Jukebox Quilts Blog

Checking and Adjusting Your Needle Bar Height

Summary:

Prior to doing ANYTHING with your timing, it is absolutely necessary to check the needle bar height. The needle bar is the long cylinder that holds your needle. Provided the needle is seated in it properly (the needle is not backwards, not slightly rotated, and/or not fully inserted) this is the first check and adjustment made before anything else. If you time the hook to a needle that is not inserted fully into the bar, you’ve wasted your time (no pun intended). The next needle might be seated properly, but now the needle will be too high, resulting in the hook hitting the scarf too low, skipped or broken stitches, potential hook damage and general frustration.

(For a PDF version of this post Click Here)

What you’ll see if it’s incorrect:

Incorrect needle bar height can look like incorrect timing. You might hear a ticking noise (needle is in backward, is too low or too high) and see skipped stitches or be unable to draw up the bobbin thread consistently. There can also be frequent thread breaks or your needle can heat up due to increased friction. In extreme cases, you might also see damage to your anti-backlash spring from the needle actually coming into contact with it.

What causes it to move?

The most common issue is that you didn’t seat the needle correctly. If your needle bar is older, it might have been drilled to handle Singer needles, which are no longer available. Singer has been acquired by Groz-Beckert, and those needles have been discontinued. The G-B needles work great, but their shaft is slightly larger.

Sometimes, you can use a small drill bit and hand turn it in the needle bar to remove any small burrs, allowing the needle to be inserted without difficulty. If it is still tight or you have grip problems, you can use a pair of needle nose pliers covered in felt to push the needle all of the way in. Hold the needle on the smooth shaft – not where the vertical slot is that runs down the lower portion of the front of the needle. You can damage this, which would lead to thread breaks and further problems.

You’ll know the needle is all of the way in if you look through the small hole above your needle set screw. The top of the needle should be seated at the top of the hole. If you can see space above the needle, it is not properly seated.

If the needle is so tight you can’t seat it properly, you might need a new needle bar. These are not terribly expensive, but the work should be done by your dealer. The older needle bars were heavier and longer, and you might find you really like the newer shorter aluminum versions. Changing them can eliminate a lot of vibration at the front of the machine.

Other causes of the needle bar no longer being at the right height include the collar and screw that hold it in place not being as tight as possible, or you might have hit a stack of seams, layers of fusibles, pin, needle plate (if your needle was deflected into the plate while sewing) or something else that jammed the needle bar out of position. Thick seams and other obstructions can also cause it to be lower if the needle was stuck down, and the machine tried to yank the needle bar up. This is one of those screws that needs to be very tight to prevent movement either way.

Needle showing through hole above needle set screw. The top of the needle is firmly and visibly seated at the top of the hole.
The needle is in properly – note that there is a vertical channel along the front of the needle.

 

Tools that you’ll need:
-Flat head screwdriver (with sharp tip)
-New needle
-Needle alignment magnet (optional)
-Small screwdriver or Allen wrench to replace your needle
-Flashlight

How to set it correctly:
Step 1
Put in a new needle. Make sure it is in appropriately
and properly seated. Use a needle alignment magnet to
make sure the needle is in perfectly straight.

Needle alignment magnet showing needle is in proper position (left). Needle in the lowest position (right).

 

Step 2
Remove the bobbin case. Lower the needle to the lowest possible position. Using the flashlight (and your reading glasses, if needed) look straight into the bobbin area. This is important! You want your eye to be perfectly level with the eye of the needle. On the new sit or stand tables, the belly bar might be in your line of vision. Tilt it outward and hold it in place with the pin on the right side of the frame. Now, you can look above the belly bar and be at the correct angle. Again, check that the needle is in it’s lowest position.

 

The pivotal access in the normal position on the sit or stand tables on the left, on the right is it tilted outward and held in place by the pin for the best view of the bobbin area.

 

In the image on the left, the needle bar is too high, it’s perfect in the center, and on the right it is too low.

You should be able to see 95 percent of the eye of the needle. If you see the top edge of the eye, the needle bar is down too far. To see this, look for the flashlight to reflect on the metal at the top of the eye. If you don’t see nearly all of eye, the needle bar isn’t down far enough.

Step 3

If the needle bar isn’t set correctly, you’ll need to adjust it. To do this, remove the plug in the front of the machine to expose the hole where you can access the screw holding the needle bar in place. If you have a plus machine, you’ll need to remove the front display. On a Vision, remove the module to get to this hole (there may not be a plug in these machines). In the image on the left, the needle bar is too high, it’s perfect in the center, and on the right, it is too low.

