Monday, January 2, 2017

Tension issues- how to clean the bobbin area

Tension issues can be caused by more than just improper threading or needing to turn the dial on the tension disks. Many times, tension problems or skipped stitches are caused by lint in the bobbin area.  Knowing how to thoroughly clean the bobbin area can help alleviate stitch issues caused by lint.

Lint buildup is commonplace when quilting and can be caused by many factors.  Thread quality, thread fibers, batting type, and even fabric type can cause lint.  The lint shown below is after quilting just ONE quilt.  The customer supplied "Warm and Plush" prepackaged batting.  I was using So fine thread by Superior Threads which is a #50 weight polyester thread.  The same thread was in the top and bobbin.  The fabric used in the quilt top and backing can best be described as big chain "Quilter's cotton".

As you can see, there is a great deal of lint and debris not only in the bobbin area, but also under the needle plate (which I have removed to do the cleaning).  This is a common occurrence when using an inexpensive cotton based batting. Even the tiniest bit of lint or thread can play havoc with your tension.   In order to thoroughly clean and oil the bobbin area before starting the next quilt, these are the steps that must be followed.

First, remove all the surface debris from the needle plate and the bobbin area with a soft, lint free cloth. 

You will be amazed at the amount of lint that comes off onto your cloth.  Even after all that surface wiping there will be a bunch of hidden lint in the bobbin area.

Use a bit of dusting pray to loosen any
 that will come free. This is the one I use. Be sure not to shake the can before you spray.

After you have removed most of the lint , it is time to do a deep cleaning. Moisten the ends of a few cotton swaps with machine oil.  Use these to carefully wipe all the areas of the bobbin case and hook.  You will need to turn the hand wheel to get the hook to rotate so you can get all of the places.

After you have wiped down all the parts with oil, examine the hook and race to see if there are any stubborn bits of lint or thread stuck in there Use a magnifying glass or use the camera on your phone and zoom it in. Even if you think it looks really clean, you will likely find something left behind. See if you can find the leftover bits in the pictures below.

So, were you able to find the little tiny leftover bits?

So, how do we get those little bits out?  You can try another cotton swap with the fuzz pulled off, or you can gently use a pair of tweezers. 

This is what came out of there.
It was hard to see and it might have caused problems.

Now it is all cleaned and ready to be oiled and put back together. Put a few drops of oil in the bobbin area, paying special attention to the area under the hook. Run the machine for a few minutes with no thread. This will give the oil a chance to get into all the areas. Also, don't forget to oil the wicks, if you have them. Let the machine sit overnight and then run it with some scrap material before you start on the next quilt.

Now your machine is clean and the tension should be great, unless you have a thread issue. That will be the next lesson.