With this simple guide, let’s discover how to fix tension-related sewing machine problems. Discover your sewing machine’s quirks by exploring it.
Quilters occasionally hesitate to change the tension on their sewing machines when the stitches aren’t quite right because they’re not sure if doing so will make the problem worse. On the flat/closed side of the bobbin case, you ought to see a tiny screw. The bobbin tension can be adjusted by turning the screw a tiny bit clockwise or counterclockwise.
What you should know about setting and adjusting thread tension dials is given below.
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How to Adjust the Sewing Machine Tension?
There are two different types of tension adjustments: a fundamental adjustment for regular sewing (which you can also perform yourself) and a temporary adjustment required when you switch thread types or sizes, fabrics, or stitching operations.
To make a basic adjustment, select contrasting colors of a thread in the brand, size, and fiber you use most frequently. Fill the bobbin with one color, using a medium-speed setting on the machine to lessen the chance of stretching the thread. If you have that feature, omit threading the eye on the bobbin-case finger and replace the needle with a fresh one in the size you use the most frequently. Thread the machine using all of the thread guides on the head.
Set the stitch length to 2 mm (12 stitches per inch) or the length you anticipate using most frequently. Examine the stitches after sewing a test seam on two layers of lightweight muslin with the upper-tension regulator set to the middle of its range (usually 4 or 5 on most machines).
If necessary, a magnifier can be used to clearly see the stitches. If the tension isn’t perfect, adjust the bobbin spring by making it tighter if the needle thread shows through the underlayer and looser if the bobbin thread does. Repeat this process until the stitch is balanced, then make a second test seam to check the stitches.
Once your stitching is balanced, start a tension log in your sewing machine’s manual, noting the type, size, and brand of your thread as well as the number on the upper-tension regulator that resulted in a stitch that is balanced.
Then, to use as a guide if you need to record a change in bobbin settings for unique threads, draw a picture showing the location of the bobbin screw, similar to the example below.
Temporary Tension Adjustment
To make a temporary tension adjustment, select the threads for the needle and bobbin, then fill the bobbin and thread the machine. Make a test seam on the fabric you intend to sew, inspect the stitches, and then attempt to find a balance by using only the upper-tension assembly.
Every time you change from your regular sewing thread to a different type of thread, thread your sewing machine first and test your setup to see if you can get away with a temporary tension adjustment that only involves the tension dial. If that doesn’t work, take out your second bobbin case and begin turning the screw in quarter-turns to tighten or loosen it as your sample instructs.
The tensions will typically remain balanced even though you use lighter-than-usual thread for both the needle and the bobbin. No adjustment may be required because this is frequently all that is required to prevent puckering in lightweight fabrics. A heavier thread in the top and bottom will increase both tensions, so you’ll likely need to set a lighter tension to accommodate heavier fabrics.
This video explains how to adjust the sewing machine tension:
What to Check Before You Adjust Tension?
Your machine has multiple components to it, so when an error occurs with the thread, it may not always be the tension. Before you start fiddling with the tension of your machine, there are a few other things you should check.
Dirt and Debris
Numerous threads and pieces of fabric pass through your machine; both can leave behind dust and debris. Make sure there aren’t any clogs that need to be cleared out by taking a look around your bobbin.
Every seamstress is aware that not all thread is created equally. If you go to the store, a cheaper thread might seem like a good deal, but trust me, the hassle it will cause is not worth it! Breakage will result from using cheap threads. If your machine is using a subpar thread, replace it with a superior one and check to see if the problems are fixed.
Additionally, it may be extremely difficult to adjust tension if the needle and bobbin contain different kinds and sizes of thread. The bobbin and needle should be made of the same types and sizes whenever possible. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general, this is a good rule to adhere to.
You might not be aware that used needles need to be replaced. Eventually, a needle that is used frequently will lose its sharp tip and require replacement with a blunt needle.
The needle on your machine should be changed frequently. A good rule of thumb is to replace it after using three bobbins of thread, which is roughly every eight hours of sewing.
If your bobbin was wound by hand, it’s possible that it was done unevenly. As a result, you may experience issues with your sewing machine’s tension, resulting in uneven stitches.
Sewing Machine Tension Problems
Here are a few additional potential sewing machine tension issues that you should check if the tension is still off after checking all of the above.
Despite your adjustments, is the tension still off-balance? Check the tensioner springs. These occasionally wear out to the point where they are unable to hold the thread in between their pressed discs. The fix is required if this is the case.
If your thread keeps fraying or breaking, take a look at the upper tension discs. The thread guides can get harmed and they can start to rust a little. Follow the thread’s line and carefully scan it for any debris or damaged areas.
Tension may also be impacted by the machine’s speed. There may be breaks from hypertension if the machine tension is set properly but your machine cannot keep the proper speed. It needs to be fixed or even replaced in this instance.
It’s time to call a technician and have your machine serviced if you’ve looked at everything above and are still experiencing issues.
What Does Sewing Machine Tension Do?
Sewing machine tension, despite the tension it sometimes (ha!) causes, serves a crucial purpose for your machine. As you have probably observed, we tend not to think too much about sewing machine tension until something goes horribly wrong.
Every fabric has a distinctive weave and weight. As a result, as you switch materials, the tension will need to change. Without tension, the fabric and your thread would not be able to feed through the machine properly.
Incorrectly adjusted thread tension is one of the most frequent sewing issues, but adjusting it doesn’t require you to run to a repair shop right away. The type and thickness of the thread being used, the fabric, the stitch pattern, and the needle size will all influence how easy it is to make these adjustments and how frequently you will need to do so.
An instruction manual and a lot of patience are essential. Even the priciest and best sewing machines need additional thread tension adjustments for various fabrics.
Conclusion: Happy Sewing
It will take patience to complete this exercise. While adjusting the tension knobs on your sewing machine, you will need to repeatedly inspect your stitches. When the stitches on the front and back have the same appearance and tension, you have found the perfect combination.
This guide to sewing machine tension is provided in the hope that you will find some useful information.
What Number is Tighter Tension on a Sewing Machine?
When you’re adjusting the upper thread tension on your machine, remember that higher numbers on the dial indicate higher (tighter) tension, and lower numbers indicate lower (looser) tension.
How Do I Know If My Bobbin Tension is Correct?
Pull the thread up quickly. The thread should unwind just slightly and the bobbin case should drop an inch or two. Your bobbin tension is too loose if the thread unravels effortlessly and the case falls to the ground. Your bobbin tension is too tight if the bobbin case doesn’t move.