Trouble Shooting Longarm Stitching Problems

Nolting Pro Series Longarm

Nolting Pro Series Longarm

Perhaps you have had this experience.  Yesterday, or the last time you quilted on your longarm, everything worked perfectly.  Great tension, no problems.  Today, nothing seems to be working.  I have had this experience, too.  Here is the check list I use for trying to discover the problem and resolve the issue.

Steps For A Good Start To The Quilting Day

  1. Make sure the machine is warmed up.  Run the machine without the thread.  Remove the top thread to before going through the take up lever. Also, remove the bobbin and bobbin case.
  2. Test the stitching on the test area off to the side of the quilt top.  Make all tension adjustments there before quilting on the top.  I usually do test sewing in both the stitch regulated mode and the standard speed mode.
  3. If everything checks out OK, then I start quilting.

Trouble Shooting Problems that Develop While Quilting

If you are quilting along and suddenly things are not right, here is what I do:

  1. Stop quilting as soon as I notice a problem.  I hate frogging (rip-it, rip-it) any more than I have to.
  2. If the problem is obviously a tension issue, I tie off where I am and move to the side of the quilt and go through the steps of re-adjusting the tension after first checking the thread path to make sure it is still through all guides.  If I can not get the tension correct, then I begin looking for other problems.

If you have a stitch regulated machine, run the machine in both the stitch regulated mode and the standard mode in your test area to see if the issue happens in only one mode or both modes.  If is happens in both modes, continue with #1 below.  If it happens only in the stitch regulated mode, skip to #5 below.

  1. Remove the bobbin case and bobbin, check for a thread problem.  Is there a problem with the thread delivery system through the bobbin case, or is the bobbin thread caught in the mechanism in some way?
  2. Check the thread path again from the cone through the needle.  Is the thread caught anywhere around a guide, spool pin, spring, etc?  I usually re-thread the machine just to make sure there are no problems I can not see.
  3. Before replacing the bobbin and top thread I make sure that areas are all cleaned out using canned air.  Perhaps lint is trapped where you can not see it causing the thread to drag.  Oil the bobbin hook area, oil the top of the machine (per manufacture instructions).  Lint is very absorbent, sensitive to humidity and moisture changes.  Keeping your working parts clean and oiled is a must.
  4. A slightly bent needle or one with a burr can cause stitching problems.  Needles are not expensive.  Replace the needle making sure you insert the new one correctly.
  5. Clean off the frame and carriage tracks, make sure there are no threads or clumps of lint causing brief interruptions in wheel contact.
  6. If you have a stitch regulated machine, make sure the encoder wheels that feed information to the computer chip are free of lint, dust, and threads.  Also make sure they are making good contact with the frame.  If the wheels are not touching all of the time, there will be gaps of information sent to the computer ship and you will experience skipped stitches.

Listen, Your Machine Is Talking

Listen to your machine running both without thread and with thread and sewing.  If there is a difference in the sound with the thread and sewing, there is poor stitch quality and the tension is impossible to adjust, try a different combination of threads and see what happens.   For more ideas on this click here.

Preventing Most Longarm Issues

  1. Proper maintenance, including cleaning and oiling.
  2. Frame maintenance, including keeping the frame clean and free of lint, dust and threads.
  3. Encoder maintenance, checking for dust, threads and I wipe mine off with rubbing alcohol to clean.
  4. Always testing sewing before quilting each day.
  5. Test quilting your thread combination before starting to work on your quilt to make sure the combination is compatible.


About Joyce Blowers

I am passionate about quilting - making quilts and quilting quilts. I started quilting about 30 years ago and over the years have taught sewing, heirloom sewing and quilting. I especially enjoy teaching new quilters the fundamentals of quilting that are so necessary to enjoying the art of quilting. As owner of Delightful Quilting & Sewing, a Nolting longarm dealership in New York State, I also enjoy helping new longarm quilting machine owners become confident longarm quilters.
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