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Tension problems in one direction


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Hi, just wondering if anyone else has had this problem. My tension is great moving the machine from left to right (facing the front of the machine), but moving the machine right to left causes "pokies" on the backing side of the quilt. I use a Towa tension gauge, so my bobbin tension is consistent. I have tried new needles, tried cleaning and oiling, nothing seems to make a difference. :(

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!!!


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  • 3 months later...


I have a simialr problem and am hoping that someone might reply with suggestions. I am having inconsistent tension problems.....

My Millennium is new and I am working on my third quilt. The tension is great most of the time but I get periodic places of 1 - 1.5 inches where I get pokies on the back. I've used various types of threads. On the current quilt I am using King Tut in the needle and bobbin. The last quilt was maxi-lock in both. I am checking the bobbin tension before starting. There are charity quilts so I am using poly batting - does that affect the tension? I am using the stitch regulator and SS of 10. The top and backing are 100% cotton - no batiks. Any suggestions anyone?

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Here is a list I have made for my students of things to check/try.

Issue?s Quilting Side to Side

R to L ?Wrong? (machine quilts more comfortably L to R)

Quilting to Fast

Slow Down a Bit When Turning

Put Batting in First Guide

Clean Bobbin Race & Case


Check Timing

New Needle

Needle in Correctly

Threaded Right

Rough Spots in Hook Assembly

Bobbin Tension /4-6? yo-yo drop

Gradually Adjust Tension From Loose to Tighter

Fabric Tension

Pig tail Burrs

Check Spring Burrs

Check Spring Set Correctly

New Bobbin Case

New Tension Control

Adjust Backlash Spring Inside Bobbin Case

Lower Hopping Foot

3 Hole Guide Position (8?oclock)

Quality Batting

Bobbin Retaining Finger Out of Position

Level Table!

I hope this will give you things to try. I wrote the list to be a quick reference.

This list can sometimes be used for tension issues also.


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This would be addressed to Cheryl's list...

The machine quilts L to R is what I have always been advised by Everyone. My machine doesn't like R to L and when I have had problems in the past APQS has always asked what direction I was moving, the machine prefers L to R is what I was told and I find this to be true. I would like to hear from someone at APQS on this. Of course I think it shouldn't matter.

Hester Mastro:(

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No one knows better than Connie! Here is her explanation as given in her trouble shooting guide.

Direction the machine is moving

The machine?s hook rotates in one direction only, even though the machine can be maneuvered in any direction. Therefore, in some instances the machine is actually stitching ?backward?, almost like holding the reverse button on a traditional sewing machine.

For example, if you stand on the free hand side of the machine and quilt a straight line to your left, the tension will not be quite as perfect as if you moved to your right.

We recommend that you generally move from left to right on the free hand side of the machine, and from right to left on the pantograph side. (Yes, this means that even though your pantograph pattern may have two rows of the pattern printed on the paper, you should complete the first row, tie off, and return to the far right side of the table to complete the second row.)

You may be able to eliminate this directional tension imbalance by tightening the top thread tension slightly, or by using a fine weight bobbin thread. Unfortunately, all the other factors play a role in the process as well.

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When I got my first Ult. I 5 or 6 years ago, I experienced the tension problems you're talking about. I think I talked to Mark about it several times and he kept telling me to adjust my thread tension. I was so sure it was NOT a thread tension problem and of course, I knew more than he did!:P

I finally figured out how to set my tension and I no longer have that problem unless I don't have the tension right.

My suggestion is make sure your bobbin tension is as loose as is recommended. I think I keep mine just a little looser than APQS recommends but it works for me. I tighten my top tension until the thread looks pulled when I make a few practice stitches, then I back off in teenie tiny increments until I get the perfect stitch. I want my top tension as tight as it can be without the stitches looking pulled and I want my bottom tension to be as loose as it can be without showing on top.

And, ALWAYS make a few stitches on the quilt and then stop and check your work. You can do this by using a mirror to look underneath if you don't want to roll the top. It's a heck of a lot easier to rip out a few stitches than to rip out a few rows! And, I am speaking from experience!:(

Another thing I recommend while practicing is change one thing at a time and see what difference it makes. If you change the bobbin tension AND the top tension and it makes things a little better or a little worse, you will not know if it was the top or the bottom adjustment that helped/hurt. So, change the bobbin tension, make some stitches and see how it looks. Then change the top tension a bit, make some stitches and see how it looks.

This is long but it only takes a minute or two to get the perfect setting for the bobbin/top tension and it is so worth it when you see the perfect stitches.

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I also completely agree with Judy!!

