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.


I Couldn’t Help Myself

I had to do it.  I got all inspired and just had to finish the changes on the design shown on the pillow.  I’ll call them improvements.  All stitch outs have been completed,  checked and double checked and I have loaded it on my website for purchase.

Here are the final stitch outs.

A Short Post

Just a short post today.  I think it must be the spring weather and the buttercups and tulips, but my mind can’t seem to stop thinking about heirloom sewing and all the beautiful dresses I made for my daughters when they were small.  I still have each and everyone.  I just couldn’t part with them.   My girls are in their thirties now, and when I made their dresses, I always embroidered them by hand.  My how things have changed.  I still love to hand embroider, but I also love to digitize embroidery and since I love heirloom sewing, I am beginning to digitize some of my designs for those of you who own embroidery machines.  Below is a picture of one of the designs.  I have made some improvements in the design since this pillow was made, but I think you can still see how very delicate it is.  I plan to start adding designs to my website next week.

Hope each and every one of you have a beautiful day filled with the pleasures of spring.

A Quick Update!

Sew Beautiful Magazine has given me permission to post the picture they used in their magazine article featuring designs from my “Baby Chicks and Bows” Embroidery Design CD.   The only thing I can add, is a special thank you to Sew Beautiful and the beautiful model that wore the dress.  She is so adorable.  You can read more about the article in my previous post, Easter Is on It’s Way.

To view these and all the designs I have available for purchase, visit my website at

The Shop Hop Quilt

Once upon a time, (actually 4 or 5 years ago) there was a Shop Hop.  And with that Shop Hop,  there was a quilt block that all the shops were to use to create a quilt.  Each shop had the same block and were free to use the block in what ever design we chose.


For our shop,  several of the girls worked on the quilt that Jessica had designed.  The block was constructed in various color ways and Jessica chose several  appliques from McKenna Ryan’s beautiful patterns to enhance the border.  The quilt was looking very nice.  The colors were bright and cheerful,  but the quilt  was also becoming VERY- VERY Large !  Oh, we all had good intentions.  We were planning on filling the border with tons of McKenna’s appliques but, as is always the case,  we just ran out of time.   The border was extremely wide,  and well…………it was  a little empty.   But, not to worry.   We can quilt something really fabulous to fill it up.  Right?   Wrong!!!!

Oh, no.  Now that would just be too easy!  I have to decide to go and get all creative and create hours of work for myself.   And, did I mention that it was just a few days till the opening of The Shop Hop.  Isn’t that the way it always goes.  You always get your best ideas when you’re in a crunch.    I don’t know about you, but I think I do my best work when I’m in a state of complete panick.

Now, while you are reading and looking at the pics,  (which were taken before the gift of the good camera I’m afraid,  be sure and think about the mess I made in “My Room” and all the fun I had making it.

There were quite a few appliques in the lower border,  but  just not enough to fill it up.  You can see there is a  large clam, along with fish and the sea-horse,  several  sea shells and star fish, different appliques of coral and sponge,  a few little Nemo’s and seaweed in various colors here or there.  The bottom of the quilt had the most appliques, but still it was just a little empty, and as you went up the sides of the quilt toward the top, the appliques became fewer.

It really needed a little something to connect it all together, so I put on my thinking cap  and then it hit me.  “Snippets”!  I remembered the technique called ” Snippets”.

Well, just let me tell you that the creative juices started flowing and I never looked back.  I grabbed any and all fabric scraps of anything and everything I could find.  I randomly  and with complete abandon, cut it all up into tiny little nuggets.   I threw all those pieces in a bag and went crazy adding  snips of every thread in every color I could find that would compliment the quilt.  I added metallic threads in different colors, variegated threads, solid color threads of all types and of course Ricky Tim’s Razzle Dazzle, some Halo  and anything else I could find that wasn’t already stitched to something or holding something together.  After looking at my collection  in the bag, I closed my eyes and gave it a few shakes.  I looked inside and low and behold, I had created a concoction that just might work as the ocean floor.

Now, the quilt was already loaded on the machine, wouldn’t you know it, so I just sprinkled and spread all those snippets where ever there were empty spaces, held my breath and stitched it with the longarm and some metallic thread.  I blew away the excess snippets  with compressed air, (hence the mess in “My Room” ) and continued on.

All in all,  it looked pretty good, but needed  a little height and color in places.  I cut long wavy edged strips of various lengths and colors of fabric and free form appliqued them in place with my longarm.  It still needed more, but I couldn’t quite decide what to do.

