Frame Quilting

Grace Frame Setup

I am by no means an expert on frame quilting. I’m still in the “hmmm, I think I could try a flower now” stage. I have a short arm machine (Janome 1600P-DB) on a Little Gracie II frame. When I started using this, it was absolute agony. It didn’t work. I got a mess of thread, or the thread broke, or some other catastrophe happened, so I ignored the monster in my basement for four months. Finally I did some research, asked some questions, and came up with this list. It is not an exhaustive list, so if you have any suggestions to add to it, please let me know.


If you’re having a problem with thread or needle breakage, loops on the bottom, or skipped stitches, try the suggestions below.

1. Set your bobbin tension first, then your thread tension. The bobbin should be loose – if you hold the tail of thread in your hand it (and maybe give a little flick) it should unspool easily and drop all the way to the ground. Loosen the bobbin tension a tiny bit at a time until you get this. Load the quilt and sew through a small practice piece (the size of a sheet of paper, but all three layers). Use different colored thread top and bottom so you can see what’s happening. If the top thread pulls through to the bottom, tighten the thread tension. If the bottom thread pulls through to the top, loosen the thread tension.

2. Make sure your needle is big enough. You need at least a 16, preferably an 18 needle for frame quilting. Too small a needle will often lead to thread breakage. It’s important that you get the right needle for your machine.

3. Be sure the needle is inserted correctly and all the way up. Check your book for the correct way to insert the needle.

4. Change your needle often. We spend $10 a yard on fabric and we often aren’t willing to throw away a 50 cent needle. If you’re having trouble with thread breaking, it might just be an old or bad needle.

5. Use good quality thread, and make sure the size is appropriate for the job (and for the needle). The higher the number, the finer the thread. I was able to use my Aurifil 50 thread with a 14 needle until I got the larger needles. If you use 40 or lower thread (I’ve used 28), be sure to use a 16 or 18 needle. Some variegated threads are reputed to be more likely to break – I haven’t experienced that myself yet. Try different brands – some people love Aurifil, Superior, YLI, Coats & Clark, and some people hate Aurifil, Superior, YLI, Coats & Clark. You need to try them for yourself to find out what works.

6. The quilt should not be too tight on the frame. You should be able to poke a finger up from the bottom and grip it through the quilt on top. The side clamps are there only to keep it straight, not tight. I’ve even quilted several passes without using the side clamps, and everything worked fine.

7. The take up rail should just barely clear the bottom of the machine. You should be able to slide a finger under the bar, but that’s about it. You’ll need to adjust this as you get further into the quilt.

8. I’ve heard that you should only quilt left to right from the front of the frame (when you’re doing free motion quilting) and right to left from the back of the frame (when you’re using pantographs or templates). When you finish one pass, clip the thread, return the carriage to the left side, roll the quilt to the next space, and start again from the left. If you’re having trouble moving one direction, try this. If you’re able to quilt in both directions, don’t worry about it.

9. Set the foot pressure dial (on the top of your machine above the needle) to 0. Set the stitch length to 0 also, since you’re moving the machine – the machine isn’t moving the fabric.

10. Check that your feed dog cover is securely in place. Some people tape it down, others remove their feed dogs entirely if the machine will only be used for frame quilting.

11. DON’T FORGET TO PUT YOUR PRESSER FOOT DOWN! This is the number one cause of thread looping on the back.

12. If you are going fine for a while and suddenly the thread starts looping or breaking, check in the bobbin area for a stray piece of thread. A tiny piece of thread caught in the works will muck up everything. Use a flashlight and a long pair of tweezers and get right down in there to look. You might even want to take off the needle plate and check in there – I once had a foot long piece of thread get wound around a shaft in there.

13. Make sure your carriage moves smoothly in all directions, and the vibration is minimal. If there are any problems, check that your frame is level side to side and front to back. Check that there aren’t any problems with the rollers or rails.

14. If you change your thread or your batting, you should do a test before starting. You may have to adjust your tension, including bobbin tension.

For anyone looking for assembly, leader, or loading instructions for a Grace frame (any version), check out this page of the Grace website. It lists each of the frames, current and past, machine and hand, as well as all of the accessories. Click on the frame or accessory and you will be able to open a PDF of the owner’s manual for that item. Save it to your computer for future reference.

I’m sorry, I’m receiving too much spam on this page so I’ve turned off the comments. If you have a question, please send it via the form on the About Me page and I’ll email you directly.


  1. I just purchased the Next Generation Quilt Frame from Grace. It will hold a king size and we have it set up in our diningroom right now. My sewing room is under construction so this is easier right now. I am really lucky because both my husband and neighbor are really great at setting things up and they got it level and it works great. I am O.K. at meandering right now and starting to work on using a pantogapgh to follow. I just want to tell you that reading your site was great! Thanks for all of your imput. Monica Boisvert

  2. i am looking to purchase the pfaff gnd quilter and next generation frame.I am totally new with this part of quilting. I have quilted in the past but this machine is new to me. I played with one at our local sew ctr and liked it very much. My only concern is the distance between the needle and frame (9in)of machine. When I attempt to do a quilt as large as a king or queen, do you have such a huge roll between the needle and sew framethat your are not able to finish the very end edge of the king/queen quilt? how big is your actual free hanc sewing area on the quilt when you have such a large roll there. I failed to ask these questions while I was there and I find it better to ask someone who has done this already. thanks for a ANY input anyone has. p

  3. Pam, I did a 108″ quilt on my frame, and I managed it by turning the quilt midway through. Quilt from the top to the halfway point, then take everything off the frame, turn it around, and roll it back on. The “bottom” part (the backing, top and batting that has NOT been quilted) will all be rolled onto the top bar. The “top” part that has been quilted will roll onto one of the other bars. Roll it back so you are in the middle where you left off, then work backward, unrolling it from the top bar for each pass.

  4. Hi ,Sandy,
    I talked to you around March 20 or 21 about your Basket Case. Could you please contact me at the email address above.

    Donna Nix

  5. can you tell me if you can quilt with your frame and machine the stitch in the ditch.

    • It’s difficult, but I imagine it’s possible. You could put something on the frame to keep the machine from rolling forward and backward. It would be fairly easy to sew a straight line left to right. You’d have to take the quilt off and reload it sideways to sew the “up and down” lines. By turning the quilt, they would be sewn left to right. You could also try using a thick template, but you need a special kind of foot to work with the template.

  6. Could you share how you made your leaders and the source of the ticking used? I am the new owner of a used Sturdy-Lite frame and want better leaders than what the previous owner gave me (muslin). I guess my specific question in addition to where you bought the fabric would be: did you put a ‘casing’ at the pin-on edge? Thanks in advance!

  7. Hi, I have had the machine and Inspira frame for many years but find thread issues with all I’ve tried as have most others with it. What thread do you use and are you also unable to sew other previous stitching as in loop designs? My frame is set up 110″ but quilts to 108″. Also I don’t use clamps on flimsy, just batting & backing. If you need more clamps they are sold for about $16 each thru the company but are actually 39 cent tarp holder clamps from the hardware store. Gigi.

  8. hi; i bought a little gracie II used w/a juke 98Q machine, no stitich regulator, but everything else. i am setting up the frame right now, and it had never been used as a queen…the back row of bolts don’t line up right, any suggestions? also what would happen if i had someone made a center piece so it would be just for a double quilt & down. i have really limited space.

  9. Sandi,

    Hi, I’m Linda from South Dakota & just ordered a new Viking Mega Quilter w/ the new Imperial frame. Yes, I also splurged for the stitch regulator.

    I want to thank you for putting up these handy dandy tips for newbies. The shop I bought through are absolutely wonderful & will help me in any way learning the machine, but its nice to know you have this awesome online tipline.

  10. After buying the little gracie2 frame and the baby locks quilter pro. I couldn’t get the machine to work in the frame. The bobbin would come out in bunches, or the top thread would snap. After reading this, I just finished quilting my first quilt. Thank you so much for putting this on line.

  11. as stated b/4 i have a used juki 98Q & little gracie 2 frame. my experience is practice, use larger needles, use good quality thread on top, bobbin thread isn’t as important so long as it matches & tension is correct. don’t let people talk you into using ‘cheap’ backs (like old sheets) they are a pain in your kno where…antique quilts can cause a multitude of problems…go forward with care…practice, practice, practice…and also you should know a gracie ii frame that is ten years old you can’t get replacement parts for…you have improvise if you need something different.

  12. Does anybody out there have a pinnacle frame with a Janome 1600P?Do the feed dogs lower? I can’t find a lever to do that,. The instruction manual is not good at all and I need to talk to somebody that has experience with this set up. I’d appreciate any ideas or tips.

