Tools of the Trade for Cleaning

Posted by on October 30, 2017

A person doesn’t have to sew for long before it becomes evident that sewing creates lint, lint and more lint.  Longarm machines are no exception. Keeping the machine clean of lint and dust is essential to successful quilting.  You may ask, “How often shall I clean my machine?”  The more the machine is used, the more frequently it should be cleaned.  Some areas of the machine are easily in view and the lint is obvious.  Other areas are hidden, but still accumulate lint.  Lint can cause the wheels to roll unevenly.  It can interrupt encoders rolling consistently.  Lint in the tension disc or strap will allow too much thread to pull through, break thread or get caught in the thread.  It can also be the culprit in a thread jam.

How should a machine be cleaned?  The first question that is asked is, “Can I use canned air to clean my machine?”  Canned air will not damage the outside of the machine, but it will blow lint everywhere in the room and you will have to clean it up later.  Why not just clean it up at the source to begin with?  Using canned air when any of the covers are removed can cause damage to sensors by blowing lint on them.  The propellant in the canned air adds moisture where it is sprayed and can also do damage.  I vote ‘no’ to canned air.  However, there are mini vacuum attachments available that are handy for cleaning small areas.

On a regular basis do a thorough cleaning while there is no quilt on the frame.  First, remove anything that has accumulated on the back of the table and return it to its place.  Those flat surfaces collect patterns, screw drivers, bobbins and any number of things.  Take the bobbin case out.  Remove the needle plate.  Clean the underside of the needle plate where tiny drops of oil accumulate lint easily. Using a brush clean up the lint around the hook assembly, making sure to reach back behind it and to each side.  Check inside the basket where the bobbin case usually sits.  Brush it out, checking the “race” of the hook to ensure there are no threads caught there.  Move the handwheel to inspect the race thoroughly. If there is a stubborn thread in the race, a drop of oil will help to release it.

Now, clean the bobbin case.  Look inside and clean any lint that may be caught behind the anti-backlash spring.  You may need to remove the spring to get all the lint.  Using a stiff cardstock-weight paper, slip a corner of the paper under the tension strap of the bobbin case to clean any thread or lint from underneath it.

Brush away lint from the presser foot and needle bar.  Lift the presser foot lifter and clean between the tension discs with a brush.  Lower the lifter as soon as you have finished cleaning between the discs.  Use a microfiber cloth to dust the machine and table, paying special attention to the thread guides and tracks where the wheels and encoders run.

Using dental bushes, clean where the carriage wheels attach.  Threads and lint accumulate there and slow the action of the wheels.  There are 16 wheels that need attention.  You may use a microfiber cloth or magic eraser sponge with clear water to wipe any surface that may need it.  Denatured alcohol is good to clean stubborn marks from encoders.

Replace the needle plate and bobbin case.  You are ready to sew with a clean machine.  This is a thorough cleaning that should happen regularly, maybe after two or three projects.  Dusting and brushing should take place during any project as dust and lint accumulates around the presser foot and thread guides.  Every time a bobbin is changed, check in the bobbin case for lint and remove it.

A clean machine is a happy machine.  When your machine is happy, you are too.  Being conscientious about caring for your TinLizzie18 machine will add years to its life and decades of enjoinment to your quilting.  We are committed to helping quilters of all levels realize their quilting dreams.


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How Does Fabric Affect Tension?

Posted by on October 19, 2017

Most of the time when tension is the topic of a discussion the focus is on thread.  While this is where we start when adjusting tension, it is not the only element to achieve correct tension.  Perfect tension is when the stitches lock inside the batting of the quilt sandwich.  The thicker the quilt sandwich, the greater the leeway for locking.  The thinner the quilt sandwich the smaller the allowable locking area.  As a result, it is easier to achieve good tension with a thicker batting.

Fabric also has an effect on tension adjustment. It is easier for the thread to be pulled through loose weave fabric like flannel or homespun.  Painted or dyed fabric is more dense and requires a harder pull (or tighter tension) on the thread to lock it in the batting.  Cotton that is commonly used for piecing is about 66 threads woven per millimeter.  Sometimes quilters like to use sheets for backing to avoid piecing the backing.  Some sheets are more or less dense than the 66 threads per millimeter. Keeping in mind that there are 25 millimeters in an inch, a 800 thread count sheet is less dense than 66 thread per millimeter (1650 per inch).