Paint!  I’m going to paint.  I had tons of paint that I had bought at a quilt show from a vendor and if I’m not mistaken, it was fabric paint.  So with paint brush in hand, and no earthly idea what I was going to do,  I started painting.  I added green sea weed with gold highlights , and random dabs of  maroon and gold metallic paint to fill in.

And then it happened.   I wanted to paint fish and sea horses  and well, I got a little carried away.  So just let me show the pictures.

Wasn’t that little puff fish applique cute?

Yep, I painted those sea horses!

Jessica wanted a fish bowl in the middle where she had applqued some adorable fish.  I had some netting, so I laid it over the fish and using my longarm, I stitched a circle.  I trimmed the excess netting close to the stitch and still using my longarm, I added a satin stitch around the edge.  Now, that took some time!   A piece of batik was added to the top and bottom in the same manner as the net.   I added different colors of stones and beads behind the net and to hold the net down, I did some wavy satin stitched lines thru all the layers.

And after all that, I finally did some quilting.

The quilt was finished the morning of the opening day of The Shop Hop, and Jessica and I had just finished hanging it when the doors opened.

Easter is On It’s Way!

With Easter coming, I know there are those of you who are planning some wonderful Easter Frocks that you will be sewingMachine Embroidery is a wonderful way to add beautiful detail to any out fit.

In the spring issue of Sew Beautiful Magazine, I was asked to create a sweet little dress for an article to be in the magazine.  Sew Beautiful Magazine is found in any store with a magazine rack and also in specialty shops  for heirloom embroidery.They also wanted me to use designs from my “Baby Chicks n Bows design CD.    I have not received permission to share the photos from the magazine with you, but I found a single shot of the little dress that I must have taken before I shipped it off that I can share.

Below is another picture of a sample I made from a dress blank from All About Blanks.  She has some wonderful things to add  embroidery to without the fuss of construction, if that just isn’t your thing.

These  sweet little designs are also wonderful for little boys.

What a lot of people don’t understand about the CD,  is there are designs included that will make beautiful quilt blocks.  The quilting designs for the blocks are also included on the CD, so after the quilt top is put together, you can hoop the quilt top, batting and backing, center the quilting design over the block,  and actually quilt your quilt with your embroidery machine.  It really is not as difficult as you might think.

Here are a few of those block designs and some have their quilting designs applied.

There are also instructions for the shadow applique technique that some what gives the appearance of hand sewn shadow applique embroidery.  You will find the instructions as well for the quilt pictured on the CD cover.

If you’d like to purchase these designs as a set or individually, click here.

Baptist Fan Quilting Designs

I have developed a love for Baptist Fans in my all over quilting.

I love using the pattern on traditional quilts, and there is something comforting in the curve of the lines when I use Baptist Fans on a very dominating fabric print.  It’s really hard for me to explain it, so I’ll just show you.

The first quilt is by my client Jodie Savage.  You have seen one of her quilts in an earlier post.  Jodie’s quilt, to me, has a very traditional feel to it. Also, the prints all work well together, they are happy together and no one fabric demands the attention of your eyes.   The colors all compliment each other and over all, the quilt makes me feel, well calm.  No fighting going on in this quilt.   There are however, lots of straight lines, so adding some curved or circular movement in the quilting would be a great choice.  Jodie wanted an all over pattern, so let’s see.  Florals would add curve, nope not a good match for this quilt design,  Might be too busy.  Circles?  How bout those bubbles?  No, that doesn’t feel right either.  Bubbles and traditional.  Something about that bothers me on these fabrics.   Ahhhh.  Baptist Fans.  Traditional, Curves, not too fussy.  Yes,  calm with calm.


And Jodie’s Quilt…….

Oh yes, and the Back of the Quilt.

And Jodie, I’m still waiting for one of your beautiful applique quilts!

But what about a different style quilt.  Not Traditional so to speak.  One with lots of different color.  Bright eye popping color and large prints and each one wanting to outstage the other.

  Ahhhhh!   Kaffe Fassett,  how we love your fabrics.!

Check out this little beauty.  Another Sample Quilt for Ginas’s Bernina Sewing Center here in Knoxville.

Not bad, not bad at all.

And the back.

I think the same quilting design worked beautifully on both quilts.  I was very pleased with both.

Tell me what you think?

I hope you enjoyed being here and visiting for a little while.

I certainly appreciate you being here.

Come back again.  I’m always into something.