    • The feed dogs on the Janome 1600P do NOT lower. It may have come with a metal cover that you can place over them, otherwise you can just tape an index card over them. I only use mine on the frame and I don’t need the feed dogs at all, so I removed them. It’s very easy – just a couple of screw, and they come right out.

  13. Dear Liz. I have a Viking Mega quilter w/next generation frame. My feeddogs are just taken off. There was no leaver to lower the feed dogs. Try that!

  14. Thanks ladies. Your site has provided more information and details than anywhere else. I did have the plate that covers the feed dogs. I bought bigger needles and am going to give it another go. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  15. just got home from Home Machine Quilting Show in Salt Lake….wow…different threads work on different machines. buy the biggest machine you can afford. the smaller machines don’t leave you much room to play on larger quilts (sometimes only 4″) i wish i had gone to HMQS before i purchased my Juki 98, i would have saved more $$ and bought bigger.

  16. Thank you so much for posting this site. I am the depressed owner of Pfaff Grand Quilter & the Inspira Quilting frame. When I purchased this I did not get a manual, so I went back to the store & requested it. The store could not help me but they had a rep who came inperiodically & she owuld help me, so I left my name & etc. & eventually she did call me & tell me that she would get me one. She didn’t. I called repeated & then I was told she had mutiple deaths in her family, but she was aware of this situation. The store has now closed & I am no further in this mess & I don’t even know how to thread this properly! Any help would be GREATLY APPRECIATED! As I have 5 quilts to do before Christmas, otherwise like the maching they will just sit there till whenever!

  17. i have just purchased and pfaff grand quilter and new generation frame never used one before I have it set up and loaded with material to practice on. I have problem with the thread it does not break it just is really long stitches and then it skips altogether and times the needle seems to stick in the fabric have done free motion on my bernina but not on a frame this also has a sure stitch regulator dont know what to do with the little wheel on theoutside of frame it looks like it is attached to the upper carriage but wont stay there keeps falling off. any help would be appreciated. really want to learn to use this.

  18. Hey Linda,
    I have the same set up. I really didnt like loading the quilt w/the tubing. I made my own leaders and bought really nice pins/ I have quilted 8 panels in a week. I also took my stitch reagulator off. I am really doing good. My stitch regulator was creating the mess. Also make sure ur quilt is rolled the correct way.. YES I did that to. It made it skip really long stitches..I love this blog!!

  19. Hey Christel,
    I have the same set up too. How did you make your leaders. do you have pics? Is it very hard to do it with out the stitch regulatar. Are your stitches the same size. Did you buy panels to practies with?

  20. chrissy. If you do not use the stitch regulator how do you start your machine i know you cant use foot pedal i am about ready to throw the stitch regulator out the door but cant use the machine without it i find if i really go fast the stitches are good but if I slow down they are horrible dont know what the problem is I rechecked and i have the material on correctly also when yhou practice what size material do you put in I am finding i am spending a forturn of batting just to practice on and if my stitches were getting better i would not mind but they are not what settings for tension do you have on your pfaff. any help would be appreciated i am getting fustrated. i am thinking about puting my bernina 440 qe with stitch regulator on it i hate to do this because I use that machine all the time.

  21. ok i have disconected the stitch regulator and now my stitches look fine why is that do you suppose the regulator is not working correctly and i have beat myself up thinking i would never be able to do this
    would you suggest getting it worked on or just going without it., I have done alot of free motion quilting with the bernina with bsr so maybe i dont need it of course the man i purchased it from said it worked just not for me. is there a huge learning curve with it like i said my stitches look ok without it.


  22. Hey Linda. Sorry I havent been on here. I made my leaders with muslin fabric. Do u still have the book on ur frame.It will have the insructions. If not give me ur e-mail and I will copy for u. I have a Grace speed controlI it replaces the foot pedal, it doesnt regulate the stich u just regulate yourself. I have my tention set about a3. My neighboro had came over and loosened my bobbin the stitch was stil not right, So I tighntened my bobbin and it has worked perfect. Once u get it,,, OH my its fun. Like I said I have instructions for the leaders if u want it .. Thanks Chrissy

  23. Hey Jutta, I did the panels for practice and donations. If u give me ur e-mail I will swnd u the instructions for the leaders. It is so much better .. Thanks Chrissy

  24. chrissy, I did make leaders today I took off my stitch regulator and use the speed control and the stitches are fine must be something wrong with the stitch regulator

  25. Linda, I just think its the stitch regulator holding us back. I wish I could just return mine. You will love the leaders. Let me knoe how it goes. thanks Chrissy

  26. I have a Pfaff Grandquilter and a Next Generations Quilting Frame. Do you find that your rail plates bend? I had a quilt on mine yesterday and the quilt rods (what you roll the fabric and batting) on bent something terrible.

    I have had the frame for a 1.5 years but have not been able to use it for various reasons.

    I bet the top rail bent in about 2 inches. So that really takes away from the room you have to quilt in.

    If I had it to do over I would purchase a machine and frame that had a larger opening andquilting space. But hind site is 20/20!

    • Can you swap the bad rail with one of the other rails? Then your bent rail would not be in the quilting space. You could also contact the manufacturer and find out about a replacement rail (or rails, if they’re all bad). I haven’t had a problem with the rails on my Little Gracie II bending, even when the (darn!) cats think that a loaded quilt makes a great hammock. I understand about purchasing a larger frame and machine – I also would have made a different choice had I known the limitations of a 9″ harp.

  27. hey. my rails are not bent. can u swap the rail for batting up? i only roll my backing completely and leave the top n batting hanging. its just the way i was taught. the next thing i get will be metal and atleast a 16 inch ,longarm.. thats what i have on my wish list, lol

  28. I just don’t use the other two rails. I thought that would get u by until u get more(if u do). Let me know how much they cost if u replace. Thanks

  29. I have the pinnacle frame with the jamome 1600. The stitch regulator must be running on the platform rims to work correctly otherwise you get missed stitches and inconsistent length. I am really interested in how to make the leaders. Do you just attach the leaders to the rail using the tubing? or is it better to wrap them around? I too wish I got something with a longer throat. Does anyone know of a good instructional DVD for beginning machine quilters. I have looked all over the internet for some free info but not much luck.

    • My first leaders used the plastic tubing to hold them in place, but my current leaders are made with sleeves that the rails fit in. They’re made of pillow ticking because it’s a little stronger, and it has lines that make lining up the quilt much easier. My mom made the leaders based on the dimensions provided in the documentation that came with my frame.
      As for instructional videos, I haven’t found anything specific to frame quilting, but you should check out a blog called 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Filler Designs. She has posted over 190 different free motion filler designs, including a video for each one. She uses a regular machine, not a frame, so you have to do a little mental translation from “moving the paper” (regular machine) to “moving the pencil” (frame), but it’s a great resource.

  30. I can send anyone directions on making the leaders. They are really easy. Just send me ur e-mail

    • I just purchased a Start-Rite queen size frame from Grace Frames and got it put together yesterday. I have a Janome 6600 machine. Now…I’m totally lost since I’ve never seen how to load a quilt on a frame or even what the leaders are or how to make them. I had hoped the frame would come with clear directions or a video but it didn’t. I don’t know how big to make the leaders and whether to stick them into the slots on the rails or to make rod pockets to slide over the rails. I went to the Nancy’s Notions and saw the Start Rite leader cloth but how much would I order if I do that? Would muslin or pillow ticking be better. PLEASE HELP!

    • Nancy, I don’t know if you received any instructions with your frame, but here’s a link to the instruction just in case (the leader instructions are on pages 10-11 and the loading instructions are on pages 11-13):

      The Start Rite leader cloth comes in yardage, but it is also available in pre-measured sizes. You can see them here: It is not cheap, but it is very clearly marked, which is helpful.

      My first leaders were made of muslin, and followed the basic instructions in the manual. We made the leaders without the casing the first time. We replaced them with leaders made of pillow ticking and made them WITH a casing pocket – it’s MUCH easier to put the leader on the frame this way. The advantages to ticking are it’s a bit heavier and it has lines, so you have a guide for pinning your fabric. If you use ticking, be sure to align the lines when you sew sections together, then follow the same instructions as in the manual.

      I have a quilt on my frame right now, but I (REALLY) need to finish quilting it and get it off of there! As soon as I do, I’ll do a detailed post on how to load the quilt on the frame.

    • I would love directions on making the leaders. I have the Inspira frame and its set up for 8ft. Just got it set up and am ready to do the next step,,,, start sewing on it!

  31. I just purchased the Janome1600P DB and Gracie II frame. Thank you for the advice on needle size. Will this machine hold thread on a cone? What size pantograph would you recommend?
    Please send me the directons on making the leaders.

