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O.K., so I bought a Towa Gauge.

Where does one learn Towa?

The instructions show how to use it, but say absolutely nothing about what the numbers mean. With King Tut in the (size M) bobbin, it registers 300. My machine is working well at this setting, but if it weren't, how would I know which way the numbers should go? It seems that in some thread here somewhere, I read someone talking about readings of 20 ! ! !

I'm thinking any interpretation may be machine specific and is probably not the same on a Gammill as on an APQS, so if there are any Gammill people out there taking up space in this wonderful APQS forum, I'd love to hear from you.

There is always the option to just use nothing but King Tut forever. Then I won't ever have to hassle with tension! But I'm sure that after I get a little more experience I will want to play with some of that wonderful thread out there.

I appreciate any input.

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I think you hit it on the head, it's not just brand specific, it's machine specific.

You just need to experiment and see what numbers work for your machine.

I have a Freedom SR and I run all my threads between 100 and 150. I run a lot of fun (aka fussy) threads that require pretty loose tension on top so I need the bobbin loose enough to match.

My gal pal with a Millie runs hers between 220 and 300.

You're going to have to write your own rules on this.

If you set your bobbin to 300 but the thread on the bottom is too tight, lower the number on your Towa to a smaller number and see what happens.

Hope that helps.

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I'll chime in, I have a Gammill Premier and usually I am running Signature Cotton threads. I've played around and finally loaded some muslin and ran red thread in the top and green on bottom just to really see what happened with my tension when I tried different things with the bobbin and top tension. It was time well spent, my tension is really good right now! For my machine, I found that a Towa reading of 150 is about right. Of course it changes if I'm running LAVA or metallics, etc.

I think that older Towas didn't read out in the 100's, but in incriments of 10, so someone getting a reading of 20 would be a 200 on our guages.

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so if there are any Gammill people out there taking up space in this wonderful APQS forum, I'd love to hear from you.

Hi AnnHenry, I am a Gammill girl (Opt+ Sep 2007). I have used the Towa on both my APQS and Gammill machines and would not be without it. My Towa has the 0 - 40 scale, not sure of the new big numbers but probably similar theory. Tension can be a real PITA and ruin your day, ruin your customer's quilt and ruin your reputation. It is my most used tool.

Instructions that came in the box were less than wonderful. Towa is a Japan-based company. I found a web-site that has a .pdf Towa Instructions (see bottom of this post).

The cigarcityarts site also shows the loading diagram.

For the longest time, I ran my bobbins about 18 - 20. My friend, SoCalGal, took a tension class at MQS and was told that 20 -24 is better tension.

I now run most my bobbins (cotton, PermaCore, PolyTex, Superior (except King Tut)) between 20 - 22. I get a nice stitch top and bottom.

I have only used King Tut in the bobbin a few times and I loosen the bobbin to 15 - 18. I mainly use King Tut top and I loosen the Intermittent Tension (IT) (middle of machine on Opt+) to sloppy loose.;) Make sure the thread is still between the tension disks on the IT but give that screw/nut on the IT about a half-turn toward the front of the machine (remember lefty loosy - righty tighty). If you get top thread breakage, loosen IT again by a half turn. Keep doing that until your thread does not break. Remember how many turns on the screw you did so you can put it back to normal after.

Good luck and happy quilting.


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Thanks, ladies. I still don't understand this much.

I have had zero training on tension in my entire life. My DSM has sewn perfectly all my life, and I have NEVER had to adjust the bobbin tension. Any change I ever needed to make was always possible with the top tension, so having to fiddle with bobbin tension is an entirely new experience for me, and I don't even know how to begin.

The only tension I fiddled with so far has been the top tension, and King Tut is working satisfactorily for now.

I guess my biggest problem is that I don't know how to differentiate a top tension problem from a bobbin tension problem. Maybe we need to start there. Can someone explain that to me? As I said before, on my DSM I solved every problem with my top tension alone.

Do you mean that if I tighten or loosen that tiny screw on the bobbin case, that will change the numbers the gauge gives me?

I guess I want a chart that says "King Tut, use this setting" "So Fine, use this setting, and that chart does not exist!

I think there are four different models of Towa depending on your bobbin size. Mine is TM-3 with its numbering system in the hundreds. The link shows a TM-1 in the 20's.

I have many talents. This is not one of them. Pretend you are writing for a child when you explain this, please.

Thanks to everyone for their help.

