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Troubleshooting Tension Issues

What should I do if my tension is messed up?

Try out these tips before making changes to your upper or lower tension. You'll be surprised how many important aspects of sewing can affect your tension! 

Tips for troubleshooting:

  • Change your needle!!! If your needle is bent or has a burr on the it, the needle needs to be changed. You may not be able to visually see a bent needle or burr so it is important that you change your needle on a regular basis, about every 8 hours of sewing.
  • Are you using the correct size needle? Always match the needle you are using with the fabric you are sewing on and the thread being used. 
  • Is your machine threaded properly? One missed step in the threading process can create a huge tension issue, so always double check your threading before making adjusts that may not be needed. Always thread your machine with the presser foot raised so that the tension disks are open.
  • Are you using the same thread on the top and bottom? It is possible to use two different weights of thread while sewing, but you will need to understand how to adjust your tension to achieve a balanced stitch. Using the same thread on top and bottom will make it easier to keep your tension balanced.
  • Is there lint between your tension disks? Lint builds up over time and it is important to clean that lint out on a regular basis because it will cause endless tension issues.

What does a stitch with balanced tension look like?

The top and bottom should look exactly the same when the upper and lower tensions are properly balanced. Think of tension like a tug of war with each side pulling against the other. When an equal amount of force is applied to both the upper and lower thread, the tension will be balanced. When one side has more force than the other, the weaker side will be pulled to the stronger side.

  1. The first example in the picture below demonstrates the upper tension being too loose. The bobbin thread is "winning" the tug of war and pulling the top thread down. To fix this issue, increase your top tension in small increments until you achieve balanced tension.
  2. In the second example, the top tension is too tight. The top thread is "winning" the tug of war and pulling the bobbin thread to the top. To fix this issue, decrease the top tension in small increments until you are satisfied.
  3. The third example shows a stitch with balanced tension. The upper and lower threads are meeting in the middle because an equal amount of force is being applied to each side. The stitching should look exactly the same on the top as it does on the bottom.