Oliver has been helping me with some piecing lately. I am making a small wall quilt to showcase my new collection of digitized designs and decided it was long overdue to figure out how to piece on my Bernina 730. I honestly do not want to switch between machines, but I always feared the wide feed dogs.
While rummaging through my machine's feet in my sewing drawer, looking to see if perchance I did have a #37 foot somewhere for this machine, I discovered the #57 foot, below. It seems to be the #37 foot with this cool little guide on the right to keep everything going straight and even through the process.
I put it on the machine, cut some triangles and squares from muslin, put in some lovely YLI Soft Touch thread for piecing and my trusty #60 Sharp needle and WOW! It was amazing, the fabric was controlled from beginning to end of each piece, the seam was perfection. Yowza!
The stitch length I used was 1.8 for a fine thread and for piecing. It is nice and secure for a lighter weight thread, but I can still insert the tip of my seam ripper in a stitch if I have to un-sew.
I may buy a #37 foot for those times when I don't want the extra guide that the #57 has. All you have to do with the #57 foot is make sure the raw edges hit the guide on the right. I also look at the 1/4" line on the throat plate, and keep an eye on the fabrics as the emerge behind the foot to keep everything straight and even.
The seam from beginning to end was straight and even. When I did triangles the seam stayed perfect right to the tips. Later I tried it for sewing a pieced row to a solid border strip and the results were perfect, triangles all lined up with no tips nipped off, and it fed smoothly through the machine with no problems.
I am thrilled to know I can piece and quilt on the same machine! All because of this great little foot. It reminds me of discovering the #24 open toe foot for quilting; I was delighted when I could quilt so much better, just because of the foot I was using.
I love sewing on my 730 because of the smoothness of the rotary hook, the great thread delivery with no glitches, the fabulous sound and perfect stitch/tension of this machine. Those birds' nests of thread when beginning a line of stitching don't happen as often on my 730, although I do try and remember to hang onto the loose threads when beginning and that helps a lot with any machine.
There is a single hole, or "straight stitch" throat plate on the machine when I quilt and when I piece. It really helps keep problems from happening, and keeps the stitch quality the best.
My machine has a security feature so if you do have this throat plate on instead of the zig-zag plate, and you enter that info in the machine (easy!), it will not do a zig-zag stitch or any stitch with width, and break the needle. The machine does not run if you try a wide stitch with this throat plate.
Check your machine's owner's manual to see if you have this feature, and an available foot for piecing, and a straight-stitch throat plate option. With new electronics on all brands of machines you might be surprised to find things you didn't know you had, always a good thing.
In the past I would stick a red label on my machine to remind myself that I had this throat plate on, but sometimes I forgot and tried a stitch and oops, broke a needle. Love the security feature on this machine. No more problems. If you do not have this, then by all means do something to remind yourself that this throat plate is on, and zig-zags are not allowed.
Years ago I discovered that if I used a smaller stitch length and finer thread my piecing looked so much nicer. Thread did not show in seams, and pieced patchwork came out much closer to the desired "finished" dimensions.
I press well with a spritz of starch, press the seam before I open it or press allowances to one side. If I am pressing to the side, I set the seam with heat, then press from the top, very gently so as not to distort. Then I add the spritz of starch and hold the iron on the seam without moving it, so the starch is pressed in and dries.
Some of my favorite threads for piecing are, from left, Superior MasterPiece cotton, YLI Soft Touch cotton (Oliver is eating it), small cone of brown Aurifil #50 2-ply cotton and large large cone of the same in all-purpose tan, and in front, brown Mettler #60 2-ply cotton.
I try to use a neutral like tan, ecru, grey, but I recall with the fabrics in my quilt "Shadows of Umbria," below, I used Aurifil #50 in a dusty purple and it was by far the best option for a "no show" thread in the seams. It melted into every color I was using, perfect, plus I had a huge cone of it as a gift in my teacher's bag of treats from Harriet Hargrave.
If my piecing goes well, I will then proceed to tracing a zillion designs on this little wall quilt and then begin quilting it, my favorite part.
Those of you who know my methods from classes know that before I put needle in quilt I will play on some leftover bits of the fabrics layered with the batt and backing in the actual quilt. I use this to pick out thread color, warm up on my motifs, check thread tension, see how it works and feels. I will try some thread colors out of my comfort zone to "see" what they look like, I will get the feel of the quilt and be ready to hit the real one and do a great job.
Keep quilting! Your work gets better every day.