Question of the week: Can you Free Motion Quilt or Piece with Polyester Embroidery Thread?

 I get great questions about quilting, sewing, and machine use from my Clubhouse members, customers, and other students/followers. They make great informative posts, so I'm sharing this one with you.

Amy, what are your thoughts on using polyester embroidery thread for piecing and free motion quilting? Thanks.

I love free motion quilting with polyester embroidery thread. For me, my choice is Glide thread because it has so many trouble-free colors. The thread is smooth, consistent, lint free and has a wonderful sheen to it.

free motion quilting with rulers and poly thread
Pieced in Aurifil, quilted in Magic Mint Glide!

While you can piece with it, I don't think you should. Here's why....

It's slippery and seams can start to come undone, especially if sub-cutting strip sets.

Polyester is a lot stronger than cotton fibers and while you'd think that's a plus, sometimes we've got to rip out our seams and in the process, that can sometimes lead to a frayed seam allowance on our pieces.

My choice for piecing is the best Egyptian cotton thread I can afford. For me that's Aurifil 50wt. Wonderfil has great cotton thread too. In a pinch, all purpose spun polyester will do, but I try to avoid it. The fuzz on many common brands of spun poly result in more lint, some give tension issues, and then there's the ability to fray your seam allowance.

Quilt preservationists also gasp at the idea of using poly anything on cotton. They cite concerns of the thread cutting the fabric over time. I don't expect my quilts to be subject to preservation over the centuries, but at least I'm halfway there with piecing in cotton!

Acufeed Walking Foot System on the Janome M7

Here's a bit of a video from the Clubhouse on using the Acufeed on the Janome M7. It's a pretty simple process...but there's a bit of a trick to using it with decorative stitches or anything other than a straight stitch.


Have an M7 or other bigger Janome? Want to learn more about its features and how it can help you make the most of your sewing time? My AmyQuilts Clubhouse gives you lessons with a Janome dealer (me) without having to even leave home!

Check it out here: AmyQuilts Clubhouse

The AmyQuilts Clubhouse Doors are Open for New Members!


Join the Club!

Do you struggle with your fabulous high-end Janome machine? You know it should do X, Y, and Z but you're not entirely sure how? Maybe you don't have a helpful dealer close enough for convenient classes to master your new machine?

Maybe you're staying at home due to Covid? You are ready to really stitch up a storm and learn about your machine and machine techniques at home, but you could use some help.

Been told it's  "operator error"?  You're trying to do it right but you've been left figuring it out on your own. That is super frustrating!

You are not alone! I've heard pleas for help from machine owners just like you over the years and I have an ongoing Janome specific online club just for folks like you!

I help sewing machine owners get the most out of their machine so that they can use it it with confidence and increased creativity.

The Janome M7, one of the newest and most complex machines in the Clubhouse.

The clubhouse is now 
open for new enrollment!

Click here to join!

A Clubhouse member says: 

"Amy, I watched the latest addition to the clubhouse this morning, the video about needle plates etc. Your videos are stellar, I'm not kidding really fantastic! Not just the great camera close-ups but the info you provide is amazing. I have a very good dealer and I have received a great deal of instruction from them, but I learned so many things in that 20 min. video that I simply never heard before. I just wanted to comment on how much I am getting out of the clubhouse. THANKS !" 

Below is a live video discussion I held recently about the clubhouse...

Hi! I'm Amy Johnson and I was once right in your shoes. I bought my first big Janome machine from the sweetest gentleman, a Janome dealer who was in his mid-eighties. He was a well-respected man in the community and in regards to machine repair, but he didn't actually sew or have anyone to do machine instruction beyond how to thread it.

I was on my own and did the best I could with the manual. Being pretty much self taught, I tried a few things out on my Janome 6600 that wasn't quite meant for my particular, a ruler foot made for a frame-mounted machine. That got my blog and YouTube videos some serious attention. Eventually, I became an instructor for Craftsy, and the next thing you know, I became a Janome dealer when my Janome dealer retired.

My mechanically-inclined husband Eric became my Janome certified machine tech and has built quite a reputation for solving machine issues and keeping machines of all kinds running smoothly.