    • Janet, congratulations on your new purchase! The machine does hold thread on a cone – that’s all I use. Watch that the cone doesn’t rub against the frame of the machine carriage. I’ve found that sometimes it will do that, causing the thread tension to get wonky and the top thread will snap. I don’t use pantographs (I’m strictly a free motion, seat of my pants quilter), but depending on the length of your quilt, I wouldn’t go any bigger than four inches. By the time you get to the bottom of the quilt, you have very little room left. Christel is the commenter who has offered to send directions for making leaders. I’ll send her an email and see if she’d be interested in letting me post it for download.

  32. Oh thank you so much!!! You have been so helpful in my learning this machine!

  33. Help!! I have had my little gracie for almost a year now. At first I was trying to use it with a regular sewing machine. But then I bought the Janome 1600P. The minute I put it on the thread started breaking. I took it off and spent alot of time getting to know the machine and even quilting by rolling up the quilt, and pinning everywhere. I even had trouble with thread breakage quilting that way. I found that needle and thread size combination had alot to do with it when I was quilting off of the gracie. The last quilt I did off the frames turned out beautiful. I felt like I had it whopped. But lo and behold as soon as I put my next quilt on I started having the same issues. Very Frustrated. I really wanted to have this gracie and make beautiful quilts but I am honestly ready to throw it away. Any advice you might be able to give me I would greatly appreciate.

    • Nina, I sent you an email, but I’ll repeat the info here:

      I had the same problems you are having, and got so frustrated I began to question the wisdom of buying the thing. If you go through the list item by item, you’ll mostly likely find what’s causing the trouble. Because you are able to sew with it OFF the frame, and it only gives you trouble ON the frame, my first instinct is to say that your bobbin tension is too tight. If that doesn’t fix the problem, check the tension of the quilt on the frame, the position (up/down) of the rails, and then check for lint or pieces of thread in the bobbin area. Remove the plate and look behind the bobbin – I’ve had thread wrap around the shaft. Shine a light in the bobbin area and press the needle up/down button repeatedly, watching for lint or thread caught in the works. Tweezers are helpful, and a drop of oil can free up stubborn lint balls.

  34. Hey Sandi, Did u get my e-mail with the instructions on making the Leaders? Thank YOU for having this site. I like that u are a freemotion quilter (I am to) I have a friend who has a statler. She sometimes prints out patterns that maybe easy for me to do(It helps give ideas). Just let me know that u recieved my e-mail. Thanks Chrissy

  35. Hey! Now I am having a major problem. I have loaded on my frame a very old quilt that my MIL hand sewed. My machine is all of a sudden acting up. The stitch is beautiful on top but it looks terrable on the bottom. It kind of looks like its not coming up or meeting the top thread. Should I continue to tighten the tension or should I loosen the bobbin more. It has done over 35 quilts and it just seems to not like this quilt!! help any advise???? thanks Chrissy

    • Other than the quilt being old, is anything else different? Different batting? Different type of fabric for the back? Can you load a test sandwich and see if it’s the machine or the new quilt? If the problem continues on a test sandwich, then do a very thorough cleaning of your machine. Use the thread to “floss” the disks then rethread it completely. Remove the cover plate and check for thread in the bobbin area. Carefully remove any line, and look in the bobbin works themselves for little puffs of lint. Press the needle up/down button to rotate it and watch for the lint. A little oil will help remove it. Also, change your needle. It can make a huge difference.

  36. Sandi,
    Thank u so much for the info. I tried everything it turned out ok. Come to find out the quilt has poly in the top. I just couldnt seem to get it perfect. Took 2 daysto quilt. BUT she will love it. Its really old and was hand sewn. Turned out nice.
    Thanks Chrissy

  37. I too have a gracie frame it seem that after I load the quilt and have started to quilt maybe1/3 of the way the quilt seems to get loose on the sides is that a problem with it are is that a normal thing…

  38. The leader cloths that are made like a sleeve can someone send me the instructions on how to make them.. Thanks

  39. Sorry my computer transmitted before it was suppose to.

    As I saying my grand quilter is threaded differently. I put the thread through the bar that sticks out on the face of the machine but only in the hole closest to the machine and then down to the tension. And then I thread it normally the rest of the way.

    It works way better since I have started threading it this way.

    I too have problems with my stitch regulator. It does not stitch evenly. If I took it off how would I operate the machine?

  40. Just came across your blog by accident, it has provided me with lots of insight! Thank you!!

  41. Hi, I have had the Pfaff Grand Quilter and Grace Metal Frame for about 3 years now. Until recently it worked well until one day the needle broke. I think it nicked the bobbin case and caused tension problems. I sent it in for a service and it has come back with same problems. I have the Grace Stitch regulator. I have always kept the machine very clean and oiled, including the tracks the sensors run on. The tension on the back is very loose. I have tried adjusting the top and bottom tensions, changed needles, re attached the free motion foot etc but no change. I have it set up exactly as in the PFaff manual for this machine. I have ordered a new bobbin case. Help.

    • Jane, I sent you an email. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything other than what’s already listed above, but maybe someone else has a suggestion.

  42. I had my Pfaff Grand Quilter in to be repaired as I was having problems with the tension. They told me to only put the thread through the first hole on the silver bar that sticks out over the top tension.

    It works really good now.

    Hopefully the new bobbin case will work. I have an older Jenome and I was having problems with my bobbins. Well I purchased a new bobbin case so I could do thread painting. It was amazing what a difference that new bobbin case made on my machine.

  43. Just purchased a Next Generation Quilting Frame. It was used I don’t haveit out ofthe box yet. I plan to you is with My Baby Lock Ellegante2. Anyone see a problem with that? Sooooo new to this. I have been quilting by machine but this frame makes it look so easy. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

  44. I have the pfaff quilter and has nothing but problems with the tension. Its almost like I have to start over with adjusting the tension everytime I start a new quilt. YUK OH well what do u do. Just keep adjusting, LOL

  45. hi Sandi, New to your site from British Columbia, Canada and I’m already learning lots. An experienced quilter but new to the frame. Purchased a used Next Generation frame with Cruise Control, and new Janome 1600P machine. So far so good but don’t like the tubing. Could you send info on making the leaders? Thanks. Really enjoy reading all the comments.

  46. I have a Viking MegaQuilter on an Inspira Frame. I want to become proficient at free style-seat of my pants quilting. Not hot on pantograms or stencilling, but find it difficult to do straight lines with the free form foot. It’s getting better, but man is it hard to keep them from getting squiggly, especially on the diagonal! Any suggestions? Am I expecting too much of myself? Is anyone else able to do straight lines with lots of practice? Thanks!

    • Helen, I don’t even TRY to do straight lines on the frame! There are ways, depending on your machine. It has something to do with the free motion foot you have – if you have a “hopping foot” you can use a thick acrylic template or ruler as a guide. The foot cruises along the edge of it on top of the quilt. I haven’t tried using a template with my machine, but it might work. As for becoming proficient at free-style quilting, it’s all about practice! Load some fabric and batting (use the same stuff you normally use, so it feels the same when you’re quilting) and try different things. Personally, I hate meandering because of the ban on crossing lines. I think it’s much more complicated than it looks. My mom prefers a series of loops – think cursive capital L’s, or l’s and e’s, some upside down or sideways. Don’t go too fast, and make sure the machine is going fast enough. Watch your hand speed on curves as it’s easy to go too fast as you swoop around, resulting in long stitches. Try different things – you’ll eventually find a “standby” technique that works for you, and then you can customize it with add ins. For example, I use Mom’s loops and throw in leaves and flowers. I’ve added words on a few quilts, and I did one (for a firefighter) entirely in flames! As you get more comfortable, it will become smoother.

  47. Sandi,

    Thanks so much for your speedy reply! I appreciate your comments and suggestions. I will load some fabric and play around some more. What I am actually trying to do on this quilt is follow the seam lines 1/4 inch off, the pieces are rectangles on a French Braid quilt. Following a straight edge ruler is a good suggestion and I will give that a try. It’s good to know that what I’m trying to do might be impossible. I’m beginning to see that perfecting a few free form designs of my own would be really useful. I do have templates and am getting good at ‘leaves’. I like your ‘flame’ idea. I can always stipple, but everyone does that and I would like my own signature on my quilts.

    Thanks again, Helen

  48. I know that I am a long time with this thank you, but none the less THANK YOU SO MUCH! Your assistance has helped me tremendously & I have finished 4 quilts & I have 4 left to do in time for Christmas! Without your help these would not have been possible! So on behalf of myself & the recipeients THANK YOU!

