Posted 28 August 2010 - 11:22 PM
I have just finished my second quilt on my Ult 1. I'm getting reasonably good at moving the machine at a constant speed. I think my stitches look pretty even. Both the "real" quilts I've done have been done using pantographs. I wanted to learn how to do them, but my real goal is to do free motion from the front.
I've done a number of practice pieces on muslin from the front. It is quite a different experience from free motion with your dsm. If you get to a place where you need to slow your hands down, you have to stop the machine and dial the speed down, then start again. I find it hard to do that, but I'm not competent enough to do things like backtracking at the same speed I use for most things. I'm thinking that micro drive handles may be a good investment, but want to practice more first.
Here are a couple of things I've learned: My machine didn't come with a bobbin winder, so I've been winding bobbins on my Brother 1500, which uses the same bobbin as the Ult. If I fill the bobbin to the point where the Brother shuts it off, it seems to be too full for the Ult. I have had considerable problems with thread breaking and backlash in the bobbin. As soon as I started filling bobbins only 3/4 full, the problems went away.
Another thing that can cause thread breaking is to run the machine for several seconds in one place. When you begin moving again, the bobbin thread usually breaks. Dawn recommends thinking ahead when you are about to stop, turn the machine off and let it coast. Don't linger too long on points or you'll get thread pile-up.
I also had problems with tension. Again, I had VERY frequent thread breaking. Dawn gave excellent advice about how to adjust tension. Loosen the top tension until the stitches are very sloppy, but it still sews. You may also need to loosen the bobbin tension as well. When you get sloppy stitches, start tightening the top tension 1/4 turn at a time. If you are still not getting a perfect stitch, tighten the bobbin tension a little. On my Ult, using Aurofil (a fine 50 wt cotton), the tension is right when the bobbin just slides down the tread into your hand. Not too fast, but it definitely slides. With heavier weight thread it drops a few inches and stops.
If you didn't get the APQS DVD with your Ultimate, you might ask then to send you one. It has VERY good instructions on maintenance - more than the manual. It also has a very good introductory lesson on getting your machine ready to quilt (how to thread, cleaning the hook, cleaning the rails and wheels, changing needles, etc.) followed by Dawn giving a good demo of how to load a quilt.
I also bught Kim Brunner's Machine Quilting for Beginners and Myrna Ficken's Beginning Long Arm Quilting. Each of them teaches a slightly different method for loading the quilt, but I've learned from all of them.
I'm becoming more comfortable with my machine, but I still have LOTS to learn. However, I think I am learning faster by doing real quilts than just hacking away on muslin practice pieces.
Good luck! This forum is a fabulous resource. I've had every question answered in very helpful ways - and very quickly.
(and Amazing Grace)