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Tension Trouble

Does this image strike panic in your heart? I’m sure you’ve had a time or two that your machine was acting up and you couldn't figure out what in the world was wrong. Or worse, you were well into your piecing when you realized your tension was a mess and it compromised everything you’d just done! Ugh! Let’s not do that anymore :) Here are a couple of tips to help.

The first thing to do when troubleshooting tension issues is to rethread your machine top to bottom. Take out the top thread, and start over making sure the thread snaps between the tension plates.

If you lower the presser foot and give the thread a little tug, it should be hard to move (lowering the presser foot engages the tension plates. As long as the presser foot is up, the plates will be separated. This is easy to forget if you are free-motion quilting). If it doesn’t give you some resistance, then it is not in between the plates.

On some machines, you can see the plates on the tension knob like this one, but most machines these days have them buried behind a cover. In this case, you can “floss” the dial by feel to make sure the thread is settled in nicely.

Next, make sure the thread is through the take-up lever. If the thread misses this or slips out during sewing, you will have a snarling mess to deal with and your machine might make the most awful sound! These images show the take-up lever on two different styles of machines.

Now, to rethread the bobbin. For a drop-in bobbin machine, you will make sure the thread snaps into the tension slot and then pull it out to the left. As you pull the thread, it should spin counter clockwise (if it doesn’t it is in upside down).

For a front load bobbin, make sure the thread snaps through the tension slot and out the hole in the top of the bobbin case. When you are looking at the back of the bobbin case and tug the thread, the bobbin should spin clockwise.

Lastly, make sure your tension is set on an average setting (most machines this is between 3-5). Of course, if you are using thicker thread you might have to go lighter on the tension. Also, make sure your needle is big enough to get the thread through the fabric; a common tension issue is caused by the needle punching too small a hole for the thread making the machine skip stitches or shred the thread. Here is an infographic I did a while back that will help you with basic needle info.

I sure hope this helps!! Let me know what you think.

Happy Sunday everyone!


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