Pfaff Grand Quilter Questions….

Time and time again I get asked this question from readers and random people who Google questions about their Pfaff Grand Quilter.  My blog comes up in the search and they typically end up asking the following question….always in reference to thread breakage on their Pfaff Grand Quilter.

From Ruth Wooten:  “I have the 1200 pfaff grand quilter on the Inspira frame. It will sew fine and then acts like the thread in the bobbin catches or snags. There does not seem to be a burr on the bobbin case, no lint or threads hung up inside that I can find. I can tug on the machine and it will come loose and sew again. It has been oiled, cleaned, adjusted, took off and checked but I still have the problem. Any suggestions to solve the problem.”

I used to have a Pfaff Grand Quilter.

For the first year I liked it and had few problems with it.

Along came year two, three and four.  YUCK..pooh….awful.  It was horrible.  Thread breakage plagued me…and not just a little bit.  IT WAS AWFUL!!  I can honestly say now that I developed anxiety over using the machine.  I would have a quilt that needed to be done on a specific date and I would do everything I could to not have to do it.  I HATED it.  Sometimes the machine would work…other times not.  There were times when I would sew five inches and the thread would break time and time and time again.  Hubby would be trying to help me and a would be bawling…not just crying…BAWLING.  Here is a post from the really bad days.

I tried and tried and tried things.  I got a new plate-a new bobbin case-I replaced every part I could think of.  Sometimes it would work…sometimes not.  I tried different thread-different batting-I maintained that machine to the max.  It was totally unpredictable.

Finally, Hubby could not stand it any longer and said enough is enough.  You are buying a new machine.  I can’t stand you being upset all the time.

In comes my APQS Millennium.

I chose an APQS for several reasons…
1-Judy at Patchwork Times had one and Bonnie at Quiltville had one.  Both of them are helpful bloggers that I knew if I had questions I could ask.
2-A friend and two of the quilt shops in our area have APQS macines…again another resource if I need help.
3-There is an APQS dealer o2b Quilting in Spring Valley, MN a little over an hour away from me…another resource.
4-They are an Iowa company…again a closer resource-they come and set the machine up!!
5-They sell refurbished machines so that’s more affordable.

I ended up getting a refurbished APQS Millennium.  They are honestly MUCH-MUCH cheaper than new.  So much cheaper that they are comparable to domestic machine companies that come out with a mid arms.

I am not going to lie and say I never had problems with my APQS but so far, no problem that I couldn’t solve by changing thread, cleaning the machine or changing the needle…all typical problems.  I am also quilting quadruple the amount of quilts that I was before….and the best part, I have never cried.

Many companies, Baby Lock, Pfaff, and Bernina and I am sure others make mid arm machines and many quilt shops sell them.  BUT take note.  Does the quilt shop use those machines for their custom quilting…NO.  They used APQS or other machines that are long arm machines.  That should have told me something from the time I originally purchased the Pfaff Grand Quilter.

The bottom line is this….I never did figure out the problems I had with my Pfaff Grand Quilter.  To be honest, I just think there is no fixing the problems.  I TRIED EVERYTHING…it would sometimes work for a bit and it might not work at all.  Figuring how to prevent thread breakage on my Pfaff Grand Quilt was a mystery that I could not solve.  That is why I moved on and bought a different machine.

I do have to say this…


I thought about selling my Grand Quilter and frame when I got my APQS but Hubby and I decided no…that wasn’t right to saddle someone else with those problems.  So I took the machine off the frame (trashed the frame) and started using the machine for piecing.  I am completely and totally love my Grand Quilter for piecing.  For that, it can’t be beat.  I have a Bernina 165E.  I no long use it.  I would MUCH rather piece with this machine.  It is a work horse.  It has speed.  It is an amazing machine and honestly, if I come across another, I just might buy it as Kelli and I fight over this machine when she comes home to sew with me.

I am so sorry that so many people have had the same problems with their Pfaff Grand Quilters…I can’t solve your problems and to those of you who are in the market for a long arm machine, pay a little more and skip the mid arm machines…that’s the best advice I can give.  If you must keep your problem machine, keep a diary of each quilt, what thread, what backing, what batting.  Note everything you can and maybe, just maybe you will be luckier than I was a figure your problem out.  With all machines, sometimes slowing down does help.

I am sorry, I can’t help more.  I know the problems are completely frustrating and I honestly understand how frustrating the problems are.

Each day leading to Thanksgiving I write about something that I am thankful for.

