Longarm Quilting Demystified with ZJ Humbach, Part 3: First Things First

Longarm Quilting Demystified - Part 3

Understanding how to thread your machine and adjust the bobbin tension is absolutely critical to your success. By mastering these steps first, you will easily troubleshoot and resolve problems such as thread breakage, tension problems and stitch quality issues.

The fastest threading method is tying on. Clip the thread just above the cone. Unwind a foot of thread from the new cone and tie it onto the existing thread with two overhand knots.

Unwind a foot of thread from the new cone and tie it onto the existing thread with two overhand knots

Unwind a foot of thread from the new cone and tie it onto the existing thread with two overhand knots

Now pull it through to the needle. Clip the knot, thread the needle, and then pass the thread through the hopping foot.

Clip the knot, thread the needle, and then pass the thread through the hopping foot

Clip the knot, thread the needle, and then pass the thread through the hopping foot

Practice the tying on method and pay attention to the thread path as you pull the thread through the machine

Practice the tying on method and pay attention to the thread path as you pull the thread through the machine

While convenient, you can’t rely solely on this method. You must know how to thread your machine. Compare the diagrams in the owner’s manual with how the machine is currently threaded. Practice the tying on method and pay attention to the thread path as you pull the thread through the machine.

Now, unthread the machine, and then thread it from the start over and over until you are comfortable.

Most longarms have a rotary bobbin located under the needle plate and use a double-capacity bobbin known as a size M bobbin. These are wound with the onboard bobbin winder as the machine quilts.

Most longarms have a rotary bobbin located under the needle plate and use a double-capacity bobbin known as a size M bobbin

Most longarms have a rotary bobbin located under the needle plate and use a double-capacity bobbin known as a size M bobbin

A rotary bobbin has a removable bobbin case that holds the bobbin and is inserted as a unit into the machine.

A rotary bobbin has a removable bobbin case that holds the bobbin and is inserted as a unit into the machine.

A rotary bobbin has a removable bobbin case that holds the bobbin and is inserted as a unit into the machine.

Refer to your owner’s manual for the proper way to insert the bobbin into the case, either with the thread coming off the bobbin clockwise or counterclockwise. It makes a difference!

With bobbin in the case, check its tension. Lay the bobbin case flat in the palm of your hand. Hold the thread tail and try to lift the case by the thread. You should just be able to lift the case to a standing position without feeling undue pulling on the thread.

You should just be able to lift the case to a standing position without feeling undue pulling on the thread

You should just be able to lift the case to a standing position without feeling undue pulling on the thread

turn the adjustment screw on the side of the case to the left to loosen the tension or to the right to tighten it

Turn the adjustment screw on the side of the case to the left to loosen the tension or to the right to tighten it

If you can pick the case up completely off your palm, the tension is too tight. If you can’t move the bobbin, the tension is too loose. Use a small flathead screwdriver to turn the adjustment screw on the side of the case to the left to loosen the tension or to the right to tighten it.

Use very small movements. A quarter of a turn is often too much.

Now hold the bobbin case on either side between your thumb and forefinger. Insert the case into the hook assembly as indicated in your owner’s manual. You should hear and feel a click when the case is properly seated. If the case isn’t properly inserted, you can break needles, damage the case and bobbin and cause timing problems.

pull both threads to the back underneath the hopping foot, using a sweeping motion

Pull both threads to the back underneath the hopping foot, using a sweeping motion

Bring up the bobbin thread by holding the needle thread in one hand and press the single-stitch key. When the bobbin thread comes up, pull both threads to the back underneath the hopping foot, using a sweeping motion.

Refer to your owner’s manual for how to adjust the top tension, and you’re ready to go!

This is part 3 of the Longarm Quilting Demystified series. In part 4, you’ll learn the best ways to practice. Click here to find Part 1 and Part 2.

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