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Bobbin tension... can it affect movement?


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#1 cjtinkle

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 05:44 AM

It took me awhile to work out a tension that I thought consistently gave me excellent results on my Millennium, mainly because it's "sweet" spot seemed so high to me. On my TOWA gauge, (I nearly always use Bottom Line in the bobbin) that's 20. That number came about because that allows me to loosen my upper thread quite a bit more, otherwise I was having trouble with most of my threads breaking a lot. Last week I was watching Jamie Wallen's "Mystical Cottontracks", and he demonstrated his bobbin dropping all the way to the floor in his bobbin drop test. Deciding to experiment, I adjusted mine to match, then tested it in the TOWA gauge. It was at 12! I tightened it to about 15, tightened my upper thread, and gave it a whirl. One thing I noticed right away, and the point of my post, is that my machine moved noticably easier! I could move the head at slow speeds very smoothly, normally I have slight "flat spots" going really slow when the SR is on. Can a tight bobbin tension cause a bit of drag on the machine? I'd love some feedback from the experts here. I can't seem to find that perfect tension balance with my bobbin set that loose. I either get flat stitches laying on top the backing fabric, or if I tighten my upper thread enough to eliminate them, it breaks.
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#2 Sparkle

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 07:50 AM

Hi CJ, I don't know if you have seen Jamie Wallen's Towa Gauge video. It's the best one I've seen on the Towa--- http://www.youtube.c...u/2/pT7H71wMhtQ It also helped confirm that running my bobbin tension between 21 - 25 was quite accurate for my machine (it also is for Jamies). I've always felt anything below that was too loose on my APQS Ultimate II, and also on my present long arm. I don't have an APQS now, so I won't comment on the top thread tension except to say I wind my top thread once around the pretensioner before it goes through the top rotary tension disks and pathways to the needle. I don't know if the newer APQS machines have a pretensioner disk of some type. I also only use aluminum bobbins that I wind myself, and my brand of machine also has a type of pigtail bobbin case that is a bit unusual. It took a while to figure out what the settings and thread paths should be (the "new owner phase")---but, now "Polly" and I have bonded and perfected the Towa settings and tensions. Hope the video helps---I don't have Jamie's Mystical Cottontracks DVD, but I want one! :)

#3 cjtinkle

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 12:52 PM

Well that's very interesting, but I'm glad to know my efforts in finding that perfect tension haven't been in vain, and that Jamie recommends "about 20/200" as the sweet spot also, but that is an absolute contradiction to his drop bobbin test. If you put a bobbin that drops freely as demonstrated into a TOWA gauge, it will be around 12/120.
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#4 quiltmonkey

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 01:18 PM

CJ, don't over analyze or over engineer this! :) You'll drive yourself crazy that way... Use all of these you read and hear and watch as mere guidelines, and then just tweek and do what works for you, not what works for everyone else. It's all relative to your specific machine, situation, environment,,,, not a one size fits all. So many variables with each quilt you encounter requires all of us to make minor adjustments to top (and maybe even) bobbin. Fabric, batting, thread, humidity, your mood, the needle, a speck of fuzz in the bobbin? Just too many things! Every quilt is a whole new experience. I don't have the TOWA gauge, I just use the drop method. I am a KISS person. It's (IMHO) one less thing (TOWA) to mess with... So I just use drop method. I set my bobbin tension so it just rolls slow and steady dropping down at a smooth consistent roll... I make slight adjustments as necessary. I think that the main problem with tension and thread breaking comes from stringing our machines too tight on top and bottom. This is what Bob The thread Guy says.. So... If you try to go looser in bobbin and looser in top your tension problems will be reduced. And tweek as necessary. Different threads (on top and/or bottom) require minor tweeking or fine tuning. You will never have a one size fits all perfect number on your TOWA. And remember Jamie drives an A1 and you drive a APQS. The TOWA number on the A1 could be different for the APQS. Here's a idea;;;;: put the TOWA away for a week and just try the drop method and see if things are easier. One less step in the process might help? (just a thought) Hope things get better for you.
"Of all the things a woman's hands have made---The quilt so lightly thrown across her bed---The quilt that keeps her loved ones warm---Is woven of her love and dreams and thread." excerpt from The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt by Carrie A. Hall

