The machine does need to be well lubricated/oiled, adjusted so the tension is even [both top and bobbin tension], and even the treadle irons themselves need to be oiled/lubricated. I struggled with an irritating noise in the treadle I'll be demonstrating with today. It turned out that I had not applied enough lubricant to the point where the pitman rod connects with the treadle platform. (I used Tri-flow in a 2 ounce bottle--purchased at a bike shop.) Now the treadle is very quiet. Of course, without a motor and with adequate lubrication, the sewing machine is very quiet too.
I do quilt with a Class 15 sewing machine--not only do I like the action of these machines, I also appreciate that the bobbins hold a lot of thread.
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I suggest starting with a new sharp needle. I use these:
California Thread Supply. Current price is $11.95 per hundred. I've also found success using Schmetz Jeans needles this large or even larger in my machines with tails, although now that I quilt only on treadles the 90/14 sharps work just as well.
(Please be aware that I'm sharing what works best for me, and, certainly, there are other quiltmakers who have different preferences.)
Judy R. pieced this quilt for our Victory Prayer Quilt Ministry and layered it with a fusible batting. So my first steps will be to select thread, zigzag the edges, and do a little bit of stabilizing.
If your machine was last used for sewing thin fabric, you may need to loosen the pressure on the presser bar. On my machines (even the ones I don't use for quilting) there is a little knob/screw on top of the head that allows me to tighten or loosen the pressure. It may well be that the pressure is just fine, but I've seen older machines (and even own one) where the pressure was so high that the feed dogs had marred the presser foot. A too tight presser foot can also cause puckering and differential shift of the quilt layers.
You will probably prefer a fine thread for stabilizing. I love Fil-Tec's Bobbin Line threads for this step. They are so fine that when I stitch in the ditch, they can barely be seen. (I still use the 90/14 needle.)
If the wheel is turned in the wrong direction, a stitch will not form--but a lot of thread will be pulled through the machine and will probably break.
Select the darning/quilting foot you want to use. This is the darning foot that came with my Necchi.
Jenny at Sew-Classic has a similar business.
Next step: if you used zigzag, remember to reset the stitch width to zero.
Lots of quilters don't stabilize and their quilts come out just fine. However, if *I* don't stabilize, I find some bump, lump, or twist that I don't like.
Lower the feed dogs. If your machine doesn't do that, just set the stitch length to zero and ignore the tug of the feed dogs against the quilt.
For this quilt I'm using Fil Tec Glide threads. I loaded three class 15 bobbins with Fil-Tec Glide Pearl, and I'm using a variety of Fil-Tec Glide colors on the top. (For a full size quilt, I may use 7-10 bobbins.) I'm trying to choose colors that will show up enough for you to see the stitches. I looked at these two greens and decided my favorite gold (80137) would show up better for you in this section.
If you choose two different colors and find little dots of the opposite thread appearing, you can usually fix this by adjusting top tension (although I've had machines that were so messed up that I've had to adjust the bobbin tension). If dots appear on the top, decrease the top tension. If they appear on the bottom, increase the top tension. If you can't get rid of the dots, use the same color of thread on top and in the bobbin and mess with the tension come other day.
Important!: At any point during the stitching process, when we stop, we need to be sure the needle is down. It is so very easy for the quilt to shift just a bit, yielding an ugly stitch. With a treadle it is very easy to stop perfectly, but with an electric it's almost as simple to extend our right hand and stop the wheel when the needle is in the fabric.
Lots of people would have begun at the top and just stitched a scroll and a single line from top to bottom. Because I've been quilting for decades, I know that the texture I love in old hand quilted quilts was created with double lines for the spines of wreaths and feathers, and sometimes even for the feathers--so more often than not, my spines have two lines of stitching.
Think of it as "God makes millions of strawberries, but they are all slightly different."
If you need to do other sewing, please remember to put the feed dogs back up or to lengthen your stitch if it was set at zero.
Please give this a try. Ask questions. I'll try to answer them and will update this post as needed.
I'm linking to Connie Kresin's Quilting by the River
and to Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story
as well as Esther's WIPs on Wednesday
and this week's WIPs Freshly Pieced.