The plug shown is on a Statler, when the plug is removed, you can see the screw that holds the needle bar in place.

 

Remove the front display on a Plus machine by removing the Allen screws shown by the arrows in the image on the left. On the Visions (right), you’ll remove a plug, and you can see the screw holding the needle bar. Use EXTREME caution to make sure you don’t allow your screwdriver to touch the contacts indicated by the red arrow.

 

Hold the needle bar in place with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant hand, turn the screw counterclockwise just until the needle bar will rotate. Tighten it slightly to prevent the needle bar from moving freely, or worse, dropping. (Caution: if you loosen the screw too far, and take your hand off the needle bar, the bar can slip down and out of the collar that holds it in place. If that happens, you might want to speak with your dealer to get it back in the proper position.)

CAUTION: IF YOU ARE WORKING ON A VISION, DO NOT ALLOW THE SCREWDRIVER TO REST ON THE MODULE CONTACTS!!! THIS CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR MACHINE!

 

With the plate on the left of the machine removed, this is an image of the collar that holds the needle bar in place. Note that the screw is to the left of the needle bar (in this photo the screw is shown with the red arrow and the needle bar with the yellow). If you drop the needle bar, it will need to be returned to this position.

Now, this is where you’ll need a third hand unless your light can be positioned to shine in place without you holding it. Drop to where you’re looking at the eye of the needle while your screwdriver is still held in place in the screw with one hand, and your other hand is holding the needle bar. Loosen the screw and position the needle bar in the proper place. Tighten the screw. Double check the placement, then really tighten the screw securely.

Hint: this is a great time to have someone assist you. If you can adjust the needle bar and hold the light, the second person can tighten the screw.

Step 4

Replace the bobbin case/bobbin and thread the top of the machine. Hold the thread under the foot at 9 o’clock. Turn the hand wheel clockwise and pull up the bobbin thread. Take a few stitches to make sure that the hook is grabbing the top thread and is completing a stitch.

Step 5

Put a fabric sandwich on and test the stitch by hand turning the wheel. If satisfied, double check that the screw is tight and replace the rubber plug (or the display on Plus machines, or module on Visions). If your plug is loose, you can get an inexpensive replacement from your dealer. Sometimes oil can cause them to shrink. Turn on the machine and test the stitch. If you are still getting skipped stitches or thread breaks, the timing might truly be incorrect. Only after you have confirmed that the needle bar is correct should you ever attempt to adjust the timing.

(For a PDF version of this post Click Here)

Quirky Quilter’s Happy Hour for 2017

Back by popular demand, it’s the Quirky Quilter’s Happy Hour!

Join us the first Thursday of every month, starting in February and going through November of 2017, from 5-7pm. Each session is $10, and we’ll have wine, beer, non-alcoholic drinks and light appetizers.

We will have a show and tell, and then have demos and informal presentations. We’re planning on sharing fun techniques like fabric dying, painting, hand embroidery and other art/embellishment techniques to add to your tool box.

We’ll also show some great basic tricks and tools that you can use in any quilt project. All skill levels and quilting preferences/styles welcomed, this is a place for encouragement and inspiration. All fun, no rules, and great company! Doesn’t get any better than that!

Sockhop 2017

2017 Sockhop
Statler Owner Classes at Kelly’s

Each session goes from noon to 3.

We’ve clearly heard you that you enjoy these meetings and want them to continue! We will be trying something a little new this next year. This year’s meetings will be all about challenging you to build your skills. Every meeting will have show and tell, question and answers, troubleshooting, CS demos, and networking with fellow Statler owners.

You can attend meetings for the year for a $60 membership, or you can choose a $110 membership, and at the end of the year, you’ll receive $150 worth of free patterns for your Statler. All new owners get one year ($110) membership free. If you purchase after July, you’ll be able to attend sessions through the following year, but will get only the free patterns the calendar year you purchased your machine.

Registration for Meetings Only:Register Meetings Only.

Registration for Full Sockhop: Full Membership Sockhop.

Session 1 Saturday, March 4th

Discussion about our “Quilt as Desired” Challenge. You’ll be given a simple wallhanging pattern to make on your own in batiks or solids (so the quilting really shows!). We’ll have a few kits available to purchase, or use your own fabrics, and we challenge you to quilt it as you like! Bring it back to Session 3 for a little friendly competition. Seeing the same quilt quilted in a variety of ways is great fun and super educational!

Session 2 Saturday, April 1st

CS 7.0 – What’s New and Wonderful! Learn all about the soon to be released new software. Our challenge for you for this month is to bring in a quilt that showcases a creative and effective use of E2E, B2B or P2P.

