Hullo! I’m home from being on the road most of April, and boy am I glad to be HOME! I also want some sleep, so it may be a bit until I get to share pics of all the wonderful things I’ve been doing. BUT, I recently had a question from someone who was having difficulty with her new, wonderful sewing machine which wasn’t giving her the wonderful quarter inch seam that she wanted. I replied privately and in the comments, but thought I’d share my thoughts here since the “issue” applies to more than her specific machine.
I have had a little bit of trouble with my machine, but there is also a lot I like about it. My problem…I took a miniature quilt class last weekend, and was told to use the 1/4 inch stitch with the single hole stitch plate. I had already had trouble with the “pre-set” 1/4 inch stitch not coming from the factory with a true quarter inch stitch, and had it accurately reset. When I went to use the single hole plate with the 1/4 inch “button”, the needle does not go through the hole. Why would Janome design a machine that you cannot use the preset 1/4 inch stitch with the single hole plate? Am I missing something? Every quilter uses the 1/4 inch stitch and wishes for a single hole plate. I am so dissatisfied with this design that I’m thinking of changing brands. Can you set me straight?
Thanks for writing! I have been on the road for weeks and was having trouble getting an email sent out to you directly, so not sure if you received it. I understand your frustration, but want to explain why this happens on ALL brands.
To get a perfect 1/4″ seam, you need to account for the thickness of the thread and the thickness of the cloth, since some of the cloth is “used up” in the turn (when pressing). If you stitch two squares of 2 inch lightweight cotton lawn, cotton batik, and cotton flannel with the same setting (a default 1/4″ for example), then press the seam to the side as one would for piecing a quilt, the cotton lawn will be the widest, the flannel the narrowest. That is because the flannel is thick and it takes up more of the flannel to fold back on itself. To get a seam allowance that would yield a section that measure a perfect 3 1/2 inch across after that seam is pieced, you’d have to use a larger seam allowance with the lightweight cotton lawn and a narrower seam allowance with the flannel.
Then there is the straight stitch plate and quarter inch seams. With our fancy new machines that stitch wide stitches, on the Janomes up to 9mm apart (that’s nearly a half inch across), the feed dogs must be farther apart to permit the needle to swing that wide on the decorative stitches. That means when it comes to pieceing you have two choices:
1. Leave the needle in the center with the straight stitch plate on, but then have the pieces feed ONLY with the left-side feed dog (because the quarter inch seam allowance won’t extend fully onto the right hand feed dogs)
2. Use the quarter inch foot, move the needle to your own personal perfect quarter inch (based on the thickness of your fabric and thread), and have the pieces feed over BOTH feed dogs so that it feeds straight and even.
Basically, you can’t have it both ways IF you have a machine, such as the 8900, that also makes wide decorative stitches. If you want a perfect straight stitch, to be blunt, the old Singer Featherweight 221 has always had the best straight stitch ever. That is because that is the ONLY thing that machine does–any straight-stitch-only machine will be the same. Why? Because the needle bar never moves. It goes up and down only.
That means you can either get used to the Janome 8900’s (and any other fancy machine’s) requirements for getting a perfect-for-you quarter inch (including fine-tuning–the pre-set is just an “average” setting that frequently needs a little fiddling), OR have a second machine for simple piecing. Frankly, I adore my 1934 Featherweight. I don’t actually use it much, since I almost never piece. And when I DO piece, I use my wonderful Janome because I understand what it is I need to do to make an accurate seam. You can also create a “favorite” stitch that is set to your perfect quarter inch–you’d need to refer to the manual, though, because I don’t know how off the top of my head.
I hope explaining this helps–there is nothing wrong with your machine! It just needs for you to learn how to adjust the settings so that they yield the perfect result for you.
Hope this helps!