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Let’s do some Free-Motion Quilting

Now that your space is properly set up, it’s time to get the sewing machine set up. I’ll be using the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q as my sewing machine.There are a lot of neat features on this sewing machine that help make free motion quilting much easier. So, let’s do some free-motion quilting!

Extension table is a must

I’m going to use the banquet table as my set-up so I can show you why you need to have an extension table for your sewing machine. Imagine driving a car with only half a steering wheel. That’s what doing free-motion quilting is like without an extension table. You only have limited control with your right hand, or no control with your left, making it nearly impossible to get good results.

Without the extension table, there's no support for the left hand
Without the extension table, there’s no support for the left hand

 

The ideal place to position your hands is on either side of the needle. See the position of the quilter’s hands. Her left hand has no where to rest. It’s difficult to get good results using only one hand.

With the extension table, there's plenty of room for the left hand to rest
With the extension table, there’s plenty of room for the left hand to rest

 

Note the position of the quilter’s hands in the photo. She has ample room to rest both of her hands on either side of the needle. Now, she’ll be in full control on the piece she’s quilting.

I know I keep mentioning it, but I love this extension table for the Sapphire 960Q.

Not only is it gorgeous to look at, but it’s very comfortable to use and very practical. It’s comfortable because the front of the table curves downward so it’s easy to rest your forearms on without pinching your arms.

That gentle curve also ensures the quilt will glide up and over the edge of the extension table.There’s no sharp edge to hinder the movement of the quilt.

The gentle curve of the extension table
The gentle curve of the extension table

 

Now let’s set up the Sapphire 960Q so we can get started with our free motion quilting.

I switched the general purpose throat plate for the single hole throat plate. The smaller opening does not allow the quilt sandwich to be pulled into that area when the needle goes through the quilt and the end result is a tighter, smoother line of stitching.

The clever thing about the Sapphire 960Q – as soon as I put the single hole throat plate in place, the stitch width safety is turned on, which prevents me from moving the needle from the center position. No danger of a broken needle. I love that!

The Stitch Width Safety is automatically turned on when the single hole throat plate is installed.
The Stitch Width Safety is automatically turned on when the single hole throat plate is installed.

 

I’ve also put two high contrast threads on the sewing machine — a dark thread on top and a light thread in the bobbin. I’m doing some practicing and this will allow me to visually see what the tension is like.

I know, I know, you’re telling me that you have auto tension on your sewing machine. This is true, but the sewing machine isn’t that smart! You should become very familiar with adjusting the tension on your sewing machine. This will allow you to play with different thread weights in the top and the bobbin and your creativity will soar when you know how to play with the tension.

We’ll explore tension a bit more tomorrow.

Free-motion feet

There are numerous free motion feet available for the Sapphire 960Q. Some of them are free motion spring feet and some are free motion floating feet.

What’s the difference? The free motion spring feet will “hop” up and down when you are stitching while the free motion floating feet will float over the top of the fabric.

And why would I use one over the other? The free motion spring feet will prevent the fabric from lifting with the needle while the stitch is being formed. That helps eliminate thread breakage and it also prevents skipped stitches when working with heavier threads. After using both the floating and the spring action feet, I learned that even a 50 weight (a piecing thread) required the use of the spring action foot.

When I used the floating foot with 50 weight thread, the machine skipped stitches a lot. However, when I used a lighter thread weight on the top — no skipped stitches. I sure wish I known this back when I started to machine quilt!

Two free motion spring action feet for the Sapphire 960Q
Two free motion spring action feet for the Sapphire 960Q

 

These are just two examples of the many free motion feet available. Both are free motion spring action feet (see the spring!). There are various markings on the feet to help keep you on track with your designs.

This is one of the free motion floating feet available for the Sapphire 960Q
This is one of the free motion floating feet available for the Sapphire 960Q

 

There are numerous other free motion feet available for the Sapphire 960Q. I love being able to check out all the different feet on the Husqvarna Viking web site. If you check out the link, there is information on how to use the foot, when to use it, and some tips on use. That’s like having a sewing machine expert next to you when you sew!

There’s one more feature with the Sapphire 960Q that helps to get great stitching. I can adjust the height of the presser foot when it’s in the down position. This does allow use of heavier threads with the free motion floating feet. This is a great feature because the thickness of your project can change and being able to adjust the height is fabulous. You must play with the height to find what works best for your project.