  49. hi,my mother and i have just purchased a pfaff grandquilter and a next generation quilting frame used. I also would like the instructions on how to make the leaders. I know we need something to help us. We are even having trouble with the things at the ends to roll the quilt up. i’m afraid we have made a big mistake. it also came with a cruise control stitch regulator, but the lady never installed it. She said she didn’t like it either. also we are not able to get the quilts tight enough. any advice on us newbee would be helpful. thanks nancy

  50. you can make leaders out of twill or canvas, something that won’t stretch. duct tape them to the rails. pin the quilt to the leaders. a stitch regulator will be the best way to go in the long run. you need to practice, practice, practice to get it right. there are some other forums that have photos on how to load a quilt on the frame…you may be rolling the quilt the wrong way so the ‘stops’ work against you. buy some cheap muslin & some cheap poly batting and practice…you’ll need to do this to get thread tension right, too. you might go to grace quilting frames website to find some pictures on how to load a quilt.

  51. could you also send me directions for leasing. i recently purchasing a crown jewel quilting machine/frame. i have leaders from a handi quilter frame, but i think the leader for the top of the quilt is not long enough. also having trouble getting tension right.

  52. What a great find on the web! I would like the instructions for making the leads please if those are still available. I have a gracie frame and a sure stitch regulator and have been doing pretty good using the stitch regulator except when I turn to the right on my loops (that’s all I have learned to do so far) the machine seems to slow the speed and I get a large stitch. Still trying to figure out why that happens. Thanks for all the info!!!

  53. Looking for instructions on how to assemble my Inspira quilting frame and PFAFF Grandquilter 1200. If you could help I would REALLY appreciate it!

  54. I have a used gracie Next Generaion frame that I purchased it is several years old but practically new. The leaders were not with the frame and I need assistance is knowning how sto put on ..what fabric should I should I anchor the leaders on the tubes? Please help!!! thanks

  55. I have read thru your site and have to say THANK YOU!! I have searched and searched for such a site that answers my questions regarding my Next generation frame and yours is the only one so far that does that. I have not used my frame since I purchased it due to the fact I couldnot keep the material from slipping off the take up poles even tho I utilized the tubing. Then I found out I should be using leaders…well..that is another nightmare. How do I apply and how large should they be?/ i really do want to be able to do my own quilting but right now I am so frutrated I feel like throwing thousands of dollors right out in the yard.Your sight has indicated I am not the only one with the same questions and that really does help.I am NOT alone !! I look forward to solving my problem finally!1

  56. The roller poles on my Inspira frame have velcro attached (glued/screwed?)securely to the pole in long sections, and velcro sewn to the heavy muslin leaders. That way all of the leaders interchange with all of the poles. The leaders are hemmed on all edges and all the same size/same length. No problem guessing which one goes where!

    I do an extra step to get my quilt backing tight.
    1. pin, pin, pin the quilt back to the ‘top’ leader and roll it up smooth and tight and square with the frame.
    2. Then start at the bottom end and pin closely and unroll off the top roller/roll it onto the bottom roller to snug it up. Might be overkill, but I never get wrinkles in the backing. It pays off when I add the batting and quilt top and actually start to quilt!

    Hope this isn’t too confusing and actually helps someone!

    • Helen, I don’t know if you are still on this site or not. I,too, have an Inspira frame and Grand Quilter for about a year now. My girlfriend was using it and the bar for the finished quilt has become bent in the center; any suggestions? Also has anyone used pantographs and the laser light? How do you get the laser light to work? I put in new batteries but it still does not work. I bought the system second hand and didn’t any instructions with it. Can anyone help me?

    • Myrna, your set up is different from mine, but I found a few things you might find useful. This page of the Pfaff website has a PDF of common questions for the Grand Quilter and Inspira frame. I don’t have a laser light and couldn’t find much information about it, but there was a mention of “a simple turn of the start knob on the laser pointer” – you’ve probably done that, but just in case… You can also see a brief description of the quilting frame on this page of the Pfaff website. Good luck!

  57. I have the Next Generation and Grand Quilter. My leaders have a pocket which the rod slides through. Then the rubber Tubing holds it in place. I think you can make your leaders as big as you want as long as you have space where you can get at your machine to change the bobbin.

    I pin my quilt to the leader. I actually put a lot of pins in it so it does not shift.

    I was having problems with my rods bending but someone on this site said that my fabric was wound to tight.

    Then they told me to only wind the backing on the rods. I just let my batting and top to hang loose. But when you are rolling the quilt make sure that you lift up the backing and top to ensure they are not pulling on the backing and rod.

    I am far from proficent on my machine but I have learned a lot from this string.

  58. I bought a pfaff grandquilter and the inspira quilting frame about five years ago. I did not get any instructions except how to put the frame together. I have tried for years to find a manual or dvd to help me. Can any one help me find a copy? Thanks!

  59. Liz, I would be willing to make a paper copy of the manual for the inspira quilt frame and mail it to you if you will give me your mailing address.

    • Thanks for your offer of information. Sorry I havn’t been on this site in a while. Liz Sykes 117 Davis Rd. Cove Terry,MS 39170. Aiso do you have the instructions for the leaders Crissy is talking about? What leaders do you use? Thanks so much.

  60. I was wondering if its ok to use zipper leaders on the shortarm frame. Is thier and differance to the cloth.

    • Mary, we made zippered leaders for the Little Gracie II and they work well. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to use them on your frame.

  61. I have just begun to quilt with a Pfaff Grandquilter on a Grace Co. Next Generation frame. The problem I’m having is with keeping my stitches small and even. I’ve had no formal instruction and I find that my stitches are very large and and I can’t seem to get the stitches to look less like basting.

    • Eva, it’s really all about practice. You need to slow down your hands and/or speed up your machine. Do you have a speed control? If so, try nudging the dial a bit higher. Also, check the speed on the machine itself. It should have a slider (my Janome 1600 has a slider that goes from turtle to rabbit) that controls the speed. I set it at the highest speed on the machine, and then use the Grace speed control dial to adjust my stitching speed. While a stitch regulator would be wonderful, I just can’t afford one. Instead, my speed control and a conscious effort to relax and slow my hands works pretty well for me.

  62. Happy New Year!

    I just finished putting together the Grace Pro frame and am using the Juki 98Q machine with Stitch Regulator. I have adjusted the tensions (was getting complete loops on back). I also have the stitch regulator – but I cannot get the stitches to come out consistent. Your site so far has offered the most help and was wondering if you had any ideas. I’m regretting getting talked into the stitch regulator at this point 😦

    • I found that changing one thing at a time and testing after each change helped me to identify the problem. Are your tension issues resolved, or are they still happening? Try removing the stitch regulator and get the tension issues dealt with. Go through the entire list above. Once everything is working without the regulator, put it back on and see if new issues pop up. Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience with the stitch regulator itself. Good luck!

  63. Darlene, I’m sorry that you are having so much trouble. Double check that your presser foot is down each time you start sewing. That has caused me a lot of grief and I actually put a sticky note on the machine to make sure I catch that each time.
    Just a thought….

  64. i have a juki98 on a frame & have a sure stitch regulator and love it. you really need to play with your tension, and like another Helen said, make sure your pressure foot is down. sometimes you have to reload the bobbin & rethread everything…i had trouble with one whole bobbin the last quilt i did…changed bobbins & everything worked okay…go figure.

  65. I bought a used mega quilter. I did a baby quilt and some practice stuff with out problems. Now I am having troubles with the thread not moving freely in the bobbin holder. The bobbin thread either breaks or the case falls out of the slot. The bobbins I am using came with the machine. Is it suppose to sit flush in the case? If it does it wont turn. should I get a new case?

    • Dawn, you should first check the bobbin and bobbin area for lint or bits of thread caught up in the works. They can cause all sorts of issues. Use a flashlight and remove any plates you can to allow you to see better. A dental mirror or other small mirror on an angled handle can help you see things you might have missed. Long tweezers, especially bent ones, are also helpful.

  66. Helen, helen and Sandi –

    You are all wonderful! I removed the Juki from the frame, put in a new bobbin, re-threaded the machine and adjusted tension. Got it working off the frame. Put back on frame and hooked up the stitch regulator and back to the same problem – so I adjusted the tension from there and now I HAVE A WORKING SETUP! 🙂 I’ve blown the whole weekend on this – but at least it is now working for next weekend LOL

    Thank you again. Really are no words to tell you how much I appreciate you responding with the help. I have never had this much trouble with a machine.


  67. Darlene,
    So glad you are up and running now! I must be one of the fortunate few who bought a working used machine, came home, set it up and have had no problems other than operator error! Ha! Hope I don’t jinx myself. I agree with Sandi to try one thing at a time and do a process of elimination. Be sure to clean your machine often by removing plates, bobbin case etc. and oil it regularly too. Happy Sewing!!

  68. glad to have helped…lint does a number on us everytime! especially using polyester batting…which i avoid unless client insists. but that one time when the whole bobbin apparently was wound wrong (?) was really weird…to lots of things can and do go wrong, and NO YOU DID NOT WASTE THE WEEKEND think of what you’ve learned!

