothing to do with the sewing machine. Definitely an operator error. Should you want to use this size of spool and it will not fit in the horizontal position (where there is no drag), you’ll have to consider using an external thread stand.

In my case – I got a different spool of thread.

Different brand of thread – much smaller spool.. I placed it in the vertical position.

The only thing I changed between these two stitch outs is the spool of thread. Both were in vertical position. Length of stitch is the same. There’s a significant improvement in the second stitch-out.

However, I still wasn’t happy as this is fairly thick thread I’m using and the stitch length should be longer. The machine was set at 3.0, but this isn’t a 3.0 stitch out.

I decided to lay the spool of thread down in the horizontal position.

Same spool of thread in the horizontal position. Note that I added a spool cap to the end. Now the spool does NOT rotate so there is NO drag coming from the thread.

Again – I did NOT make any changes to the machine settings. Just changed the position of the spool of thread. Do you see that the bottom stitches are larger and more even than the top line of stitching?

I hear so much about the evenness of the stitch length. And YES – the feed dogs on the sewing machine will give you a nice even stitch, but you have to make sure that things are set up for the machine to give you what it’s supposed to.

Anyway – I thought I would share that with you, since many of us never take the time to mess around with that kind of thing. Next time you’re sewing – have a look at your thread and your stitches. Are you happy with them? If not – then take ten minutes and do some experimenting.

Machine Quilting

The Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q is a wonderful machine for quilting. While the Opal 690Q comes with one free motion foot, there are several others that you can get depending on your needs. It has the capacity to handle the Spring Action feet as well as the Floating free motion feet.

The Opal 690Q comes with the Embroidery/Darning Foot R. The Free Motion Floating foot, the Free Motion Spring Action Foot and the Walking Foot are additional feet that you can purchase.

The Free Motion Spring Action foot

The Free Motion Floating Foot

One of the things that I love about both of these feet is that they are OPEN at the front. If I want to see exactly where I’m going – I can see everything without having to look through a closed loop foot.

Now the big question I’m sure you have is why do I need two Free Motion feet and when do I use one versus the other?

I asked the same question… I should have known the answer when I did my stitching. Remember I was using a fairly thick thread. When I used the Free Motion Spring Action foot – I had no trouble stitching, but when I tried to use the Free Motion Floating Foot my thread kept breaking.

Turns out the Free Motion Spring Action foot keeps the fabric from lifting with the needle as the stitch is being formed which helps eliminate thread breakage with specialty or heavier threads. The spring moves the foot up and down with the motion and holds the fabric on the stitch plate as it forms the stitch. 

I never knew that! Since the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q is able to accommodate both types of feet – that is a HUGE bonus!

Stitch out with free motion quilting

Setting up the machine for free motion

Before you start to free motion, there are a couple of settings that you must adjust in order to be successful.

1. Drop the feed dogs. This is easy as the button is right on the front of the sewing machine.

Slide lever to lower the feed dogs

2. If the extension table isn’t already on the Opal 690Q, remove the tool box and slide the extension table into place.

You will love using this extension table. The curved front means less fatigue on your wrists as there is no sharp edge for them to rest on. Also less drag on your quilt because of the curved edge.

3. Based on your thread selection, choose the appropriate foot. Either the Free Motion Spring Action (for heavier threads) or the Free Motion Floating Foot (for lighter weight threads)

4. In the SET Menu – choose the appropriate setting for the Free Motion foot that you selected.

The SET MENU – where I can select which method of free motion that I am going to do.

Now you’re set. Those few simple settings give you a lot of flexibility in what you are quilting and with what type of thread. Trust me – the feet and the setting make a HUGE difference.

Should you finish quilting, but forget to put your machine back into regular sewing mode – you’ll get a pop-up message when you turn your machine on. Simply change the settings in the SET MENU and raise the feed dogs and you’re good to go.