Today I am thankful the in-laws that are coming into the family fold.  Several years ago when our children were in confirmation class the pastor who was teaching class, Milton Johnson, who we dearly loved and miss, suggested to his confirmation class of 13 and 14 year olds that they should start praying that God provide their perfect mate.  The kids came home and told me about that.  I thought-dah…of course they should be…why didn’t I think of that??  From then on I periodically asked that our children be blessed with the perfect mate.

Well…the perfect mates are lining up.  Last year Kayla married Spencer.  In August Buck married Jen.  In March Kelli will marry Jason.  Kalissa has a pretty special guy, Craig, waiting in the wings.  Each of these people honestly seem perfect for my kids.  They each compliment them in ways that I never imagined until I met them.  I think all of them will be in the family for years and years to come and I can’t wait to see how their relationships expand and grow.

Today I am so very thankful for Spencer, Jen, Jason and Craig…and for the girl that is out there somewhere for our son Karl.

48 thoughts on “Pfaff Grand Quilter Questions….”

  1. I have a grand quilter, I don’t think they are all bad. Now the first 18″ machine Pfaff came out with, I totally agree, it was junk. I had my machine for a couple of years before I put it on the frame, so I knew it could free motion quilt. My advice is to make sure your front rail is dropped low enough, that the bed of the machine pushes up the quilt sandwich a bit. That fixed my issues, ( and yep, I did a lot of muttering before I figured that one out). I read your blog every day Jo, and love it! Helen

  2. I have the same issue with a new to me KenQuilt machine. The company is no longer in business. And it is making me nuts. It sews straight but try to do any larger meandering and top thread breaks. I’ve tried for a few months to get it going but no luck. I have just given up for now and will just continue to piece quilt tops. I feel your pain with your Pfaff… All suggestions are welcome…

  3. I have a Viking MegaQuilter that used to be mounted on an Inspira frame. I bought it from my friend Jules (who had bought it from a friend). I didn’t have any lessons, but Jules is good at mechanical stuff and she set it up. I used it for 5 quilts, then I jammed the bobbin badly. I took the machine off the frame, to it to the repairman who fixed it. I didn’t put the machine back on the frame. For two years the frame served as a large quilt rack until I finally disassembled it and gave it away. As for the machine: I thought I could use it to FMQ. It straight stitches just fine–the way you use it, Jo. But when I drop the feed dogs and try to free-motion the thread breaks (Aurifil, Superior, whatever). Fooey! So I FMQ on my workhorse DSM (a 20-year-old Pfaff). I need to (a) talk to someone who is good with the MQ (or the Pfaff GrandQ that you have) or (b) trade the MQ in on what I’d really like, which is a DSM with an extended throat……I don’t have room for an APQS-type longarm, and I’m managing quite well using a DSM for quilting most projects.

  4. Hi Jo!
    I have the exact same machine as Jo had and have had issues with the thread breakage…and wrote to Jo at the time. She told me to keep a diary…GREAT advise!! I now use ONLY size 18 needles and they have to be HLx18 needles. I also use only Glide Thread and So Fine Superior Thread and I keep the quilt nice and loose on the frame..almost sags and the machine has been FANTASTIC (touch wood)!! I also change the needle and oil before I start a new project. I hope this helps…I feel your pain…I REALLY do!!

  5. i have the machine and frame find that the inspria topstich needles take care of a lot of the problems and keeping it square and leval it does move out of alignment even on a cement floor

  6. I have a Janome 1600P mid arm machine and also had problems that didn’t appear to be solveable. I had it to two different shops for servicing with the thread still breaking. I learned of another service person who isn’t a Janome dealer but services all machines. He had to adjust the needle down slightly closer to the foot plate and all problems were solved. I have used the same machine for several years now and no more thread breakage. He is truly a machine whisperer.

  7. Now I am completely depressed. I have a Pfaff longarm with a QBot (love that!!) that I bought in PA and brought to Canada with me. I am frustrating myself beyond measure. I found out I could have bought a brand new machine (not Pfaff) and frame for about $1700 more than what I paid for a used machine ~~ and I would have set-up, training and maintenance available. My dream has become a nightmare, but I am going to persevere and hopefully, solve the issues. Thanks for the advice, though!

  8. I followed Jo’s plan and replaced mine w a long arm. I got a Nolteing though. I traded in my Pfaff, and am not sorry about that. However Some of the problems listed I had also. But I found that if I changed the angle on the Nolting it solved my problem. Only having a finger wdth between the bed and the quilt, as I advanced on the quilt, I have to adjust the angle or RAISE the quilt. WHO KNEW???? no one told me this could be a problem w the GQ! but it could have. Also one of my Decoders was on backwards as my “stitch Regulator” went bad there was no solution to fix it, just replace to the Qbot…. Not happening. too pricey.