  69. Thank you for your help,Sandi. I’m so happy to have stumbled onto your blog, I feel as though I have the support that I was so lacking.It’s good to know that others have had the same problems and I am less dicouraged as a result.I feel a sisterhood here.

  70. I have a Pfaff grandquilter machine on a gracie next generation frame. I had all kinds of prolbems until I took the stitch regular off. I have not did anything but stippling but with your site I may try more, thanks.

  71. I don’t understand how you make the Pfaff Grand work on the fram with out the stitch regulator. Can some one explain?

    • The stitch regulator tells the machine how fast to go based on how fast you move your hands. Without the stitch regulator you have two options – a speed control (what I use, and it cost about $70) or the foot pedal. To use the foot pedal, you place it on top of the carriage that holds the machine. There is a handle that, when squeezed, press on the foot pedal. A friend has this set up and she said that gripping the handles to keep the machine going is tiring on her hands. My speed control connects to the machine the same way the stitch regulator does, but it doesn’t have a “brain.” There are two buttons and a dial – one button is on/off, another is pulse, and the dial sets the speed. I set the dial to a comfortable speed, then turn it on and start moving the carriage. I have to be careful to “regulate” my hand speed so the stitch length is consistent.

      The photo above shows my frame without the extra handle for using the foot control, and most photos I’ve found on the web show the same setup. Here’s a photo with the foot pedal in use:

  72. Help! Im confuse. I thought the Stitch Regulator had a Speed Control with it? I have the Stitch Regulator and I cant seem to get the stitch the same. I know it takes practice, but I seem to just let the whole set up sit in my room.

    • There are two different attachments you can purchase, the speed control and the stitch regulator.
      A speed control is like a cruise control on a car – you set the speed of the machine and it doesn’t change. You have to adjust how your hands move.
      A stitch regulator is like a robot controlled car – it speeds up and slows down depending on how you’re driving (moving your hands).
      Theoretically, a stitch regulator makes it much easier to keep the stitch length consistent.

      Mary, believe me, I know how easy it is to just ignore the thing! I had so much trouble with tension at the beginning that I ignored it for months. Practice on some simple quilts, or just plain fabric and batting, until you get more comfortable with it. I don’t have a stitch regulator so I can’t give too much input, but I do know that practice (practice, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!!) will make a difference. Give yourself permission to make a “bad” quilt, or several, if necessary. Donate them, use them as pet beds, whatever. You made too big an investment in this set up to let it go to waste. You can do it!

  73. i recommend learning to use the stitch regulator…you can do a much classier quilt with it…and the stitch regulator doesn’t affect tension as much as how tight your quilt is on the frame…and the type of thread you are using…at least in my limited experience.

  74. Just my input, lol! I use the speed control and I love it! Once everything is set and you have in mind what design u want I fly throught the quilts. My stitch regulator would slow down and make these really BIG stitsches. Its really what u get use to!! The main thing is to have fun!

  75. My machine came with a stitch regulator attached, up and running. It is amazing and I can’t imagine trying to do without one! It knows when to speed up and slow down to keep the stitch length the same at all speeds. Simplifies the whole process. All I do is sit down and sew! The only problem I have is that it is so easy that I crank out the quilts and need to sit down and piece some more tops!

  76. I have the Quilters Choice Professional and Gracie Frame. I ordered some leader strips that came with pins on a web-site.I have the crib, queen and king strips….love them…I am having issues with templates that are larger than the area I have to work with….any thoughts….seems like stopping and starting only messes the thread up, causing it to bunch up….I love the machine for meandering….after this one that is all I am doing in the future…..

    • Betty I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with the templates. I’m not a big fan of them – although I received a set with my frame, I only used them once. I prefer to free motion rather than follow a set pattern. I’m sorry – I wish I could help with your template issues!

  77. Wow what a nightmare!! Have Gracie and Janome 1600 for 6 months can’t get good results.. What to do foe thread skipping???
    What to set machine tensions at??? thanks for any help!!!

    • Peggy, just start at the top of the list and work your way down! It takes patience, but eventually it will work out. The proper tension settings require a bit of fiddling – it isn’t the same for every set up, and mine changes when I change thread (top or bobbin). Play with it a bit, making very slight adjustments (set the bobbin tension first).

  78. I have. Just bought a pre-loved janome 1200 and Gracie frame. I have no idea what I’m doing yet but I’m very glad I found this fabulous blog to help out as I find my way.

    • Try changing your needle. Usually when I have skipped stitches it’s because my needle is old. Make sure you needle is large enough for the thread you’re using. I use a 16 or 18 needle with 40/2 or 40/3 thread. If you have a smaller needle (14 came with my machine), try using finer thread, like 50/2. (If you don’t already know, the first number of thread tells how fine it is – the larger the number the smaller the thread, and the second number is how many strands. So 40/2 is thinner than 40/3, and 50/2 is thinner than both.)

  79. Betty, I was once told by a short arm quilter to use templates or pantographs that are no wider than 3-4 inches. This allows for play room in the throat plate when you run out of space as your quilt builds. I don’t know if that answers your question but I hope it helps.

  80. Love this site..I own the Viking Mega Quilter with inspira frame…the “manual” that comes with machine is absolutely useless…so this forum is very very much a God send…just wanted to add a suggestion for those having problems with their speed controls..dust on the tracks,rails and the rollers will impede the regulator every time

  81. To Daryl,
    Welcome to the site! I have the same combination of machine and frame that you do, with a stitch regulator. I absolutely love mine, and have had no problems with it.
    Have not used the pantogram/shelf yet, but I’m having so much fun learning to free form that I don’t know that I will even use it. I agree that the manual is useless. This forum is a place to get advise!

  82. I have a Next Generation frame and a Husqvarna Mega Quilter and I love it now. I had all the issues other have stated in previous postings but have worked through them and it is sewing flawlessly now. The issue I have yet to overcome is the rails bend in the middle. Am I rolling it to tight? Any suggetions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks to you and all the people posting – I have learned so much just by reading – it also helps knowing I was not alone in my struggle learning to use the system!

  83. That is a problem I had when I first started with my Next Generation as well. The advice I received and has worked for me was to not roll it so tight and to float the batting and the top. I was horrified when I saw that my rails were bending. But since I started floating them I don’t seem to have that much problem. Granted I am still in the early learning stages even thought I have had mine for two years. I am retiring this year so I hope to get more time to work with it.

    Another thing that you need to watch is that when you are rolling the quilt make sure that the quilt is loose in the middle. I find that I stick my hand under and made sure it is not pulling in the middle. The middle does not seem to unroll as easy as the ends do. I think it has something to do with sticking to the batting. I hope this makes sense to you.

    It will also help when I get the quilt that I have on it off as I am not fond of the quilt. That is putting it nicely. I keep putting off working on it as I dislike the quilt so much. It is one my son wanted me to make and it has been a headache since I started piecing it. but I will get it done.

    Hope this helps.

  84. Ugggghhhhhhh…up until now my machine has worked basically flawlessly…now the tension after many many quilts wants to fight me…there is hesitation with the speed and has resulted in a new language being created in my diningroom…I alwyas use the same thread but my last quilt a silk thread was used as per customers wish…after a bit of trial and error I found the perfect setting for the tension (I kept track of how much I was changing it)…once I finished that project I reset everything back to the original tension setting aaaaaayund now my machine is revolting…guess it carries a grudge

  85. Thanks, Fay, I’ll try the “float” and not roll so tight. I have watched several Youtube videos regarding the roll procedure but they didn’t really address the amount of tension.
    I love this site (thank you so much, Sandi). Many questions answered by reading and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my quest for excellent quilting!! LOL!

  86. Diane, I was told when I purchased my
    Next generation frame not to leave the rails loaded too tight for long periods of time as this will cause bending, so now I’m in the habit of loosening the rails at the end of each quilting session.

    • Eva, this is also a great suggestion for anyone who has cats. Mine think the loaded quilt makes a fantastic hammock. If I unlock the rails when I’m not working on the quilt, the quilt doesn’t stretch, the rails don’t bend, and my cats get a quick spin with a hard landing!

  87. Eva, thanks! I bought mine second hand and was not told this. I will definitely loosen at the end of session as well as not over-tighten!

  88. This thread is awesome! You’ve inspired me to go back to the frame and give it another try! I purchased my Next Generation frame and Janome 1600P used from two women who never really learned how to use it. I also have the stitch regulator. First quilt went off without a hitch in under 2 hours from completion of the set-up. Since then, nothing but big loops underneath, skipped stitches and broken threads. Back to work!

  89. I have a grand quilter with the imperial frame. i also have the stich regulator. the regulator skips stiches and sometimes makes long stiches. i think the problem is the rollers on the stich regulator sometimes do not roll, they seem to be very sensitive and slide instead of rool at times. i have tried everything. seems like the sensors need a spring to help keep more pressure on the rollers. is there a fix for this. have not even had this a year and have had alot of heart burn from it. i also tried a thinner bobbin thread and then could not get the tension correct. do yo have any help. I am ready to get rid of the whole setup.

