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Thread: Tension issues, any ideas what to try?

  1. #1
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    Tension issues, any ideas what to try?

    Good morning, all! For the last 2 weeks, I have been trying everything under the sun and on the 'net to get the tension right on this setup I acquired. I did try to get help in the Vintage forum and got nowhere, I reckon it is an unheard of machine..? Anywho, this is what I have:
    A Singer 96-45 mounted on a frame for longarm-style quilting. The frame is similar to the kenquilt system, with the 3 rollers all the same height. (I have seen a lot of frames with one of the rollers mounted higher or lower than the others.)
    The machine has been cleaned thoroughly, tension assembly removed, cleaned and remounted, new needle(s) have also been used, bobbin housing was completely removed and cleaned as well. Timing has even been reset since the hook wasn't coming across the shaft at the exact middle, although it did stitch fine before and still does after. The issue is just the tension. I can't seem to get it right. I have used 40 wt & 50 wt threads, 100% cotton, and the poly-cotton/cotton-poly wrapped combo , all in every imaginable combination. The bobbin will take and use whatever thread ya throw in there. Upper thread breaks randomly. I believe this is due to it being too tight but, in order to get no loops on the back it has to be that tight. Any ideas, suggestion, tips, maybe even a spare sledge-hammer I could borrow for a few days?
    I have begun making sure the sandwich wasn't too taut, after reading that somewhere, but that's not the problem either. I am gonna add a few more thread guides this weekend, as was suggested in a YouTube video, see if that helps since I know there is at least 1 missing. I have tried new thread, old thread, in-between thread and am getting a bit frustrated. I also seen somewhere that maybe the 16 needles are not ideal for high-speed machines..? Maybe going up a size would work since it runs at 3500 spm? I tried to make a genie bobbin thing out of the teflon I use to FMQ with my domestic machine but all that did was super heat the bobbin and the thread! That did not work out so well, and actually stopped the machine. So, popped that out and let it cool off for a few hrs and she was all good again. Well, except for the small problem of the upper thread breaking. And I'm not so sure it's threaded right since the manual online(the only one I can find for this machine) is nothing more that a parts list and of absolutely no help! Grrrr.
    Believe me, I am totally open to suggestions and desperate for anyone's help! Thanks a bunch.

    Pics:
    stitches on top
    stitches on bottom
    **note* I have been restitching over and over til I get the hang of it, using different colors for each pass. that's why it looks such a mess! The really heavy bobbin is actually loose upper tension, very loose! Last pass made was with blue upper and blue bobbin, white was the pass before that one, and variegated was the first pass.
    how it is threaded(with arrows to help see it) :-)
    It comes off the cone/spool goes up into a make-shift cone stand "thing", then R to L thru first hole, L to R thru 2nd hole and R to L thru 3rd hole, down and around tensioner making sure to catch the spring, under the bar on the left there, up thru the needle arm hole, down thru 2 rings(not shown) on the face plate(?) first one has thread go under it to pop in there, and the 2 nd one you wind the thread thru it L to R, then down to needle bar eye and L to R thru the needle. Yes, the needle is in right as far as I can tell, it is round shank so hard to get dead perfect. Needles are DBx1 16x231 size 16. A size 12 refuses to work and is only good for skipping tons of stitches. This is why timing was reset, as it was suggested as a possible problem.
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    Last edited by PJisChaos; 04-05-2013 at 05:59 AM.

  2. #2
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    Can't be much help but my first suspicion is that the upper tension isn't engaging unless you tighten it to the max. Hopefully someone else will have better ideas because that might be a pain to fix.

  3. #3
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I will tell you that perfectly balanced stitches are something to strive for, but not always achievable. This is why many long armers use the same color thread in the top and the bobbin. Also, if just a tiny bit of top thread is showing on the back, and the bobbin thread is not just laying on the surface, I would try washing the sample. If you use cotton batting, it shrinks a bit and minimizes the issue.

    I don't have this machine, but have the 3 hole guide on mine. I was told to try skipping one of the guide holes.
    And finally, this video is not for your machine (I don't have this brand either) but the process may help:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1mRhcquZTM
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    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Since you're at your wits end and none of the advice on all of your threads on this machine have helped, why don't you send it in for service? If it has something wrong with it, it will be repaired. Worst case the machine will get a tune up.