  9. Is there a yahoo group for the GrandQuilter? I have never even seen one – I have an Innova – but I know that Innova has a group on yahoo that really helps with suggestions when someone is struggling. I usually use the 24/7/365 free tech support…and it’s always operator error…but they help me solve my problem every time.

    What happened to the post about Dixie? Got the little tease in the email, but when I click the link it says it is broken :(

  10. People often forget the Pfaff 1200 needs SPECIAL needles and will not work with the one you use in your Featherweight :) The type of needle is the HL x 5 semi-industrial needle; if you use a domestic ‘universal’ 15 x H needles. The machine is only as good as the needle so if you happen to put the wrong type in it there are going to be problems. I have been using one of these machine for years with HL x 5 size 16 on the Inspira frame and it is still stitching like a new machine. I love it.

  11. Dorothy Fabian

    I bought a Grand Quilter the second year it came out with a 9 inch arm opening. Also bought an Inspira frame and took a class on set up but it all turned out to be a disaster/First of all I waited months to get the right parts for the frame. In the end I sold the frame to someone who used it for embroidery. Now all these years later I want to practice on the quilter
    but I lost my manual. A website I went to said they are sold out of manuals. Is there any way for me to get a diagram of the threading for top and bottom of machine?

  12. that link is to my flickr phots that have some links to the yahoo group and some of my tips for using the machine. I bought the Grandquilter 1200 and Inspira frame and it did take a bit of practice to get it quilting fine but I like it and have gotten a lot of my quilts finished with it. I think that the frame is the reeal problem because once I got very careful with how I constantly adjust the frame everything went fine. I also watched a great you tube video by a longarmer named Walton that helped me to loosen my bobbin case and that helped. I agree that the machiine off the frame is wonderful. I am thinking of selling the frame and making quilt as you go projects now that my large tops are all quilted!

  13. After reading these posts I am excited to start using my Pfaff GrandQuilter. I bought it second hand and did not buy the frame with it. I am used to doing my quilts with my old Pfaff 7510 and it did not have the amount of throat this machine has. I was in the middle of finishing 2 quilts for Christmas when my second foot pedal on my pfaff 7510 bit the dust and I had to travel 3-1/2 hrs to find one. With the price of another new one I decided to trade in that machine and picked up the Grandquilter which is like brand new because the woman who bought it couldn’t stand the frame so didn’t use it. She traded it in on a babylock. My score cause I only wanted the machine and I got all the parts, the extension table, the dealer threw in needles and about 10 extra bobbins and gave me a 3 yr warranty pkg with it. I have just returned from that trip to pick up the Grandquilter and cant wait to get started with it. Appreciate all the tips I read on here.

  14. I’m just curious if I were to purchase a GQ 1200 used what price is good or not good and if it comes with a grace frame…. is that good? I am new to quilting. Have made a dozen tops but am wanting to start quilting my own quilts.
    Any advice given would be greatly appreciated!


  15. I am in need of a locking endcap for one of the rails of my pfaff quilting table…. does anyone know where I would order one? please help – if anyone knows – please email me at the address above – thanks….

  16. I bought it second hand and didn’t realize the locking endcap on one rail is not on it…. really anxious to get to using this amazing machine…. :) Thank you again…. I greatly appreciate any tips – as well

  17. I had the thread breakage problem until I was told the Pfaff likes to have the same thread in the top & in the bottom. I was using 1 thread for pretty quilting & another kind for the back because it didn’t show up. It changed my life! The machine quilts like a dream! Thanks for all the other ideas I read here! Happy quilting!

  18. The factory for Grace frames is located in Salt Lake city, Utah. I found it on the net. Lucky I am only a few miles from there. So I can just hop down to purchas parts. I know l they ship too. hope this helps’

  19. I have the pfaff grand quilter 18, on the controller it says needle motor has a problem. Does anyone know what this means or were the needle motor is??????

  20. I have the grandguilter1200 and am trying to. Find out how wide the leader is supposed to be for the back fabric piece as I am having a.problem. When I start my. Quilts. Getting. The top in a place where it will quilt far up enough without hitting the back of the machine. And it is so frustrating. Can someone help me out with this problem, thanks Rita

    1. I didn’t make leaders for mine. I just clamped them on.
      I now longer have my frame but have gone on to use the machine for all my regular piecing. I love it for that but hated it as a quilting machine. It was all headaches. I have a APQS Millennium.