The POP-UP message when you turn on the machine

As I mentioned earlier, our sewing machines provide so many options that sometimes it’s overwhelming, we get frustrated and blame the sewing machine. In fact, the number of options available are there to reduce our frustration level, by providing specific options for the task at hand.

Although we’d rather quilt than read…I cannot emphasize enough that when buying a new sewing machine it’s imperative to read the manual. (OK – I’m usually guilty of this – but I won’t be in the future).

Take the classes offered by your dealer or spend a couple of days and just play. You would be amazed at what you learn.  I know – as experienced as I am – I learned so much in the last couple of weeks.

I do know one thing – as much as I love my old machine which is now 16 years old, a number of “issues” that I had with it have been completely eliminated with the newer machines.

Hmmm – is it time for an upgrade?

I hope you enjoyed reading (and learning) about the Husqvarna Viking Opal 690Q and its free motion quilting capabilities. The Opal 690Q can handle pretty much any type of quilting that you throw at it. The sleek design and three LED lights makes for very comfortable quilting.

Until tomorrow, have a great day!


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10 tips to successful bobbin work

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Jean Loke May 9, 2015 - 3:23 am
Hi Elaine After my 1973 fully manual Husqvarna work horse completely died 12 months ago I thought I was too old to bother with a new sewing machine, however life was really empty without one in the house. I travelled 3,000 Kms to test and buy my new Opal 690Q (no Husqvarna available to check out hands on at home). Unfortunately I was not able to undertake any lessons. I am using the manual, taking things slow and luckily found your blogs on the www. They've been really helpful and thank you. One question is the machine fussy about the qualty of thread used? I mend a lot of my husbands work clothes and don't want to waste money on the thread for this process. I used a basic cheap synthetic thread in the bobbin and for the top thread (often used OK in the workhorse). The machine sewed OK however the cutting tool caused the fabric to stick in the footplate as the thread pulled tight and didn't seem to cut. Then the machine told me to clear the thread from under the plate. When I changed back to quality thread for the same task & did the same things all was OK? Thank you for your help.
jeandmaynard November 4, 2014 - 11:37 pm
I love your heading quilt/pic. That's a quilt class I'd quickly join to have such a beauty. I just wanted to say HusqvarnaViking makes wonderful machines that are user friendly and makes sewing more fun because the machines are hassle free. I just found your page but will return. Thanks
Carla A. Canonico November 5, 2014 - 2:00 pm
Hello Jean, thank you for letting us know how much you love the picture on our QUILTsocial blog! That is a quilt called Splish Splash, designed and quilted by Christine Baker of Fairfield Road Designs for the summer 2014 issue of A Needle Pulling Thread magazine ( You can still order a copy of this back issue on the website for full instructions and chart. So happy to hear you enjoying sewing on HusqvarnaViking machines, they do make sewing and quilting simpler. See you soon on!
Pam September 12, 2014 - 10:54 am
Hi Elaine, I am so enjoying your tutorials about my new sewing machine. I don't even know how I found this site, but I'm so glad I did. I am the world's worst when it comes to reading the User's Guide - but I will try to do better. I was wondering where can I buy a walking foot for the Opal 690Q? And I want to make a personalized label for my quilts - how do I do that? Thank you so much for helping me out! Pam
elaine September 16, 2014 - 6:54 pm
So glad you found the web site. Yes – I so love the Opal 690Q. An awesome sewing machine. Stay tuned as I will be looking at some other Husqvarna sewing machines and although you may not have some of the features, there will be useful information and tips that you will be able to use on the Opal 690Q. You should be able to purchase the walking foot from your local dealer. There is a new walking foot with interchangeable feet which I haven`t had a chance to try yet, but looks amazing. Personalized quilt label – did you want to use the alphabets on the sewing machine to make the label? I like to print my labels on the computer. As for reading the manual – I know I hate reading the manual, so pick one section at at time. There really is some good information in there. Sit with the machine and try everything out. I have learned so much by playing rather than just sitting down and sewing. Have fun!!!!
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