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Tension Test

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I think what you may be referring to is the drop test of the bobbin case. Put a full bobbin in the case and lift it up by the thread tail, cupping your other hand under the case. If the case (with the bobbin still inside!) zips down toward the floor, you need to tighten the bobbin tension. There is a small screw on top of the case where you make this adjustment. Turn the screw in very small increments and adjust until when performing the above mentioned drop test, the case falls a few inches and then stops. Once you have the bobbin right, do a stitch test. If you see bobbin thread on top of the quilt, loosen the top (needle thread) tension. If you see top thread on the underside of the quilt, tighten the top tension. Adjust until you achieve a balanced stitch- top thread on top of the quilt, bobbin thread on the bottom of the quilt.

Some people own a TOWA bobbin gauge to test their bobbin tension and keep it consistent. It is available from several suppliers and costs around $70. I have found the drop test to be sufficient for me.

Rethread your machine to make sure the thread path is correct, make sure the needle is put in correctly, and adjust your tensions. If you still have problems, call APQS and they will help you right away!

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When I'm having loops on the back, I generally adjust my top tension. Here's what works for me.

I thread the needle, bring the bobbin thread up and and then make sure the top thread is under the foot. I pull the top thread to the back of the machine and after doing it enough, you'll realize how tight is too tight. I start (practice on a scrap) with the tension tight enough for the top thread to look pulled, then I reduce the top tension in very small increments until I get the perfect stitch.

I remember starting out, based on my experience with the DSM, the tension on the longarm was different from what I thought it should be. The top tension had to be tighter than and the bobbin tension had to be less than what I was used to using.

It really seems difficult to get everything right and working together but it's just second nature after you've been doing it a while.

Good luck!

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I have had similar problems. Maybe you've heard the expression, "can't see the forest for the trees". I tried everything, replaced bobbin case, thread, needle, tension mechanism, quilt, rethreaded, different threads. So what was I doing wrong? I did not have the top thread in between the tension disks. It was dancing along on the outside of the disks. I felt so silly. But I learned that sometimes it's the obvious stuff that we overlook.

I am going to print the posts by LudyL and ckirk, though because it is very good advice.

Hang in there.

When all else fails, call Connie at APQS.

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Make sure you are using good thread, SoFine is my fav. But when I was starting I didn't want to "waste" my good thread, and that turned out to be a waste of time, lol . Live and learn!

I think a good way to desribe the drop test is that the bobbin case should be like a spider crawling down the thread quickly. But not a dead spider dropping like a rock! I believe that the top and bottom should be balanced on the looser side, as I tend to get less thread breakage. BUT not so loose that the slack of thread will get caught up on anything through the top.

I know it seems like a lot to learn, but PPP and it will be second nature.

Have fun and good luck!

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I also need help with the tension.

I can get it to look good then start on the actual quilt and when going around curves sometimes it will pull and look too tight and I can feel it with my fingernail. It isn't consistent.

I've tried different threads and it will happen on all of them.

please help


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  • 5 weeks later...

I am having the same problem with inconsistent tension. I am using American & Efrid Permacore and I do the tension tests, checking threading, etc. etc. and I notice that in certain, regular places in my pattern, I get the "line" on the back, but the rest of the pattern will be fine tension-wise until I come to that spot again. Cindee Ferris, the best quilter around these parts, uses American & Efrid and seems to do quite well with it. I have tried slowing down with no change and tried speeding up with mixed success...maybe it just takes more experience...


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Is it possilbe that the bobbin is in the bobbin case going in the wrong direction?

I was having a lot of trouble with my tension till I started running my bobbin tension looser than I had been. I do the drop test differently, I set the bobbin case on the table and lift the thread. If the bobbin case stands up on end but doesn't come off the table then that's just about perfect tension for me. Also I bought the TOWA and run that at about 15.

The other big thing is the spring on the upper tension. If that is too tight or too loose I've had intermittent tension problems especially in tight loops and/or certain left to right curves.

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Can I have some more opinions on the correct number to shoot for on the TOWA tension guage? I currently use the drop test and it works fairly well but it's not as accurate as the guage might be so I'm thinking I may want to use the guage more often.

Also, I love that many of you have your pictures posted by your name so we can see who you are. How do I post my picture?:)

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Hi Pam,

You asked how to post your picture (avatar) on APQS. Here is how I did it.

First, find a picture of yourself and resize it using any graphic software to be

100 x 100 pixels maximum. The you have to put your picture on the web

somewhere . Some folks have their own web-site and some put

their avatar image on www.webshots.com, which is free if you don't mind the ads. You need

the URL address of the picture (i.e.http:.//www.webshots.com/community/fred/myphoto.jpg)

so be sure to write it down.

Once the photo is on the internet, go into the APQS forum (where you are reading this).

Make sure that you are logged in - upper right corner of APQS forum site will show "Logged in as Pam Geary"

Directly under the "Logged in", you'll see Control Panel - Options. Click it.

Click "Edit Profile" (2nd button from left).

You profile opens, scrolll down past Edit Profile - Optional, until you see Avatar URL .

Enter the URL address in the space for Avatar URL.

I think it happens right away.

I hope I haven't forgotten a step.

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There is no magic number for the Towa Tension Gauge. I used trial and error and compiled a chart of numbers for each combination I have used so far. For instance, if I am using Bottom Line on both top and bottom, my top tension is "loose" and my bobbin is 15 on the gauge. I do a 20 with King Tut on top and Bottom Line in the bobbin. These are just numbers and you still need to find a good gauge number for each combination. That is just a suggested starting place.

Darker thread is usually thicker because of the dye process so you may need a different number. Also, the thinner the thread, the looser the tension you need!

It seems like all our machines have their own likes and dislikes and what is great for me may not work for you. I do know that the Towa gauge was a great investment! I use it every time I put in a new bobbin (and if I need to, in the middle of a bobbin--especially self-wound ones.)

One thing to watch when you are testing the tension with the Towa is a "jumpy" thread. If you pull the thread through the gauge and the needle jumps all over the place, the thread is not good. That jumping is caused by uneven thickness in the thread or by slubs. As the thread pass through the bobbin case the slubs can catch and can snap your top thread.This will be a nightmare that you might blame on poor tension (believe me and my three calls to APQS about tension problems!!!) You can still try the thread but my experiece has been to just move on to another choice.

Hope this info helps and others can add to it with their own experiences.

Linda Rech

Go Seahawks!!!

Olympia Wa.

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  • 3 months later...

I was wondering what people do to check their tension from one project to the next........

when the batting, fabric and thread are different and the tension needs to be changed......

and there isn't any extra space on the project to test?

Or even just changing from one thread to another??

I know there must be some good ideas out there...I just can't think of them right now !!!

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