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.


Sharon’s Lion is Finished!

Sharon’s Lion was finally delivered to Sharon last week, and I’m glad to say she was delighted.  I always worry about the customer’s reaction and whether my idea suited their idea for what they wanted for their quilt top.

I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but Sharon is very creative and designs her quilts with out the help of patterns.  All her appliques were stitched by hand and all were highlighted with hand embroidered accents.  The eyes of the lion were painted on white fabric and then hand appliqued and lets not forget that tail of yo-yo’s.

My Thread choices for this quilts were by Superior threads.  I used So Fine in the bobbin and an assortment of colors from their Rainbow and Highlights thread collection.   I prefer to use a 3.0 or 3.5 needle whenever I have a quilt of Batik Fabric and the needle size worked fine with the threads I chose.  Wool batting was used in case the quilt was hung so the weight would be less and also because Sharon would be shipping the quilt to her daughter.  Wool batting is wonderful for shipping not just because of the lighter weight, the it doesn’t hold the folds and creases from packing.

Here a a few pics, and I am sorry to say, that I forgot my camera the day I delivered the quilt and am not able to share a photo of Sharon.

Sally’s Quilt

Sally has made a wonderful quilt for a young girl who loves purple.  I think it is delightful, don’t you?  What young lady wouldn’t love this quilt.

Look at those fabrics!  I love the flowers on the black background.

As  you can see from the picture,  there are a lot of straight lines within this quilt.   The blocks and borders create a lot of horizontal and vertical lines which makes it very important to keep this quilt straight and even during the quilting process.    The first thing I do, before attaching the quilt to the machine,  is get some measurements from the quilt top.

Half way down from the top of the quilt, measure from side to side  through the center of the quilt.

I float my quilt tops,  so that means I have one leader roller that is not being used.  That empty roller really comes in very handy.  The muslin leader on the roller actually grips and smooths the quilt top as I advance the quilt during the quilting.    I can also use it to  place markers for the width of the quilt.

Using scotch tape, (it removes easily) I place two pieces on the leader roller and mark a black line on each piece.  I then distance the marks from each other to equal the width of the quilt top.  This helps me so much.  You can see from the pic below how very handy this is.  I also use a laser level and shine the red laser line from the black mark up the sides of the quilt to help keep the quilt top straight on the sides.  When it’s time for a different quilt, I remove the scotch tape  and start fresh with new tape, marks and measurement.

To get the quilt straight across the top, I use my laser level line again.  After I have attached the quilt back and batting to the leaders, I shine my laser line using the level on the leveler to keep it straight.  I can then place the top edge of the quilt top on the laser line.

The laser level is a very handy tool not just for hanging pictures as you can see.  I purchased mine at a hardware store.  They came in all price ranges, but I didn’t need all the bells and whistles, so I went with the less expensive.

I use my laser tool to keep the quilt blocks and quilt straight throughout the quilting process.  Each time I advance the quilt, I shine the line to make sure that the block lines are still straight both horizontally and vertically.

Great tool to have if you are a longarmer.

This is the design I chose for the all over pattern on this quilt. The design was purchased from Digi-Tech Patterns/Urban Elementz.    Highlights Thread from Superior Thread Company was used both on the needle and bobbin in a deep purple color.  I think it looks very pretty and I am sure Sally will be happy with it.

Oh, and to add one more thing.  When my friend, Tom Russell, visited with me for a few days, he got a kick out of the weights I was using instead of rice bags to prevent my quilt top from vibrating or bouncing during the stitching.

Yep, those are Hoffman Bali Pops!  Now, I plan on using them in a quilt, but in the meantime they are much prettier than rice bags and I love looking at them.  Can you blame me?