The Anatomy of a TinLizzie18 Bobbin Case

Posted by on November 13, 2017

Becoming familiar with the TinLizzie18 bobbin case will increase quilting success.  Each part has an important function.  Looking inside the bobbin case, you will see what is called the anti-backlash spring.  It looks like a little man with his hands held above his head.  The anti-backlash spring function is to stop the bobbin from continuing to spin when the quilter stops or hesitates.  Think of that perpetual motion that happens when a cat plays with a toilet paper roll, batting it and watching the paper spin to the ground.  The thread would continue to spin in the bobbin case, making loops on the back of the quilt where the quilter hesitates and then resumes quilting.  The anti-backlash spring fits into the bobbin case with four prongs.  There are two prongs on the left that fit into holes in the bobbin case that are set wide apart.  The other two prongs are on the right side and are set closer together. You will know you have the prongs correctly place when the round “head” part of the spring is sitting almost against the back of the bobbin case.  If it is more than a 1/16th of an inch away from the back of the bobbin case, the prongs are not set properly in place.  Press them with your fingernail until they snap into place.  Pre-wound bobbins with magnets have the same function as the anti-backlash spring.  Remove the backlash spring when using these bobbins.

On the side of the bobbin case is the tension strap.  Its function is to stop the thread from coming off the bobbin too quickly and to keep enough tension on the thread to lock with the needle thread.  There are two screws.  The larger one is the tension adjustment screw.  It requires very small increments to adjust tension, one or two minutes on a clock, at a time.  Move the screw right to increase tension and left to loosen the tension.  The small screw is a set screw that holds the strap in place.

On the opposite side from the tension strap is an opening that accommodates the needle as it comes down towards the hook that picks up the needle thread, pulls it around the bobbin case and creates a stitch.  It is important to place the bobbin case in correctly so this opening is at the top and secure.  The lever on the bobbin case is to hold onto while placing the bobbin case in the basket.  When the lever is opened, a curved finger slides in to keep the bobbin from falling out.

The little curled wire on the bobbin case is affectionately called the Piggy Tail.  The thread from the bobbin is pulled through the piggy tail to align it with the needle and add a bit of tension to the bobbin thread.  To place the thread in the piggy tail, while the bobbin is in the bobbin case and the thread in the tension strap, put the thread between the bobbin and the piggy tail and wiggle the thread.  In it goes as easy as that.

This industrial, M size, bobbin case has been in use for generations.  It is dependable and sturdy.  Keep it clean and avoid dropping it and the TinLizzie18 bobbin case will serve you well.

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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.

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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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