Today is another rainy day, so a great day to stay in the studio and take a second test drive and do some quilting with the Quilt Expression 4.2. I am very excited about this after the very successful initial test drive for the Quilt Expression yesterday. We put the machine through its stitching paces with straight stitch, zigzag and some of the fancy decorative stitches.
Today I’m moving onto the quilting modes. As I do a lot of quilting with both the walking foot and free motion I’m very interested in seeing how the Quilt Expression 4.2 performs in these two areas.
The green flag has been raised and we’re off and running with this second test drive.
Important Features for Quilting
There are a couple of very important features that I like to have on my machine when I am quilting.
Needle down position
It certainly makes it much easier to stop and start in mid stitching if the needle can remain in the fabric when stopped. This allows for a continuous flow of the stitching with no jigs or jags because the needle took a little unwanted detour as you started again.
This feature is a must for me on any machine and this machine definitely has the feature. To turn on this feature hold the needle button down until the green light comes on beside it.
Foot hover is when the presser foot hovers a few mm above the fabric when the machine is stopped and the needle is in the down position. This feature is especially useful when there is a lot of pivoting and turning to be done in a quilting motif.
The foot hover feature is found in the menu section under the heading Auto foot lift. It should have a dark square beside it meaning it is turned on, if not then scroll down to it and press okay to turn it on.
This machine does have the hover feature but if it didn’t there’s a way to create the feature manually. The external knee lift that I talked about in the first post, Out of the Box & Into the Studio can be used in the same manner only you are lifting the presser foot with the knee lift each time you stop and need to turn and pivot.
The lever just fits into the hole at the base of the machine near the accessory box and then hangs down below the table so it’s easily accessible with your knee.
Extended Sewing Surface
This is the perfect time to use the extension table as having the extra space will help with a smooth area for the quilt to glide over. It is imperative to make sure there is no drag on the quilt because if there is the stitch length and tension can be altered making for an uneven stitch line.
The ideal set up would be for the machine to be in a cabinet and flush with a table but unfortunately most of us do not have that kind of set up and the machine is sitting up on a table.
I have come up with a solution for this problem by using small containers such as thread containers and small rubbermaids placed around the machine to extend the sewing machine platform making an even work surface the same height as the machine. Check out a picture of it here on Quilts by Jen, Extending Your Quilting Area.
This is the most important part of quilting to ensure perfect looking stitches.
Don’t be afraid of adjusting your tension – depending on the thread being used, the fabrics being used and the number of layers being sewn over the tension often needs to be adjusted to get the best looking stitches that you can. You definitely don’t want the bobbin thread showing at the top especially if it’s a different colour.
This machine has auto tension but there is also a place to change the tension manually if need be. It’s found in the main menu after pressing the tools icon. Use the arrow buttons to scroll up and down to change the tension and then press OK.
It’s always a very good idea to have a small quilt sandwich of the fabric and batting the same as the project to do some tension testing on before tackling the actual piece of work.
Each stitch also has a tension recommendation and is found on the display screen when you press the information button. This is very helpful for getting the tension just right but also note it may still need to be changed depending on the thread and fabrics being used.
When I quilt I use fancy threads on top and they are usually a heavier weight thread but in the bobbin I try to use a 40 or 50 weight cotton that matches the thread colour on top. Because I have a different weight of thread in the top and bobbin I usually then have to adjust my tension. Maybe with this machine I won’t have to.
Are you confused about the different weights of thread and what they mean? Here is a quick overview, The Thick and Thin of Thread.
The Walking Foot
I am so used to putting on a walking foot when I quilt that it was a bit strange not to have to do that with this machine. Because of the IDT system which I talked about the other day in Getting Ready For the Test Drive there is no need to have a walking foot.
The IDT system moves the layers of fabric evenly and smoothly just as a walking foot would. Make sure to use a foot that has a cut out for the IDT system such as 0A or 1A. Both of these feet also have a large clear area at the front of the foot making it easier to see the stitching.
Straight Line Quilting
When quilting with the IDT engaged the quilting is all straight stitch quilting in lines or slight curves. I put the stitch to a length of 3.0 as I felt that 2.5 was not quite long enough. The stitches are even and regular with a good tension on auto tension. These stitching lines I did at 1 ½ inches apart.
I was thinking that these lines of stitching looked a bit too plain so I decided to add in some lines perpendicular and build a grid keeping the lines the same distance apart as the horizontal ones.
Stitch in the Ditch
I thought to myself well I might as well use the blind hem stitch foot since it has the cut out for the IDT and give stitch in the ditch a go. This has never been my favourite quilting stitch and in fact I find it the hardest to do because if you fall out of the ditch it is so noticeable.
The trick is to use a finer weight thread on top and to match the colour exactly to the background. I used black for this one piece and a 50 weight cotton thread. Normally I would use an even finer weight threat of 60, 80 or 100. I have to say I was very impressed with how well the blind hem stitch foot kept me on track and in the ditch.
