Last Updated on June 1, 2022

Are you experiencing sewing machine tension issues? In this article we will help you fix it.


The resistance you feel on the thread as it passes through the sewing machine is known as ‘thread tension.’ The ideal thread tension will result in beautiful, flat, and even stitches on both fabric sides. However, a tension-related issue would grate on your nerves.

The most common sewing machine tension issues start when the tension is too high or too low. When it’s too high, the seam can pucker or break. The seam will have gaps when the tension is too low, or the bobbin may not stop unwinding. 

Thread tension issues can cause problems when sewing your items. In this article, we’ll look at the most typical concerns with incorrect thread tension during sewing.



Common Machine Tension Issues

Sewing Machine Tension Is Too High

When your sewing machine tension is too high, this is what you might experience.


1. Seam Puckering

Seam puckering is a potential issue with excessive thread tension. On a lightweight cloth, the excessively tight tension might create seam puckering. If the puckering persists after altering the thread tension, you may need to adjust your stitch length.


2. Seam Breaking

Your seam may break if your tension is too tight. If your bobbin and top thread tensions are both too tight, your seam may easily break if you stretch it. It isn’t good for any project, and it’s even worse if the project you’re working with is clothes.


3. Thread Breaking

You’ll need to adjust your tension depending on the type of thread you’re using. You’ll need to change your tension if you’re using a thread that’s lighter or heavier than usual. Your thread may break if your tension is too tight when stitching. You’ll have to keep starting and stopping in the middle of your seams, which will make them look sloppy and uneven.


4. Bobbin Won’t Unwind

If your bobbin tension is excessively tight, the thread may be subjected to undue pressure as it passes through the bobbin case. The bobbin thread will be unable to unwind freely if this occurs. It is a common problem when you utilize heavier or thicker threads than your tension can handle.


5. Uneven Tension

Uneven tension might occur if you have your top thread or bottom thread set to too high tension. You have uneven tension when your bobbin thread and top thread do not have the same tension.

When this happens, your stitches may develop apparent knots or loops. The needle tension is too tight when the bobbin thread shows on the right side. The bobbin tension is too tight if the needle thread shows on the wrong side.

Too much thread tension usually begins at the top thread rather than the bobbin. However, this isn’t always the case. If you’re having trouble with your top thread, it could be a problem with your tension settings or a trapped thread. If your bobbin thread isn’t working, it’s probably because the screw on your bobbin case is too tight.


When Sewing Machine Tension Is Too Low…

When your sewing machine tension is too low, this is what you might experience.


1. Uneven Tension

You could have unequal tension if your thread tension is too loose, much like when your thread tension is too high. In this scenario, the needle tension is too slack when the needle thread shows on the wrong side. The bobbin tension is too slack if the bobbin thread shows on the wrong side.


2. Gaps In Your Seam

You can encounter gaps in your seam if both your top thread and bobbin thread have too loose tension. As a result, the threads between the portions will be visible in your stitching. Your work will lack a smooth and closed seam. Your fabric will also not be held appropriately together and will not last in the long term.


3. Bobbin Keeps Unwinding

When stitching, the bobbin thread should not be too loose. Backlash might occur if the tension on your bobbin thread is set too low.

When your machine stops sewing but your bobbin thread continues to unwind, this is known as backlash. When you’re using a smooth or fine thread, and your bobbin case cannot handle it, you’ll run into this issue.

Thread tension that is too low might start from either your top or bobbin thread. If you have a problem with your top thread, your tension dials are the most likely source.

If you’re having trouble with your bobbin thread, the screw on your bobbin casing may be too slack. Another possibility is that you have not wound your bobbin thread properly in your bobbin.



Diagnosing Faulty Sewing Machine Tension

Here is how you diagnose your sewing machine tension issues.


1. Machine damage

Make sure that the neck plate is clean and free of nicks or scratches. Sewing over broken pins and needles can produce dents in the throat plate, snagging the bobbin thread. If the nicks are minor, a technician can buff them out. Otherwise, it would be best if you got a new plate.


2. Dirt in parts of the machine

Examine the wheels, throat plate, and bobbin for any fluff caught in them. Even a smidgeon of coat can throw the entire system off. You can use a tiny stiff paintbrush to clean your equipment. Fluff can also build up in the needle’s eye.


3. Dial settings are incorrect

Please verify that all of your dial settings are right and that they haven’t shifted from their original position. You never know who has been fiddling with the machine’s settings and dials. All of those dials appear to be highly appealing to toddlers.

For most sewing jobs, sewers set the tension dial at 4. For the optimal setting for your fabric, see your sewing machine’s manual.


4. Low-quality thread

Replace the thread you’re using and make sure it’s from a reputable brand. Cheap brands are prone to being uneven and quickly breaking. Using higher-quality threads can help with a variety of sewing machine issues. 


5. Broken or bent needles

Examine the sewing machine needle and, if necessary, replace it. A crooked or dull needle can throw off your tension. 

Also, make sure it’s well seated in the needle holder. The needle’s flat section should be in the back, and the needles should match the fabric’s kind and weight.


6. Machine threaded incorrectly

Make sure the sewing machine is threaded correctly. If in doubt, rethread both the top and bobbin threads. There should be no loops in the bobbin winding. Make sure that the thread has passed through the tension disks correctly.


7. Threads don’t match

The top and bobbin threads should be of the same brand, quality, and weight. If they aren’t a good match, conflict can arise. As long as they’re of the same sort, different colors should not make a difference.


8. Top thread is caught

Make sure the top thread isn’t stuck around the spool’s base. If it becomes caught, the top tension will become too tight. Check the thread for any knots or tangles as well.


9. Bobbin wound unevenly

Ensure that the bobbin is evenly wound and not too tight. Look for any snags.


10. Bobbin case is inserted incorrectly

It would be best if you always double-check that the bobbin is inserted correctly. On some machines, the bobbin case has an adjustment screw. Check your manual and make any necessary adjustments.



When To Consult A Professional

You may have tried all these tips and made an effort to resolve your tension issues. However, you are still having the same problems over and over again. As soon as you get to this point, it is time to take it to the shop.

Sometimes “bad” tension is a good thing. When basting a garment, change the tension so the stitches are loose. After permanently stitching the seams, you should be able to remove the basting stitches quickly and easily. Just remember to correct the tension before you sew more seams.



Final Words

When using your sewing machine, it is critical to ensure that the tension is correct. Tension issues can cause a variety of issues with your fabric, thread, and even your machine. Also, do not forget to pay close attention and have your machine serviced at least twice a year to avoid tension issues on your sewing machine.


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