My stitches are all different sizes. I'm having trouble going at speed and am not getting uniform length stitches. What am I doing wrong?
Philippa says: You are not doing anything wrong - you are learning. Even length stitches are achieved by moving the work smoothly through the sewing machine (absolutely nothing to do with the speed at which you sew) and so it seems that you haven't quite got that yet. Here's what can help:
Sew slowly. There is an oft quoted myth that you need to sew at a fast speed to get an even free-motion stitch length. This is not true. Stitch length, and evenness, is governed by how you move the work through the machine. If you move the work smoothly and at a consistent speed you will get even stitches. This will be the case if you work fast or slowly. I do my free-motion work at a slow speed - using the foot pedal to control the machine running speed (I do not lower the machine running speed but keep it on its fastest setting. You can go this too slowly and be painfully waiting for the next stitch - which results in jerky uneven sewing). Sewing really fast leaves you feeling out of control and you move across the work so fast that your hands are not controlling the work at the needle point. I pause to reposition my hands often - and the slow speed helps with this as well as helping me feel in control!
A Supreme Slider type teflon mat to make the bed of the sewing machine more 'slidey'. This really makes a difference and I can tell if I have forgotten to put mine on.
Have your sewing machine set down into the table. The work is better supported and not dragging over the edge of the machine which restricts the ease of movement.
Keeping the work slightly bunched with air under the area you are stitching. Do not have it spread out flat as it is too rigid and heavy to move.
If your machine is not set down into a table make sure you have support for your left hand. Some machines have a very small bed on the left hand side so your left hand cannot support and guide the work. Build up with hardback books or buy a bigger perspex table surround.
Use gripper mats under your hands as shown in the free-motion class (and in other classes too). Gloves are another option but I do not like them as much.
Have your sewing machine set further back. Mine is 12" (30cm) from the needle point to the edge of the table. This allows you to rest your elbows on the table and improves comfort and accuracy.
Use a round open toe free-motion foot where the needle goes down in the middle of the foot so you can see all around the needle. This is important when you want to travel backwards. An open toe foot gives great visibility at the front. I cannot get good results with a closed toe foot.
Try reducing the pressure on your presser foot if you machine allows this. This will enable easier movement of the work through the machine.
Make sure the work sits fully on the table and is not hanging over the edge. If you only have a small working area put the back of chairs against the edge of the table to stop the work falling off the edge.
Try all the different ways of holding the work as show in our Free-motion class. There is no one way!
Make sure your needle down function is engaged.
Sit squarely in front of your machine with your needle in line with your nose. Work out your best chair height and distance from the table. Ensure there is nothing around your feet (such as piles of fabric) making you sit at a slight angle. You will not be able to control the work, or be comfortable, if you are not sitting properly.
I can't think of anything else for now! Philippa :D