I keep my bobbin looser than most as well. I don't have a towa gauge either, but my bobbin will fall fairly freely if I give it a drop test. I remember on my last longarm (it had a size M bobbin and I did have the towa gauge for that machine), I was running my bobbin at about 20 according to the Towa gauge, and I believe my bobbin tension is just about set at the same tension on my Millie as my previous longarm.... so you might try loosening your bobbin up if you are having some tension troubles???

I know that everyone has their own way of adjusting tension.... but keeping my bobbin loose works for me. :D

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Thanks Mark. No, I do not know more than you! I don't even know how to time my machine!:( Scares me to think about it but I have the maintenance video so when that day comes, I can do it.

I pop in and read the posts from time to time but don't have much extra time to post very often. Things will slow down for me soon.

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I, too, have an inconsistent problem with 'railroad tracks' on the back side, regardless of which direction I quilt from. Speed doesn't seem to make any difference, my needle is good and in place correctlly. Dust bunnies are blown away with a compressor, Bottom Line thread used mostly for bobbin thread. 40wt in the top threads. So far, the cheaper the threads, the better my stitches. However, I like the nicer thread colors. What to do??:(

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My first guess is that your bobbin tension is a tiny bit too tight. You might try to loosen your bobbin a tad (this would be my first adjustment) and/or tighten your top tension. I run my bobbin pretty loose.. to the point that every once in a while I will see "tiny dots" of the bobbin thread on the top.... although this is not a problem as long as I can't "feel" these tiny dots when scratched with my fingernail because when the quilt is removed from the frame, the bobbin thread will pull back into the batting.

I would loosen my bobbin tension and see if that helps to alleviate the occassional railroad tracks from the top thread showing on the back. Let us know if this helps!!

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Well, here's my report on my tension problems. Seems like my Willie hates poly batting! I was having the problems on a couple of chaity quilts. After they were done I decided to put on a practice piece just to work on tension. I used Warm & White on the practice piece and I used all kinds of threads in the needle and bobbin - NO PROBLEMS! Put on the 3rd charity quilt (poly batting supplied) and had the tension problems again. 4th quilt used cotton batting and even tricier threads - no tension problems. Guess Willie is a natural fibers guy - just like my DH, he will not wear polyester!

Go figure!

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I wonder if all poly would give you the same problem...a certain brand that 2 different customers brought gave me problems with breaking threads. Then I realized that compared to Hobbs poly the other one felt very coarse! I figured that is was like running the thread thru sandpaper. That brand was Soft Landings which I had used in the past as a hand-quilter with no problems at all. I tell people that they are ok to bring their own battings with a couple of exceptions. Most people seem to accept those exceptions since they want you to have an easy time with their quilt and they don't want any problems with their quilt, I figure.


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  • 1 year later...

Hello, I don't know if this is a tension problem or what. I wasn't having any problems and almost finished with this quilt. Was hearing needle popping sounds, so changed the needle. Then the problems began. On the front of the machine, stitching away from me the thread gets all knotted. It's like the top and bobbin thread get tangled. Finally I cleaned everything, oiled, and the tangled problem quit. But then when stitching away from me, I had nothing but skipped stitches and the thread would break. So, changed needle again. Most of the skipping stitches has stopped, but now when stitching away from me, the thread breaks. It's almost like the top thread is slowly thinning and a little ball of thread will be in front of the needle when finally the thread breaks. I've had the thread thinning with the little ball of thread and breaking periodically. I just deal with it. But, this is now happening every time I push the machine away from me. HELP ME!!!!! Thanks, Cathy

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Hi Cathy,

Since this started happening when you changed the needle, I would try another needle, I know you have changed it twice already, but I have seen some bad bent needles right out of the package! This could be causing the problem when pushing the machine away, if the needle is slightly bent, it will give you timing problems. If you continue to have problems, be sure to call in on our tech line and they will walk you through some things to check.

Take care,

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Hi Lori,

I have quilted sometimes with 100% cotton or 80/20 cotton/polyester, and with these I get pokies, not all the time, but when the backing fabric is very soft. With other fabrics and polyester or wool batting, I have no problems at all!

So it could be the batting too...

Sylvia Kaptein



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I heard a story about a quilter once....ahem, Ok it was me.

I had been having tension problems, it was probably sludge in the bobbin case. I tried everything, adjust tension, re-thread, new thread, fresh bobbin, adjust bobbin tension. I heard the popping noise, too. I was so frustrated and pulling my hair out.:mad:

I finally changed my needle but by that time I was a wild woman and put the darn needle in backwards, yes, the scarf facing the front. YIKES. I now recognize that popping sound as a needle burr alarm and stop immediately and change my needle. And put it in with the scarf facing the back. :P I ended up replacing the hook and retiming the machine.

Now when I have problems....a little voice says "Step away from the machine" and think about this.

I hope your tension gets straightened out.

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