How To Adjust Tension On Babylock Sewing Machine

Background Information

Adjusting the tension on a sewing machine ensures it runs smoothly and prevents fabric damage. Many machines, such as the Baby Lock machines, feature a tension adjustment knob to allow sewers to regulate the thread tension between stitches. Poorly adjusted tension can cause skipped stitches, puckers, loops and fraying. Every sewing machine requires its own specific tension settings, and owners should refer to the user manual to adjust their Baby Lock machines correctly.

General Adjustment Technique

Changing the tension of a sewing machine is a straightforward process. Most Baby Lock machines provide an adjustable knob near the front right-hand side of the machine. To adjust the tension, take a test fabric scrap and sew a row of stitches at the factory-recommended setting. The fabric should be the same type that will ultimately be used for the sewing project. Check the back of the fabric for tension irregularities. If small loops or thread gather appear on the back of the fabric, the tension needs to increase. To increase the tension, twist the tension knob to the right.
To check if the tension needs to be reduced, look for tunneling or puckering on the front of the fabric and trace the thread from the needle to the bobbin case on the back of the fabric. If the thread appears too loose, gently twist the tension knob to the left to reduce the tension.

Factors Affecting the Tension Settings

Different fabric and thread choices can affect the ideal tension setting. Thread weight and fiber type influence the tension adjustment, and thick threads require more tension than thin ones. Different fabric types and fibers often need different tension settings; lightweight fabrics require more tension than thick, heavy fabrics.
The needle size should also play a factor. Threaded needles that are too small, too large or too old can also cause tension problems. An old needle is usually more worn, causing the thread to slip out, causing tension irregularities and skipped stitches.
Owners must also consider the type of stitch they’re using. Most sewing machines offer a variety of stitch options such as stretch and zigzag. These stitches require different tension settings than normal straight stitches.

Testing the Tension

After making a tension adjustment, it’s important to check the stitches again. Sew another line of stitches using the scrap fabric, and check both sides of the fabric. It may be necessary to sharpen the needle after the adjustments are complete. Poorly adjusted tension can also be a result of a blunt needle, so make sure it’s still in good condition.

Thread Tension Discs

Some Baby Lock sewing machines include a tension disc beneath the stitch plate. These discs provide a pathway for the thread and allow for a tight elastic stitch for things like stretch fabrics. This can be a useful tool for ensuring a smooth action when stitching.

Bobbin Adjustment

The bobbin case should also be considered when adjusting the tension setting. When the tension is set correctly, the pressure on the fabric should be consistent. To check this, open the cover, and remove the bobbin case. Look for pieces of lint or any needed repairs, and ensure the case is properly seated.


Stabilizers are used to attach layers of fabric together. They can be a useful aid in adjusting the tension of fabric. Stabilizers prevent the fabric from shifting while they are being sewn and ensure consistent stitches. Stabilizers are especially helpful when sewing on slippery fabrics such as silk and satin. They provide extra support so the fabric doesn’t move during the stitch.

Keeping a Tension Chart

It can be helpful for sewers to create a tension chart that includes the types of fabric, thread and needle being used in the project. Creating a chart will help you keep track of the best tension settings for different types of stitches and materials. This chart can be a helpful reference tool when determining the tension for your project.

Thread Quality

The quality of the thread can also affect the tension settings on the sewing machine. Poor-quality thread can snag on the needle or cause the bobbin case to jam. It can also lead to problems such as broken threads, loops and skipped stitches. When selecting a thread, look for one with good quality, strength and smoothness.

Using a Tension Gauge

A tension gauge can be a useful tool for checking the tension setting. Tension gauges measure the force of the thread as it passes through the fabric and are more accurate than manual adjustment.

Cleaning the Machine

Cleaning the machine can help improve the performance of the machine and reduce tension irregularities. Dust and lint can build up on the needle plate, bobbin case and feed dogs, resulting in skipped stitches. Cleaning the machine can also reduce friction between the fabric and the needle.

Choosing the Correct Needle

When selecting a needle for your project, consider the type of fabric that will be sewn, as well as the thickness of the thread. Certain fabrics may require a special type of needle, such as a ballpoint needle or a denim needle. Threads of different thickness will require different needles; thin threads require a thin needle, and heavy threads require a heavier needle.

Check the Machine’s Timing

Regularly checking the machine’s timing can help avoid tension issues. Timing refers to the movement of the needle and hook and ensuring they are perfectly synchronized. If the timing is off, it can result in inconsistent stitches and tension irregularities.

Performing regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance can help prevent tension problems on the sewing machine. Most Baby Lock machines have oil ports that require regular lubrication. Proper lubrication helps ensure that the machine runs smoothly, reducing wear and tear and preventing skipped stitches.

Adjusting the Presser Foot Pressure

Another important factor to consider when adjusting the tension of a sewing machine is the presser foot pressure. Too much pressure can cause the fabric to stretch and result in loopy stitches and skips. To reduce pressure, use a screwdriver to adjust the pressure on the presser foot.

Using a Different Thread

If the tension settings are still causing problems, it may be a good idea to switch to a different type of thread. Different types of threads have different types of tension such as cotton, polyester, rayon and wool.

Checking the Tension Wheel

The tension wheel is the part of the machine that applies tension to the thread. Over time, the wheel can become worn out and lose its ability to make proper adjustments. This can cause tension problems on the machine. It’s important to replace or repair the wheel if it’s damaged to help ensure proper tension.

Geoffrey Kirby is an experienced author and sewist who has been creating sewn projects for over 20 years. He has a passion for teaching beginners and inspiring more advanced sewists both online and through his writings. Outside of writing about sewing, Geoffrey loves to explore new techniques and styles of sewing that incorporate upcycling fabric remnants into sweet items with personality.

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