Thursday, 8 March 2012

Quilting on the Bernina 820

I might not have been blogging much recently, but I've spent the last week or so busily quilting on the 820. It has so many bells and whistles, that I keep rediscovering things which I was shown at the shop, but had already forgotten! I think I need to arrange a class for myself to make sure I'm getting maximum benefit from it. The computer aspect is probably the most challenging. Yesterday I spent ages trying to unjam it, because I'd caught my hand on the auto-threader while it was in action. I eventually rang th dealer, who was able to explain the simple fix immediately - instead of tryign to push the threader back up to its usual resting position, I needed to pull it down (with a bit more force than I'd expected) to it's lowest level, then it sprang back up automatically, and then I could sew again. As she explained, it's not like most sewing machines where you can do several things at once; you need to allow it to do its thing. I didn't even reach my hand in intentionally, but no doubt I was trying to do something else while the threading was in action. Lesson learned!

The first thing I quilted on the 820 was a flannel baby quilt - a real mistake (above). I'd half-finished it on my Pfaff before I sold it, but I'm not in love with the quilt top (the colours didn't work together quite as I'd intended/expected - I'd planned it to be pinks and blues, but didn't take into account that the blues had a fair bit of green, and the pinks had plenty of oranges), and I hated my choice of quilting pattern! Anyway, I made myself finish it, and am hoping the addition of the binding will impove it in my eyes, otherwise I'll need to start again for that particular baby.

So I moved on to the blue flannel baby quilt, which I do love (below). And instead of trying a different quilting pattern as intended, I decided to stick to something I knew and loved while I was learning how to quilt on the 820, so I did an open meandering feather.

I've been quilting (free-motion) a lot with Superior BottomLine as the top thread (and in the bobbin), but the 820 doesn't seem to like it - and from what I've been able to research, it doesn't like thinner threads in general, so I have had some shredding/breakage. I've found a few ways to reduce that, but am still hoping to find a tip to eliminate it entirely. I switched to using the BSR (stitch regulator) foot, but with the actual stitch regulation turned off. This somehow seems to adjust some other settings automatically, which improves matters - if anyone knows just what, I'd love to know! I'm also adjusting the presser-foot pressure to suit my quilt, and adjusting the thread balance - I'm coming up with my own list for the latter depending on what thread combination I'm using, and have it on the wall next to the machine.

My main problem with using the BSR foot is that no matter which foot attachment I use, the BSR component itself gets in the way of visibility.

The biggest thing I seem to be able to do to reduce thread breaks is slow right down - but it's significantly slower than I'd like, and I do find that quite frustrating.  I've also noticed that the problems only seem to occur in 2 directions; it's fine sewing 'forwards' and to the left (moving fabric right), but I get occasional skipped stitches and it's more likely to shred or break when going backwards or to the right (peek at a customer quilt below).

However, it quilts with thicker threads like a dream - a million times better than the Pfaff. I did a large amount with Superior Rainbows (a 40wt trilobal polyester) without a single skipped stitch or break, and I'm thrilled about that. It also quilted nicely with the Gutermann 50wt cotton, and I'm sure it'll be the same when I use the Aurifil Cotton Mako 50, and I can see me using a lot more of these threads where I might have stick to Bottom Line before. But I love BottomLine, and would love any tips on how to get to to work better as the top thread when FMQing from other 820 / 830 quilters.

I mentioned last time about wanting a clear foot, and am more definite about this now - if I can get exactly what I want. When I sew bindings on, I mark the diagonal mitre line to get a perfect corner, and without the clear foot, I just can't see that clearly enough - and the 1/4in foot is no good, because I need a wider seam there. So I want a normal-width, 'D' (suitable for dual-feed) clear foot, preferably with a slot for the thread, or even slightly open at the front - it's a nuisance having to poke the top thread down through the hole in the foot on some of the Bernina feet. Frankly, I can't imagine why most of them don't have a slot!

Oh, and that reminds me, I don't like how short the threads are cut for either the bobbin or top thread, when threading the machine. The bottom one only pokes up about 1/4 to 1/2in when I bring it up through the stitch plate, and sometimes the top one is too short to stay threaded. Which brings me to another question - am I supposed to need to bring the bottom thread up? It doesn't seem to like it when I don't, but I seem to have to do it manually (as in, really manually, using the handwheel) and then pull it longer.

I also dislike (or have to get used to) the fact that this machine doesn't seem to have the ability my Pfaff had to override the selected needle finish up/down with a quick tap on the foot pedal to move it to the opposite position, and I miss that.

I realise that this reads like a big whinge, but it's not. It's about sharing my opinions and experiences as I learn how to use the 820 - maybe someday it'll be useful to someone else! And maybe an experienced 820 or 830 user might pop in and tell me that I can actually do some of the things I want - juts not in the way I'm used to.  I think even going from a 'normal' Bernina to an 820 would be a huge leap, let alone swapping brands as well!

I'll be back in the next  few days with full photos of my recent finishes.


Robin Quilts, etc. said...

Hi Emma, I also went from a Pfaff to the Bernina 820. There were things I liked (on paper at least) but I really had a problem bonding with the new machine for many of the same reasons you've stated. My Bernina is now back at the dealer to be sold on consignment. I decided to cut my losses and I'm back to using my Pfaff that I still love. Sorry you're feeling some of the frustration. I now piece on my Pfaff and quilt on a Brother PQ1500.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emma!
I can't afford an 820 but I do have a 440QE that I love.
Re poking the thread down through some of the Bernina feet -- with the needle already threaded and the foot not yet secured place the foot under the needle and up until you are able to pull the thread thru the foot then attach the foot to the machine. This was a tip from Libby Lehman at a Ricky Timms Super Seminar. An Ah HA moment for me! Not sure if your 820 does it, but if I tap my heel down once on the back of the foot pedal I can go from needle up to needle down -- tap again and needle down to needle up -- great for making 1 stitch at a time.

Your quilting is amazing!

Diane in Illinois USA

Laura said...

I'm finding a bit of shredding with Aurifil 50 wt cotton, and it's trial and error with monofil thread. I've had to drop the top tension right down and have loosened the bobbin tension a tad too. I'd like some tips too. The nice man at the bernina dealer gave me two standard darning feet - a small open toed metal one and a clear oval one. I hate the BSR. Not plugged in it was giving the machine conniptions. but the speed, the auto cutter / tie off and needle up/down w foot pedal I am loving