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I don't think I can give you exactly what you need but this is what I do. I put the bobbin thread in and get that to run the way I want it first. I have found on my machine that if I hold the thread as it is loaded in the case the case should drop like a spider, slowly down (this was thanks to Shana). I loosen (turn screw left) or tighten (turn screw right) until I can get my thread exactly the way I like it. Once you get it there you could put in your towa guage and see what number you get for that thread, write it down! Next I load the bobbin and then do the rest with the top tension. It helps to use two different color threads so that you can really see what the threads are doing (can you tell I'm a visual person?). If there are dots on the back then tighten the top tension, if there are dots on the top loosen the top. The goal is to get it so that the dots are hidden in the middle. Depending on the batting that your using this might not be possible. In that case I get the dots on top so that I can keep an eye on things.

I sure hope you get it going the way you want. I struggled with tension until I did what Shana said and it so works! My bobbin thread no longer lays flat on the back of my quilt. I can get it right in no time at all no matter what thread I use.

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Hi Ann,

Here is a hint or two on using the Towa tension gauge--

All the gauge does is measure the amount of force needed to pull a thread through the two spring-loaded pulleys and around the finger at the bottom of the gauge.

It translates that force into (arbitrary) numbers.

The screw on the bobbin case can be adjusted out (counterclockwise) or in (clockwise) which will narrow or widen the finger on the bobbin case where the thread passes through. This narrowing or widening will allow the thread to pass with more or less resistance through the bobbin case. More resistance will make the tension tighter and the number on the gauge higher. Less resistance will have the tension looser and the number lower. So a 200 is tighter than a 150.

My Milli likes Bottom Line pre-wound bobbins to be set at about 180 (18 on my older gauge). I put the bobbin in the case and test the thread through the gauge. I adjust the screw as necessary until a smooth pull through the gauge reads about 180.

You will need to adjust the top tension as well--maybe with every different cone you put on. But our machines are made to be adjustable like this to get the best stitch quality and the ability to use a vast array of different weights and types of thread.

I hope this helps you some. Don't be afraid to adjust the top and the bottom tension. Make a chart for yourself with the numbers that work for you with all the combinations of thread that you may use. I don't know how to adjust the top tension on a Gammill--maybe someone here can chime in with more help.

Good luck!

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Do you mean that if I tighten or loosen that tiny screw on the bobbin case, that will change the numbers the gauge gives me?

Yes, that is exactly what we mean. You make teeny-weeny adjustments to the larger of the 2 screws on the side of the bobbin case.

Tension is a tough one; we have all struggled with it. I don't know if you have read Bob Purcell's (Mr. Superior Threads) Thread Tug of War article but it helped me to understand that there are times that thread tension needs to be adjusted on top or bobbin.

The Towa gauge takes some of the frustration away because it gives you something to measure. That drop test thing never worked for me. But I know that 22 on the Towa is good for cotton on my machine.

And since I wind my own bobbins and am not perfect (best to keep steady pull on thread tail till you have at least one full wind on the bobbin), I use the Towa for every single bobbin I use.

Good luck.

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Thank you so much. You ladies are awesome, and please note that I use that word in its original meaning, not the teenage meaning! How kind of you to share your knowledge, and how helpful when it is explained several different ways. I had a teacher in college who said on the first day of class, "There are 25 different students in this class, and I understand that means that I may have to explain a concept 25 different ways." Not surprisingly, he was a wonderful teacher.

I am beginning to understand! I tried that drop test, and the bobbin doesn't drop at all, spider wise or suddenly- to-the-floor-wise, but my stitch is good so far . . . so maybe it comes down to being "machine specific" like TracyeQ said. That would explain why everyone struggles with tension if there is no "one answer fits all" for any brand of machine. When I get up the nerve to try the other threads, now I at least have a starting point.

Did anyone answer this question and I missed it? "How do I differentiate between a top tension problem and a bobbin tension problem?"

Thanks again. Blessings all over your bodies!

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The problem with tension is that it is a question of balance between top and bottom. So if you have loops of the bottom thread on the top it means that the top is tight relative to the bottom, so you have 2 solutions- loosen the top or tighten the bottom.

Playing with the bobbin tension while stitching is a nuisance because it means taking out the bobbin, fiddling with a tiny screw etc, however it is fairly easy to adjust the top tension by twiddling an easily accessed knob.

So it pays to use a consistent bottom tension that works for most threads and then only play with the top

If you use a thick bottom thread your bobbin screw needs to be turned to loosen it off a liitle and a thinner thread you will need to tighten up the screw.

The bobbin tension is only changed by very little adjustments no more than a quarter of a circle at a time , whereas the top tension can change 2 or 3 complete circles

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Thanks to all of you for all your help. I guess the part I didn't understand was that you start with adjusting the bobbin, and then go from there. I kept wanting a "sign", a certain stitch abnormality that would indicate a bobbin problem. I never completely understood before that you just start with the bobbin. Now I understand ! !

Thank you large!

(It's not such a big deal after all!)

I hate being inexperienced.

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