Tuesday, January 28, 2014

how do you quilt a straight line on a juki?

when did this become the orange and navy quilt blog? ever since i started working on these 3 different boy quilts that each use some of the same fabrics, i guess. i do like the combo, but it's getting a bit old. i'm itching to work with something else, but am practicing a smidge of self-control by continuing to quilt "way out weston" (what i've named the baby boy simple strips quilt). actually, it's part laziness - i didn't want to change out the foot or thread for something else, either.
people who think they can't draw will describe themselves as "unable to draw a straight line," meaning they can't even do the most basic shape. what does it mean about a quilter that can't stitch a straight line - not able to quilt? it's such a basic shape and concept, with guidelines involved, even, that many a grown woman has been surprised at it's difficulty.
now i realize dear juki was purebred for fmq, which she is brilliant for, but i'm rather taken aback that even with her behemoth of a walking foot, i'm having issues with the basic straight line. i talked about this before when i was trying to get "twirly" together and got a few helpful responses such as, "go slow" or "lengthen your stitch." well, i tried that and everything else i could think of but am still seeking further input for how to straight line with juki.
i'll describe my method as best i can in hopes someone spots my mistakes.
  • i quilt full-throttle on the tortoise (juki's slow setting). that's pretty slow because slow and steady wins the race, even in quilting. but maybe i need to ease up further? like an inch a minute?
  • i have switched to a larger stitch size: 3, 3.5, or even 4. (no idea how this compares to other machines.)
  • i have the presser foot pressure gauge at it's lowest-pressure setting.
  • i barely guide the fabric through at all, mainly just lightly holding it up a few inches out from each side of the needle and foot so that it can freely feed through mostly on it's own. if i try to push or guide even slightly, i get ripples. if i let the machine completely feed itself, i get super tiny stitches and little to no movement.
  • i started in the middle of the quilt and switch directions each time i begin another row so that i'm not always pushing the top toward the same end of the quilt.
  • i pin baste about a fist's width apart in each direction. i do have rather large hands, so maybe i need to pin more closely? i average about 100 pins on a baby quilt, which seems like a lot.
really, it just seems that the quilt isn't feeding through at the same rate despite the walking foot. the top seems to be slightly pushed flat, causing it to spread out rather than go through with the rest of the sandwich or tuck up under the foot. i had the brilliant idea to try using my slider with the walking foot, thinking it would slip through more freely. after the quilt didn't move at all i made that missing synapse connection, realizing that the feed dogs can't reach the quilt when the slider's on. duh.
i'm at a loss what else to do other than keep trying and practicing. i tried to photograph the main issue i'm having.
 every so often, the top starts to pucker and fold over, like the above photo.

 if i simply stop and lift the presser foot up, it usually releases all on it's own without any smoothing from me. however, over the length of the quilt, the top is also pushed forward, which is creating ripples in the top.

getting my lines straight is another matter entirely. i was disappointed to find juki's walking foot does not accommodate a guide bar, so i have to find lines to work alongside myself. or mark the top with my hera marker - ugh. i do not want to spend the extra time doing that. this often means i end up outline quilting each of the seams. usually i line up with the foot's edge on either side or some other part of the apparatus, like the edge of the big white box, below.

staying straight is simply a matter of practice, i believe, and paying attention. still, the needle can wander pretty darn quickly. practice, practice, practice. i thought i was doing pretty good at following along until i took the quilt off and looked at it as a whole. practice, practice, practice. between trying to make sure the foot is staying in line properly and watching for puckers, it gets pretty intense. and every now and then i miss something, resulting in a tuck or two sewn into the quilt, or a wandering line (look closely at the photo below). i'm not hyperventilating over this like the last fmq disaster, but i do wish it looked better. i'm betting on practice to help me out, at least with accuracy.

i was wondering if my lines were as bad as i thought them and what good quilting done by an expert on a juki might look like, so i pulled down rachel's "lolly lolly" for some comparison, since it hasn't been washed yet. her lines do look straighter to the eye and there is a teeny tiny bit of ripple, more noticeable on the back. however, her quilting is a lot more dense than mine is so far, so i can't really say how it compares. i'm wondering if my ripples that exist now will turn into unavoidable puckers when i fill in some of the spaces between. i guess all i can do is move forward and find out.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced


  1. Looking at your pictures I can't tell if you have your walking foot arm on the right side up on top of you needle bar. This makes the top of the walking foot go up and feeds the top fabric through the machine at the same speed as the bottom. Just something to check. If you don't know what mean you can give me an email.