We joke that he knows the guts, and I know the glory of sewing machines!

Rhonda says,

"Thanks Amy useful info actually not just useful but valuable I have had Janome machines for years but am learning so much from you. I never knew about the markings on the feet. "

Janome machines are what I know best, so the club is limited to Janome machines of the following models: 15000, 14000,  M7, 9450, 9400, Skylines S9, S7, S6, 6700P,  8900 and 8200. There is an embroidery focused add-on for the combination embroidery machines above, and Janome 500e and 550e machines can also sign up for it. The sewing and embroidery sections of the Clubhouse are priced separately and are not dependent on each other. This helps you stay focused on what you want to learn.

Learning in the AmyQuilts Clubhouse takes place in two ways; the actual Clubhouse site (with a "room" for sewing, and another for embroidery; as well as a private, members-only Facebook group for us to interact as a community and have monthly question and answer periods with me.

Click on the link above and see if this is the right fit for you to get the most out of your machine and your creativity!

Janome Blue Dot Bobbin Case

 Any sewing machine user can tell you that changing the tension that is on the bobbin thread is a lot harder than changing the tension on the top thread. There's no numbers, it's hard to get to, it takes a tiny screw driver for the teeny tiny screw and there's really no way to do it without taking the bobbin case out of the machine.

(Yes, there are a few antique Singers that actually make the bobbin case screw accessible, but that's beside the point)

On a machine that has been properly adjusted and serviced by a sewing machine tech, typically we can balance out the tension by adjusting the top thread:

  • Tighten the top thread tension is just like loosening the bobbin tension.
  • Loosening the top tension is just like tightening the bobbin tension.
But there are a few times when we just need a little less tension on the bobbin thread:

  • When using thicker thread in the bobbin.
  • When doing a technique in which the bobbin tension needs to be looser (as in the case of Free Motion Quilting or doing the Handlook quilting stitch.)
Top tension must be tighter than the bobbin tension? Couldn't we just tighten the top tension?!

Yes! I thoroughly agree. Tighten that top tension....except what if my machine is set on automatic tension and I'm not sure what to move it to?

Excellent question.

And that is why Janome has created the "Blue Dot Bobbin Case" for many of its machines. Pop out the normal bobbin case, often called the red dot bobbin case, and pop in the blue dot bobbin case and viola! You have looser bobbin tension!

Janome's packaging needs an update or two. The one on the left fits a number of newer machines, including the 9mm ones. You can see that the 'dot' is actually a triangle arrow.

It's already pre-set to have a looser than normal bobbin tension.

It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of the blue dot bobbin case for most Janome machines, but I get asked about it quite often, so it's a good topic for me to pop up here on the blog.

However, I am always a fan of having a second bobbin case for your machine. Not really as a backup, though that can be handy should that need arise. But the blue dot bobbincase can be used for that second bobbin case. Might want to tighten it a bit if using for regular sewing, but it's great if you want to use it for heavier threads in the bottom of your machine (bobbin work, anyone? Love it!) As the name implies, it's got a visible blue dot of color on it so that you don't get confused about which bobbin case is which! (Yes, you could get a regular bobbin case, mark it accordingly, and adjust the tension yourself too!)

But there are a handful of Janome machines in which their "automatic" tension setting is on the manual tension wheel, and it can actually be easier to change out the bobbin case than it is to find your manual thread tension setting after coming off of the auto setting.

These machines are the Janome 8200, 8900, S6 and S5. There may be some older models with the same issue, but I'm not familiar with them off the top of my head. By changing out the bobbincase for the blue dot one, you can keep the top tension set on the auto setting.

Auto tension on the 8200

Beware! The blue dot bobbin cases come in 3 versions: One for the smaller top loading machines without a thread cutter button (on the right in the first image of this post),    machines with the thread cutter button, including high shank 7mm machines and 9mm high shank machines, and the Janome M7 Continental. Yes, the M7 has a whole different bobbin case due to it's improved bobbin thread level sensor and different bobbin case, hence a different blue dot bobbin case. Check with your Janome dealer to make sure you get the right version, Or order from me at where I have a comprehensive list of machines that take which type.

