What Needle Do I Use?

Posted by on September 18, 2017

I was sewing for literally decades before I knew that there is a groove running down the front of every machine needle!  What is the groove for?  It is where the thread “hides” when the needle is moving in and out of the fabric.  The groove protects the thread from friction, which is a big culprit of breaking thread.  Often, we say that a thread is weak when it actually is experiencing too much heat from friction.  Each size and style needle have different size grooves.  For instance, when using a top stitch needle, it is assumed that you will be using a heavier thread.  Both the eye and groove of the top stitch needle are larger to accommodate the thread size.  The larger the number on the needle size such as 70 or 80, means the larger the needle diameter and groove.

If the groove is too small for the thread, the thread will experience friction and break.  It the groove is too large for the thread, the thread will wiggle around and out of the groove and also break from friction.  If the groove is the correct size for the thread it will glide along and stay cool in the groove.

NEEDLE

 

myrl

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What Causes a Skipped Stitch?

Posted by on September 12, 2017

IMG_4584

A skipped stitch looks like a long stitch when compared to the other stitches.  There are two main causes of skipped stitches.  One is a problem with your encoders.  Encoders are little wheels that roll left to right and back and forth to tell the machine how fast you are quilting.  These are used when you are using the regulated stitch that will run the needle at a pace to achieve the desired stitch length.   The encoders require a smooth, clean surface to roll consistently.  If they roll over any debris on the rail it will hesitate and assume you have paused, resulting in a longer stitch.  If the encoder has hesitated there will not be a needle hole punched in the fabric because the needle has hesitated as well.  Other reasons an encoder may hesitate is oil on the rail, the spring action has become loose or the electronics need repair.

Another reason for skipped stitches is a timing problem.  Timing refers to the synchronization between the hook and the needle.  The hook picks up the thread from the needle, pulls it around the bobbin and picks up the bobbin thread to create a stitch.  If the hooks is not coming around at the correct time to pick up the thread, no stitch will be formed.  The needle will still move and create a needle punch in the fabric where no stitch was formed.

There are several reasons why the timing may be off.

  1. There has been an event where the needle hit a foreign object and broke.  This may cause the needle bar to be in a different position in relationship to the hook.
  2. There has been a thread jam where you had to force the handwheel to get the thread out.  This may also cause the needle bar to be in a different position.  These two examples will require your machine to be put back in time.  Other reasons include:
  3. The needle has flexed away from the hook and it did not pick up a stitch.  Make sure you are using the appropriate needle for the weight of fabric you are using.  If you are stitching over a heavy seam, sew slower to help the needle to penetrate the fabric rather than flex away from it.
  4. The needle is bent and the hook is unable to pick up the stitch.  Change the needle.
  5. The needle is in backwards or not all of the way up in place.  Check the needle installation.
  6. The take up rail is too high. This makes it difficult for the hook to hold on to the thread.  Often the rail is raised up for a previous quilt and left in that position for a new quilt.
  7. The quilt is too tighton the rails.  Loosen the quilt slightly so the hook will not have the thread pulled away by the trampoline-effect of a quilt loaded too tightly.

The more information you have the better you will be able to trouble shoot.  Happy quilting!

myrl

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Thread Weight or TEX?

Posted by on September 6, 2017

When using different threads in the needle and bobbin we stand by the rule of using the same or lighter weight thread in the bobbin as is being used in the needle.  Following this rule helps the quilter achieve the best tension.  Since a 40-weight cotton thread has more drag because of the exposed fibers than a 40-weight poly thread I like to refer to the drag a thread has rather than just the weight.  So, a 40-weight cotton thread in the bobbin combined with a 40-weight poly thread in the needle would make good tension more difficult.  It is good to be aware of the fibers in the thread being used as well as the thread weight.

The most common weight of thread is determined by how much thread it takes to weigh a gram.  So, the finer the thread, the larger the number since it will take more fine thread to weigh a gram than a heavier thread.    The thread weight will be noted on the label with a # or wt. followed by its weight, such as #40 or 40 wt.