  5. #5
    Super Member charsuewilson's Avatar
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    When the top tension is not right on my machines (several brands including Singer), I've usually found that it wasn't threaded properly. Be sure it's properly threaded through the tension wheel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PaperPrincess View Post
    I will tell you that perfectly balanced stitches are something to strive for, but not always achievable. This is why many long armers use the same color thread in the top and the bobbin. Also, if just a tiny bit of top thread is showing on the back, and the bobbin thread is not just laying on the surface, I would try washing the sample. If you use cotton batting, it shrinks a bit and minimizes the issue.

    I don't have this machine, but have the 3 hole guide on mine. I was told to try skipping one of the guide holes.
    And finally, this video is not for your machine (I don't have this brand either) but the process may help:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1mRhcquZTM


    Now this is helpful. I have wondered about skipping a hole there since that is where there is a bit of drag before it hits the tensioner. Hmm, something to try anyways. Thanks! I was also wondering about turning the tension down just enough for only one or 2 small loops to appear and see if it stops the thread breaking, hoping when washed the stitch will balance out. I will be trying this as well, thanks again. Now the video I did watch yesterday and I have to say, I love this guy! This video of his, in particular, helped me tons. I never knew that and was always taught to do the drop test as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Candace View Post
    Since you're at your wits end and none of the advice on all of your threads on this machine have helped, why don't you send it in for service? If it has something wrong with it, it will be repaired. Worst case the machine will get a tune up.
    The machine has been looked at and gone over, twice, and both certified repair men said it is in perfect working order. To have it cleaned, which I can and have done, runs $179.95 and up because it's an industrial. I know this is operator error and thought putting it in general where more people see it would get some better feedback on things to try. The response in the Vintage machine section was minimal and I know of no one round here that can help me or just offer tips. I am sorry if I have overstepped by posting it in the main section. I should have done that to begin with, my regret.
    The advice on the other threads was to look at the manual, which is nothing more than a parts list, and I did, to retime it which has also been done, and to have it serviced which there is no need to as it's mechanically sound, according to the singer guys. Nothing to do with troubleshooting operator error, which is all I am trying to do here now.

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    Post the solution when you find it, will you? Could be it will help someone else one day . Good luck!

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    Super Member newbee3's Avatar
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    rethread everything again make sure bobbin is wound properly and inserted right in the case and in the machine. after rethreading the top and you have bobbin in try again. And try to slow down your moving the machine. I have to tell myself to slow down while I am fmq I hope this helps. I have a old nustyle no stich regulater and there is a definate learning curve. also make sure your thread is good quality

  10. #10
    Senior Member lfletcher's Avatar
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    I have a Gammill and on my three hole guide, I skip the middle hole. I noticed other people have mentioned this as well. Good luck.

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    Quote Originally Posted by newbee3 View Post
    rethread everything again make sure bobbin is wound properly and inserted right in the case and in the machine. after rethreading the top and you have bobbin in try again. And try to slow down your moving the machine. I have to tell myself to slow down while I am fmq I hope this helps. I have a old nustyle no stich regulater and there is a definate learning curve. also make sure your thread is good quality
    Ya know, that's funny ya mention the winding of the bobbin... I never gave that another thought. But, I don't think that is properly tensioned or winding, come to think of it. I will crap a brick if that's what it boils down to! LoL! It winds heavy on the outside and thinner on the inside, a lop-sided look to it. How do I fix this?

    Forgot to add, it's not loose when it's wound but could be a bit too tightly wound. Also, it uses a stand-alone winder like the gammill video I saw on YouTube, it's identical to mine.
    Last edited by PJisChaos; 04-05-2013 at 08:45 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by toolazy View Post
    Post the solution when you find it, will you? Could be it will help someone else one day . Good luck!
    While I haven't found a solid solution, this is what I did find after trying the tips from PaperPrincess:
    Don't ask me why but, skipping that middle hole sure did help.. a lot, by reducing some of the drag before the tensioner.
    I also loosened the upper tension and tightened the bobbin a smidge, result: a few tiny loops here or there on the back but no broken upper thread for one complete pass. Yay! even though it was short-lived success.
    I am still working out the lop-sided bobbin problem with small adjustments to the position of the tensioner on the bobbin winder. It's getting better.

