Bobbin Tension on the Longarm/Towa Tension Gauge

Yesterday while I was working and preparing my machines for a day of work, I realized how much I have loved and enjoyed the Towa Bobbin Tension Gauge.  It saves me so much time and relieved so much frustration from my quilting that  I thought I would share how I use it.

I use a lot of different weights of thread in my quilting.  Many times, I have a different weight of thread on the needle from what I am using in the bobbin.  That combination can lead to “pokies”, or in other words, one of the threads being pulled to the side of the other.  I usually spent a great deal of  time, before working on the actual quilt,  testing the settings to get my stitch just perfect.  I usually did this on the excess backing fabric along the sides of the quilt, adding batting and a layer of fabric to represent the quilt top.   It took so much time and a lot of removing and replacing the bobbin after making adjustments, as well as adjusting the needle tension to make a good stitch.  The two settings have to be happy with each other for things to be perfect.  So each time I started a new quilt, a lot of time was spent getting a perfect stitch.  I HATE poor stitch quality and I really HATE pokies.

I purchased the Towa a couple of years ago, with great suspicion, but soon realized, it was a good investment.  Since that purchase, I think I have taken my Towa for granted until yesterday.

Thread the bobbin with the thread you will be using on the quilt and lock it in place with the bobbin lever tip pointing to the top of the Towa.

The following pics show the sequence and path of threading. 

After threading as shown, you pull on the thread, keeping the tension of your pull consistent until you get a solid reading on the gauge on the left of the Towa.  You may have to pull a few inches until you are consistent and steady with your pull.  If the gauge is fluttering, you need to try again, keeping the tension of your pull from changing.  If you know that you are pulling smoothly and consistently and you still get an flutter to the gauge without a defined and constant setting, your bobbin may be damaged or warped.  We do drop them you know.  Rewind a new bobbin and try again.

I find that I like my bobbin tension to be set around 180 –  190 no matter what the thread weight.  You might find that a different setting works best for you, so don’t be afraid to experiment.  What works best for me and how I guide my machine,  may not be your perfect setting.

The right side of the Towa is designed with a lower edge to allow you to place your screw driver into the tension screw without removing the case from the Gauge.

Tweek the tension screw and check your tension again until you achieve the setting you need.  A little goes a long way when adjusting the tension screw on the case.   As you can see on the picture below, I tweeked a little too much  and my setting went from 160 to 210.

No problem.  Just reverse the turn on the screw a little and you will be just where you need to be.

Place the bobbin in the machine, and adjust  the needle tension a little if needed to balance things out.  Don’t be afraid to play with your tension.  It’s there to use and will allow you to use many wonderful threads of various weights.  How boring to only be able to use one type of thread because you are afraid to adjust your tension.  Your machine will not self destruct if you change the settings, I promise.

I hope this will help you be brave and creative with thread choices.  I’ll talk about adjusting your needle thread tension and proper needle size selection in my next post.

As always, I am not an authority, I am only sharing what I have found to work best for me during the past 13 years of my longarm quilting.

Every day and everything can be a  learning experience.

10 thoughts on “Bobbin Tension on the Longarm/Towa Tension Gauge

  1. I finally bought one earlier this year and I’m soooooo glad I did. I had absolutely no idea my bobbin tension was so tight – I’m surprised the thread wasn’t breaking. I haven’t gotten used to the idea the thread is so loose coming off the bobbin now – but I can see the difference in the stitches on the back of the quilt. I’ve been keeping it around the 240 mark but I think I’ll back it off and try your 160-180 and see how it looks. Thanks Kathy – for the photos and info.

    • If you’ve been using 240, and you do lower the tension, don’t be surprised if you have to make some adjustments to the needle tension. Thanks for posting. By the way Nikki, what kind of longarm do you use? Not that it will make a difference about your tension, I would just like to know.

  2. I love your post and would love your help. I am not new to quilting but I am VERY new to adjusting my tension. I am no brave and don’t know what I am doing. I am buying the towa tonight online. After that I will experiment with needle tension. I was looking for your next post on hat and haven’t found it yet. Thank you for this post.

  3. Kathy, I am a brand new owner of a mid-arm quilting machine (Babylock Tiara) and find myself tweaking the tension more than I probably should. I was so happy to find this blog post and feel that I now have the knowledge to properly adjust the bobbin tension. I will purchase a Towa Gauge soon.
    I tried looking ahead for the post you had planned to make regarding top tension but see that you have not blogged in a while. I will be sure to check back later to see if you do post about top tension. In the meantime, I will be sure to read through the rest of your previous posts.
    Thank you for the information!
    ~June in AZ

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