Tension perfection is a breeze with the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby 90

I’m back this week with a brand-new sewing and embroidery machine, and I’m so excited. This week, I’m introducing you to the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby 90.

Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby 90

I’ve got some great embroidery ideas planned for this week, but we’re also going to focus on the basics. Over and over again, I get questions about sewing machine tension. What is tension, and how do I adjust it? How should the stitches look? Etc. So, today is all about the sewing machine tension, and tomorrow, we’ll explore the deLuxe Stitch System, which is another method of thread delivery than the traditional tension disks!

Before we get to that discussion, let’s have a quick tour of the Function Panel on the Designer Ruby 90. The Function Panel is located just above the needle in two sections.

The Function Panel on the left side of the needle

The Function Panel on the left includes the Automatic Needle Threader – you’ll love this feature. Even though there’s plenty of room to work around the needle due to the size of the Designer Ruby 90, you’re going to love the Automatic Needle Threader. If you have many thread changes, this is super handy.

Then there’s the Stitch Restart button, which is invaluable when doing decorative stitches. After doing your test stitches, push that function to return your stitch to the starting point. You’ll never start part-way through a stitch sequence again!

The speed control has five settings. I frequently use it to slow down the sewing machine when doing dense areas of embroidery and staying in control when doing decorative stitches. Or you may want to use it to control your speed when doing free motion quilting.

The Designer Ruby 90 is lit with super bright LED lights that eliminate any shadow from the work surface surrounding the needle. However, there might be times when you need to dim those lights, like early in the morning when no one is ready for bright light. It’s easy to turn the lights up or turn them down, right on the Function Panel.

The last button in this section is the START/STOP button. It’s huge, so you’ll always find it quickly. Use this function in conjunction with the speed control for staying perfectly in control.

The Function Panel on the right side of the needle

The Function Panel to the right has more of the essential operating functions of the Designer Ruby 90.

  • The FIX button ties off a stitch whenever you engage it. Use it at the beginning or at the end of a row of stitching. I especially love it for applique as it secures the ends of my applique stitches.
  • The STOP function is great to conclude a decorative stitch sequence. No guessing required!
  • To the right are the Presser foot up and extra lift and the Presser foot down and pivot These two functions allow you to raise and lower the presser foot manually. They are invaluable to many types of stitching, but I especially love them for applique and free motion quilting. When they are used in conjunction with the Needle Stop Up/Down button, this feature is fabulous.
  • The Needle Stop Up/Down works like a charm to keep your work in place when free motion quilting, pivoting for applique, and a whole lot of other applications.
  • Use the CUT function to cut your top and bottom threads. That also resets the fix function to automatically tie off the stitch when restarting your next line of stitching.
  • And lastly, there’s the Reverse

That’s a whole lot of functions, right at your fingertips. I’ve given you a very brief overview of what those functions can do. Some of them have the flexibility in how you use them, which is awesome! And I especially love the silver color of those buttons. It’s a small detail, but I love it!

Let’s talk about the built-in help. The Designer Ruby 90 has the JoyOS Advisor, which provides tutorials, videos, a built-in User Guide, assistance with setting up for a particular task, and a whole lot more.

I’ve got a short video for you that shows the JoyOs Advisor in action. This first video briefly explains the Knowledge Center within the JoyOS Advisor. Here you’ll get tutorials on the basic operations of the machine, threading the needle, winding a bobbin, etc. Take a look.

Isn’t that just the best? It’s so easy to select a tutorial, and I can watch it over and over again. I didn’t mention it in the video, but from whichever screen you’re in on the Designer Ruby 90, you can return to the JoyOS Advisor by selecting the large button at the top of the screen.

Now that the Designer Ruby 90 is threaded, let’s take a quick peek at how the JoyOS Advisor helps to set up the tension and select the proper stitch, depending on what type of sewing you want to do. Here’s a short video that shows how easy this is.

Wow – that’s so exciting. The Designer Ruby 90 does all the setup work for me. I make a couple of choices, and it does all the hard work. I love it!!

Now that we’re in the sewing mode screen, there are many numbers and symbols on the screen, and I’m not sure what they are. No worries!! Let’s look at how valuable the Quick Help tool is to identify the elements on the screen.

That’s amazing! I love the Quick Help, and I regularly use this feature to get the appropriate name of the function or access the built-in User’s Guide.

Speaking of the User’s Guide, did you know that the entire guide is accessible on the screen of the Designer Ruby 90? Yes – it is. And it’s just the best. And did you know that there are multiple ways to access the User’s Guide? Let’s take a look at this short video to show you what I mean.

That’s super impressive. So even if you’re a paper person and need that physical User’s Guide, you often don’t even know the name of the feature in question. By using the Quick Help on the screen, you at least know the name of the function you need to explore! But it’s so much easier to access the User’s Guide right on the screen.

I know that we don’t always want to sit down and browse through a User’s Guide, but I would suggest that you sit down at your machine one day and spend some time using the Quick Help to explore the many areas of the multiple screens. If you do that for a few minutes before you start to sew, you’ll very quickly learn all the great features you have available to you.

Now let’s get back to basics. You’ll find the tension dial on a mechanical sewing machine just above the needle.