Session 3 Saturday, May 20th

Quilt as Desired Quilt Show and awards. Those bringing a finished quilt back will all get an “award,” plus additional awards will be given for some fun categories we’ll tell you about at Session 1. We’ll ask some of you to explain the processes you used and to offer any tidbits to others to help everyone build new skills. We’ll also ask to borrow your quilt until Session 4 for a shop display!

Session 4 Saturday August 5th
“Cooking” Challenge – we’ll review pattern editing and drawing in Creative Studio, giving you all the same basic ingredients and kitchen tools for you to go home and whip up your own creation. Using the zillions of free patterns and powerful CS features, you’ll be challenged to chop up and mix new designs for a wholecloth wallhanging for session 5. Email us the new patterns you created (using only the free ones available), and we’ll distribute them all to the members of this group!

Session 5 Saturday Oct. 7th

Cooking Challenge Reveal. Just as in Session 3, we’ll have everyone share techniques and cooking secrets. We’ll also teach a few fun projects that can be used for quick gifts to get a little ahead for the holidays. We’d love to display your quilts for this until Session 6.

Session 6 Saturday Nov. 4th

Topic to be determined by the group – you can let us know if you want a guest presenter or to focus on a certain topic. We’ll be asking you about this throughout the year, so start brainstorming!

**If weather or any other unplanned events require us to change the dates, we’ll let you know as soon as possible. Disclaimer – although we think these dates will work, sometimes things pop up that might require they change. Please watch for these announcements in newsletters and emails!

Preparing Your Quilt to be Quilted at Jukebox Quilts

We have visitors all the time to Jukebox Quilts, long-time friends and new faces. For those of you new to Jukebox Quilts and our longarm quilting services we’ve created a small “To Do” list for you so that when you come in to quilt with us you’re ready! Follow the checklist and you’ll save time and money on your next quilting project.

Press the top, and stay stitch any pieced edges for stability (⅛” from the raw edge so that thte stay stitching will be covered by the binding). To prevent wrinkling, fold the quilt in accordion folds that are parallel to the top and bottom of the quilt. Hang this over a padded coat hanger (to make: wrap some extra batting around the hanger).

Your batting and backing will need to be 8” wider and longer than your top (for 4” all the way around). We have a variety of batting at the shop for very good prices, if needed. Press the backing, and hang as for the top. Folding the top and backing in accordion folds parallel to the top and bottom edges will ensure that these folds will be released because of the tension of the rails of the machine. (If you discussed with one of the quilters to put your quilt on sideways, you will accordion fold parallel to the side edges.) It should be noted that many people bring along snacks and beverages because some sessions can run 2hrs and up. Feel free to bring a lunch or a book for any downtime you may have during your visit. We have a refrigerator as well as a microwave should you need it during your time at Jukebox Quilts!

Checklist
_Top and backing is pressed and clean

_Top and backing are accurately squared

_Backing and batting are at least 8” larger than the quilt top

_Top edges of backing and batting are marked

_Drape over padded hangers to prevent wrinkles

_Consider theme, designs and patterns for the quilting – digital stitching.

Checking and Setting Your Gammill Needle Bar Height

Occassionally skipped stitches are caused because the needle bar has been knocked out of position by heavy silk screens, thick seams, hitting something like a pin (or worse, scissors).  Make sure the needle is properly seated by looking in the small hole on the side of the needlebar, then check the position of the needle bar with this document:  checking-and-setting-your-needle-bar-height

This should always be done prior to touching your timing!  Call us if you have questions!

Attaching Your Squiggle Thread Guide

The squiggle thread guide helps to feed your thread in smoothly and is the last thread guide before the needle. Jukebox Quilts has squiggle guides for sale here. Study the photos for orientation of the squiggle guide. You want the long tail to point towards the upper right side of your machine while the short end of the squiggle guide points directly towards the needle.

squiggle-guide

squiggle-closeup

Laser Cut Fabric and Laser Cut Kits at Jukebox Quilts

Did you know that we have a laser cutter at Jukebox Quilts? We have an Epilog Laser Helix system. We love this new technology and have used it on several of our newest quilting and appliqué projects. Put simply, a laser cutter allows us to make precision cut fabric in less time and laser cut fabric pieces come out perfect every time.  We have begun to create laser cut quilt kits and what this means for you is less work and more fun because we pre-fuse our appliqué kits! When piecing, the cuts enable for perfect quick piecing and our appliqué elements are pre-cut and pre-fused. Once you’ve decided on placement, all that’s needed is a bit of ironing. Aside from appliqué, the laser cutter allows us to develop more interesting, complex and beautiful quilt patterns. We end up saving all sorts of time and can finally give our rotary cutters a break! We have several laser cut fabric quilt kits available in our shop as well as online.