The TEX system of thread weight askes the question, “How much does 1000 meters of thread weigh?”  So, the heavier the thread, the higher the number.  This is the exact opposite of the weight measurement.  This will be noted on the label as TEX 30, or whatever the TEX measurement happens to be.  TEX 30 and 40 wt. are nearly the same.  TEX measurement is most often used on industrial thread labels.  Some companies note both measurements.

For best tension, consider the drag and the weight of the thread being used in the needle and bobbin.  Happy Quilting!

myrl

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Pattern Management with the Quilt Magician Android

Posted by on August 28, 2017

Here’s a quick tutorial on adding patterns to the Android Quilt Magician.

  • Place the USB with the patterns into the ports next to the Android.
  • NOTE: You may import patterns from your Android ONLY if they are unzipped.
  • When the Quilt Magician recognizes the USB, there will be a window showing a folder (to open if you wish to see the files on the USB) and a check mark to say okay.  Touch the check mark.
  • Touch the Pattern Icon on the left.
  • Touch the Import/Export tabs on the left.
  • Choose a TAG for the pattern(s).  A TAG is a category for the search engine to use when you are searching for a pattern.  The default TAG is Imported.  Choose another TAG by touching the top white field where it says “Imported” and a new window will open with a list of existing TAGs.  Touch the desired TAG or you may create a new TAB by touching the field at the top right that says “ADD NEW TAG” you are able to type the name of a new TAG.
  • Next, choose the USB option at the right. (It is a very tiny box.)
  • Touch the grey tab that says “Import”.  A window will open that shows the files on the USB.
  • Touch the files you want to import.  You may select multiple files.
  • Touch the check mark to say okay when the files are Imported.
  • To find the patterns you may scroll the pattern preview, search by TAGs or by pattern names.

myrl

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Loading the Quilt onto the Phoenix Frame

Posted by on August 23, 2017

flcenter

We will be using three of the rails.  Each rail has a ratchet-type action that keeps the quilt taut.  The rail at the back of the table is called the Take up Rail.  Eventually, most of the quilt will be rolled up onto this rail as it is finished.  There are two rails in the front of the machine.  The rail closest to you is called the lower rail or “Belly Bar” because it is at your belly.  The quilt back will be pinned to both the Take up rail and the Belly bar.   The bottom of the quilt top is pinned to the other rail or upper rail. Mark the Centers of your rails and the centers of your leaders. I use a Sharpie and mark the center on the full length of the leader so the center can be seen no matter how far the leader is rolled.  (The lowest rail is used to keep the batting off of the ground and doesn’t have any tension to it.)

Leaders are pieces of fabric that are attached to the ends of the quilt to enable the machine to reach the entire quilt.  The quilt may be basted, pinned or zipped onto the leaders.  Leaders are attached to the rails in various manners.  At Tin Lizzie’s we attach them with Velcro. The leaders should hang off of the rail in the opposite direction than the rail rolls when the ratchets are engaged.

After assuring that the quilt back and batting are at least 6-inches longer and 6-inches wider than the quilt top, mark the center of both the quilt back top and bottom.

Phoenix Frame by TinLizzie18

Phoenix Frame by TinLizzie18

Mark the Center of both the top and bottom of your quit top.  Mark the center of the batting top.