Shana in North Pole, Alaska ---- The Farthest North APQS Sales Rep
Always quilting with her faithful friend, Mademoiselle Madeleine Millennium, Bliss-fully skating gracefully...and having lots of fun with IntelliQuilter

#5 cjtinkle

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 03:59 PM

Well, I'd already worked my tension issues out, LOL But then I watched Jamie's DVD, and decided to try his looser bobbin tension. Ack! I think I'll just go back to where I was, silly me to think I had to fix it :)
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#6 meg_marsh

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 04:32 PM

I think Jamie's explanation is great, but I have learned a couple of different things since starting to LA. The first is that for my Millie and my Innova the tension (setting of the Towa gauge) needs to be a little different with different threads in the bobbin - I have also learned that different types of bobbins need slightly different settings. Finally, definitely different Towa settings between my Millie and my Innova. So, in a nut shell, find what works best for your thread, bobbin, bobbin case, your machine, and your personal speed/style of quilting and go from there. I actually keep bobbin cases for different threads - makes my tweaking much quicker and easier.
Meg Kent, WA & La Quinta, CA APQS Millie & 26" Innova http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjm_pics/ http://community.web...vhost=community

#7 Sandra Darlington

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 04:41 PM

I just watched Jamie's U-Tube. I think it is a wonderful explanation of how to use the Towa gauge. I had my LA for 2 years before buying one at MQX this year. I really don't use it much, as I already knew what usually works for my bobbin tension...but, my tension on the Towa seems best at about 17 or 18, and that's a bit tighter than the looser, spider drop test. I can go closer to a 15 with some combinations of batting and top thread, etc.
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#8 Quilting Heidi

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 08:14 PM

I think Shana is right. I use the drop test and got rid of my towa gauge. I keep my bobbin pretty loose, 13 - 15 on the guage before I sold it. I find that this is the best way to avoid flat spots on the back of my quilt.
Quilting 4 U http://community.webshots.com/user/merrih2

#9 cjtinkle

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 03:37 AM

Don't you have a hard time with your upper thread breaking? It seems that if I loosen my bobbin thread quilt a bit, then in order to avoid flat spots on the back, I have to tighten the upper thread more, and then it wants to break on me.
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#10 Quilting Heidi

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 06:44 AM

CJ no I rarely have the top thread break. It is probably just a matter of finding that sweet spot. I used to have my bobbin thread laying flat on the back and it drove me crazy. Once I loosened up the bobbin thread that solved my problem. I just tighten the top enough to get the stitch right and off I go. When using metallics I only go through 1 hole in the pigtail instead of all three. I also make sure that the pigtail above the tension disk is at the 8 o'clock position.
Quilting 4 U http://community.webshots.com/user/merrih2

#11 cjtinkle

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 08:25 AM

Okay thanks, I'll play some more! But no one answered my actual question.:P Does tighter tension on the bobbin cause drag on the machine?
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#12 Quilting Heidi

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 08:56 AM

CJ you are right we didn't answer your question...I guess if I tought about it my initial instinct is to say no but then maybe the difference you are feeling is that the sittching is tighter to make and maybe hesitates more with more stress on the thread. Don't know really only guessing. Seems odd to me that it would make a difference.
Quilting 4 U http://community.webshots.com/user/merrih2

#13 cjtinkle

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 11:35 AM

It does seem odd I agree, but I swear I can feel a significant difference when stitch very slowly, like when doing feathers, or anything requiring control. It's enough to make me want to readjust my tension looser, that's for sure!
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#14 kennan100

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 06:19 AM

CJ, Do you have your bobbin thread so tight that the top thread can't pull it to the top? Seems like if you are running things very tight, that the top thread would break just trying to pull a tight bobbin thread to the top.
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#15 cjtinkle

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Posted 28 June 2010 - 06:37 AM

I don't think so, I normall run it at 200 on my Towa gauge, and I use Bottom Line in the bobbin 90% of the time. I'm going to experiment more with running it around 15. I tried that at first, because that's where it ran nicely on my HQ16, but I couldn't get rid of the flat spots on the back that low.
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#16 cjtinkle