Less dense fabric needs lighter tension and more dense fabric needs a tighter tension.  When different density fabrics are combined in a quilt it is more difficult to achieve a consistent quality tension.  If the tension is set for good tension on dense fabric, sewing over the less dense fabric may cause the stitch to lock on the top or bottom of the quilt, depending on which fabric is a looser weave.  This does not mean that fabrics cannot be combined in a quilt.  It simply means that when you are aware of your differing fabrics it is easier to find a happy medium to have satisfactory tension throughout the quilt.

Thread weight, thread fiber, batting and fabric fiber and density all work together for specific adjustments to achieve pleasing tension on each project.

Filed under: Blog,TinLizzie18 Quilting Tips

Got Oil?

Posted by on October 10, 2017

Oiling your TinLizzie18 machine should be part of your regular sewing routine.  Sewing machines have moving parts that will last longer and function more efficiently if they are lubricated.  TinLizzie18s have a wicking system that moves the oil to various moving parts, requiring fewer oiling locations.  One oiling spot is at the top of the machine, above the needle.  The other is on the bed of the machine and has a dip stick to measure the oil level.  When the dip stick is free of oil it is time to oil both locations.  Add four or five drops when the dip stick is free of oil.  On the back of the machine, on top near the hand wheel is a rubber plug.  This is a less frequent oiling spot to be oiled only when there is a squeak or grinding in that area.  Remove the plug and add only one drop at a time until the sound is gone.


When the machine sits for a while without being used, check the dip stick.  If it is dry add four to five drops of oil and run the machine on manual mode for about 20 minutes to get the wicking action moving again.  If there is oil, run the machine without adding oil.

You should use only oil designed especially for sewing machines. It is made from a white mineral oil or synthetic oil that is clear and has no smell. If the oil becomes discolored or smells rancid, toss it out.  When machine oil is good, it has a light viscosity or thickness.  It will not collect on the machine’s parts, but allows moving parts to smoothly move and not rust.

Note that the oil can stain fabric.  Beware not to over oil your machine or oil it while over the quilt on the frame.  It may drip on your quilt or stain your thread in the bobbin.  If you notice a puddle of oil on the frame or floor, you have over-oiled the machine.  It may be a good time to put a practice quilt on the frame and run some of the oil out of the machine without worrying about dripping on the quilt.

Keep your TinLizzie18 clean and oiled and it will bring you years of happy quilting.

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Can I Use Monofilament Thread on My Longarm?

Posted by on October 2, 2017



There may be times when it is desirable to create the texture of quilting without seeing the actual stitches.  An example may be when outlining an applique on a quilt.  Monofilament thread is a good choice for this application.  Monofilament thread is basically invisible because it is very fine at 100 wt. and usually a low sheen.  One caution is to make sure you are choosing a polyester monofilament.  Nylon monofilaments are likely to melt or weaken when exposed to heat.  Usually, monofilaments are available in clear or smoke colored for darker fabrics.

While Monofilament threads are desirable for many applications, they also have characteristics that may be challenging if the correct procedures aren’t followed.  Since monofilament threads are fine, I use a size 14 needle.  The groove on the size 14 needle is small and accommodates the fine thread.  Monofilaments like to bounce and stretch.  Use a thread net or sock to help control the delivery into the first thread guide.  I use a safety pin in the first thread guide.  Then thread the monofilament through the spring end of the pin.  This keeps the thread captive so it won’t “jump” out of the guide.  When the monofilaments stretch they intermittently pull the bobbin thread to the top of the quilt.  To resolve this problem, loosen the needle tension.

The Monofilament thread may be used in the bobbin as well.  I like using pre-wound bobbins since it is difficult to successfully wind a bobbin with the stretchy thread.  This will require a looser tension in the bobbin as well.  Some quilters set a bobbin for monofilament threads and reserve it to use only with those threads.

There can be happy quilting with Monofilament threads.  Use the correct tools and settings and you are set.

by TL18 Educator Myrl Brienholt


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