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General Questions and Answers regarding Machine Tension

stitching close up

Q. Can I rely on the automatic tension system to adjust the top tension?
A. If you use different threads, fiber types, and sizes, your automatic tension setting most likely will not be adequate to adjust properly for all situations. Learning to manually adjust an auto-tensioned machine is very important when using a variety of threads. (Especially when it comes to sewing, quilting, or embroidering with Metallic threads.)

Q. How do I know when the top tension is too loose?
A. The top thread loops on the back. You may also get what is called a 'birds nest', where there is a lot of your top thread bunched up on the back.

Q. How do I know when the top tension is too tight?
A. Although the following may not be directly related to the tension setting in every case, these are the common symptoms: thread breakage, thread shredding or fraying, seeing a lot of lint from a high quality thread, and/or feeling excessive resistance when pulling the thread through the needle. Make sure you also check the needle size because these symptoms are also related to using too-small of a needle.

Q. Do some threads require looser tension settings even though they are not a heavy (thicker) thread?
A. Yes, especially metallic threads, hologram threads, and other sensitive threads.

Q. Is it necessary to adjust the bobbin tension? 
A. Sometimes, but not nearly as often as the top tension. If a good bobbin thread is breaking, check the bobbin tension.  It might be too tight. 

Q. It seems like the top tension doesn’t change even though I adjust the setting. Why?
A. There might be lint or debris caught between or behind the tension discs prohibiting them from opening and closing properly. 
Q. Can you help me reduce the tension and stress in my life?
A. Yes.  Have a grandchild.  Or buy lots of fabric and thread.

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By: Bob Purcell