  1. Load the quilt back first.  We will begin with the bottom of the quilt back.  Lay the quilt back across the Longarm table with the right side of the fabric facing the floor and the top draped over the take up rail.  Match the center of the quilt back to the center of the leader on the Belly Bar.  (Remember: Quilt Back Bottom on the Belly Bar.)  Using T-pins  and beginning in the center, pin the quilt to the leader with the pins on the canvas side.  The sharp end of the pins should point out towards the outside of the table.  Carefully, roll the quilt back onto the rail, smoothing out any wrinkles and keeping it straight.   Continue until the top of the Quilt back is touching the take up rail.  Starting at the center, pin the top of the quilt back onto the take up rail leader.  (Make sure that the quit back is under the third or upper rail, not over it.)   Always pin from the center out.  The Quilt Bottom should be coming off of the bottom of the Take up rail and over the top of the Belly Bar.
  2. Next the quilt top will be pinned to the remaining leader.  Lay the quilt top (right side up) over the table with the majority of the top towards the back of the table.  Starting in the center pin the bottom of the Quilt Top to the remaining leader.  (This rail rolls in the opposite direction from the others and is able to be raised out of the way.)  Carefully roll the quilt top onto the upper rail, smoothing and making sure it is going on straight.  Roll it until the top edge of the quilt falls off of the Take up bar.
  3. Drape the unpinned edge of the quilt over the rail you just pinned the top onto.  This rail is able to be lifted out of the way to place the batting.  Lift it now.
  4. Mark the center of the batting and lay it over the quilt back and placing the top of the batting just along the take up railing and even with the pinned edge of the quilt backing.  Place the rest of the batting between the rails in the front of the machine using the lowest rail to keep the batting off of the floor.   Make sure the batting lays flat and smoothly across the quilt back.
  5. Baste the “quilt sandwich” at the top of the quilt just below the take up rail starting at the center marking.   Using the Longarm machine baste from the center marking to the right edge of the quilt, then down along the right side of the quilt.  Go back to the center mark and baste towards the left side of the quilt and down the left side of the quilt.  It may be necessary to smooth the quilt with your free hand as you stitch.  Baste as close to the edge of the fabric as possible or about ¼ inch.  Every time the quilt is rolled baste the edge before quilting.
  6. Tighten all of the rails for a taut quilt.  Remember, rolling too tight will misshape the quilt and causes thread to break.  Taut, not tight.
  7. You are ready to quilt.  The batting and backing of the quilt are cut larger than the top because quilting takes up more of the backing than the top.  You may take advantage of the larger backing to use as a test area to assure that the tensions are correct.
  8. When you need to roll the quilt, release the rails in the front of the machine and carefully roll the take up rail until it is positioned correctly for your next quilting area.  Replace the ratchets on the rails and roll the rails for a taut quilt.  Each time you roll check the layers of the quilt to ensure the wrinkles are smoothed and the batting is flat.
  9. The Take up rail is able to be raised as the quilt becomes more bulky on the rail.  Keep enough room for your finger tips under the quilt.  If the rail is too low the quilt will drag on the machine bed.  If it is too high there may be thread breakage or skipped stitches.
  10. When the quilting is finished, carefully remove the quilt from the leaders.

myrl

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How to Best Maintain My Longarm

Posted by on August 16, 2017

Daily

Needles:  Your needle should be changed every sewing day and even twice a day if you are sewing heavily.  Keep in mind that artificial fibers are harder on needles than natural fibers.  Needles develop burrs and the tips become dull.  The quality of your quilting will depend on using a fresh and sharp needle.  Always insure that your needle is all of the way up in the needle bar and is inserted with the scarf in the back.

Rails and Carriage:  Rails where encoders run need to kept clear of lint and threads.  Do not oil them or use any dusting product like Pledge.  This will cause the encoders to slip rather than roll.  Also make sure the tracks where the wheels roll are free of dust, lint or thread so the machine will move smoothly.

Bobbin and Hook Assembly: Clean the bobbin and hook area.  Turn the hand wheel and check for lint and other debris.  It takes only a small piece of thread to completely bind up a hook assembly.  Remove the needle plate between projects and clean the hook area thoroughly.

Tension Discs:  Check for lint and thread fragments in the tension discs.  Raise the presser foot lifter and clean in between the discs to ensure there is nothing caught there.

Oil:  Machines vary a bit in oil requirements.  Some, like the Tin Lizzies, have oil wells that distribute oil with a wicking method.  These wells don’t require frequent oiling because they hold more oil.  However, machines must remain lubricated to function well without damage.  Check the dip stick on the bed of the TinLizzie18.  If there is no oil on the dip stick place four to five drops of oil in both the bed oiling area and at the top of the machine.