Use the plus/minus signs to adjust the height of the presser foot
Use the plus/minus signs to adjust the height of the presser foot

 

The Sapphire 960Q allows me to use either the free motion spring action feet or the free motion floating feet. I just need to choose the right option from one of the touch screen menus.

Choose the appropriate option that corresponds to the type of free motion foot you'll be using.
Choose the appropriate option that corresponds to the type of free motion foot you’ll be using.

 

When I select either of these options for free motion, the feed teeth automatically drop. I love that – one less thing to think about.

Once the feed teeth have been dropped, the stitch length control on the sewing machine no longer functions. The length of the stitch is determined by the speed of the sewing machine and the speed at which the fabric is fed through the sewing machine. Yes! You are totally in control of the stitch length! Many people struggle with this.

The Sapphire 960Q helps by having a fabulous speed control. There are five different settings and you should be able to find one of them that will allow you to do your stitching without worrying about the speed. Now, all you need to do is worry about how fast you move the fabric under the needle.

Let’s recap what I’ve done to get the Sapphire 960Q set up for free motion:

  • Verify the physical set up of the sewing machine – table height and enough space to support the quilt
  • Add the extension table
  • Put on the correct free motion foot depending on the thread type
  • Select the appropriate mode of free motion quilting (spring action or floating). Selecting either of those options drops the feed teeth.
  • Adjust the height of the presser foot (if necessary) to accommodate the thickness of the project
  • Change to the single hole throat plate, which sets the safety switch to prevent the needle from moving from the center position
  • Adjust the speed to one that allows an appropriate speed, yet the movement of the fabric can still be controlled.
Single hole throat plate is on the sewing machine, free motion spring action foot chosen and two contrasting colors of thread in use
Single hole throat plate is on the sewing machine, free motion spring action foot chosen and two contrasting colors of thread in use

 

There are two more things that I need – one is a fabric sandwich which is made up of a piece of batting, a “quilt top”, and a “quilt back”. While I don’t use my good fabric for these fabric layers, I do like to use plain fabric so I can see the tension and my stitching.

Another very useful tool is a pair of gloves. These gloves are thin and have rubberized tips. They’ll give me a lot more control than if I use my bare hands. The more control that I have, the easier it will be to quilt.

Quilt sandwich and quilting gloves
Quilt sandwich and quilting gloves

 

Now I’m ready to go!  Did you think it’s as easy as sitting down starting to stitch?

Ready, set – stitch

You must ensure that the presser foot is down. The beauty of the Sapphire 960Q is the presser foot drops automatically when you start to stitch, so you don’t have to worry about that. When you free motion quilt, there’s a lot to think about and, fortunately, the Sapphire 960Q takes care of quite a few things to let you focus on making great designs.

Once the presser foot is down, your quilt sandwich should move freely under the foot. If it doesn’t, something is wrong. It’s easy to adjust the height of the presser foot on the Sapphire 960Q, if the fabric does not move freely when the presser foot is down.

When I ask people what free motion is, they think of an all over meander. While that technically is free motion, it’s a very small part.

Since the biggest “problem” with free motion stitching is getting a consistent stitch length, does it make sense to get the stitch length down while you’re meandering all over the place? Nope – the best way to learn stitch length consistency is do straight lines. Yes, you can do straight lines in free-motion. Who would have thought that!

Watch the short video clip to see how the fabric moves freely underneath the presser foot.


 

 

Here are two more short videos to demonstrate how easy it is to move your fabric.


 

 

 


 

 

 

The number of options and the flexibility within each on the Sapphire 960Q is amazing. It’s so nice that I can set the speed control, the feed teeth get dropped automatically, the Stitch Width Safety automatically locks in when I put on the single hole throat plate, and so on… These are amazing features and once they are set, I don’t have to worry about them again.  I love that!

I’ve just briefly touched on the ins and outs of free motion quilting. While there’s lots to think about when you start free motion quilting, the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q takes care of a number of functions. That leaves you free to focus on creating beautiful designs.

Tomorrow let’s do some free-motion quilting! I’m going to focus on a different style of free motion and we’ll see once again how the flexibility of the Husqvarna Viking Sapphire 960Q makes it easy for me to change up my focus.

Ciao!

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 QUILTsocial.com. 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 crazyquilteronabike.blogspot.com.

2 Comments

  1. lisa

    Where can I purchase the extension table for this machine

    • Lisa, you need to visit your LQS, or dealer and they’ll order it for you.

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