Perfect for Older Machines, and a Potential Fix for Wonky Stitches!
Dropping the feed dogs has long been one of the first steps in free motion quilting. Why? Because that gives you full control of the movement of the fabric. Otherwise, with the feed dogs engaged, the fabric will automatically feed through the machine.
But, what if you can’t lower or disengage the feed dogs on your machine? Does that mean you can’t free motion quilt?
The throat plate has been removed on this machine to better show the movement of the feed dogs.
Not necessarily. One solution is to cover the feed dogs with tape or such so they don’t engage with the fabric. Or, set the stitch length to zero so the fabric is not moved by the machine.
Many quilters actually prefer having the feed dogs engaged, saying they get better stitch quality.
“I have read this advice about the need to disengage the feed dogs repeatedly … However, it is not correct to state that the feed must be lowered in order to do free-motion quilting. In fact, on my older machines (by which I mean in some cases, antique treadle machines) even using the feed cover plate is an unnecessary inconvenience. On my newer modern machines I have found this is entirely optional. If the stitch length is set to zero, then the dogs only move up and down (and not back and forth to pull the fabric) so they only touch the underside of the quilt for a fraction of a second on each stitch … this can actually produce better stitch quality without interfering with the free motion.” – Susan Kelly
The following article by Leah Day will tell you more about the purpose of feed dogs and how to free motion quilt with them engaged. You may find that leaving the feed dogs up works better for you than with them down.
Leah goes into more detail and answers several questions in the following article. She often gets better stitch quality with the feed dogs up, and she explains why. Leah places a Supreme Slider over the feed dogs to keep the quilt moving smoothly. Learn more in the following article.
PLEASE NOTE: Quilting Digest has featured many patterns from vendors participating in the Craftsy Marketplace, most of which have been deleted by Craftsy. It's going to take awhile for us to hunt down new sources for those patterns. In the meantime there are many links to patterns on our site that no longer work. We apologize if this article contains one or more of those links and appreciate your patience while we straighten things out. Thank you!
PLEASE NOTE: Quilting Digest does not sell or otherwise provide patterns directly. We showcase patterns and projects from various vendors, bloggers and other sources. Please make a note of where you access a pattern (the link in the yellow box toward the end of each Quilting Digest article). That way you can contact Support for that source if you have downloading problems or other issues. Thank you!