Finally, some people are just terrified to change their tension on their machine. Yes, it's true. It's my mission to take this fear out of using a sewing machine, but until I can get my message out there to the masses, it is a welcome thing for some folks to be told to change to the blue dot bobbin case for free motion quilting.

Do you struggle to understand tension on your higher end Janome machine? Want to learn to use your machine with more confidence and to explore your creativity? You might be a good fit for the AmyQuilts Clubhouse! This is my private, paid membership for owners of certain Janome machines, including all the current bigger models: S6, S7, S9, 6700P, 8200,8900, 9450/9400, 14000, 15000 and Janome M7. With video lessons on the basics, commonly used techniques, specialty feet, embroidery (separate section for the machines with embroidery and includes the 500 and 550e), it's like having a virtual local dealer! With the private facebook group, and over 250 members it's like going to a virtual Janome Club meeting...except we're not crowded.

Check it out and sign up for notification of when I open the doors to new members by going to the Clubhouse page.

Making Scrub Masks

When I was first approached about making making masks for our local hospital, I was sure it was a hoax. Surely they weren't that desperate for masks, since I knew that cotton macks really didn't provide the kind of protection from the Covid-19 virus that the real hospital masks did.

Sadly, that's no hoax. Here's my info on how I'm making them, but there are tons of tutorials out there. Mine was based on the pattern one of the hospital nurses sent me.

The key things: They need to be made from high quality woven cotton and need to stand up to plenty of bleach and laundering. Prewash and dry your fabric so they don't shrink after washing the first time.  So that means that there's no need to make them with the super cute prints that are being shown on FB and IG. The outside and inside should be different colors in case it is taken off and then put back on before laundering. It was requested not to use 1/4 inch elastic as it's too wide. Right now it's hard to find 1/8 inch elastic, so I'm making a combinating of masks with large hair elastics for ear loops and long fabric ties. Also requested  was to include a small piece of wire in the top to form the mask around the nose. Bread twist ties or florist's wire works well.

 NOTE: We are in the process of tweaking the pattern so we can cut 3 masks from a single WOF (width of fabric) or 6 from two different fabrics by WOF this is for easier kit cutting from yardage. We are still updating as time goes by.

If you are using a kit from Sew Simple of Lynchburg, it will do 6 masks and you'll have enough fabric left over to make fabric ties for the masks. PLEASE return these masks to Sew Simple or to Amy's Altavista studio as they are intended to go to hospital workers.


Pattern adapted by Amy K Johnson from a variety of sources.
Courtesy of Sew Simple of Lynchburg and

·         Two different colors, 7 ½ x 7 inch squares of tightly woven quilt shop quality quilting cotton  One 7 x 6 ½  inch square fusible interfacing, midweight.
·         ou’ll need 2 rectangles of fabric 2” x 4” to make casing for fabric ties, elastic loops or large hair ties.
·         Elastic loops of around 10”, or 6” if sewn into the corners. Play with this based on the materials you use.
·         If using fabric to make ties instead of elastic loops, you’ll need 2 strips WOF by how ever wide you are comfortable with. I used a binding foot and the ¾” strips it could use. This was fiddly. I’d use at least 1” to 1¼” wide strips. WOF is a little long, so you’ll trim off the excess.
·         One piece of wire/bread tie/florists wire approximately 5” long, bend ends over about ¼“ to reduce chance of poking through fabric.
·         Strong polyester thread.

Fuse interfacing to wrong side of one square, centering it on the fabric. Follow manufacturers instructions for fusing.

Place fabric squares together, wrong sides facing out. Sew with a 1/4in. seam allowance down the two shorter (6½“) opposite sides.

Apply wire to top seam allowance by zig zagging over it with a wide zigzag. Be careful!
Turn mask right side out.

Because we are adjusting this pattern, the diagram below needs updated. The biggest pleat needs to be at the top for the nose area.

Make folding template from card stock and use template on next page to make a series of 3 pleats across mask. The pleats should face down. (Not like a pocket facing up on outside.) The largest pleat should be at the top. They do not need to be exact, but you want your pleated sides to measure 3 inches when you are done with the top pleat 3/4 of an inch. If you have delegated an 'outside' fabric, make sure the pleats face down and not up on the outside. ('Up' would make a pocket of sorts.)