  21. I have two (yes) two of these machines and they both worked wonderfully. One as on a frame, which I bought as a used setup. The other I found at a thrift store for $15. I bought it home and found it had the wrong type of needle in it. I think most folks with this machine think it takes home sewing machine needles and it does not. It uses HL x 5 needles, which are designed for higher speed and are a slightly different length. Having the wrong type of needle in it is also the reason it will work ok when piecing but not work well on the frame. Joanns, Walmart, etc. don’t carry the HL x 5 needles. I always got mine from SharpSewing on eBay. If you’re having a problem with your machine make sure you’ve got the right type of needle and if you need a manual go here: and see page 8 for the needle specification.

  22. I started quilting a very special quilt for my husband as an anniversary gift which has photos of his mother, who has since passed away. Anyway to get to the point. I have quilted other quilts on my Pfaff Grand Quilter with inspira frame and have learned through the grapevine that I must us the HLx5 needles, which I have but my problem now is that the top thread keeps getting bunched up underneath and it even gets tangled up down inside around the bobbin case. I have Superior thread in it. I have cleaned and oiled the machine and have rewound bobbins, changed needles, changed thread, tried adjusting the thread tension to no avail. HELP!!! At this point I am so frustrated. I would love to buy something else but financially speaking, it is just not going to happen.

    1. I no longer have my machine set up this way and have no idea how to help you. I’m so sorry. I had the same type of problems you care explaining. There was no rhyme of reason to it. It would be fine and then act up. We have quilts that are published in national magazines and we wrote a book. I couldn’t deal with it anymore and make the deadlines that we needed to meet. I bought an APQS. I haven’t cried over this machine ever. The other one, I cried regularly.

  23. Hi Jo,

    I’m a regular reader of your blog and really enjoy it. It inspired me to make more charity quilts. I’m curious about your response about not using leaders on your APQS. How does that work? What kind of clamp and where did you purchase them? Where do you clamp them on? If you could add a picture or short video, that would be so very helpful.

    Thanks so much,


  24. Hi Jo,
    I posted earlier this month and even after having the machine serviced, which the repairman said the timing was off I am still having problems. Now the top thread keeps breaking. I did notice though that the repairman left a part laying on a stand beside the machine when he took apart the thread tension unit. He ended up taking the machine home with him to adjust the timing but now I think the tension is wrong because of the piece he left out. Needless to say, the quilt for my husband for our anniversary is still not finished.

  25. I recently purchased a Grand Quilter with frame from a friend. We are finishing our basement to have a place for the frame. I am playing with just the machine for now. I would like to purchase a walking foot for it to do straight line quilting on smaller quilts. Any suggeations as to where I can purchase one?

  26. Wanted to know if it’s very difficult to remove the arm to use as a stand alone machine?
    Don’t want to use the arm any longer.

  27. I can purchase a Pfaff 1200 Grand quilter, brand new. Lady bought, got sick and never used.
    Reading some posts with frustrations. I currently have a pfaff 4.2 quilt expression and it is finicky on thread, I use aurofil.

    I only quilt for myself, thought this might be good starter for me or will it be a big hassle?! Lady is asking $1,000 but said would give a good price. It has stitch regulator. I would need a frame.

    1. I hated mine which was set up on a Next Generation frame. It broke thread constantly. I cried constantly. I threw the frame away, bought an APQS, turned the machine into my piecing machine and am finally happy.

  28. Was having trouble with thread breaking. Had machine serviced and commenced working with machine on the quilting frame done a small amount and thread breaks again. However decided it may have been time to give up quilting. Invited my husband in to work through how I was doing things and we discovered point 2 page 23 of manual
    “2. Move the needle threader completely
    downwards and turn it towards the needle
    so that the small hook goes through the
    needle eye from the right.”
    I was threading it by hand and doing it the reverse way. I realised the service man threaded it from the left as it does when you use the needle threader.
    Have since done a quilt and it worked well with only stop was to change the cotton in the bobbin.

  29. I just bought a used GQ 1200 and Inspria frame and have several questions. First, on the Cruise Control what is the button (mine is red) next to the on/off switch? Second, anyone have a source for the HLx5 needles? Third, source for bobbins (only came with one)? Fourth, Service ideas? Fifth, ideas on where to get new laser (battery acid ruined one with machine. Sixth, any positive thoughts – most comments seem negative.

