What is a SmartBobbin, anyway?


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If I go to a trade show or teach one of the free beginner classes included with an APQS machine purchase, I can guarantee that someone will ask that question.

The SmartBobbin is one of the key components to the high stitch quality I get on my APQS machine. I could get into a lot of "physics" lessons on SmartBobbin technology, but I like to put things into more practical perspective.

The first reason the SmartBobbin is so intelligent has to do with "inertia". I know, I said no physics:). But inertia relates to an object's desire to keep doing exactly what it's doing. If the tree wasn't there to stop my car when it rolled down my driveway it would have kept on going:). As it relates to a bobbin spinning, once it starts spinning it wants to keep on going! The larger the bobbin is, the harder it is to stop it. Would you have rather tried to stop my car from rolling down the hill, or would you rather have stopped a bicycle?

When a bobbin "overspins" then the thread continues to peel out of the bobbin until the bobbin finally comes to rest. This extra bobbin thread laying inside the case causes backlashing and tension changes when the bobbin must start spinning again. Large bobbins suffer this malady, because it takes more force to start and stop that bobbin every time you move your quilting machine.

Secondly, as thread leaves a bobbin and the thread quantity changes, the bobbin starts to spin faster and faster. When this happens, your tension changes! That means you have to "babysit" large bobbins and pay attention to the point where they begin spinning faster, so that you can change your bobbin tension. In fact, large bobbin users have tried to combat this issue by only winding their large bobbins half full!! In essence, they are using small bobbins at that point.

Finally, your machine forms a lock stitch by carrying the top thread completely around the bobbin to make the stitch. The farther that thread has to travel before making the stitch, the harder it is for the needle and hook to meet at the correct time to make a perfect stitch. Smaller bobbins greatly reduce this traveling distance and increase stitch perfection. In fact, you can see a video on this to get a clear picture of what happens:

SmartBobbin Video

Every major sewing and embroidery machine manufacturer uses a small bobbin...not because it is the easiest, but it is what produces the best results. The SmartBobbin is definitely the way to go!

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thanks for this dawn. one of my friends is looking to purchase a longarm and we were just discussing the L vs M bobbin issue the other night. I copied this and pasted it into an email to her. even tho she is not interested in an APQS, I bet she finds it most helpful.

also, will be at your mqx tension class friday...am really looking forward to it! please speak s-l-o-w-l-y as i am extremely tension challenged and not the brightest bulb on the marquis! :D

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This is interesting. I am loving my Milly, but I have to say getting perfect tension on my HQ16 with the M size bobbin was much easier.

My Bernina 830 also has the M sized bobbin, and it has superb, gorgeous tension.

The Millennium was my longarm of choice when I finally decided I was ready for a commercial longarm, but it was definitely not the bobbin size or tension that won me over.

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thanks kristina! :D i needed that today!

the truth is - the only combo i can count on to not act up is sewfine/bottom line. all the others seem to give me sporadic troubles. i think i have let lola-baby get away with this nonsense long enuf - time for me take charge.

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  • 5 months later...

Great question suzey! But there is no way to goof up your Smart Bobbin. In other words you can not make the Smart Bobbin dumb!! :) Because of the size and the weight issue that Dawn refers to up above in this post, the Smart Bobbin will always remain smart and give you the best stitch quality, which is just what APQS wants in our machines!! :P

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I use a different color thread up and down all the time and my stitches never show it! It is rather easy to do, I think. But, now I have never been afraid of tension issues and I believe that is a trick we should all embrace. Don't be afraid to adjust until you get what you like.

I also don't use the steel bobbins as they are heavier. I like the plastic best, or Lenni does, not me.

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Wouldn't the larger M bobbins, be heavier empty, and definately full, than the L would? Isn't it also partly the weight that determins the amount of backlash. While not the same at all, I think of it as balancing an auto tire and using the weights to balance it properly, and it's usually not the way novices think.

I can use about any L bobbin, plastic, cardboard or aluminum, but my Penny will NOT stitch nice with the steel bobbins.. love the magnaglide bobbins.. I think thats the name. Seems I lost my train of thought, so will have to add it later when I think of it..

On to quilting work...

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Please help me understand this theory. Since we have an L bobbin, that automatically makes it a 'smart' bobbin? So any machine using an L bobbin has this capability.

The only thing 'smart' about it is the smaller size.

Do I have this correct, or do I need to change the bobbin in my brain to a different size?

Just kidding, I really do want to understand this process. When I asked about it while at the Showroom earlier this year in DM, that was what I came away with.

Thanks for any clarification.

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Yep, Grace that is correct! And Rita is correct also in the fact that the larger the bobbin the heavier it is which causes the inertia and you have the over spin problem causing the issues with stitch quality. So yes, if you are using the "L" size bobbin, it is the "Smart Bobbin". :)

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Thanks, Dawn. Great explanation. I must have explained this a dozen times in the past 4 days at Innovations. I wish I would have had your video!