The tension dial on the Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116

I swear that someone put the fear of God into people about touching the tension on their sewing machine. Whether someone has a mechanical or computerized sewing machine, many people don’t know where the tension control is, and they’re afraid to touch it.

I prefer not to touch the tension in the bobbin case unless I have a second bobbin case. If you do get a second bobbin case, be sure to mark it somehow so that you don’t get it mixed up with your good one. You can almost always fix the tension by playing with the top tension.

Today, I have a small exercise for you to become super savvy about sewing machine tension. Why is this important? Especially if you have auto-tension on your sewing machine? You may want to use different thread weights, try unusual fabrics, or the tension needs tweaking. It’s essential to understand this, so make sure you do this exercise.

To start, this is the diagram on tension from the Designer Ruby 90 User’s Guide. It’s in the physical manual, as well as in the built-in one, so you can never say you don’t know where to find it. Have a good look at the three scenarios to know what is happening and how to adjust the tension if something is wrong.

A tension guide from the User’s Guide

Essentially the correct tension is when the stitch is formed right in the middle of your fabric. If the top thread is running flat along the top of your project and you can see dots of the bobbin thread, then the top tension is too tight. And if the top thread is being pulled to the back, then the top tension is too loose. See how we discussed the issue with tension relative to the top thread only?

OK – so here’s the exercise. Get yourself a piece of fabric – muslin or other solid fabric works best. Get something that you can use to write on the material with, and different color threads for the top and the bobbin, preferably a different color than your fabric.

Supplies to test the tension on the sewing machine

Let’s have a look at the screen in sewing mode. I used the JoyOS Advisor to select Woven Medium as the fabric type and weight, and chose the seam technique. The JoyOS Advisor chose the traditional tension disks as the optimal thread delivery method. More on this tomorrow.

In sewing mode, the screen shows us the settings chosen by the JoyOS Advisor on the Designer Ruby 90.  The default tension setting is 4.6. Notice that the 4.6 is black, which indicates the default setting.

The default settings for a straight seam using a woven medium weight fabric

If I change the default tension, the number turns green. You have to love the flexibility here!

The tension is at 9.8, which is now green as it’s no longer the default

Tension on a computerized sewing machine, using traditional tension disks, ranges from 0.0 to 9.9. The numbers on the dial of a mechanical sewing machine range from 0 – 9.

So, what does this mean? Well, zero means there is zero tension on the top thread. Nothing! The number is sitting at 9.8, as shown in the photo above; the top tension is as tight as it can be.

The best way to understand this is to stitch out several rows of stitching and change the tension each time. Trust me – it doesn’t take long to do!

Use two layers of fabric as you rarely sew with just one layer of fabric. Set the tension to the highest number and stitch a straight line on your fabric.

Then drop the tension down to 8.0 and stitch another line. Continue lowering the tension by a whole number until you get to zero. Make sure to write down the tension setting for each row.

Lines of stitching to test the tension

You can see in this example how the fabric pulls when the top tension is set high. And you can feel that the fabric is stiff and the thread is prickly. It’s not a good feeling. As the top tension decreases, the thread becomes more relaxed, the fabric lies smoother, and the overall feel is softer. As the top tension decreases to zero, we see more looping on the top of the fabric.

Let’s say that you’re not 100% happy with 4.0, so you try 5.0. Still not happy? You can fine-tune between 4.0 and 5.0 to find a setting that works for you.

Now let’s have a look at the back. Oh boy— look what happened when there was zero tension or a very low tension on that top thread. It’s not pretty, and you know tension like that will not hold your quilt together. It gets progressively better, and by the fifth line (which is very close to the default setting), the stitching looks fine on the front and the back.

Very poor tension when the tension is set to zero or close to zero

Here’s the other half of the back of my sample. I couldn’t even stitch with the top tension at 9.0. I could sew for about one inch, and then the thread broke. I tried it several times. Not pretty, but now I know!

The back of the sample playing with thread tension

So, this is an excellent exercise to undertake. This kind of ‘play’ will make you a better sewist, and it’ll make you appreciate how valuable a tool the JoyOS Advisor is. Keep in mind that you can override the JoyOS Advisor whenever you need to – whether you work with different thread weights or you need to tweak the tension.

Here’s the beauty of working with the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby 90. While it’s good to know all about the tension and how to adjust it, I don’t think I’ve had to change the tension once. The JoyOS Advisor did all the work, and I just selected the fabric and technique. The tension is so good that I can sew black fabric using white thread.  I don’t need to change the thread color, and it’s not visible from the front. That’s worth every penny of this sewing machine!

So far, I love the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby 90. There’s so much more to explore with sewing, embroidery, and some very cool technology. Be sure to come back to see how this new technology is making us even better sewists.

Have a great day!


This is part 1 of 5 in this series

Go to part 2: Wi-Fi features on the HV Designer Ruby 90 plus more tension tips

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1 comment

Jean Melching July 28, 2021 - 12:34 pm
I have had my Epic for 5 years and did not know some of the things you talked about here. Yes, they might have been on YouTube, but I like your comments in between the videos. Thanks!
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