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Adjusting Tensions on a Home Sewing Machine

Posted: 19 January 2015 at 6 a.m.

Kitchenaid

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?  Truth be told, I have a secret love for kitchen appliances.  I can go to the store and easily spend 45 minutes just looking at the mixers, emulsifiers, and electric can openers.  I enjoy collecting and using the best of the best.  I love all my kitchen appliances, but my all-time favorite is my 6-Quart Bowl-Lift Professional KitchenAid Stand Mixer.

I LOVE THAT THING!   Mixing up cookies, bread dough, salsa, you name it, is an absolute breeze!  My mixer has 10 speed settings.  When I’m making cookies and mixing the butter and sugar, I like to crank it up to an 8 or 9 (but I make sure to keep the cover on so I don’t spray cookie dough all over the kitchen).  If I’m mixing something that could explode a huge mess all over my kitchen like liquids or dry ingredients, I always use speed one.  It wasn’t always this way.  In the beginning, I didn’t know which speed to mix my liquids and ended up experiencing several messes.  Why?  Because I was sure anything and everything could be mixed and turn out splendidly on the middle speed, 5. 

Kitchenaid

Just like my mixer, a home sewing machine comes with different tension settings.  Some machines even come with an automatic tension setting, but does a machine know the difference between a 50 wt cotton and a sensitive, but beautiful 40 wt. Metallic?
Answer:  it doesn’t.  

For example, if your tension has a scale of 0-9, with 0 being the loosest and 9 the tightest, most machines are pre-set at a 5.  This works well for standard 50 wt polyester, but would be too tight for a 40 wt Metallic thread. Because Metallic threads are more sensitive to higher-tensions, a 5 would most likely result in broken thread or poor stitches.  The most common tension range we recommend with our threads is a 3.0-4.0, which requires us to adjust our top tension a bit.

If you experience thread breakage, the bobbin thread being pulled to the top of your fabric, untwisting of the thread, or feel your blood pressure rising due to any other thread issue, the first step is to lower that top tension!  Do it.  You have permission.  I promise it will not ruin your machine. The best part about tensions on home machines is the tension setting is numbered. You can always go back to a previous setting.

It took me a little practice with my mixer to get over wanting to blend everything at a 5, but I now know what mixes best on what speed setting.  Similarly, once you practice loosening your top tension based on your thread type and see how easy it is to achieve the perfect stitch, you’ll find joy in sewing with a variety of beautiful stitch-worthy threads.

Our Thread Reference Guide offers the recommended top tension setting along with the needle size for each of our Superior Threads.

Questions about thread tensions or mixing?  I’d be happy to answer.

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Comments

  • 1. Rachel (20 January 2015 at 7:19 a.m.)

    Love my mixer too! Great analogy. You always provide the BEST thread and education!

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