Stitch across ends over the pleats with a straight stitch. Trim stray threads.

Make a casing with each of the two 2” x 4” rectangles. Fold one short  end under ½“. Fold the long sides to the middle and then fold into half. All edges should be folded in except one short edge.

 Apply to  the end of the mask, encasing the raw edges and holding the fabric tie, elastic loop or large hair tie within the casing. If using shorter pieces of elastic, stitch them into the corners as you sew the casing down to the mask, tucking the ends into casing.

If using fabric ties, press long edges into the center, then fold in half again. Stitch along edge of the two folds on one side and insert the ties into the mask side casings at the halfway point. Tie knots into the ends at an appropriate length and trim.

I will back to this post in the next few days to add more details, but for now I wanted to get this out. There will a facebook video on the

This is an ever changing project at this point.

That Little Black Button.

The AmyQuilts Clubhouse has been going great! So many wonderful people learning about their Janome machines. Plus we're having fun sharing in our private Facebook group--a definite plus in this crazy Coronavirus time.  I'm really enjoying using the platform for the Clubhouse and the whole AmyQuilts School and I am looking forward to doing more stand-alone classes with it.

In fact, I've got what I would call a mini-course on there for free!

It's about using that little black button that is on the Janome A foot. This feature that so many people don't know about is also on machine feet for BabyLock and Brother machines and of course, Kenmore and Elna machines.

In this crazy time when a lot of us are social distancing or at home with kids, it's a great time to learn something new! Because of this, I may open up the Clubhouse to enrollment sooner than planned as I've getting requests for this. If you are interested in learning more about any of the qualifying Janome machines, sign up here: Clubhouse info  to be notified when we are ready to enroll folks.

Free Motion Quilting Feathers: Part 3

Here's the last video in my feathers series. I look at the structure of the shape of the plume and a trick I use to help me make the shape and join it into the spine gracefully.

Free Motion Feathers Video: Part 2

Here's the second part of the Feathers video. Enjoy!

BTW, enrollment for my AmyQuilts Clubhouse has begun. It's an online subscription designed to help people learn certain Janome models and machine techniques better. It's like having virtual dealer classes. You can read more and enroll at the AmyQuilts School. There's even a free mini-course about the black button on the A foot for Janomes and also on many other brand's utility sewing foot.

Free Motion Feathers Video

I edited up one of my Facebook videos up for YouTube and thought I'd share it here. It's the first part of the video I did. On those live videos, I quilt for close to an hour!

Playing with feathers again, and making a variety of them.

I've been doing a lot of shooting videos lately, making sure I have plenty of content for the AmyQuilts Clubhouse! I'm pretty excited about it. 

The clubhouse is a membership style learning "virtual classroom" covering a group of Janome machines, It's also a community for their owners to learn and be inspired by teaching and projects made specifically for these machines. I'm still working on the details, but if you want to know more, head over to the Clubhouse page on

The registration isn't live yet, but we'll make sure to let you know when it is!

AmyQuilts Clubhouse

I've wanted to make an online teaching membership for sometime. A place where I can go into more detail and deeper into a subject than I can with a live video or other free content, especially with specific machine training. Since something like that takes more time, planning, resources, and technology, it's always felt out of my skill set.

[This post was edited for clarity 1/15/2020]

As a former Craftsy/Bluprint instructor, I've seen behind the scenes of their professional studios and their talented production crew. They are amazing! Though as the teacher, I had no input into the post-production process and couldn't control what got edited out, making me feel like some key bits of info were lacking, or that I didn't get to cover a subject in enough depth.

So I stuck to my informal Facebook live videos and occasional recorded and edited YouTube videos. My video skills, while still pretty basic improved, and repeatedly I heard that watchers didn't mind. What they wanted to see was real quilting, including what I did when I made a mistake. There have been several times a "how to quilt" video became a "how to fix" video, complete with seam ripper. Because that what happens to all of us. Stitch happens.

As a Janome dealer, shop instructor, and sweetheart to my shop's amazing Janome machine service tech, I have a pretty thorough knowledge base to draw from and help folks understand the capabilities of their Janome machines. You can find me helping out in several FB groups on Janome machines and free motion quilting. I just love to help folks!

