Quilting in the Hoop Tension Settings

I received the following question regarding a Quilting in the Hoop YouTube video of mine:

“I found your YouTube videos about quilting in the hoop with a multi needle embroidery machine.  I have a 6 needle machine that I was trying to quilt in the hoop and embroider in a . . . class starting in September.    Do you have any instructions as to setting the bobbin for quilting and then setting the top threads to be balanced like a quilting machine.  I have a separate bobbin with a 40 weight thread but I don’t know how much to loosen the bobbin as well as tightening the top thread tension.  Do you loosen the bobbin first and test or do I need to tighten the top thread at the same time? “

In answer to this question, below is what I did to set up my Happy Embroidery Machine for Quilting in the Hoop, all 3 layers of a Quilt Sandwich (Pieced Top/Batting/Backing):
  • I bought a new Bobbin Case to use just for Quilting in the Hoop. I adjusted the screw on this Case specifically for the Tension required for Quilting in the Hoop. You must buy the case specifically required for your machine.


  • I bought a Towa Bobbin Case Tension Gauge. Sold at TexmacDirect.com 


  • I bought a Thread Tension Gauge for the upper thread settings. I use this for Gauging the Tension during regular embroidery and for Quilting in the Hoop.ThreadTensionGauge
  • I use L Style FIL-TEC MAGNA-GLIDE CLASSIC, pre-wound Bobbins for all my embroidery, including Quilting in the Hoop. The magnetic core creates a consistent tension throughout the entire length of the bobbin spool. I also like the quality of the thread (100% continuous filament polyester). They also stay in the Bobbin Case well and I spend much less time chasing dropped bobbins around my sewing room floor. 🙂 

Now, with my Tools in hand, I could set up the machine for Quilting in the Hoop. Just as I dedicated a Bobbin Case to this process, I dedicated my Needle 1 position on my 15 Needle Happy Embroidery Machine to nothing but Quilting in the Hoop.
When I want to go from embroidery to Quilting it is a very simple process for me. I just use Needle 1 – the Tension Dials on that Needle are always ready for Quilting. All the other needle Tensions are set for standard embroidery. I take the Bobbin Case out of the little zipper bag that has a piece of Batting in it to identify its purpose and pop it in. Voila! My machine is all ready to Quilt.
Whether you are Sewing or Embroidering, there is always a “Tug-of-War” going on between the Top Thread and the Bobbin Thread. In Sewing, you want this war to end in a draw – right at the fabric. As you can see in the Diagram below, your Multi Needle Embroidery Machine is not set up this way. It is set up for a crushing win by the Bobbin Thread. It wins the “Tug-of-War” by pulling the Top Thread down to the underside of the Embroidery Design.


As you can see in this picture of the underside of Embroidered Satin Columns, there is Top Thread on each side of the Column that makes up about 2/3 of the Column, 1/3 on each side. This leaves the Winner, the white Bobbin Thread running down the center 1/3 of the Column. 


Below is a page from our Training Materials for the Happy Machines that explains how to achieve this 1/3 Proper Tension Balance. We just need to Reverse these instructions in order to Loosen that Bobbin Thread’s Tension so that it can start “losing” to the Top Thread and allow itself to be pulled up towards our Quilt Sandwich.


Tension Adjustment Excerpt:

1.Examine the results by looking at the reverse side.  Check each satin sample to ensure there is a white strip of bobbin thread 25%-33% in the
center.  Then, if:
Bobbin strip is very thin or non-existent: that thread is very  loose.   Tighten using the upper tension knob for that needle.

Bobbin strip is a little thin but consistent: thread is slightly  loose.  Tighten using the upper tension knob for that needle.

Bobbin strip is wide to a large degree, some of it being pulled around to the front: That thread is very tight.  Loosen using the
upper tension knob for that needle.
– Bobbin strip is only slightly wide: The thread is slightly over-tight.  Loosen using the lower tensioning knob for that thread.

2.Notes:  Make big adjustmentsWhen tightening or loosening, make several full turns in either direction (turning the knob just a few clicks in either direction will not make any difference in tension.)  Then, re-pull the thread after adjusting to let the new tension setting “set up” through the tensioners and guides.

3.Maintain a balance between the 2 tension knobs.  Do not over-tighten one, leaving the other too loose.  The lower knob should not be tightened to the point that its wheel cannot turn.  Generally, neither knob should be set so tightly that the mounting post protrudes above the knob center.

We still want to achieve balance so we will Loosen the Bobbin Case Tension as well as Tighten the Top Thread Tension Disk. Following the instructions above, Keep adjusting these and test stitching a Quilting Design until you see no Bobbin Thread on Top and no Top Thread on Bottom. I find the easiest way to see this is to create a small Quilt Sandwich by layering Colored Fabric on top my Batting with a piece of White Fabric on the Bottom. Then I use Colored Thread on the Top and White Bobbin Thread. The White Bobbin Thread will show easily on the Colored Top Fabric and the Colored Top Thread will show easily on the White Bottom Fabric. Once I can run a section of the Quilting Design and see no “out of place” threads on either side of my Test Sandwich – I am ready for the real Quilt!
You might be thinking, “Hey! What about those fancy Tension Gauges I just bought?”
I’m glad you asked. Now we use those Gauges to find out what the settings are for our newfound Tension Balance. What Top Tension Setting and what Bobbin Case Tension Setting gave us such beautiful results? Knowing and keeping these numbers will allow you to achieve this beautiful Balance quickly in the future. You might not be able to leave your Needle 1 dedicated to Quilting. You might need to loosen that tension after you finish Quilting and use that needle for regular embroidery. No problem, go right ahead. Then next time you want to Quilt, just pull out your Top Tension Gauge and loosen the Tension until the Gauge reads the Magic Number. 

“Hey! What about that Bobbin Case Tension Gauge? That Expensive one!!!?”

Yes, I know you have a special Bobbin Case just for Quilting. But what if you break it. Or break your regular one and have to change the Tension on your Quilting Case so you can use it for regular Embroidery? What if you get energetic and decide to clean up and organize in your Sewing Room and you can’t find the blame thing!? (Don’t ask me how I know.) If you have to buy a new Bobbin Case, again, you will know the Magic Tension Number to set your new Bobbin Case’s Tension at so that the second time around will go much more quickly than the first.

Here’s a video from TexmacDirect.com on using the Bobbin Case Tension Gauge:

I hope this answers your question and I hope you enjoy Quilting in the Hoop with your Multi Needle Embroidery Machine as much as I do.



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