    Machine was stored in a basement (nice) unused for several years. Previous owner quilted MANY quilts on it. After setting it up in my basement (not so great) I discovered it was skipping stitches. I read all the manuals and followed instructions as best I could. Taking everything I could apart; I oiled & cleaned it, rewound bobbin and cleaned all the tracks for the stitch regulators. After multiple attempts it is sewing well straight; however, when I try to free motion it starts skipping stitches. Again, what is button next to on/off switch on Cruise Control (mine is red; manual shows black)? I’ve tried moving stitch regulator on Cruise Control and pushing red/black button. I don’t notice anything happening. I’ve read the comments here and will try to find the HLx5 needles. Also, I will oil again – several comments mention machine needing quite a bit of oil.

    TIA for any suggestions to be successful with this machine … Helen

    1. Hi Helen.
      What you explained…it working fine and then skipping stitches was my undoing with this set up. I NEVER did figure it out and finally after crying tears and tears, I gave up on it. The machine pieces beautifully as regular sewing machine. As a quilting machine on the frame, mine skipped and skipped and skipped stitches. At times I would get it going and working good for a couple quilts, then more skipped stitches. I couldn’t put up with anymore. Hubby finally told me to buy a new quilting machine.I bought an APQS Millennium. I’ve never regretted it. I didn’t have the Cruise so can’t help there. I got my things through my Pfaff dealer….sorry I’m not more help.

  30. Angela says
    November 27, 2013 at 6:07 am

    I have the same issue with a new to me KenQuilt machine. The company is no longer in business. And it is making me nuts. It sews straight but try to do any larger meandering and top thread breaks. I’ve tried for a few months to get it going but no luck. I have just given up for now and will just continue to piece quilt tops. I feel your pain with your Pfaff… All suggestions are welcome…
    I’m familiar with the Ken Quilter and company, maybe I could help

  31. To Helen, I was able to stop the skipped stitches by going up a needle size. I set up “scientific” experiments with various combos of batting and fabric to simulate what I was quilting. I use these samples to test my stitches every time I change thread (which is often, I do more of a thread painting technique). However, I’m still having broken thread issues (I went through the same thing as Jo, I was ready to pitch the machine to the street). I’ve had improvement with slowing down (set on slowest speed), better thread, the right bobbins (do some tests to see what works best – for me the heaviest ones are best), making sure my bobbin case “brake” is clean and adjusted right (there is a good video about this on the APQS website), and making sure to check my needles for barbs and to change them often. I’ve also determined that the breakage happens when I’m moving the quilt in one particular direction. The plot thickens.

    To Celia, are you bringing your threads to the top of the quilt at the start of stitching? This was a revelation for me!! You can find lots of videos about this online. I stop and start often and thought “oh bother” but tried it for a while – I’m a convert!

    I got online today because I need to order new needles, bobbins, and thread (cause I can’t get them at my LQS – such a bummer!). I am exited to see so many other issues solved using “finesse” such as leveling the machine!! I’m using mine in a different place, so that could very well be a factor. The adjustment of the needle that the “needle whisperer” used will be my next experiment. I use my machine table-top, for FMQ and a modified style of thread painting (no stitch regulator, no computer). I love this method of working. I’ve tried machines on stands and can’t get the right kind of “action” from them for the work I do.

    To Jo, In your original post (so long ago), you mentioned that you’d changed out a lot of parts. I’m curious if you changed out the Hook Race? (on Sewing Parts Online there is a picture of it, Pfaff part #4160557-01) I’m having the same breakage problems you described and wondered if that would help. Since the problem is happening “down below” I was considering changing the bobbin case (which may not be necessary, as you indicate), and the hook race. I live a long way from any reliable mechanical support, so I’m on my own until I can do a road trip – like you, I’m on a deadline! And, as I mentioned above, the breakage happens only when I’m moving the work in one particular direction. I’m also curious if you had tension issues?

    I used to be in love with this machine for FMQ. Like you, I probably won’t get rid of it because it’s so great for other things. It’s been in storage for about 2 years, and has other issues – such as whacky tension. I’m wondering what could have happened in storage (not climate controlled – did get very hot). I would dearly love to upgrade (I’m looking at the APQS George and similar sit-down table models) but can’t afford to and I’m a long way away from support for that, too. Thanks everyone!



    1. I don’t have my machine anymore. I upgraded to a APQS Millenium. I love it. I would check the hand wheel. Is there thread around it. Is the belt on right?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top