The red piece on the foot is what sits in the ditch and guides you along the seam edge. This is also adjustable. The only issue I had was that it was hard to see where I was stitching since there is a lot of plastic and metal sitting in front of the needle but I did okay and stayed on track.
I was quite impressed with the results, maybe I’ll change my mind on whether or not I like stitch in the ditch. In fact the stitches are so well hidden that I didn’t even take a picture of them but take a look and see if you can see them on the star quilting below around the border.
Continuous Line Quilting
The less starts and stops in a quilting motif the better because the stitching remains smoother and flows more evenly. Plus the less tie offs one has to do the better.
I have an eight pointed star that I like to do as a continuous motif in squares. Lets see how it turned out.
The star turned out okay except I found that I had a bit of puckering of the fabric where the start and end were. You can see it in the lower left hand corner of the star. I wondered whether it did this because of the stitch in the ditch I did beforehand?
I figured I would give it another go and see what happens with no stitch in the ditch and no border.
Here’s the results.
I found that this star had the same issue but not as bad as the first one. You can see the puckering in the top right corner of the star.
I have just realised that I have been doing this stitching with a universal needle so will see what happens when I change to a topstitch needle. The sharper needle should help alleviate the bunching and pucker of fabric.
Changing to a topstitch needle has certainly helped with the issue of bunching and puckering. The star looks much better now. Using a needle made specifically for quilting is always a good idea and always using the right tools for the job will definitely improve the final outcome.
When I was taking a look at all of the feet the other day I thought that I was missing the free motion foot as I didn’t see one that looked the way I thought it should. After a couple of e-mails with my contact person at Pfaff I discovered that oh yes it was indeed in the bag of accessories. A tiny little foot that I would have never guessed to be the free motion foot.
The Quilt Expression 4.2 machine uses either a sensormatic free motion or a spring foot. I only have the foot for the sensormatic free motion so I will be test driving with it today. This is the 6A foot – a bit different looking than what most of us are use to.
Press the tool icon to the right of the display screen to bring up the main menu. You can see the tool icon just above the ‘i’ button in the photo below. Scroll down to the sensormatic free motion line and press OK to engage this mode. Use the arrows to the right of the display screen to do this.
Make sure to lower the feed dogs. The feed dog lever is found at the front of the machine just to the right of the accessory box. Shift the lever to the left to lower the feed dogs. Lowering the feed dogs allows the fabric to move more freely and gives you the quilter control of where the fabric moves and the stitches are stitched. When you’re finished with the free motion mode don’t forget to put them back up. I do this all the time and then wonder why my machine won’t sew.
I always wear gloves with rubber tipped fingers when I am doing free motion quilting. This just makes it easier to move the fabric under the foot and have better control of the stitches.
I also use a Supreme Slider under the fabric which helps the fabric glide more smoothly and prevent any drag.
Both of these are optional tools but do make life much easier when free motion quilting.
Stippling or meandering
Now that I have everything in place it is time to take the sensormatic free motion foot for a test drive.
I love free motion quilting – it’s like doodling with thread. So much fun to see what happens as the fabric is moved under the foot.
I was amazed and impressed at how well the sensormatic system works as I have only used the spring based system in the past with other machines. The stitches are even and uniform. The fabric slides well and it was easy to free motion with. The tension was perfect on the auto mode and I didn’t have to change anything with the 50 weight thread I was using in the top and bobbin.
Learn a little more about free motion stippling also known as meandering.
Free Motion Zigzag
I like to do a fair bit of free motion zigzag which means setting the machine to zigzag while in free motion. This means that the needle moves side to side rather than back and forth. Because the feed dogs are down I am in charge of where the stitches will end up and what design I can create.
It’s has a much more erratic look than just straight stitch free motion. Once mastered it’s a lot of fun to use and create motifs such as trees, grasses, etc.
I use this stitch a lot for applique which I’ll demonstrate tomorrow.
There are many ways to start and finish a line of stitching. You can leave tails of thread at the beginning and end of stitching then tie and bury them under the backing afterwards. This is the time consuming method but also a very nice finish. I have to say it is my favourite method.
For those of you who do not wish to spend time with the above method most machines now come with a tie-off option and a pair of scissors to cut the thread when finished. The Quilt Expression 4.2 is no exception to this feature.
I did like how it performed as it didn’t leave a knot but rather went back and forth over the first and last stitches at the same length that the rest of the stitching was done. However, you could change the stitch length when at this part so that they are a bit smaller. The scissors did leave little tails but those would be easy enough to snip off after the fact.
Another successful day of test driving. Only one day left to see what this Quilt Expression 4.2 can do. Tomorrow will be applique stitch day and I am sure you won’t want to miss it.
Until then, Happy Quilting