Stitch regulation on the PFAFF powerquilter 1600

What a great week I’m having with the PFAFF powerquilter 1600. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I have to say that using this sit-down quilting machine with a large throat space and large surface has opened up my eyes to a new way of quilting.

Yesterday I used the PFAFF powerquilter 1600 in manual mode, similar to quilting on my domestic sewing machine, which doesn’t have stitch regulation. It’s not perfect, but I was thrilled with the results. Since I’m a little rusty, it’ll take a few more quilts to feel 100% comfortable and get in the groove of those smooth lines. But all that space – wow!

Today, I’m looking at one of the reasons people will want this sit-down quilting machine. As mentioned, it has regulation mode or, as you might call it – a stitch regulator. So, what does that mean? It means that you set a specific stitch length, like ten stitches to the inch or eight stitches to the inch, and as you move your fabric under the needle, the motor speeds up or slows down to produce the number of stitches per inch you set.

It takes some getting used to, and I’ve included a couple of videos to help you understand what I mean about the motor.

This first video is in manual mode, where the speed of the machine (how many stitches per minute) and how fast I move my fabric dictates the stitch length. You can hear the motor running at a constant speed. And even towards the end, the sound is consistent even when I back off the foot pedal.

In the second video, I’m in regulation mode, and you can hear the motor slow down and speed up depending on how fast I move the fabric.

So how does the stitch regulator work? Two sensors in the insert sense the movement of the quilt.

The two sensors for the stitch regulator

As you move the quilt, the sensors send a signal to the motor, which will speed up or down to stitch the requested number of stitches.

You’ll run into a challenge as you near the edge of your quilt, and the quilt is no longer covering the sensors. If you have extra backing on your quilt, which you should have, this won’t be a problem. But let’s say you skimped on the backing fabric.

The sensors are exposed and will not provide a consistent stitch.

Now what? Place a scrap of fabric on the edge of the project, so the sensors are still covered. The scrap lying on the quilt sandwich will move at the same rate as the quilt, and the sensors are none the wiser! A simple fix! Be sure not to catch your scrap in the quilting. Even better – add extra backing!

Add a scrap to the front to cover the sensors.

Here are a couple of tips. The first is for threading the needle. The glare of those work lights is harsh on the table’s white surface. Slip your quilt under the needle to cover the glare, and if you use a contrasting color of fabric from your thread, it’s super easy to see.

Threading the needle

The second tip is about the quilting feet. I mentioned earlier this week that two quilting feet come with the powerquilter 1600. This one is my favorite. When I use this foot, I get a clear view of my quilting and can easily tuck my threads behind the foot.

Tuck the threads behind the open-toe quilting foot.

One last thing before we have a look at the control panel. What about the tension? Well, it’s bang on, and it’s so easy to adjust if you have to. Look at the back of my sample stitch-out, where I used a dark blue thread on top and a light thread in the bobbin. Only a bit of the top thread showed at the beginning of my stitching line. I had not checked the speed, and the stitches were tiny. So, play with the tension and see how easy it is to adjust! Yep, you can use two very high-contrast threads and solid backs and still get good results!

The back of the sample stitch-out with high-contrast threads

Let’s have a look at the controls for Regulation Mode. Select the R (highlighted in green) to move into regulation mode.

The control screen set for Regulation Mode (Cruise)

Notice that the right-hand side of the control panel remains the same. The bobbin sensor is at the top, which I haven’t told you about yet. Then the Needle Stop (Up/Down), and the tension controls.

Another button on the right-hand is the Pause/Play indicator (or the START button). If you don’t want to use the foot pedal, use the Pause/Play to start quilting. You can use that same function to stop or tap the foot pedal, and the motor will stop.

I’m not too fond of the Pause/Play in manual mode because I can’t control the speed for detailed areas. So, I choose when to use the foot pedal and when to use the Pause/Play button.

There are multiple ways to operate the powerquilter 1600, and you’ll find the one that works for you. You may also find that you use some of the controls in one mode and not in the other, which is what I found works perfectly for me.

In Regulation Mode, you set the number of stitches per inch; in the above photo, the number is 22. That’s a lot of stitches per inch, so you may not want to run it that tight. The range of stitches per inch is between 4 and 22; use the plus and minus keys to change the number.

I can also baste in regulation mode. If I take the number of stitches below 4, the numbers change to inches.

Basting in regulation mode

Notice the 4 has now become 4.0″, which differentiates it from the number of stitches per inch. The length of the basting stitch ranges from 0.5″ to 4.0″. This means that every 4″ I move my quilt, I’ll get one basting stitch. Move the project another 4″, and I get another. If I reduce the length, then whatever the setting is, I’ll get a new basting stitch once the quilt has moved that distance.

A basting stitch of 0.5″

So, let’s take it out of basting mode and back to the regulation mode for quilting. The number of stitches per inch is now 12, which is nice. Below the number of stitches per inch setting are the two regulation modes, Precision and Cruise.

The dashed green circle is Precision.

Regulation Precision mode

What does this mean? Using either the foot pedal or the start function, the powerquilter 1600 will not start to stitch until I move the fabric. I can take a breath without stopping the machine if I need to, ensuring my needle is in the down position. However, you must be careful because if you jostle the quilt for any reason, the powerquilter 1600 will think you’re trying to quilt, and it’ll start stitching.

The Precision mode is my favorite for detailed work around applique or in tight corners.

The second option is Cruise (the two arrows in a circle), which took me time to appreciate. When you hit the Pause/Play or use the foot pedal, the powerquilter 1600 starts stitching immediately, so you must be ready!

You’ll notice an extra setting at the bottom right-hand side when we’re in Cruise. This setting allows you to set the minimum speed the powerquilter 1600 will stitch in this mode.

Regulation Cruise

And as easy as that – that’s what Regulation mode is all about on the PFAFF powerquilter 1600. If you’re into serious quilting, and even if you’re not, many options on the powerquilter 1600 make quilting much more fun than on your domestic machine.

As I mentioned, you’ll find you favor one mode (manual or regulation) over another, depending on your type of quilting. Then within the regulation mode, you will prefer Cruise versus Precision, or vice versa, depending on the project.

PFAFF powerquilter 1600

Like all unfamiliar tools, you need to take this for a test drive to see how easy it is to operate. Be sure to pop into your PFFAF dealer to arrange a test drive. You won’t be sorry.

I’m out of here to quilt something!

Have a great day!


This is part 4 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 3: Free motion quilting on the PFAFF power quilter 1600 [Manual Mode]

Go to part 5: 4 types of optional feet to quilt anything | powerquilter 1600

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