First of all, we are asking the machine to do something that it isn't designed to do. Domestic machines are designed to sew in one direction, forward. True if you remove the feed dogs you have make the machine go anyway you want it to, but the design remains the same. It is a forward stitching machine. So the stitch quality changes when you move the machine backward and sideways. If you are FMQ on a table, you are moving the fabric and the machine continues in its forward stitching. Fewer variables. But try to move a big quilt around on a table, it isn't that easy. Bulk gets in the way. I have FMQ a queen sized quilt. It wasn't an enjoyable experience.
But not a lot of space between needle bar and pillar. Not a big deal. The quilt I made was small
Tension tweaking was the biggest problem and once I had the tension right, I had a blast.
I put a Singer 66 on that same, smaller frame and found that it worked well, too. The 66 offers a bit more room but still, not a lot.
I wanted a larger frame and I found one used. I wanted a larger machine and I found one at a price I could afford. The Bailey
We have many variables to consider when running a domestic machine on a frame: needle flex, fabric flex, stitch speed, top thread tension, bobbin tension, fabric tension on the frame, take up bar height, backing bar height, quilt top bar height. I don't recall having nearly the issues with the smaller frames, that I have been having with the larger frame and the Bailey. But maybe I have just forgotten. Seems like all I had to do was tweak tension on the smaller machines and I was good to go.
Since I started this process I have damaged 10 or 12 needles. All due to jamming the needle. At 85 cents a piece, this is expensive education. The manufacturer (Chuck Bailey) recommends using Organ Titanium PD 100/16 large eye needles. I found two packages of 10 in my Bailey stuff. I have about 6 needles left. One package had four faulty needles; burrs on the points. GRRRRRR. I have now switched to Schmetz Jeans Needles size 100/16. I tried a 90/14. Needle jam. I think there was too much flex with the 90.
Thread, of course is important. I am using Signature long staple cotton machine quilting thread. I am happy with it. Some Bailey users report thread breakage. I have not had that problem. I run out of bobbin thread pretty quickly. The class 15 doesn't hold a heck of a lot of thread. I wind several bobbins at a time. It is important to obtain a consistent tension on the bobbin. Tighter is better. I have yet to find, among my many machines, a perfect bobbin winder. The search isn't over. The 15-91 is up next to audition. I have heard that some quilters use prewound bobbins. Color choice is limited. But it may be worth it.
I practiced on a single piece of fabric and an old sheet before I started working on this quilt. I had hoped to produce something more polished but it isn't going to turn out that way. That's ok. I am still learning. I think I will go back to practicing on plan fabric before I attempt another real quilt.
There is a bit of play in the Bailey handles. I have a carriage with handles but it is designed for a smaller machine. The handles are just IN THE WAY. I rigged up some metal strapping tonight to help stabilize the handles in hopes I could reduce the flex and increase the responsiveness of the machine. It seems to have helped. I didn't jam the needle and managed to quilt quite consistently with the new rig.
Like I said, Mount Everest.