    • I have the same issues of encoder not always rolling and tension problems as well. Did you find any solutions from your posting that might help me.

    • Readers, does anyone have any suggestions? I also have this problem occasionally, and since my setup is fairly new to me, I don’t have the answers yet!

  90. HELP!!! I have a GrandQuilter 18.8 and an Inspira quilt frame! Does anyone know how to load this beast? The quilt frame and machine were given to be by a dear friend who never used it! I’m not having much luck with the company so I am spending most of my quilting time researching!

    Someone please help!

  91. Do you have leaders on the frame?? I am not real sure but if its like mine I had those darn tube things and I just made my own leaders, I made them out of muslin and they have lasted me almost a year. You just need to get really nice pins and pin the top first then roll under and them pin bottom and roll under. You want to roll all the way back to the top. Then lay your batting then quilt top, bast and your ready to go! I hope this helps?

  92. Hi, first of all, congrats! This is a great forum and I found a lot of my answers already. I do still have one question: (I have a mega quilter on the Inspira frame) how do I know when to adjust the height of the frame? Which parts do you change, all at once so they are always even? Or front only or back only?
    Thanks for all your help!

  93. This is a great site. I wish I had found it about 2 years ago when I was first trying to figure out how to use my quiklting setup without any sort of instructions.
    I have a grace frame with a juki TL-98Q that a friend gave me whe she upgraded.
    I have had fairly good luck with it until about a month ago when I started trying to do designs that have smaller curves and circles. Now I notice that it doesn’t feel like it moves as freely as it used to. I don’t know if there is something wrong with it or id I am just trying to do free motion designs that are too small and tight. I have taken the carriage apart and cleaned it. I noticed a small nick in one of the rails on the carriage. I sanded the nick down and am still having issues with control around small curves and circles.

    Hopefully, someone can shed some light. Thanks for taking the time to read this – I know it was long.

  94. I do free motion on a Babylock Quilters Pro and have learned over time to adjust the tensions (thread & bobbin). The top stitches always appear perfect when sewing in any direction but when I check the back the stitches are not uniform. They appear out of adjustment when I sew in a different direction. Have any clues to why this happens?

  95. I am glad I found this site. I have owned a Next Generation Quilt Frame for three years. Still have not completed one quilt on it. My problem is one of the rails is bowing in the middle before the material is not rolled onto it. Your site has answered a few of my questions, so I am going to try again.

  96. I am the designer of the hexi foot and the round foot. This foot was made to work with our 9 inch machines.It enables us to do ruler work. You can do cross hatch and straight line quilting. The round foot can be used with other peoples templates.All different shapes,curves and angles.I have a video on you tube to view type in and type in hexifoot all one word and enjoy the clip. If you have any questions please e mail me at Patty

  97. Elena….
    I had the same problem and it turned out the bobbin was to tight.. Adjust your bobbine loose and then tighten ur top tention last. I found out top tention needs to be adjust all the time with my machine. I loosen then tighten to get almost the perfect stitch… I hope this helps

  98. I purchased a used Next Generation Quilting Frame and Viking machine a year ago. I’ve finished only a few things. I have problems, that it is not smooth. The machine runs very smooth, but I believe it is the frame. I do not end up with rounded corners when I am stippling, they are square. Has anyone else had this problem? Or does anyone have any suggestions? I’d really like to use my machine more. Thank you.

    • Norene, have you checked to be sure your frame is level front to back and side to side? Also, since you got them used, maybe the rails or wheels need to be cleaned or replaced. They may cause the decline in smoothness.

  99. I’ve purchased a Pinnacle frame from a friend(?) & plan on using my Juki TL98 with it. The problem is – her husband delivered & set up the frame (incorrectly as it turned out), gave me two DVDs (neither of which is exactly alike, and my friend(?) says she’s had a migraine for over two months & has missed coming time after time. My husband could ordinarily help me with it, but he has terminal cancer & is on heavy doses of morphine making it hard for him to concentrate. The leaders she sent are of muslin and I feel I won’t be happy with them. I’d like instructions from you on how you made your leaders and how you attach to the poles. I’m so glad I found this site!

  100. Loretta,contact Gracie Frames for the proper set up instructions, they can send you the DVD required. As to the leaders,I have muslin leaders and they work out just fine. The leaders are installed with plastic tubing that should have come with the frame.If you didn’t get the tubing, it can be purchased at Home Depot. You just purchase the length that you need. I think it’s 1/4 inch clear plastic tubing, but measure before you shop.
    Good luck!
    I hope for the best with your husband.

  101. Sandi,
    I’m so glad that I found this site. I am looking at two used machines one is the Janome 1600P with a Next Gen Frame and the other is a Pfaff Grand Quilter w/Next Gen frame. I am going to see the Janome set up in the morning and not sure when/if I will see the other…..the Janome is brand new and so is the frame and the price is right. The lady selling the Pfaff mentions some homemade leaders, do I really need them and if so would you be able to provide me with the directions to make my own? The lady with the Janome is willing to negotiate and the other lady with the Pfaff sounds pretty set in the price. Any input you could provide would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  102. I bought the 1600P and a grace frame about 6 months ago. They are working well for me. The biggest issue I had with the 1600P was that the feed dogs do not drop and I couldn’t understand how this could be in a machine that was designed to work with a quilt frame. Purchasing the darning place solved my problem. I’ve used a variety of different brands and blends of threads with no issues. Another thing to consider is whether the bobbins are compatible with your current machine as they are different from my other machines and this is a bit of a pain. Overall I like my new machine. Note: I DO have a stitch regulator on my frame and this really makes the whole process easy! FYI – I paid $1400 Cdn for both.

  103. Last October I found this site for help in straight line quilting. Thank you Patty Burke for finally posting help for this type of quilting! I will be emailing you for information on the Hexifoot. Watched your video on YouTube and it appears to be just what I am looking for! Finally a way to do straight line quilting! Thanks!!

  104. Tammy Rushing, have you gotten your Inspira quilt frame loaded yet? I have the same frame and it’s not as bad as it may seem.
    I actually love mine! Mine came with a video that was not really helpful, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard to load. I don’t use the front lower roller for the batting, but just let it hang loose under the frame and gently guide it into the ‘sandwich’ as I roll the quilt. One good photo of a quilt loaded on the frame really says it all. Let me know if you would like some photos and I’ll email you some.

  105. Got my Next Generation Frame up and ready, now I thought it would be smart to try the machine, a Janome 1600P, by doing some “regular” straight sewing…….I will be spending some time on the above list as I have not been able to sew at all. My biggest concern is that I hope I have the thing threaded correctly, the directions are somewhat confusing. Wish me luck.

  106. Denise, Good luck! If you find “regular straight sewing” to be frustrating, turn yourself loose and try curvy, loopy lines.
    They really are a lot easier than 1/4″ outline or stitch in the ditch!

  107. Well today I finally figured out why I couldn’t stitch at all (off the frame) with my Janome 1600P…..after rethreading the machine, changing threads, changing needles, changing tension and having to replace the bobbin case that I bent when I broke a needle I finally figured out that I had put the thread through the needle the wrong way! I knew something wasn’t right when I would pull up the bobbin thread then I looked at the directions one more time and the light came on, so I’m posting this in case anyone else has the same problem they can check to see if they made the same mistake. Going to put the Janome in the frame and see what happens next.

  108. Denise, you were smart to figure out your machine and test drive it before you put it in the frame! Have fun, and once again, I would highly recommend doing stipple, curvy, loopy lines for the actual quilting practice. It’s a lot of fun, when everything is working well!

  109. hi just found here
    ive been ready to throw my machine for over 12 months now its been back to janome twice and im told its a user error not machine
    its sewing and then all of a sudden just skips about an inch of stiches like its not picking up the bobbin thread its a janome 1600p on a happy jack frame
    now i had quilted about 20 quilts fine with it then ran over pins on the backing leader (skimped on backing didnt see it was to short) bent the shaft and that has been replaced after the second time i sent it back but this skipping stitches started after this and it dosnt matter what i do i cant get it to stop
    now my aunt has same machine different frame and ive gone and used hers and im not having the problem
    tried her free motion foot on my machine in case mine is damaged still skipping
    next step is to try my machine on her frame to see if its a frame prob or machine
    anyone else got any ideas
    i have tried every size needle and thread combo u can think of and its just so frustrating that i have only made one quilt in last 12 months because im getting put off

  110. Alrighty then…This is a great THREAD!! I used all of the direction at the top and my PFAFF Hobby Grandquilter 1200 is sewing Beautifully!!! The only thing I changed from the directions given was the dial on the right of the machine (when facing it), instead of 0 I put to 2.5 as recommended on a Pfaff dealer siteI I oiled,all over, changed the needle,it takes an HLSchmetz x 5(ONLY, apparently), changed the threads to Gutermanns 50/3 on top and Coats and Clark Mercernized Cotton on the bobbin, BEAUtiful! I had been using embroidery thread (I KNOW) read somewhere that would work fine, but not for long) I just got it back from service yesterday, 80 bucks and NOt fixed. Now with these great tips, No more loops on the back!! No more perfect stitch on the front and straight lines on the back! No more wanting to drop kick this thing out the front door and take a second mortgage for a computerized quilting machine!! (not for today anyway.)

