22 Nov

Is it me or what?

Here’s my next finished project from AQT:

Curvilinear Exercise

I’m not wild about this piece, but I appreciate it as a chance to practice my machine quilting. Problem is, no matter what I do, my quilting seems to just plain suck. I have a Bernina 440 sewing machine with a stitch regulator. I love, love, love 99% of this machine, but the stitch regulator is not what I had hoped it would be. At first I thought it was just me. My lines are shakey and I figured that my speed must also be. But I’ve been practicing, practicing, practicing (like 17 small projects in the last three months), and although my line is still wobbly, especially when I have to cram a lot of fabric in the throat of the machine, I feel like my speed is pretty smooth. There are areas where I was cruising along and without me perceptively changing a thing, the machine either sped up or slowed down on it’s own. I had been assuming it was my imagination, but tonight I’m just not so sure. So here’s a detail of quilting using the BSR (stitch regulator):

With stitch regulator

And here’s a detail of the quilting not using the BSR, just me controlling the speed of the machine and the movement of the fabric all by myself:


I don’t see much improvement with the use of the BSR. I was also working on one of my landscapes today, and had marked a simple grid with chalk. It seemed that as the chalk dust built up, the BSR would slow the machine down, but randomly, not in a cumulative manner. And it doesn’t seem to take much dust either, just crossing six or so lines.

Has anyone else had these kinds of problems? Do I possibly suck that much at machine quilting, or could I have some extenuating circumstances here? I am probably going to take the machine to the dealer on Friday and see what they think about it. I should probably take the Owl quilt to demonstrate on since you know the machine will behave absolutely perfectly under the eyes of the repair guy!

8 thoughts on “Is it me or what?

  1. Hi Kristin,
    I don’t have the stitch regulator, so I can’t speak to that, but I found the one thing that improved my machine quilting the most (and this is so simple you won’t believe it until you try it) is to make a very conscious effort NOT to watch the needle, but to focus your eyes just ahead of the needle. Kind of like driving–don’t watch the steering wheel, watch the road ahead.

  2. Kristin,

    I LOVE that quilt! The shapes, the colors, the transparency, the layers. I need to find a Sue Benner class. And what do the words on the background say? Trust me, you are just tired of looking at it….it is exquisite!

    I’ve never quilted with a stitch regulator either. I did have a Bernina 170, and loved it. But my friend Mary Kay Price kept winning ribbons at major quilt shows, and her quilting was exquisite…she quilted with a Pfaff. I finally sold my Bernina and bought a Pfaff…which actually costs less. I was also looking at that Janome machine with the wider quilting are….even LESS expensive and very versatile.

    I really believe every one has a different way of quilting, and we all feel more comfortable on one particular machine…I’m a bit of a speed demon, but tend to slow down with the Pfaff and quilt better. I think it’s the rhythm of the machine. The Bernina, however, felt incredible powerful. It was like I was on the Autobahn (sp?).

    If you’ve been unhappy with your machine for a while and are losing patience, don’t be afraid to sell it (try e-bay) and get another. You can test-drive machines at big quilt shows, and usually get the best deal there.

  3. I think you might be being a bit hard on yourself. This quilt is lovely. How big is it? And yes, I echo Mary’s question about what the text says? I think we are slowly getting over this concept that the stitches must be totally even all the time. Take at close look at some free motion quilting by others, no one is perfect. Have you seen Robbi Joy Ecklow’s new book? There are lots of close ups of quilting and it’s certainly not perfect, but it is VERY impressive. Our own blogger Sonji, has used a toy sewing machine that only does a chain stitch and she moves the fabric around wild to get a textury thready mess of delicious quilting. I think it’s much harder to fmq long somewhat straight lines. Like in the second picture where you are trying to echo the line of the shape… that’s really hard and you’re setting yourself up for “mistakes.” But, they don’t have to be mistakes. I think the quilting just adds another layer of design that enhances the original composition, but does not have to mimic it. I have a Janome and love it, though it took me a LONG time to feel comfortable with my quilting. Including trips to the dealer where he could quilt on it perfectly. Grrrr. I don’t even have the 6500 model that everyone raves about. You’re doing great! Take a little breather, then keep going!

  4. Thank you everyone for your kind and helpful comments (this is why we blog, right? To get feedback). I have lots of things to try–like going to the Bernina dealer, watching the road ahead, and finding quilting motifs that fit my comfort zone. I will not be selling my machine though, so don’t worry mom and TS&WGH (hubby). Like I said, I love 99.9% of it, and I can always sew without the stitch regulator. I had to laugh t Deborah’s use of FMQ (free motion quilting) because when I first read it, I thought F***ing Machine Quilting! Tells you what my state of mind is!!! BTW, I for get what the text says. I did not print it, it was a remnant I picked up at a quilt show. So, I used it more for texture that anything else. (The graphic designer in me still loves a piece of text here and there.) I think it was something about being here with you is the only place I’d like to be. I rememebr it was a nice sentiment. Oh, and the quilt is 15 x 24 inches–not big at all.

  5. I too am having the same problems with the BSR. I got one thinking that it would make things easier but it is not as even as it should be and I often think that I can do better without it after spending all that money. I teach p/t at a dealer and showed him the problem. He says that one has to be at a moderate speed–not too slow but not fast enough to set off the beeper. However he agrees there are problems when starting and stopping. I emailed Bernina with no answer—-if you get one please let me know! Susan

  6. Have you had any luck? I also think you are being too hard on yourself. I am learning to NOT point out my mistakes in my sewing projects because I am the only one who sees them! If you look at the overall piece it makes sense that the quilting would not be perfect. I made several table runners as gifts this Christmas that required stitching in the ditch and of course didn’t stay in the ditch, BUT the end product was so beautiful that nobody notices and if they do – too bad. In our striving for perfection we are still creating pieces of art and that is all that matters.

    P.S. I purchased a Bernina last fall, Virtuosa 155, it has a half-speed which I find helps with finding my ‘perfection.’

  7. Kristin your quilt is terrific but I know what you are going through. I have had the Aurora since last Jan. and have major “power surge” completely unrelated to speed of fabric movement. Also , even worse, frequent big
    ( 1/2″) stitches. My dealer seems unable to find solution despite machine sent back to distributer and technical people twice. I hope you have better luck. Pat

  8. Well Ladies I’m glad I put out a search. I bought the little gracie quilter but could never get beyond straight line then I Thought I’d try the free motion set up since the Monster Quilting Machines are free motion after all and I thought ok. That didn’t work so I thought the stitch regulator would work but I guess it doesn’t either. My Quilter didn’t come with a instruction book and the DVD wasn’t any help cause Mine is the Lite Little Gracie which is like a Longarm and I LOVE it but I’m new at the free motion, I guess everyone has to Practice with there own speed.Thanks for saving me money on this thing that doesn’t work and I too Love the Quilt that’ what I’m doing Making Sample easy but cut to fit the bed or couch Quilts Belinda in Oklahoma says Thanks and Keep Quilting!!!!

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