Uploaded by Margie Campbell

Tension Helps for Long Arm Quilting Machines

It's Marge Campbell ([email protected])...I'm posting a reply I put online in August 2009...this is how I
manually test and set my tension on my longarm machines.
I don't have a Towa tension gauge, so I can't say much about them...I do know that if Jack Doe has his tension at
22 on the towa...that's not going to be the same for all TL machines...each machine has it's own preferences.
This was in reply to someone who had tension problem only in the middle of a quilt...so was probably a fabric
to thread problem..so you will see reference to that. Also, the height of your hopping foot can cause thread
problems also. On the TL18 LS (newer model), you adjust the foot itself, older model TL18's, you will have to
ask or check your manual.
----------------------------------------So...back to square one...do you have any of that batik left? can you pin it to
the practice piece? If so... set it aside for now.
Take out the bobbin case...using the basic, non mechanical way...test the bobbin
Holding the bobbin in the palm of one hand, hold onto the thread that comes out
with the other hand...with your palm under the bobbin case to keep it from
falling lower that palm and your bobbin should drop at an even pace with just a
slight hint of tension. If you have to shake the bobbin to get it to drop, you
need to loosen it a bit. If it free falls, tighten it a bit (1/8 of a turn
either way, depending on the result you got).
Check for lint...all around the bobbin hook area (remove the throat plate if you
need to in order to check all around the hook.
Once you are sure it's clean, put a tiny drop of oil on the hook asembly near
the front. Just a hair drop (lol, techinal term). Put the bobbin case back in
& replace the throat plate if you removed it.
Upper thread path: Check that the thread is going straight up off the cone, not
at an angle (the two bars for the thread holder should be one right above the
other). Now if you are using a spool & not a cone...You want to have a spool
cap larger than the spool over the spool, so the thread does not get caught in
the slit on the spool.
Check the Thread path...start with the guides (these are usually NOT a
problem..but check for burrs anyhows)...tension assembly. Check this by raising
the presser foot, now manually seperate the disks...can you see any lint or
debris in there? If so, you need to clean it out. Don't use canned air. If
you are unsure on how to take it apart, or don't want to..then at least run a
strip of fabric folded, or a pipe cleaner (not the metallic one) across the
tension pole that the discs are on. A q-tip might work...I use a piece of felt
sometimes also...anything that lets you get into the bar/shaft the rings are on.
Your check spring should be at about 11 o'clock. Check the area of the takeup
lever...any lint visible? A small artists brush should get it out. The rest of
the guides should be checked for burrs, and make sure there is room for the
thread to pass in the guide that is right above the needle.
The needle should have no burrs..run your finger and thumb (pinching the needle)
along the length of the needle...do you feel any rough area at the needle hole
or tip of the needle? If so get a new needle. Is the needle the right size for
the thread? 40 wt thread, I use a size 18 needle, but sometimes have to use a
size 20...depends on the thread.
Make sure the long groove on the needle is facing the front of your machine &
that the shank (part of the needle that has the indent at the hole only) is
facing the back of the machine (facing the hand wheel). Make sure the needle is
in far enough & tighten it. Thread the machine.
Once you thread the machine with the thread you want to use...with the presser
foot down...pull on the upper thread coming out of the needle...it should give a little resistance (tension), but not
so much that you can't pull it out at an even, steady pace.
This is not like a home machine...your tension dial has numbers, but those are
reference points, not settings.
Make sure you have oil in the machine...two drops up top, and that pin in the
base should be about 1/2 way covered in oil when you test it.
Do a test stitch on the practice piece (not the batik yet).
First bring up the bobbin thread. Now...take several tiny stitches (think 15 20 st per inch)...I use the needle up/down button for this...hold onto both the
top and bobbin thread while you do this. This secures the thread. Now try
taking some stitches...I usually do a star and a loop...these pretty much will
cover any direction you may need to go. Check the underside...any eyelashes or
pokies? If you have eyelashes...turn the upper tension one full turn...so if
the number two is at the top of the dial...you want to have it there again once
you do the full turn. try again. should be little pokies or closer to perfect.
Turn the upper dial at half turns until you get one of two things...perfect
stitches, across a row, or the upper thread breaks after a short length of
stitching. If you get perfect stitches, great...if the thread starts to
break...reverse/loosen the upper tension one wind...test...if it does not break,
but pokies on the bottom... remove the bobbin, and loosen the bobbin tension 1/8
of a turn...try again.
Once you are happy with the stitch...try it on the batik you pinned/sewed to the
practice piece. Tweak the tension as needed.
One other thing...if your needle package has an FFG on it instead of an R or R
with another letter...it's a fine ball point...may not work well on a batik.
FFG are for knits...if so, you are probably really ok with that batik...this
type needle spreads the fabric instead of cutting through it.
Take a break...unpug lizzie for a bit...then try her again.
Remember Lizzie is not a domestic sewing machine, she is an industrial machine &
works differently than your home machine.
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