I haven't been happy with the quilting on the last couple of quilts that I've straight line quilted. I love my sewing machine (Janome 1600p) but I just haven't been able to figure out the right settings so there's no puckering or pulling. When I bought my machine the guy I bought it off said that I didn't need to change any of the settings for quilting, just put on the quilting foot. So for quilting I normally set the stitch length on 3, the thread tension on 3 and the presser foot pressure on 3. This is obviously not working. So lately I've been on a quest to figure it out.
The other day I read this post by Rita where she mentioned that she changed the pressure on her Juki (which is very similar to mine) when straight line quilting. Okay, so I think pressure is the key to success here. Then I watched this video pointing out how too much pressure on your presser foot can cause the quilting to bunch and pucker.
So I made a little demo quilt to practice on (with the fabric and batting I would be using for my next project). I put on my quilting foot and decreased the pressure. It still pulled, so I decreased the pressure some more until it didn't pull any more, but then the stitches became really really small because the feed dogs couldn't pull it through properly. It didn't help if I increased my stitch length. Okay, so now I'm starting to pull my hair out.
Think, think.... there must be an answer. So I put on the normal foot that I use for piecing, and voila! It started quilting beautifully. Pressure 1.5, stitch length 3.5, tension 3.
Now it's time to bring out the big quilt. And that's when it all went pear shaped! You can see the terrible puckering on the back.
So now it was time to call Jody at All About Sewing. She knows everything about these machines - the Grandquilter, Juki, Megaquilter and Janome 1600p. Her advice - use the normal sewing foot, and keep reducing the pressure to one or even lower. Make sure the quilt is supported at the front and the back so that there's no pulling. It worked! Thanks Jody, you're a guru.
BUT then... it started pulling just a little, and I remembered that trick to turn the quilt around and alternate sewing from each end. Not a good idea! I will be doing a lot of unpicking tonight.....aghhh!
I have reduced the pressure to almost 0 (about 0.25) and it's finally quilting pretty well - touch wood. I just have to watch that the stitch length remains even. What a saga! Any advice?
Thanks for all of your suggestions. I am going to try pinning it more closely next time. A couple of people have commented about using a walking foot for quilting. I don't think I was clear - when I said "quilting foot" I meant "walking foot". I do have a walking foot that is made for this machine (pictured below), and when I use it the quilting gets worse. If I reduce the pressure too much the walking foot doesn't work anymore and the stitches become tiny, so I've found that it's much better with the normal foot pictured above. Weird isn't it! Maybe there's something wrong with my walking foot.
By the way, I've unpicked, restitched and almost finished the quilting, and it's not pulling at all - yay! Also, I wouldn't exactly call it straight line quilting, more like 'go with the flow', or 'organic' straight line quilting.