    I did setup the camera while I was testing these out, to see if I could pinpoint what happens right before the thread breaks. I came to the conclusion that the current thread stand on the back of the machine is a likely culprit. Maybe the culprit..? It seems the thread wraps around it when there is a big loop from slack(?) at the other end of the machine and then the thread catches on an invisible but feel-able knick, just as it passes thru the eye of this thread stand. That causes the thread to catch there and thus snaps it over at the needle bar. Does that make sense?
    Here is a pic to help describe it. This is before I moved the thread back to the smaller pole(where it's s'posed to go but thought I'd try something different by putting the spool where it was originally designed to go). The black circle is the thread stand, the black arrow is where the thread catches after looping over the end of it. The white x is where it breaks, right before it goes into the guide, that's not really visible, directly below the x.

    Maybe this will help someone else, I sure hope so after trying to figure it out myself. I do appreciate all the advice, tips, and suggestions from ya guys. Each one I try, and I do try all of them, seems to get me closer to actually being able to sew for more than 5 minutes at a time. If I come up with anything else that "works", I will put it here. If ya got anything else, no matter how ridiculous ya think it may be or just a thought about what to try.. please put it here. I will keep trying them all.

    I just never realized how many small things go into quilting on a frame to make it work! It's not so simple as just loading it and letting her rip, I can confirm that. Here I thought all ya LA'ers had it easy, and boy do I apologize for that assumption. Thanks again for the help!
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  13. #13
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    Hi, yes, a nick that you can feel should be delt with. You can use crocus cloth or garnet sand paper (check at hardware store) to get rid of it. If the thread on the spool is coming off and either puddling around the bottom of the spool or causing a loop to form I would try using a spool net.
    Looks like this:
    http://www.amazon.com/Threadsrus-Thr.../dp/B001U5A0Y0

    I use the stuff that encases garlic cloves from Sam's Club. You can also ask at your local florist. Large flowers often come from the supplier encased with a net that is discarded.

    Also, there is a manual on the Singer site for a 96-80. It looks very much like your picture. If you scroll down to page 11 there are threading instructions. The thread path thru the 3 hole guide is unique. I've never seen it done this way (in and out, rather than a spiral)
    http://parts.singerco.com/IPinstManuals/96-80_100.pdf
    Last edited by PaperPrincess; 04-05-2013 at 10:20 AM.
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    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    You never mentioned the bobbin tension. You need to loosen the bobbin tension as much as possible before adjusting the top tension. For high speed machines, looser is better because thread stops breaking. If bobbin tension is loose, top tension can also be loose to get a balanced stitch.

    A larger needle can help with breaking thread too. Many frame quilters use a size 18 needle.

    But, watch the video! I believe his recommendations apply to all machines used for frame quilting. I could not get my bobbin tension as loose as he demonstrates; the screw in my bobbin case fell out first! However, I did make sure it was as loose as I could get it and still keep the screw in.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by PJisChaos View Post
    The machine has been looked at and gone over, twice, and both certified repair men said it is in perfect working order. To have it cleaned, which I can and have done, runs $179.95 and up because it's an industrial. I know this is operator error and thought putting it in general where more people see it would get some better feedback on things to try. The response in the Vintage machine section was minimal and I know of no one round here that can help me or just offer tips. I am sorry if I have overstepped by posting it in the main section. I should have done that to begin with, my regret.
    The advice on the other threads was to look at the manual, which is nothing more than a parts list, and I did, to retime it which has also been done, and to have it serviced which there is no need to as it's mechanically sound, according to the singer guys. Nothing to do with troubleshooting operator error, which is all I am trying to do here now.
    You hadn't mentioned that you took it in for professional servicing. So I didn't know.

    I would also try a larger needle.

  16. #16
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    To me it looks like you're not putting the presser foot down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scissor Queen View Post
    To me it looks like you're not putting the presser foot down.
    Yup, in the photo it's in the raised position.

  18. #18
    Super Member Scissor Queen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PJisChaos View Post
    While I haven't found a solid solution, this is what I did find after trying the tips from PaperPrincess:
    Don't ask me why but, skipping that middle hole sure did help.. a lot, by reducing some of the drag before the tensioner.
    I also loosened the upper tension and tightened the bobbin a smidge, result: a few tiny loops here or there on the back but no broken upper thread for one complete pass. Yay! even though it was short-lived success.
    I am still working out the lop-sided bobbin problem with small adjustments to the position of the tensioner on the bobbin winder. It's getting better.