    NOW, can anyone help me tweak the automatic thread cutter so it leaves a long enough tail to catch after cutting ….please,please, please??

    Thanks again, Sandi, for a great posting. It’s been a World of help!!!

  111. I have the same problem with the bottom thread being too short after cutting, but have not found any way to adjust it.
    I’ve resorted to keeping an old pair of tweezers handy to pull it through with. Not a perfect solution, but better than pricking fingers.

  112. This blog is just what I needed. I just purchased a used juki98q on a grace mini pinni frame. I finally got the frame set up (ohh, my aching hands!) and today after hours of fussing with bunched up threads, breaking threads, broken needles etc. I sat down to the computer and found this blog. THANKS so much for all the hints.
    Being new to frame quilting I am finding that doing adjustments (rethreading, putting in bobbin, digging out thread bunches…) is really frustrating when the machine rolls all over the place on the carriage. Is there any way to stabilize it to do these things? It’s really hard threading a needle on a moving target and I haven’t yet figured out how to use the needle threader.


    • Donna, if your machine is rolling around make sure the frame is level both front to back and left to right. Mine usually stays put on its own, although I usually move the machine to the farthest forward, farthest right or left position. If it’s all level and it keeps moving, try putting clothespins (the squeeze kind) on the rail beside the carriage wheels so it can’t roll anywhere. Just be sure to take them off when you’re ready to start quilting!

  113. Donna, I recently purchased a used frame and machine and I tried my machine “off” frame before to make sure all the settings were good before putting it on the frame. This site is awesome and is a great place to troubleshoot. Hope all goes well for you and you figure out the kinks.

  114. Denise, and Sandi, Thanks for your advice. I took the machine off the frame and used it to finish quilting a quilt that I had started on my other sewing machine. It helped me get familiar with my new Juki. Then, after a bit of practice on some scraps on the frame, I just finished my first quilt on the frame. I used the wave design on the pantogragh board and it turned out beautifully. I’ve discovered that my machine doesn’t like to work right to left and when I do, the thread is more likely to break. Never mind! I’ll just work left to right. Love the pantogragh board!

  115. I have had Pfaff Grandquilter for about a year now and have also experienced most, if not all, of the problems mentioned here. With perservence, I have been able to overcome most and am getting satisfactory results now. One thing I do want to mention with regard to the rail bending issue. I have my frame set up full length and my rails were also bending. I changed positions and played with different arrangements of the rails. During one of these changes, I noticed that the screws which hold the rails together in the middle were loose. After tightening these screws the bending was eliminated! LOL! I now check these screws as part of my regular maintenance. This is a great site for troubleshooting tips as is the Pfaff Grandquilter Group on Yahoo.

  116. Has anyone had trouble with the wooden frame sticking with the Little Gracie Quilt frame? We are wondering if the wood has swelled from the humidity.

  117. I have a grace frame and Janome 1600P. I had some initial trouble a year ago when I got the unit. I went through the 14 steps and solved the issues and have had no trouble since … until THIS quilt!! In my first pass, I hit the head of a pin on my leader and snapped my needle. It was running smooth until then. Since then, I’ve put in 4 new needles, changed threads, been through the 14 steps and had the shop-vac out to suck out any internal threads and lint. Top thread keeps breaking every 5 – 6 inches. Any other suggestions before I dismantle and take the Janome in to the shop?? Am I doomed? Did I bend the shank?? Help!!

    • Any chance that, in the process of the needle breaking, it hit the edge of the foot and nicked it? Even a microscopic nick might cause the thread to fray and break. Other than that, I’m out of ideas. Good luck!

  118. Sandi and Heather, I nicked my foot and had to get a brand new one. I would have breakage and thread shreading. I quilted my first quilt the other day and it went great (NOT one problem with breakage) Its worth a try!

  119. Hi – I’ve changed the foot now and I thought it solved my problem. I’m able to go a slightly longer distance but not much! Still breaking!! At my wits end! Is it worthwhile to take it off the quilter and to try to duplicate the problem just stippling without the frame? Can’t figure out how I’m going to get the thing apart to take it in for servicing and whether or not a technician will be able to duplicate the problem without the frame and the stitch regulator.

  120. Heather,
    Have you tried turning your stitch regulator off and trying it with the speed control?? It might be worth a try… Also OIL OIL OIL. Make sure your machine is oiled even when you do not use. Mine works great now.. Good LUCK! Let us know.

  121. What a great informative site!!!! I have a Janome Horizon on the Gracie II frame with the metal carriage set up as queen size…..My question is what height do you all find works best? I had it 4-5 inchs lower in the beginning but then moved it up so needle is actually almost eye level because I was stooped over trying to see the needle and back ached. Now my shoulders ache……wondering if before I go to trouble of lowering and re leveling what is your opinion? Now that I have done a couple of quilts perhaps I wouldn’t /shouldn’t be spending so much time looking at the needle but rather at where I want to go? Went to Paducah AQS show and they said long arms should be set so front rail is ‘belly bar’ Would that be good advice for these frames?

    • You’re on the right track, Bunny. Your arms and shoulders should be relaxed when you’re quilting, so bring it back down. You shouldn’t be looking at the needle, but, as you said, where you want to go. I’m not sure what they meant about long arms set to front rail is belly bar, but I’m assuming that since the basic movement is the same, the set up should be similar. Good luck!

  122. Thank You SOO very much for your very prompt reply … your advice in assisting me to make leaders for my gracie Quiltimg frame was invaluable…NOW I can start quilting my creations!!!!! You have no idea how much your assistance means to me …. I have tried unsucessfully for over a year to get someone to help me in home … with no success…Thank You from the bottom of my heart!!!! Nancy Fay

  123. I have the Mega Quilter and everything was working fine. I decided to remove the feed dogs and change the needle etc. I loaded a quilt as normal and it seemed OK but then I noticed that the left hand side of the frame was stitching the quilt OK but about a 3 foot area in from the right the stitching is looping at the back. I had stitch about 3 foot of the quilt before i noticed what was happening. I cant figure out why it is only doing this in the right side area of the quilt. Hope this makes sense to you and you might have a suggestion.


    • Wow, that’s a strange one, Vanessa! Could the frame be out of level? I don’t know that it would have that serious an effect, but it’s the only thing I can think of that would only affect one side of the quilt.

  124. So glad I found this site! I recently purchased a little gracie frame and a bernina demo frame and a janome P-DB- I have been a quilter for almost 30 years and am very proficient in free motion on my other machines- this has been a real challenge- so i appreciate all the help- definitely thread difficulties -but i am still trying- skipped stitches after a few inches- i have the sure-stitch regulator so perhaps it is a needle an thread issue- I will try again tomorrow and all the reading helped-thanks-Roberta

    • Hello all,
      I am thrilled to find this site..I bought a gracie big set up with the Janome as well oh about 3 yrs ago and there it has sat in my family room …hubby is beside himself!!! Frankly I am scared to death and cant even figure out how to load the thing..anyone close to Cleveland Ohio who can come show me over coffee? At best I am feeling like the stitch regulator may not work based on the threads I am reading..really wanted to be able to use this to do some of my UFO tops!!

  125. I totally understand your fear. I have had mine for 3 year and I am just really starting to work with it. Of course we had a move during that time so it wasn’t set up for a while.

    I think it is just like riding a bike you just have to give it a try.

    As many will tell you is breath when you are quilting. Do not hold yourself stiff. Go slow but not really or the stitches go all wacky. If you are using a panto look to where you are to go and your hands will follow.

    It just takes practice.

    Good luck. From Saskatchewan, Canada

    • I know how scary it is to get started on this thing, but try this: at each step, ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen? I usually recommend that people practice using fabric and batting of a quality similar to what they will be working with on a “real” quilt. If you’re having trouble just getting started, though, you could use the cheapest fabric and batting you can find. Use a couple of old sheets you picked up at a thrift shop, even. What’s the worst that could happen if you load it wrong? You won’t break the frame or machine. At worst (and this is absolute worst case – not very likely) you’ll ruin the fabric and batting, and maybe break a needle. So what? You’ll be out $10, tops, and you’ll have learned something – several somethings, in fact. You’ll know what not to do next time, and you’ll know that you CAN do this.