I kept getting questions that I just couldn't answer effectively in a FB comment or at times I really couldn't afford to take the time needed to do a deep dive into a topic while also being the main worker of Sew Simple of Lynchburg. I HATE not being helpful! Even if it means losing some sleep or sitting at my computer screen more than is healthy, I'll give it my best.

We will definitely take a deep dive into quilting with rulers. This project never really made it into my Craftsy class. So sad.

The work life "balance" (It's more like a teeter totter, back and forth, back and forth.) was horribly off and I was getting guff from my family and rightfully so. But I was torn between time with my family and improving the business that keeps the roof over their sweet heads.

Then we found just the right employee. Mally is amazing and we are so happy to put her to work and she loves taking work off my plate so that I can do what I do best, while she does what she does best. Now that she's been part of the Sew Simple team for about 4 months, I've decided to make more videos a priority. And to make them available to more than just folks on Facebook. To make it more time efficient, most of these videos will be created in video class format and organized by subject.

We will even take a peek into machine techniques for garment sewing....but...

Over the last 2 years I've been wanting to do this, but put off by the information I found on the "right way to launch a subscription learning channel." Funnels, webinars, scripts and code....that kind of stuff was overwhelming. So last Saturday, I put out a simple call to interested folks who follow AmyQuilts on Facebook, as well as the Sew Simple of Lynchburg FB page and my group, "Amy's Sew Simple Adventures" to send a simple email to with "clubhouse" in the subject line. About the only hi-tech thing about it was that this address actually goes to Mally's email inbox so I don't obsess over the numbers of people who did or didn't email.

While I can sew garments, it's not my thing, so this won't be a garment making course.
We will be sending out an email Monday and again as many times as needed to answer questions about the AmyQuilts Clubhouse until the doors close on membership in March. I will let you know when we begin to take signups for membership, but until then, I'm working on content, projects and videos as much as possible. Pricing is still being finalized. Monthly subscription will be less than a single class at a typical quilt shop. But this first round of members will certainly see the lowest prices possible for their member ship and will retain that price as long as their membership stays continuous. New content will be added regularly and be available for the duration of your membership, so those who get in on the initial round will really see the most bang for their buck.

Because Janome machines are what I know best, the club is limited to  Janome machines of the following models: 15000, 14000, 12000, S9, M7, 9450, 9400, S7, 6700P, S6, 8900 and 8200. I have decided to create an embroidery focused add-on upgrade for the combination embroidery machines above and allow the Janome 500e and 550e machines to sign up for it. This will keep the main group focused on sewing only, a money and time saving benefit for the sewing only machines above.

When you join the AmyQuilts Clubhouse, you will learn the many features and benefits of these feature-rich 9mm machines so you know how to use them best and make the most of your creative sewing time. You will operate your machine(s) without fear and frustration.

Ever take a class where the instructor didn't know your machine and couldn't tell you which foot or settings to use? That's really frustrating. As you follow the Clubhouse content, you'll be inspired by projects that are designed for this group of machines and their capabilities. No guessing and no frustration.

In the private FB group, you'll be able to share your projects with other members to inspire and get inspired. There will be a monthly live question and answer time with me in the group. The group is optional if you don't do Facebook. No content will be given out via FB, and the lives will be recorded and posted in the Clubhouse Classroom.

There will be some projects that span both groups, using sewing and embroidery for the project, with non-embroidery options for those who won't be doing embroidery. So you will want to join both groups if you have a combination machine.

We won't be verifying machine ownership, but the content will be created for just these models as anything else just requires too many different feet and settings. Or they came out and were discontinued before I became a dealer. Plus I really need access to these machines to make the videos!

Above is a recent YouTube video of mine on the M7, setting up for free motion quilting.

The clubhouse will not be replacing all the other ways I teach and interact online. It's just a new offering. For those with machines not on the list, there will be future stand-alone classes that are not machine specific, including my Troubleshooting Guide to Free Motion Quilting.

Again, send a simple email to with "clubhouse" in the subject line and you will be added to the list of interested persons and we will be getting the details out to you shortly.