August 31, 2010
Free Motion Quilting: Feed dogs
There's some feed dogs, amazing little things, moving up and down, forward and back, to pull your fabrics through the machine when you sew.
Except, when you are free motion quilting, No Dogs Allowed.
So how do we keep the dogs off your quilt? I am aware of four ways to do this.
1. Lower the feed dogs. If you have a machine that can do this, awesome. Push the button, turn the knob, do whatever your machine manual tells you to do, and the feed dogs will lower themselves under the throat plate and wait until you call them. The picture above shows the knob I turn on the Bernina to lower the feed dogs.
2. Raise the throat plate or use a throat plate cover. Some machines can't lower the feed dogs but they can cover them. My Singer has a lever that lifts the throat plate above the feed dogs. That seems like a good thing, but it also reduces the space between the plate and the darning foot. It kind of squishes my quilt and makes it harder to move. I don't like it. I had an more modern Singer long ago with a plastic cover that snapped over the feed dogs that did the same thing. The picture below shows the lever that raises the throat plate on my Singer. This is my least favorite feed dog solution.
3. Cover the feed dogs with a piece of card. This is the low tech approach that anyone can do. Get a piece of card big enough to cover the feed dogs, punch a hole in it for the needle to go through, and tape it down. Inexpensive, low profile. A solution for the masses.
4. Leave the feed dogs up. I know, you didn't expect me to say this, but guess what? I've quilted for hours with the feed dogs up before I realized it, and there were no ill effects. A cursory tour of the internet tells me that a lot of other quilters do the same thing, simply setting their stitch length to 0. Will there be a little more drag on your quilt with the feed dogs going up and down? Could a stitch theoretically get caught? It's possible. But not very likely. Don't stress.
So if you've stayed on the sidelines because you couldn't lower your feed dogs, please just cover them with a card or set your stitch length to zero and let them go up and down. And let's get ready to quilt!