Regularly

Anti-Backlash Spring:  Bobbin cases contain a flat metal disc which applies even pressure on the bobbin preventing backlash and assisting in achieving good tensions.  This spring will eventually become worn and cracked.  It can become bent or even dislodged while cleaning.  Check that it is whole and present, but do not be concerned if the color has worn away.

Bobbin Case Tension Strap: Your machine’s bobbin case has a tension spring where the thread slides out of the bobbin case.  This spring applies pressure and is the primary contributor to bobbin case tension.  If the tension spring becomes bent outwards, or unable to apply pressure to the thread, replace it.

Check Spring:  All sewing machines have a paper-clip type spring on or near the main tension assemble.  The top thread grabs this spring during threading and the spring applies pressure while the take-up lever moves up and down.  Thread friction can break the loop portion off, so first check to see that the spring is still there.  Also, be sure it has adequate pressure to pull on the top thread.  It should be at 11 o’clock.

Oil at the back of the Machine: Just above the handwheel is a rubber plug.  Remove this plug and place a few drops of oil on occasion when a squeaking or grinding sound may occur.

Twice a Year

Cone Springs:  Any tensions device with a knob uses a cone spring to apply pressure which creates tension on the thread. Typically, these springs will last a very long time, unless the tension devices have been over-tightened.  Unscrew the tension knobs and check to see that the cone spring completely resumes its original size.  One way to check is to screw the tension knob on until the outside of the knob is just flush with the threaded shaft.  Look to see if the cone spring is loose or if pressure is being applied.  If the spring is loose, replace it.  Also, if you find your cone springs are over compressed and need to be replaced often, reconsider your method for achieving top tension.  You may need to adjust for looser tension all around.  Remember that tension is a tug of war.  The top tension needs to be equal to the bobbin tension.

Drive Belts: If the motor is adjusted to be overly tight, it can destroy the belt and the motor and machine bearings and gears can be put under undue stress.  Check that the eternal belt has about ¼ inch of play.  Also check that the edges of the belt are not shredding into strips.  Some machines only have internal belts and the technicians can check those for you.

O-Rings: Several machines contain rubber o-rings in bobbin winders and regulator encoders.  These o-rings are under pressure and eventually crack especially in dry environments.  If the o-rings are used as a brake they can develop flat sides during use.  Inspect each o-ring, looking for cracks or wear.

Thread Guides: When monofilament thread is used, it can create enough friction to carve into the machine body and cut off thread guides.  Some other threads and conditions can also damage the guides.  Any cuts create rough surfaces and burrs that can affect your thread.  Check them visually and by rubbing them with your finger.  If you do find wear marks, you may need to reconsider the amount of tension you apply to your top tension devices and the type of thread you are using.

Wheels: The tracking system on your machine can become damaged  by running over thread and other objects.  This may leave dents and marks in the wheels, which then cause bumps in the tracking.  Some wheels have also been known to develop a flat side if the machine is left in one place for an extended period of time.  Check the wheels by rolling your machine forward and back, and then side to side.  It is important to move one direction at a time to help isolate any bumps.   If your wheels are not adjusted correctly, they can rub against the track on the sides, causing a groove to be cut around the wheel.  This is a sign that you may need to adjust the wheels properly and get them centered.

Annually

These are items that seldom need attention and may be too difficult for the owner to check and service.
Being aware of them and checking them annually can avoid large repair expenses and long down times.  Have a tech check them when your machine is serviced.  Not all machines have all of these items.  Newer motors and models of machine have different technology.

Bearings, Bushing, Gears and motor brushes.

Sewing Hook Assembly:  This assembly holds the bobbin case. The hook is what forms the stitch. It is made of probably the hardest metal in your machine. If it is oiled every time you use the machine it is likely to last as long as the machine itself. If it is not oiled or cleaned regularly l it can fail in five years or less.  To check it, remove your bobbin case and take hold of the inner pin in the center of the bobbin basket.  If it has wiggled room, it may need to be replace.

myrl

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