Thursday, September 19, 2013

Piecing Madness And The Quarter Inch

Don't always trust you quarter-inch marks on your machine.

I love my sewing machine. It's a Kenmore model 385 with a bunch of numbers after that. There is a machine sold by Janome that is the same machine as the Kenmore. This machine stitches through everything, and I've been very happy with it over the past four years, until I started quilting, more specifically piecing.


I assumed that the markings on the bobbin cover matched the engraved markings on the needle plate. I always used the unmarked line between 1/8" and 3/8" as my 2/8" (or rather 1/4") sewing guide. None of my points EVER matched. This is sooo frustrating for a beginning quilter. So, I bought a generic 1/4-inch foot for my Kenmore.


I knew that this foot was off from the markings on my bobbin cover, but the bobbin cover markings must be correct. Right? They have to be correct. They are not. 


When I did my eight-point star with a pocket earlier this week, the points matched perfectly. I just used the guide on my generic 1/4-inch foot, and it looked beautiful! No wonkiness. What is going on? So, I measured, and I was shocked.


The engravings on the needle plate are correct. I never use those! They are behind the needle and hard to see. The bobbin plate markings are easy to see.


Now, I have two needle plates, one that the machine came with, and I bought a straight stitch only needle plate thinking that this would help with my piecing. It didn't. I put the two bobbin covers together, and the markings did not match.

Surely, the new bobbin cover from the straight stitch needle plate would match the engravings. No! Two bobbin covers with different markings, and still neither one of them match the needle plate! The quarter-inch mark below on the ruler is the needle center position. The other line to the right is where the bobbin cover marks where the needle center should be located. The mark is WAY off! The marks on the bobbin case are measured out correctly each 1/8" from each other, but the needle center mark is wrong on both bobbin covers.


The moral of this story, check your machine! If you are frustrated with piecing, it may not be you! Say, WHAT?! My generic 1/4" foot was completely 100% accurate. The engravings on my machine were completely 100% accurate. The marks that I was using on the bobbin cover were off, completely off. The Kenmore Owner's Manual only talks about using the marks that are engraved on the needle plate. It says nothing about using the bobbin cover markings. I don't see anywhere in the Owner's Manual that these marks are even acknowledged. Huh. Interesting. 

Now I use a piece of blue painter's tape as an extra guide for 1/4-inch.

I want to be clear...The Kenmore is a fantastic sewing machine. I bought it from Sears, and I've sewn together six layers of Terry Fleece material for my daughter's cloth diaper inserts. This machine is a trooper. And reliable - I haven't had any problems with it. I constantly had issues with my previous machine. I have even free motion quilted with success on this machine. The bobbin cover markings, however, are incorrect. I'm wondering if other people have experienced this problem. 

Happy Stitching,


  1. Yes, I have had issues with my bobbin cover too. But I never thoroughly explored, as you have, what was happening to me!! I just figured out I needed to remember to joggle over the needle from its center position to compensate for the error! At least I didn't do a whole project ... although the late Mary Ellen Hopkins never let that stop her from producing beautiful quilts and wonderful reference books.

    1. Out of curiosity, what kind of machine do you have? Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I hope you have a wonderful day.


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