Machine works great when feed dogs are up. Fabric feeds evenly and stitches look great. When I drop the feed dogs to do free motion quilting, I can't move the fabric. If I pull really hard, I can move it forward. Won't move side to side at all.
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You will need a darning foot or free motion quilting foot for your machine (these feet are shorter than the regular feet which allows space between the foot and the needle plate to manually manipulate your fabric). Then drop the feed dogs and, if your machine does not have that capability, there should be a cover plate included with your machine that snaps over the feed dogs. Install a brand new needle in your machine, set it for a straight stitch, and test the stitch. Sometimes, the upper tension needs to be loosened a bit so the bobbin thread does not poke through the top of the fabric.
FWIW, I've found it helpful to use a "Supreme Slider" on the base of my machine. It is slick and allows the fabric to move easily. Special gloves are helpful too because your hand will become dry and begin to slip on the fabric. Using cheap rubber gardening gloves works for some people.
To do free motion quilting on most machines, install a darning foot or free motion quilting foot, drop the feed dogs, set the machine to straight stitch. (Because FMQ requires you to manually maneuver the fabric, stitch length is moot.) If your machine has the feature, setting it to Needle Down will also help. When you stop sewing, the needle will stop while penetrating the fabric. This prevents you from accidentally moving the fabric while trying to adjust before sewing again.
Check that the stitch length is set high enough that the feed dogs will actually advance the fabric. Setting the stitch length too low will cause the machine to basically sew in place.
Also, check that the feed dogs have not been "dropped" to allow darning or free motion quilting. Dropping the feed dogs lowers them so they will not rise above the needleplate and will not grip nor move the fabric.
If your machine is mechanical (not computerized), it may need a good cleaning and oiling. If the old oil has solidified, it could be preventing the feed dogs from moving like they should.
Is the feed dog raised into sewing position and not dropped as for darning? Feed dogs need to be in the raised position in order to pull the fabric through the machine.
If the stitch length is set too short, it will cause the fabric to barely move thereby causing the machine to stitch in one place.
Raise your presser foot and gently rotate the handwheel and watch the feed dogs. Do they rise when coming to the front of the machine, move toward the back of the machine, drop down below the needle plate, and move forward to the front of the machine again? If so, the feed dogs are working properly.
If the feed dogs never rise, they are in the dropped position for darning or free motion quilting when you would move the fabric manually.
If, on the other hand, the feed dogs do not move at all, then they are seized and you should probably get your machine serviced.
#26 is an embroidery foot. Why are you using an embroidery foot for free motion quilting? A #24 free motion embroidery foot will work but not the #26. Try using a darning foot that is just a smidgen shorter so there is space between it and the needleplate for you to freely move the fabric. (Adding a Supreme Slider sheet to the work surface of your machine helps make the fabric glide much smoother.) A standard presser foot is made to press the fabric against the feed dogs so the feed dogs will move the fabric. When free motion quilting, you would drop the feed dogs and move the material with your hands.
Depends which model Bernina you have (new or old style presser feet), which will work on your machine. There are also many generic darning/FMQ feet available that will work on your machine.
Oooh, consult your owner's manual. Frequently, industrial machines are limited in their capabilities so your machine may not have the feed dog lowering ability. Some other domestic machines without the capability can use a plate to cover the feed dogs while free motion quilting, but that probably wouldn't be a good thing to try if your machine is not made for sewing without the feed dogs in use.
You're absolutely correct, you'll need to either drop the feed dogs (lever generally located near the bobbin case or on the outside base of machine) or cover the feed dogs with a plate (many machines have this included).
Then... you'll need to lower the presser foot - when you lower it, it should NOT touch the bed of the machine but sit slightly raised off the fabric surface. As you stitch the presser foot will lower onto the fabric to hold it taught as the needle penetrates.
Oddly enough it's easier to achieve smooth stitches when sewing at a faster speed, but begin by stitching fairly slowly until you get a feel for free-motion stitching. You'll be doing all the guiding and it may feel a bit strange and uncontrolled at first.
Position yourself at your machine so that when your hands on your fabric/bed of machine, your shoulders are relaxed (not all hunched up) and your elbows are slightly higher than the bed of the machine.
You'll want to stitch in a side-to-side or back and forth motion (as opposed to trying to turn the fabric.
Best of luck with this technique. Once you're comfortable with it, you're sure to enjoy the freedom of creating!