    I did setup the camera while I was testing these out, to see if I could pinpoint what happens right before the thread breaks. I came to the conclusion that the current thread stand on the back of the machine is a likely culprit. Maybe the culprit..? It seems the thread wraps around it when there is a big loop from slack(?) at the other end of the machine and then the thread catches on an invisible but feel-able knick, just as it passes thru the eye of this thread stand. That causes the thread to catch there and thus snaps it over at the needle bar. Does that make sense?
    Here is a pic to help describe it. This is before I moved the thread back to the smaller pole(where it's s'posed to go but thought I'd try something different by putting the spool where it was originally designed to go). The black circle is the thread stand, the black arrow is where the thread catches after looping over the end of it. The white x is where it breaks, right before it goes into the guide, that's not really visible, directly below the x.

    Maybe this will help someone else, I sure hope so after trying to figure it out myself. I do appreciate all the advice, tips, and suggestions from ya guys. Each one I try, and I do try all of them, seems to get me closer to actually being able to sew for more than 5 minutes at a time. If I come up with anything else that "works", I will put it here. If ya got anything else, no matter how ridiculous ya think it may be or just a thought about what to try.. please put it here. I will keep trying them all.

    I just never realized how many small things go into quilting on a frame to make it work! It's not so simple as just loading it and letting her rip, I can confirm that. Here I thought all ya LA'ers had it easy, and boy do I apologize for that assumption. Thanks again for the help!
    If you were sewing with the machine exactly like it is in the pic on this post you are sewing with the presser foot up. That means your tension disks are not engaged at all and the only tension you have is the three hole guide.

  19. #19
    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    I have a Juki TL98QE with the three holes like yours. It says to use the first and third holes for regular thread. Only use all three with nylon or when sewing very light weight fabric and thread. Presser foot must be lowered when trying to stitch or you will get a mess on the bobbin thread. You are getting very good help.
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    Oh no, on this machine, the needle will not go all the way down if the presser foot is not down. It sits above the bed about 1/8th of an inch when down. The reason for this is because the presser foot does not bounce or move in any way while sewing and there are no feed dogs. If the presser foot is lowered to the bed, the machine will not move freely over the sandwich with it down. It is high-shank and I have no other feet for it so have to use what she had on it. She had it set higher up than the 1/8th inch but it didn't seem right to have it 1/2 inch off the quilt sandwich like she did. I have never seen a foot like this one so wasn't sure it was actually a proper foot! LoL

  21. #21
    Power Poster MadQuilter's Avatar
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    Tearing thread could be that you move the machine too fast and the thread just can't keep up (particularly around the curves) OR your needle may be too small. As for the eyelashes, all I know is that if they are on the bottom, then the problem is your upper tension. I wish you success.
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  22. #22
    Super Member OKLAHOMA PEACH's Avatar
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    Does it have a know on the very top of head? If so try loosening it alittle at a time.

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    OKAY, LISTEN TO ME A LITTLE BIT. I HAVE A KEN-QUILT. HAD A LITTLE TROUBLE BREAKING THREAD. I checked the bobbin over and over. GUESS WHAT The bobbin winder was winding lop-sided. High on one side and low on the other. If it gets over the top or close to the edge of the bobbin, I guarantee you will not sew good. While filling the bobbin, just use your finger and make sure it is filling level. Fixed!

  24. #24
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PJisChaos View Post
    Oh no, on this machine, the needle will not go all the way down if the presser foot is not down. It sits above the bed about 1/8th of an inch when down. The reason for this is because the presser foot does not bounce or move in any way while sewing and there are no feed dogs. If the presser foot is lowered to the bed, the machine will not move freely over the sandwich with it down. It is high-shank and I have no other feet for it so have to use what she had on it. She had it set higher up than the 1/8th inch but it didn't seem right to have it 1/2 inch off the quilt sandwich like she did. I have never seen a foot like this one so wasn't sure it was actually a proper foot! LoL
    The machine should be set to it's factory specs. to perform at its best Any vintage Singer machine I've worked on has a service manual available with specs in it that tell you the proper height of the foot off the bed, etc. Of course, it may be very hard to find this for an industrial.

  25. #25
    Super Member ube quilting's Avatar
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    RE: paperprinces @ post # 3: I used the information from this great video a while ago on my Bernina and other machines. It helped the stitching on every machine. I thought my stitching was good before but, wow, what a difference this info made.

    So, IMHO, I think trying these steps on any machine may make a difference. It certainly can't hurt.

    Here's to great stitching!
    peace
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