      Did your frame and machine come with an instruction manual? If not, check out the Grace Company’s website – you can download the manual for all of their products on this page:
      Mine also came with a video that showed not only how to assemble the frame, but how to load the fabric. If you don’t have this, there are illustrations in the manual.

      Here’s how to load the frame:
      1. If you are piecing the backing, it’s best to create either a diagonal seam (uses less fabric but is more difficult to do) or a horizontal seam. A vertical seam will build up when you roll it on the frame and cause looseness at the sides.
      2. Making sure your backing and top are square (not crooked) will go a long way toward keeping things flat and smooth – you are less likely to quilt creases into the backing if it’s straight.
      3. Find the center point of your backing, batting, and top, and the center point of the rails. Mark them with a pencil, erasable marker, even a stitch of brightly colored thread. Mark the rails or your leaders with a permanent marker. Line up the center points and attach from the center out. I like leaders, and directions for making them are in the instruction manual.
      4. Backing fabric should be loaded with the WRONG side up. (It hasn’t happened to me – YET.)
      5. Attach the backing to the 2nd rail (1st rail goes through the machine, 2nd rail is top, 3rd rail is bottom) and roll it so the fabric comes off the top of the rail. Roll it from both sides (left and right), and smooth it from the center out every other rotation. Keep the left and right edges in line – don’t let the fabric migrate to one side. Unroll enough fabric to reach and attach to the first rail.
      6. Attach the quilt top to the 3rd rail and roll it so the fabric comes off the back of the rail. You should be able to stick your fingers between the roll and the fabric coming off it.
      7. Place the batting on the backing, centering and pinning from the center out along the top edge of the batting. You’re pinning it to the backing fabric. The batting will go OVER the 2nd rail and behind the 3rd rail. I let mine pool on the floor (kicking it out of the way every so often), but if you have a 4th rail, you can drape it over that. I stopped using mine.
      8. Bring the quilt top up from the 3rd rail, over the batting, and line up the center points. Pin through the batting and backing layers. Don’t pin it right at the edge of the batting – leave a couple inches of space.
      9. Roll the first rail (the one that goes through the sewing machine) so the fabric comes off the bottom. You should be able to stick your fingers between the roll and the fabric coming off it.

      I can see that I need to turn this into a real post, with photos and everything, but for now, I hope this helps. As Fay replied in the comments, just BREATHE! Relax, lower your shoulders, and give it a try. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work. You just have to start again, this time with a little more information about what does not work.

  126. This is my new favorite site. I have a Janome 1600P on a grace frame with the metal upgraded tray and a Grace Stitch Regulator attached. I cannot get the machine to recognize the regulator instead of the foot control. I have gone through all of the troubleshooting processes and everything seems to be working until I get to the step asking for the pulse feature (it doesn’t work and the machine doesn’t recognize the regulator is attached). I have tried numerous combinations of plugging things in to make the machine recognize it with no results. The grace company only offered that if I send everything to them they would check it out but I don’t have a warranty and already know which parts are working. This is driving me crazy. Any help? Norma

    • Hi Norma,
      I too have the same setup as you. I have not had the chance to get mine set up yet as I just picked my packages and am in the process of a move at the end of the month.
      A possible suggestion to your problem with the sure stitch regulator is that the internal configuration is set up incorrectly. If the sure stitch was purchased used, it could have been set up for a different machine, I bought mine brand new and the instructions say it is pre configured for the Janome 1600. Read the instructions that came with the unit, if you don’t have any, go to this pdf link from Grace –
      It details the the internal configuration for different machines.
      This is a great thread..though after reading it I started to get a little nervous with all the issues people have had. But..I am pretty systematic and stubborn when it comes to figuring out things! I will followup with my experience after I get moved, settled and get it all set up.

  127. Thank you – thank you I just got an 18″ longarm and majestic frame and have been searching for over a week for just this kind of information. Went through a week of missing stitches and frustration. Discovered that it was probably the thread and now with new thread I’m getting most of the stitches, just need to tweek the tension a little more for better stitches. I’m putting your page in my favs so I can look at it more.

  128. This site fills in many of the big gaps in the instruction manuals! Thank you!!!!

    I have a Pfaff Grand Quilter 1200 and have been reasonably happy with the 10 or so large quilts I have completed. However while nearing the end of the last one and while I was still in motion, a piece of shiny metal darted across the surface. Since I could still finish the row it took me a minute to discover where it came from.
    It was the lever at the top of the quilting foot which makes the foot hop between each stitch. No more hopping! With the feed dogs out of action the foot just slides over the quilt top. It creates a bit of drag but I can cope with that.
    I finished the quilt I was doing ok but have loaded a small 1yd square quilt and now find 1.1/2″ or so stitches missing in about 3 areas across the row as I stitch. Neither the top nor bobbin thread breaks. There is just a straight piece of thread and then it continues as if nothing had gone wrong. Any suggestions please?
    I have changed the needle (designed for the machine) and with the help of my husband (who is very mechanically minded and who built my very sturdy frame) checked the hook timing-fine, disconnected the machine from the stitch regulator and tried it with the foot control-fine, used it free hand with the machine motionless and me moving the fabric-fine, top and bottom mechanisms were disassembled and cleaned (and oiled) as far as the eye could see, which I do after every project anyway, nothing to see. I cant work out why it behaves normally for the majority of the work but misses spasmodically. If this didn’t happen I would blame the foot breakage. Could it still be the cause?

    I am trying to buy a foot on the net but cant find any link to spare parts on the Pfaff site. In fact I went round in circles to find any mention of the GQ 1200! grrrrr!
    I founds a ‘spare parts site’ but dont have a parts number to be sure of the right model.

    Can anybody shed some light on my dilemma please. I would be most grateful.

    • First, the “easy” part – finding a replacement foot. Is it the free motion/darning foot? Like this? I have not purchased from this site before, and can’t say for sure it’s the foot you need, but according to the website it fits your machine.

      Now for the skipped stitches… Usually when I have skipped stitches changing the needle does the trick, but you’ve already tried that. Make sure the needle is inserted all the way and you’re threading it correctly. Did anything else change between the quilt you were working on when the piece broke and the practice piece you have loaded now? Batting, thread (top or bobbin)?

  129. Thanks for the response to my question about the Janome 1600P. Sally from the Grace Company contacted me and I can’t say enough good things about the service. They absolutely stand behind their products and I am now using the machine. It is the best customer service I have EVER had from any company. I would recommend any of their products without hesitation. Norma

  130. Hi Sandi,

    Thankyou for your helpful comments. I have delayed answering as I have been working on the patchwork side of things. However I have purchased a new foot (actually for a Janome but interchangeable) online and have not had to use it yet as my husband has repaired and redesigned the lever on the original which seems to be working pretty well. I have installed a new quilt on the frame and have yet again changed the needle. All seems to be solved.

    Maybe a useful tip…although I replaced the original needle with one from the packet which came with the (new) machine – to no better effect, I purchased Pfaff needles specifically labelled for the GQ. I note they have a much longer eye. More as one I would use for free machine embroidery or metallic threads. I still don’t know for sure what caused the problem but it seems to have been solved!!!.

    • Joy, I’m so glad you’ve got everything working! The needle tip is a good one – I’ll add that to the main list.

  131. I just started ling arm quilting and have the same Janome machine and Gracie frame. I am still practicing only, but did get good instructions from the shop

  132. I am swapping my Brother 150S for a Janome 1600P. I have a Little Gracie 11 and SureStitch.
    I was having all sorts of problems and the engineer told me that the machine was not up to the job.
    Many people say they use the Brother successfully on a frame. I am hoping that I am not just too fussy and will find the quality no better having spent the money on the new machine. Time will tell.
    Can you really get a professional looking stitch with this setup or am I hoping for too much?

  133. I have a GrandQltr on a Grace Imperial frame w/Quilters Cruise Control. I have problems with the rear encoder. It rolls along the track and works fine, then suddenly stops rolling properly. Seems to be worse when moving more slowly. How can I know if the encoder is bad?

  134. Have you checked your plastic track to see if it is cracked. If it is you can order a new track from Gracie. I had to do this and it really helped. They were not to expensive either. On another web site that I used to belong to instead of track they used a a metal piping that was the same width as the track. Off the top of my head I can not remember what it was called. There are several web sites that are just for the Gracie frames and for the Grand Quilts out in syber space.

  135. I am glad that I found this page. I am looking to purchase a quilting frame, I have a 1100 Janome. I am hoping that someone will inform me on what works well. I many quilts tops that need to be quilted. Can you send me information/advised. I believe that this the place where I will receive the best info for what I need. The women that ladies on your site have someone to turn to, hopefully you will provide info to help me too.
    Antonia (Toni) from Canada

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