People just kept asking about the smaller bobbin and saying they thought they would have to change their thread more often. Then I would show them the fact that I had turquoise So-

Fine on the top and lime green Bottom Line on the bottom and their eyes would get big. I also had plain muslin on the machine, top and bottom, so it really showed if the tension was off. Other manufacturers had multi-colored batiks and used the same thread. One lady said she asked brand x to use 2 different threads like I did and was told that most quilters wouldn't do that anyway and besides it was too hard to do that in the middle of a show day! She didn't buy at the show, but I think she will eventually. She wanted her husband to see the machine so I invited her to bring her husband to my studio to visit.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Originally posted by DawnCavanaugh

If I go to a trade show or teach one of the free beginner classes included with an APQS machine purchase, I can guarantee that someone will ask that question.

The SmartBobbin is one of the key components to the high stitch quality I get on my APQS machine. I could get into a lot of "physics" lessons on SmartBobbin technology, but I like to put things into more practical perspective.

The first reason the SmartBobbin is so intelligent has to do with "inertia". I know, I said no physics:). But inertia relates to an object's desire to keep doing exactly what it's doing. If the tree wasn't there to stop my car when it rolled down my driveway it would have kept on going:). As it relates to a bobbin spinning, once it starts spinning it wants to keep on going! The larger the bobbin is, the harder it is to stop it. Would you have rather tried to stop my car from rolling down the hill, or would you rather have stopped a bicycle?

When a bobbin "overspins" then the thread continues to peel out of the bobbin until the bobbin finally comes to rest. This extra bobbin thread laying inside the case causes backlashing and tension changes when the bobbin must start spinning again. Large bobbins suffer this malady, because it takes more force to start and stop that bobbin every time you move your quilting machine.

Secondly, as thread leaves a bobbin and the thread quantity changes, the bobbin starts to spin faster and faster. When this happens, your tension changes! That means you have to "babysit" large bobbins and pay attention to the point where they begin spinning faster, so that you can change your bobbin tension. In fact, large bobbin users have tried to combat this issue by only winding their large bobbins half full!! In essence, they are using small bobbins at that point.

Finally, your machine forms a lock stitch by carrying the top thread completely around the bobbin to make the stitch. The farther that thread has to travel before making the stitch, the harder it is for the needle and hook to meet at the correct time to make a perfect stitch. Smaller bobbins greatly reduce this traveling distance and increase stitch perfection. In fact, you can see a video on this to get a clear picture of what happens:

SmartBobbin Video

Every major sewing and embroidery machine manufacturer uses a small bobbin...not because it is the easiest, but it is what produces the best results. The SmartBobbin is definitely the way to go!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm having a problem with black thread and a magnetic bobbin (the Magna glide) and have tried everything I can think of to fix it. I just thought I'd ask - it's a Halloween quilt and I was trying to finish it before Halloween and only have about a third finished! The bobbin thread breaks about every 5 inches (after stitching about 3 feet of a 90-inch wide quilt). I have changed bobbin cases and bobbins a couple times and looked for anything caught in the bobbin area, lubricated it, etc. and it still just snaps. Even though the thread is black is is brand new (recv'd yesterday). Ugh!

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Marcia,

If you are using the Magna glide bobbin, did you take out the little "check spring" inside the case before using the bobbin? The magnet is a substitute for our normal backlash check spring.

Try loosening the tension a great deal more...as the magnetic core can hang on really tight to the bobbin case, preventing the bobbin from spinning as freely as you may need it to given the top thread, batting, etc.

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  • 5 months later...

I have had my Millennium since Dec. I had a lot of trouble with tension when I first got it, but with help from Dawn I got it to work ok. However, I'm very nervous about changing types of threads. right now, I need to quilt a quilt with sew fine and I'm afraid to even start. The tension on this machine is more difficult to adjust than my HQ 16, smart bobbin or not, and it makes me very nervous to mess with it.

Connie

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I had an HQ16 and always had problems getting the tension correct. I remember reading CJ's comments last year about having trouble with King Tut on the Milly, but never with the HQ. However, I've had the exact opposite problem.

I've had very little trouble adjusting tension with the Millenium. I could never get King Tut to work on the HQ, so I've been pleasantly surprised with not having to deal with a lot of tension issues on my Milly.

Connie, just go for it. I've never had any problem using So Fine, it's so user friendly. It's the thread I use most with bottom line in the bottom. If I don't have a matching color I use So Fine in the bottom. I have a dot marked with permanent marker on my tension knob. If I change the top tension I always mark how many turns I made. Then I can always put it back to where it was. That dot really helps me. I hope you find your comfort zone with the thread.

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