Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tension Problems: the Significance of two tension controls

Do you ever long arm quilt (or in my case, mid arm quilt)?  You're sewing along making your meandering stitch and you start having terrible problems?  The problem occurred because my thread kept breaking and shredding and while reading the manual and trouble shooting, I found out that upper tension being too tight might be the problem.  So I began loosening it little by little and then a lot by a lot-- eventually the thread didn't break, but I ended up with this mess on the back-- but it was worse than the pictures show.

Steps I took to try and resolve the problem and it just got worse and nothing was working:

  1.  Rethreaded (also tried different threads in top and bobbin)
  2. Read the manual
  3. Looked online at discussion boards for tips
  4. Adjusted the tensions (2 upper and the bobbin) repeatedly
  5. Put in a new needle (and I put it in backwards which I discovered days later!)
  6. Adjusted the quilt on and off and on the frame
  7. Oiled and cleaned out the lint
  8. Finally, took the weekend off and went to Folsom (shopped at the outlets, watched my husband play softball)

When I came back I was determined to be calm and read the manual and methodically figure out the problem or else throw the whole machine and frame away!  Here's what I was so happy to discover!

1.  There are two tensions (see arrows).  The blue arrow is pointing to the main tension and the red arrow is pointing to the secondary tension.  If your tension is about right but your thread keeps breaking, you can loosen your main tension slightly and also tighten your secondary tension slightly, little by little.  This maintains the correct tension, but allows the main tension to be looser, and hopefully solves the problem of the thread breaking.  Also be aware that you can put a piece of batting in the "pigtail" (that curvy place you put your thread through when it first comes off the cone) and that's one more area where you can add a bit more tension)

In the end, my thread still breaks occasionally, but not every 10 seconds like it was when I began and I'm so glad I figured out the significance of having 2 tension controls.  I'm sure I still have much to learn, but hope this little tip might help someone else!

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