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 05:44 AM

It took me awhile to work out a tension that I thought consistently gave me excellent results on my Millennium, mainly because it's "sweet" spot seemed so high to me. On my TOWA gauge, (I nearly always use Bottom Line in the bobbin) that's 20. That number came about because that allows me to loosen my upper thread quite a bit more, otherwise I was having trouble with most of my threads breaking a lot. Last week I was watching Jamie Wallen's "Mystical Cottontracks", and he demonstrated his bobbin dropping all the way to the floor in his bobbin drop test. Deciding to experiment, I adjusted mine to match, then tested it in the TOWA gauge. It was at 12! I tightened it to about 15, tightened my upper thread, and gave it a whirl. One thing I noticed right away, and the point of my post, is that my machine moved noticably easier! I could move the head at slow speeds very smoothly, normally I have slight "flat spots" going really slow when the SR is on. Can a tight bobbin tension cause a bit of drag on the machine? I'd love some feedback from the experts here. I can't seem to find that perfect tension balance with my bobbin set that loose. I either get flat stitches laying on top the backing fabric, or if I tighten my upper thread enough to eliminate them, it breaks.
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#17 Sparkle

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 07:50 AM

Hi CJ, I don't know if you have seen Jamie Wallen's Towa Gauge video. It's the best one I've seen on the Towa--- http://www.youtube.c...u/2/pT7H71wMhtQ It also helped confirm that running my bobbin tension between 21 - 25 was quite accurate for my machine (it also is for Jamies). I've always felt anything below that was too loose on my APQS Ultimate II, and also on my present long arm. I don't have an APQS now, so I won't comment on the top thread tension except to say I wind my top thread once around the pretensioner before it goes through the top rotary tension disks and pathways to the needle. I don't know if the newer APQS machines have a pretensioner disk of some type. I also only use aluminum bobbins that I wind myself, and my brand of machine also has a type of pigtail bobbin case that is a bit unusual. It took a while to figure out what the settings and thread paths should be (the "new owner phase")---but, now "Polly" and I have bonded and perfected the Towa settings and tensions. Hope the video helps---I don't have Jamie's Mystical Cottontracks DVD, but I want one! :)

#18 cjtinkle

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 12:52 PM

Well that's very interesting, but I'm glad to know my efforts in finding that perfect tension haven't been in vain, and that Jamie recommends "about 20/200" as the sweet spot also, but that is an absolute contradiction to his drop bobbin test. If you put a bobbin that drops freely as demonstrated into a TOWA gauge, it will be around 12/120.
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#19 quiltmonkey

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 01:18 PM

CJ, don't over analyze or over engineer this! :) You'll drive yourself crazy that way... Use all of these you read and hear and watch as mere guidelines, and then just tweek and do what works for you, not what works for everyone else. It's all relative to your specific machine, situation, environment,,,, not a one size fits all. So many variables with each quilt you encounter requires all of us to make minor adjustments to top (and maybe even) bobbin. Fabric, batting, thread, humidity, your mood, the needle, a speck of fuzz in the bobbin? Just too many things! Every quilt is a whole new experience. I don't have the TOWA gauge, I just use the drop method. I am a KISS person. It's (IMHO) one less thing (TOWA) to mess with... So I just use drop method. I set my bobbin tension so it just rolls slow and steady dropping down at a smooth consistent roll... I make slight adjustments as necessary. I think that the main problem with tension and thread breaking comes from stringing our machines too tight on top and bottom. This is what Bob The thread Guy says.. So... If you try to go looser in bobbin and looser in top your tension problems will be reduced. And tweek as necessary. Different threads (on top and/or bottom) require minor tweeking or fine tuning. You will never have a one size fits all perfect number on your TOWA. And remember Jamie drives an A1 and you drive a APQS. The TOWA number on the A1 could be different for the APQS. Here's a idea;;;;: put the TOWA away for a week and just try the drop method and see if things are easier. One less step in the process might help? (just a thought) Hope things get better for you.
"Of all the things a woman's hands have made---The quilt so lightly thrown across her bed---The quilt that keeps her loved ones warm---Is woven of her love and dreams and thread." excerpt from The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt by Carrie A. Hall

Shana in North Pole, Alaska ---- The Farthest North APQS Sales Rep
Always quilting with her faithful friend, Mademoiselle Madeleine Millennium, Bliss-fully skating gracefully...and having lots of fun with IntelliQuilter

#20 cjtinkle

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 03:59 PM

Well, I'd already worked my tension issues out, LOL But then I watched Jamie's DVD, and decided to try his looser bobbin tension. Ack! I think I'll just go back to where I was, silly me to think I had to fix it :)
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