TOWA Gauge

Disclaimer: Dear family & non-long arm quilting friends, you might find this post tedious & dull. I apologize, but don’t worry, there’s more non-serious stuff coming up soon.

There’s been discussion on a long arm list about tension. Well, actually there’s ALWAYS discussion around tension. It’s a bit of a pain. And a bit of a learning curve. Back in October, I had the chance to go to AQS Des Moines & take some long arm classes. (If you ever have the chance to go to an AQS show, go, Go, GO!!!! You will NOT regret it!)

I ended up taking all my classes from Renae Haddadin, a long arm goddess. She talked about tension & showed everyone the TOWA Gauge. After hearing her wonderful reviews, I went straight home & ordered it from the Calico Kitten. Best $70 I ever spent! Here’s mine:
Looks kinda crazy & if I wasn’t shown how to use it, I would still be in it’s box.
So let me back up some. What exactly IS a TOWA gauge? It’s a cool little gadget that ‘measures’ the tension in your bobbin. This way, once you know your ‘happy’ tension, every time you change bobbin threads, you can measure them & get them all in the same area.
So here’s my gauge with the bobbin case it. You need to wind the bobbin in the case like you would load it into the long arm. Then you wind it around the knobs & when you bring the thread to the far left, you can see that dial comes up with a measurement. I’ve found that my happy place it about 250.
If you need to make adjustments, put your bobbin case screwdriver like so on the side:
Turn Clockwise to make tighter & Counter Clockwise to make looser.
Now when should you do this? Personally, I do this every time I put a new bobbin in the case.
Why? Tension is very fickle. Especially on long arms. So I’ve found it best to think of every bobbin as a new bobbin. To me, it doesn’t matter if I’ve used that thread before, anything number of things could have happened to the bobbin to make things change.
Like what? You could have wound this bobbin looser than the previous one (and vice versa). You could have used an actual different bobbin (bobbins as I’ve discovered are NOT created equal & do in fact, go bad). There could be a microscopic piece of lint in your bobbin case. See where I’m going with this? Basically any teeny tiny variation is going to cause differences.
So in order to relieve one bit of pressure associated with long arm quilting, I measure every bobbin in the TOWA gauge.
I hoped this helped you! If you have more questions, e-mail me at

2 thoughts on “TOWA Gauge

  1. Hi! I too just bought one of these. I just don’t know what my “happy tension” is yet. I find it very exciting because messing with the tension is the number one reason why I walk away from my quilting/sewing.

  2. Thank you for the informative and extremely helpful post! When they occur, tension issues drive me nuts and frustrate me to no end, and as you stated, tension can change with the change of a bobbin. I definitely need to get one of these, find my machine’s sweet spot, and spend more time quilting!

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