  2. I HAVE THE SAME ISSUES!!!! I'm so glad I'm not the only one, though not glad that we are having this issue. The straight lines I get from my Bernina are far superior than I get on the JUKI. I finally decided to save my straight lines for my Bernina and FMQ (when I finally learn) for the JUKI. Piecing blocks and tops on the JUKI is hands down the best and I can't even begin to compare it to my Bernina. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about straight-line quilting. If you figure out the solution, please let me know!!!

  3. I've been working on this issue too. I tried a different basting method (as featured by Rita at Red Pepper Quilts) and I'm not 100% sure whether it was better.

    One thing that I definitely think made a difference was pulling my backing very extra tight. Not tight enough to stretch it, but tighter than I had been. The back of my most recent experiment looks great! The front definitely still has some of the same issues you are having.

    One thought that occurred to me when I was quilting mine was this, "What if it's my piecing?" What if the problem is actually that my quilt top wasn't completely perfectly flat? This could be why more experienced quilters get better and better at straight-line quilting. Simply because their piecing accuracy improves.

    Also, I don't alternate the direction. I've found that that makes it worse. I do quilt a loose grid and then fill the grid in, as Rachel talked about on her blog a month or so back.

    Let's keep working on it together!

  4. Oh, I want to add that another thing that made me think it's the piecing is that some rows seem to have a much bigger puckering problem than others.

  5. I love your color choices. You have a very keen eye. As best I can tell your quilting problem (ie puckers) may be from not stretching your layers enough. Lay out the backing pretty taught and tape to your floor. Then add the batting and top, laying it out as straight and tight as possible. Good luck.

  6. Don't know if this helps, but...I too thought you should alternate direction for the rows, but recently heard that it causes rippling because it is being pulled in opposite direction. O.K. for piecing, but not quitling. Also, by lowering your walking foot setting do you mean less pressure or as low to the quilt as possible. More pressure helps pull evenly. Sarah is right this is worse with strip quilts. Hope it helps...

  7. From someone who has never quilted a whole quilt by machine - so this simpleton comment may give you a laugh if nothing else! -
    would spray fusing layers together before pinning help in any way?
    Okay now youve laughed you feel abit better dont you!
    Will watch with interest how you experienced ladies cope with this problem so Im prepared when I tackle it lol
    And Id forgotten about the walking foot arm needing to be up so least Ive re-learnt sumthing here!

  8. I have no idea about the Juki but from the look of things it could be basting. So sorry you're having trouble but the stripes do look fabulous! What is the orange gingham type print? It's beautiful!

  9. I really like your stripes they are so fun! Wish I could help but my machine is so old I doubt I have any tips. I hope some of the other comments will give you good ideas of what to try.

  10. so sorry this is so frustrating. If your FMQ is working so nicely then maybe it is a problem with the walking foot? Sounds like it is not moving the top and bottom fabrics at the same pace.

  11. I have found that denser lines keep things in order. Less far apart = fewer problems, for me, anyway. And I think that lines will get straighter as you get more accustomed to your machine...

    I think you are basting plenty close together.

  12. I had this issue with a strip quilt I recently pieced...the top was fine but the back puckered. Brought it to my Guild and they concluded pretty unanimously that my pinning wasn't close enough together. I'll have to try it. When I've straight line quilted on my Juki on small items (like my Riley Blake pouch?) I've had no issues whatsoever and that was plenty pierced. I keep my presser foot pressure in the middle and I sew rather fast. Have you asked the likes of Don't Call Me Betsy who has sewn with this machine forever?


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