Laser cut bat quilt

Laser cut quilt kits

Moving a Gammill Statler Machine

Getting ready to relocate?  Here’s a document on how to best pack up your machine. There is no need to take it apart too far, it just adds time for the dealer you’re going to call to have it set back up.  Notice we don’t include information on that part of the process. We found that when we did, a few couples nearly ended up divorced.  It’s super important to reassemble things perfectly, so might be worth the money to have your dealer drop by for a few hours.

Moving your Gammill Statler

 

What if the power goes out while I’m using my Statler?

As for power losses while sewing, here is what I understand the current recommendations are from Statler:  it is fine to have your computer, speakers, etc. on a battery backup unit, but not the controller.  It should be on a high quality surge protector.  If the power goes off, save your project in the computer (you’ll need to do a relocate later), turn things off and unplug everything.  After the power is back on plug everything in and restart.  We deal with areas prone to surges and lightning strikes.  If you live in an area like this, it might be good to keep your machine unplugged when not in use.

Repairing or Replacing your Front Tension Assembly on your Gammill

Did you know that there are two ways the front tension assembly affect your tension?  The resistance on the windowed wheel is affected by the white knob, but there is a separate amount of tension created by the check spring tension.  You might find a few helpful hints and feel more comfortable making the adjustments after viewing this video.  For an extra front tension assembly, click here or you can purchase felt pads, a check spring, or a lightweight cone spring.  We always prefer the light weight spring as it enables you to have finer control over the tension.

 

Identifying Your Bobbin Case: Selecting the Proper Antibacklash Spring

Antibacklash spring types copy IMG_0378

Bobbin antibacklash springs are not interchangeable!  Here’s how to tell which you need:

Hold the case like a letter C, with the opening on the right.  Tilt it and look at the slot position.  If it is a smaller slot closer to the finger that holds the bobbin in place when you hold out the hinged “door,” you need the football style antibacklash spring, shown above in the case on the left.  If the slot is wide and the distance greater, like shown in the first photo on the second case, you’ll need a circular spring, also known as an older style spring shown in the second photo on the right.

Skipped Stitches: How to determine the cause and fix

Q:  I’m getting skipped stitches on my Gammill.  What can be wrong with my machine?

A:  Before being able to resolve this, you need to answer a few other questions:

1.  Is this happening while you’re in regulated mode doing free motion with the belts dropped (Statler).

2.  Is it only on horizontal lines, or on vertical lines?

3.  Are there needle penetrations, but the stitch does not form, or does the needle hesitate and not go into the fabric?

4.  Have you recently completed a quilt with thick seams or silkscreens (Tshirt quilt), or did you hit a pin or other hard object?

Did you just change the needle?

If you’re in regulated mode, and the stitches are skipping in only one direction (vertical or horizontal) you have a cracked or missing encoder.  If they’re skipping vertically, it’s the encoder of your Y axis, located on the crosstrack near the back right handle.  If it’s horizontal, it’s your X encoder, located against the long back table track or on older machines, it rides on top of the back right wheel of the cross track.  Carefully replace it, as you don’t want to bend the shaft of the encoder.  To replace it on the older machines, it is best to prop the crosstrack up on some books and remove the outer wheel to access the encoder.  DO NOT force it down past the wheel or you’ll damage it.  There is more about encoder rings in one of my previous blogs.

If you are skipping in both directions with needle penetrations, and you’re recently changed your needle, the needle might not be properly seated.  There is a small hole opposite the needle set screw that you can look in – make sure the needle is seated all the way in the needle bar.  Also, if you’ve switched to a thinner needle, your needle might be flexing away from the hook while the machine is traveling.  I recommend sticking with size 4 needles (18s) as this is what the machines are generally timed to.

If your belts are attached and you are in computerized mode, and it’s skipping WITH stitch penetrations, your needle bar might have been jarred out of place by stitching multiple seams or hitting something, or Tshirt quilts with lots of thick silk screens can knock it out of position.  You’ll need to adjust your needle bar height.  For information about how to check this and make an adjustment, click here.

If the needle is hesitating and not penetrating, it’s skipping stitches in both directions and your needle bar is in the correct place with the needle properly seated, your motor belt may be slipping or need replacement.  The tension on it will need to be properly adjusted by raising the motor slightly.  Do not over tighten the belt.

Whatever you do, don’t assume that the timing is off.  Chances are great that it’s one of the above issues and the timing rarely go out – the last thing you should do is attempt to retime the machine, so for the sake of your own sanity, step away from the screwdriver!