How the TOWA Bobbin Case Tension Gauge Changed My Life

12th Feb 2019

Ever gotten part way through some of your best or most difficult quilting only to find that the tension on the back is so off that you are faced with time consuming un-sewing? 

Really, no one wants to un-sew.

Like you, I change the brand and weight of thread I use depending on the project. At first this caused a certain amount of dread – because the machine stayed the same – and as a result my tension would vary.

All machines have various dials and wheels to adjust for tension – but I discovered a much more reliable and consistent fix by using the TOWA.

Checking tension by hand leaves so many gray areas and makes it more of an art than a science. My grandma did that with her recipes (pinch of salt, two handfuls of flour…) I still can’t repeat her recipes.

So I finally bit the bullet and purchased the TOWA. Here I was investing hundreds of dollars in thread and it was time to invest in making the thread perform correctly.

The TOWA tension gauge checks the tension easily – by simply inserting the bobbin into your bobbin case then pulling the thread through. For my Gammill machines (yes I have 5 of them) I have calculated that 150 works for the So-Fine poly 30wt thread by Superior and 200 works for the Signature 100% cotton 40 wt thread. Just adjust the small screw (barely move it) to increase or decrease- how much, how fast the thread pulls out.

Now I know that not everyone is using a Gammill and even so, you may not use the same threads as I do – so here is my secret of how I arrived at my calculations. Trial and error.

Record the gauge in your bobbin case – when it is perfect. Do this measurement a few times – so you have a baseline measurement. Now switch threads, then loosen or tighten a tiny bit at a time and quilt a bit taking measurements along the way until you have a new guide for another type of thread.

I continue to monitor my bobbin case each time I change thread for a project – even if it is the same brand of thread – just to make sure my bobbin case is still set correctly. Midway through a project occasionally tension problems may present – then I check the bobbin again. Once in a while a half used bobbin may have different tension.

Towa makes a tension gauge for both “L” and “M” size bobbins.