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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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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What About Bamboo Batting?

Posted by on September 25, 2017


Questions about bamboo batting often arise in class.  That led to a bit of research and I thought I would share what I have learned.

First, experience with bamboo batting showed that it makes beautiful, draping quilts. The fibers are silky, soft and even supple.  It is beautiful with either hand or machine quilting.  However, bamboo fibers are also sensitive to heat.  Be careful in laundering and use warm or cold water.

The first generation of bamboo batting was 100% bamboo.  Experience has shown blends are more long-lived and user friendly.  At present the blends are usually 50% bamboo and 50% organically grown cotton in keeping with the bamboo organic farming.

Bamboo is considered renewable. The crop can be harvested year after year without replanting. Some grow two feet a day.  Bamboo fiber is biodegradable and the crop doesn’t require fertilizer or pesticides.  As a result, many products from bamboo are advertised as environmentally friendly.

Inner parts of bamboo are treated either chemically or mechanically. Most, but not all, bamboo fabrics made today still are processed with chemicals to become a ‘rayon soft’ fiber.  Many bamboo battings are advertised as being antibacterial.  While the fibers from bamboo are, the manufacturing process destroys this characteristic unless it is treated with natural enzymes.

Bamboo batting can wick moisture very well.  This is nice for winter warmth similar to wool batting.

Try using bamboo batting in your next quilt.  Stay with a tried and true manufacturer and use warm or cold water in the washer and drier.  Happy quilting!


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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.




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What Causes a Skipped Stitch?

Posted by on September 12, 2017


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!


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