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Top Tension Tips

Posted: 1 February 2016 at 6 a.m.

Guest blogger, Martha Milne, shares how she adjusts the top tension to get the perfect stitch.

We like to think of the perfect stitch 
as a love affair between the top and bottom threads. 

But no relationship is automatically perfect.

Most sewing machines are pre-set at the factories for sewing garments with a mid-weight thread on mid-weight fabric.  That's fine if you're sewing clothes but what if you're doing something else? If you are quilting multiple layers, stitching heavy or light weight fabric, doing applique, free-motion embroidery or embellishing you may find that the top tension is too tight. 

Here's a good close up showing what the stitching looks like when the top tension is too tight. Notice how the top thread is pulling the bobbin thread up through the fabric layers to the top. You can see this especially around the curves.

Top Tension Too Tight

In the following close up photos you can see skipped stitches as well as the thread shredding and breaking.

Notice how the top pink thread is pulling the bottom red thread to the top.

Top tension too tight

Here you can see how the tight top tension is causing skipped stitches.

Top Tension too tight

Here you can see the thread shredding.

Top Tension Issues

Fixing the too tight top tension is easy. 

Most tension problems are caused by too tight top tension. Learning to loosen the top tension dial will solve the problem. Turn it to the left then do a bit of stitching to see how the adjustment is playing out. If it is still too tight, loosen it a bit more and try stitching again. Keep on loosening the tension dial and checking the stitching until you have the perfect stitch. The perfect stitch is when the top and bottom threads are evenly balanced and meet in the middle. 

Sometimes the top tension is too loose. When this happens the bobbin thread pulls the top thread to the back of the project looking like this...

Top Tension too loose

Once again it's easy for fix the top tension when it's too loose.  Simply turn the dial to the right to tighten the tension.

We like to think of the perfect stitch

as a love affair between the top and bottom thread.

But even the best relationship can turn into a tug of war. 

Balance Tension

Getting your top and bottom threads balanced so they meet in the middle requires a little adjustment. 

Visit Martha’s blog to learn more about her and her company.

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