I’ve had the most frustrating two days with my Janome 6500, normally a dependable machine.  I’ve been tackling the pile of tops that need free motion quilting and realizing, yet again, that free motion and I rub each other the wrong way.

Now, a dirty little secret of my Janome is that for free motion quilting you must use bobbins made/sold by the manufacturer, not the generic ones sold to fit several brands of machines.  If you don’t, your machine will seize up and leave a thread barf ball on the back after you cut your top loose. This sudden stopping does serious damage to any quilting rhythm you have going.

thread barf ball

So I’m doing my usual improv free motion quilting on a piece I call “Rust Never Sleeps” using my official Janome bobbins, and my machine seizes up four times in half an hour. Somehow the bobbin comes unseated in the bobbin case, though I don’t know if that’s the cause of the jam or the result of the thread getting caught and pulling the bobbin up. As soon as you cut the bobbin thread the bobbin drops back into the case. This doesn’t happen with the feed dogs up.

Between all the seizures I changed my thread and my needle, cleaned out the bobbin case, and changed to another bobbin entirely. Since the problem persisted I decided two possible causes of the fault remain – either my bobbins aren’t winding right or my bobbin case has gone rogue.

I plan to try winding my bobbins on my Elna, which uses the same bobbins as the Janome.  And I found something called a low tension bobbin case for free motion quilting on Amazon.  At $28 it’s a lot cheaper than a trip to the sewing machine store where a look-see would cost at least $100, and no one seems familiar with free motion quilting. Maybe I’ll buy a new regular bobbin case as well.  That would be an additional $30.

If you know of any solutions to my problem please send them along.



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10 responses to “Grrrrrr!

  1. This is exactly the sort of frustration that sent me to hand quilting. I would get so tense trying to use any machine, for almost any sewing, actually, I opted for slow sewing all the way!

    • Unfortunately, I’m developing arthritis, which makes hand sewing another exercise in frustration. I do use big stitching for decorative quilting but anything dainty is beyond me. Usually, I have no problems with machine quilting (at least with a walking foot) but my efforts to improve my free motion quilting have definitely been set back by whatever is going on with my machine.

  2. jennyklyon

    It does make a difference in how the thread comes off the spool and manufacturers engineer the thread to come off a certain way. If not, it introduces a kink.

    Think how a garden hose must be rotated to coil nicely. If you just go and pull it out the next time you use it, it will kink. Your thread is “expecting” to come off the same way: crosswound’s off the top and straight wound’s off the side. Otherwise you get a kink.

    You are fortunate that your machine will accommodate both ways!

    Also occurred to me it could be your fabric. If you’ve got a very tightly woven fabric that may affect it: batiks and such can sometimes give me fits.

  3. Becky

    I use a special “Janome Bobbin Holder for Free Quilting and Hand-look Quilt Stitch” with my Janome 6600 Memory Craft and it really seems to help. Sue, at my sewing machine shop, (Westerville Sew and Save in Ohio) suggested it. It has a blue triangle arrow on it, so I don’t get it confused with my regular bobbin holder which has the red arrow triangle on it. I think this bobbin holder really helps me avoid globs of thread and thread breakage. I can even use pre-wound bobbins with it. I have to remember to change back to my regular bobbin holder when I do regular sewing and piecing, or my stitches are wonky. But it is terrific for FMQ. I do not remember the exact cost, but it was reasonable. Actually, the folks at this shop are all fantastic, friendly, and helpful. You might want to try it out. It worked for me.
    Good luck!

  4. No solutions for you from me. That sounds very frustrating! I have an Elna, but I haven’t done any fmq with it. (Maybe I should try…)

    Hope it works out for you with no more thread barf.

  5. jennyklyon

    Thread? If it’s less than stellar thread it will do this. If you put in Aurifil or MasterPiece and it doesn’t do this then you’ll know for sure.
    Magic Bobbin Genie can help. I always have one in.
    How is the spool oriented? Cross wound=must draw from the top. Regular wound=must draw from the side.
    It is very possible that your bobbin is not winding well. Simply check it visually and if it doesn’t look all funky, this is not the problem.
    Take your finger and slowly swoop over all the areas underneath for burrs-you’ll feel them. Carefully filing them down will make that go away.
    Also check carefully for the stitch plate, that nothing is amiss there-burrs, etc.
    Obvious, but make sure you have oriented, inserted and drawn your thread properly through your bobbin. I’ve done this and see it all the time in class. One thing throws me off and then I’m so frustrated that I don’t realize I have deviated from the proper procedure and I keep making the same mistake. Recheck your manual.
    Chocolate or wine-usually helps. In severe cases, apply both.

    • Many thanks for all the great ideas. I plan to run through the suggestions you’ve made. As to thread, I typically use Aurifil, though I’ve used Masterpiece and some YLI thread without problems in the past. I hear you about quality thread. And I’m glad to get an opinion about the Magic Bobbin Genie. It seems pricey so I’ve hesitated on that purchase. What I need to concentrate on is the burr issue. And why is thread wound differently so you have to draw it differently? I do have a thread holder that can be placed either horizontally or vertically. I’ve replaced the bobbin several times in the course of this project so I’m confident that’s OK. And I’ve been sewing yesterday with the feed dogs up and no problems.

      • You coil your hose? Mine is usually in a heap, much to my husband’s dismay. Just kidding. I still don’t know why all threads aren’t wound the same way. And maybe my fabric has something to do with my issues. The backing is hand dyed and I think I used muslin. I’ve found some muslin is hard to sew. Anyway, the piece with the issues got finished up with a walking foot and lots of fabric paint. I had hoped to do lots of thread work but that wasn’t to be.

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