How To Lower Tension On Sewing Machine

How to Lower Tension on Sewing Machine

We all know that tension on the sewing machine is one of the most common problems that come up when sewing. Tension is the pressure that the machine applies to the thread when pulling it through the fabric. If the tension is too tight, it can cause the stitches to bind, knot and pucker; if it’s too loose, it can cause skipped stitches and loose seams.
Finding the right tension can be tricky, especially for beginners. But with patience and practice, it’s not too difficult to learn. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to adjust the tension on your machine for perfect stitches every time.

Check the Manual

The first step is to consult your sewing machine’s manual. This will provide specific instructions on how to adjust the tension, as each machine is slightly different. Look closely at the diagram and illustrations, and make sure you understand the wording.
Also, keep in mind that the tension settings may vary depending on the fabric you’re working with. So if you change fabrics, make sure to double-check the manual.

Adjust the Pressure Dial

The pressure dial is the primary tool you need to adjust the tension. It’s usually located near the bobbin case, and it’s easy to locate. If your machine has a knob-style dial, it will be marked with numbers 1 to 10.
Turn the tension knob counterclockwise to lower the thread tension. If your machine has a digital tension display, you can use the up and down arrow keys to adjust the settings.

Begin Sewing a Test Fabric

Now you’re ready to begin sewing. Start by selecting a test fabric that is similar in weight and texture to the fabric you’ll be working with.
Begin sewing a few inches and check the stitches. If they’re too loose and loose tension is indicated, turn the pressure dial up a few notches or enter a higher number into the digital display.

Adjust the Tension Settings

If the stitches look too tight, which could be indicated by uneven stitches and stretched threads on the underside, lower the tension a few notches.
While you’re adjusting the tension, it’s important to be patient and take your time. Don’t be in a rush to increase the tension – slight adjustments can make a big difference.

Change the Needle

Another factor to consider is the type of needle you’re using. As needles wear out, they can sometimes cause issues with tension. So even if you’ve adjusted the tension, you should always check to make sure the needle isn’t the culprit.
If the needle is slightly bent or dull, replace it with a new, sharp needle. This will give you much better results.

Check the Thread

Threads can also impact the tension of the machine. If the thread is too thick or too thin, it can lead to tension problems.
Make sure you’re using the thread that’s recommended for your fabric type. A good rule of thumb is to double-check the thread weight when selecting a new thread. Also, check for any worn or frayed threads that could be causing tension issues.

Clean the Bobbin Case and Feed Dog

The bobbin case and feed dog also play an important role in tension control. If either one of these become clogged with lint or debris, it can affect the flow of thread, leading to tension problems.
To prevent this, make sure to regularly check the bobbin case and feed dog to make sure they’re free of lint and debris. Use a brush to brush out any blockages, and check to make sure they’re clean.

Change the Stitch Type

Sometimes tension can be affected by the type of stitch you’re using. If you’re having tension issues, try changing the stitch type and see if that helps.
For instance, straight stitches tend to require higher tension than zigzag stitches. So if you’re having tension issues, try changing to a zigzag stitch and see if that helps.

Try a Different Foot

If you’re still having tension issues, try changing the foot. Some feet, like the darning foot or free motion foot, don’t press down on the fabric as much as others, so they can help you achieve better tension.
Also, different feet can cause the fabric to be held in place differently, so if your fabric is slipping and causing skipped stitches, a different foot may be able to help with that.

Test a Different Needle Plate

The needle plate can also affect the tension. If your machine has more than one needle plate, try using a different one and see if that helps.

Be Patient and Take Your Time

Learning how to lower tension on the sewing machine can take time and practice. So be sure to be patient and take your time. It will take some trial and error to find the right tension for your fabric and project, but it’s worth the effort.
Follow the steps outlined above and don’t forget to consult your machine’s manual. With patience and practice, you’ll soon be able to achieve the perfect tension on your sewing machine.

Testing Different Threads

Once you’ve mastered the basics of tension, it’s time to start testing different types of threads. Different threads have different weights, so they require different tension settings.
Start by testing out the thread you’re planning on using and then try some other brands. This will give you an idea of how the thread behaves when it’s under tension, so you can make adjustments to the tension as needed for a perfect stitch.

Adjust the Tension for Different Fabrics

The tension settings for different fabrics are generally different, so you should be prepared to adjust the tension for each fabric you’re working with.
For example, light-weight fabrics tend to require less tension than heavy-weight fabrics. So if you’re sewing with different types of fabrics, make sure you adjust the tension accordingly.

Make Multiple Tests

Making multiple tests is also important. Even if you’ve adjusted the tension correctly, it’s still a good idea to make multiple tests to be sure.
Start with small tests and then gradually increase the size of the sample. This will give you the chance to catch any potential problems before it becomes an issue with a large project.

Change Your Position

Tension issues can also be caused by the way you’re sitting or holding the fabric. So if you’re having tension problems, try adjusting your position and see if that helps.
For example, if you’re sitting too far away from the machine, it can cause tension issues, so try to sit closer to the machine. Also, make sure you’re holding the fabric correctly. Holding it too tight can put tension on the fabric and cause problems.

Check the Bobbin

The bobbin can also affect the tension, so it’s important to check it regularly. If the bobbin is too full or too empty, it can cause tension problems.
Make sure the bobbin is neither too full nor too empty. A good rule of thumb is to fill the bobbin about two-thirds full. This will give you a good balance of tension.

Check and Replace Worn Parts

If none of the above tips work, you may need to check the machine for worn parts. Worn parts can cause tension issues, so it’s important to check for and replace any worn parts if necessary.
The most common worn parts are the hook and needle. If either one of these is worn, it can cause tension issues. So if you’re still having tension issues, check these parts and replace them if necessary.

Use a Tension Meter

Finally, if all else fails, you can always use a tension meter. This tool will measure the tension of the thread, so you can make sure it’s correct.
Tension meters are very handy tools and they’re relatively inexpensive. So if you’re having trouble adjusting the tension, it may be worth investing in a tension meter.

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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