You just finished sewing a seam only to find loopy loose stitches instead of a nice neat line of tight stitches. Does your thread constantly break? The problem is probably with the machine's tension. This is a guide about adjusting the tension on your sewing machine.
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You may need to adjust your tension dial with your fabric you are using and kind of thread, also adjust to thickness of fabric. Always use good sharp needles with your sewing and keep machine clean and oiled.
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Here are questions related to Adjusting the Tension on Your Sewing Machine.
I'm having issues with my sewing machine's tension. I was using it just fine and then when I changed the setting from a straight stitch to zig zag and then back again, the tension is all off. It doesn't seem to matter how high I turn the setting (to increase tension) I still get loose, sloppy stitches, and the top thread is getting caught in with the bobbin thread and coming up with it. :( Does anyone know what's up and how to fix it?
By Ashley D.
By Frugal Sunnie 02/22/2015
Re-thread as suggested by the first answer, making sure you're using the correct needle and thread for the fabric you're sewing. Yes, I know it was working fine until the zig-zaging but sewing machines will try so hard when straight-stitching that we can get by many times using all the wrong needles and threads - until we try to change the stitch pattern and then it's as though the machine woke up and said 'Oh hey wait...'.
More than likely though, what has happened is that there is a bit of thread or a chunk of lint/fuzz in the bobbin area somewhere. If you have the manual, use it as a guide (this problem is often addressed in the troubleshooting pages of a manual and includes diagrams showing where and how to clean) to open and clean the bobbin area.
Also using the manual, take some unwaxed-nonflavoured dental floss and floss the tension discs IF the discs are in a knob jutting out from the front of your machine.
Either or both should resolve your problem - if not, and especially if your machine is a vintage (older than 15-20 years) model, you more than likely coincidentally used the zig-zag feature just as the bobbin gear gave up the ghost. The bobbin gear teeth on most machines built after the mid-late Sixties are usually made of silicone, and these do wear after many sewing hours.
This isn't a home fix - look in your local telephone directory for the names of near-by authorised repair techs for your make machine (Singer, Brother, Janome, Viking, etc).
These people will have the knowledge, tools, and access to spare parts that most home sewers don't. Be sure to ask if the repair part is new or salvage and I strongly advise buying a new-under-warranty, comparable feature machine if the repair part is going to have to be salvage (no salvage part is EVER as reliable as a newly milled one). Also be sure to get a cost estimate before you even hand over your machine so you aren't given a nasty ticket shock at the end of the repair(s).
If you don't have the manual, you can usually download a free copy from the maker's website.
By Priscilla 02/17/2015
I had that problem just a week ago. I had been sewing and changed stitches and filled the bobbin. Got back to sewing and it happened. I tried everything then took the thread out and got a different spool and it worked great. So you might try changing thread, put the tension back on original and rethread. Your thread spool might be to old.
I have a Singer 413 zig zag machine. What is the proper tension setting? How can I set it to a small stitch? There is no manual. Thank you!
By Linda H.
By Frugal Sunnie 02/22/2015
First of all - here's a link to a free download pdf from the Singer website for your machine:
http://www.singerco.com/uploads/dow ... 0826209952d04b99bc6962f8ea588653.pdf
If the link doesn't take you straight to the download (my links usually go straight to the download but on occasion take you to the Singer support page instead), it will take you to the Singer page for finding the right manual - use the search feature and type in '413' (omit punctuation), then click on the free download. I always print these out and put them into a 3-ring binder for my sewing students and machine repair customers here in Scotland because it's so much easier to use the manual in a flat open configuration.
Now, the tension setting for zig-zag sewing should always be at least one number looser than for straight stitching, and depends on the fabric, thread, and needle you're using. It's not length that you need to determine and set for zig-zag sewing, too, it's width. That takes some experimenting using a test scrap of your fabric - Bonus, you'll also figure out your tension setting with the test swatch, too:)
The manual will tell you everything you need to know about setting the tension on your 413, and it will also show you how and when to adjust stitch length and width.
I have a problem with my sewing machines. I have 2 different brands, different ages, but the same problem with both so I'm sure it's me and not the machine.
Here's my problem. The tension keeps being so tight it breaks the thread. Also, the thread keeps getting all tangled up in the bobbin area. Can anybody tell me what I'm doing wrong?
Since I'm sure it's me and not the machine I refuse to buy a 3rd one. Plus I took both of them in last year for repair and the first time I went to use them I had the same problem. So, it's got to be me.
By Cricket from Parkton, NC
It definitely sounds like you have your machine threaded incorrectly. I do some sewing, and my parents own an upholstery business. This sounds like improper threading vs tension.
I have a Janome 423s. The bobbin thread runs along the bottom of the material. What is causing this? I have tried fixing it but with no luck.
By karen65ae from UAE
By Phyllis Barton09/22/2010
The top tension is too loose. It may not be working correctly. Also check to see if the machine is threaded correctly. Sometimes the thread is not properly seated in the groove between the two disks.
I have a White sewing machine that is from the 1960s. I am trying to sew a sheer fabric and I am using a #11 needle and Talon size 50 thread. I have replaced the needle, rethreaded the bobbin, rethreaded the machine, and still the thread loops on the underside. I have adjusted the tension on the top. What else can I do?
By Frugal Sunnie 12/08/2014
Try a No 9 size needle, and be sure your feed dogs are set for the fabric you're using.
Also, try flossing (yes, dental floss, unwaxed:) the tension discs - it's done just the way you do your teeth! Wipe the piece of floss with some 70-92% isopropyl alcohol (not the green stuff, it's got oils in it!) and look for bits of lint and fluff on the floss; you may also see some 'grime' come back on the floss.
A last resort (as in very last resort!) try to adjust the BOTTOM tension by turning that teeny tiny screw in the bobbin casing a very teeny tiny bit left or right - try to sew a line as a test, if this helps but not enough, turn a teeny tiny bit again then test, and again then test, and again until your tension is sorted properly. Be VERY careful when turning that screw because...
If none of the above helps, it's time for a trip to the repair tech - among other things, the bottom bobbin tension gear may need replacing/adjusting and this is best done by a qualified tech - bottom bobbin tension is so delicate most manufacturers will state in the user guide that they really do not want the home user attempting to adjust it.
I recently acquired a Singer 319W. I was sewing 2 pieces of fabric together and it worked fine. Then I doubled up the fabric, but when I started to sew, the needle stopped when it hit the fabric, but the wheel kept turning. When I went back to the original 2 pieces of fabric, it was fine. Help!
By Frugal Sunnie 12/04/2014
Hiya from Scotland, Kris, where I teach sewing and do some vintage machine repair for my students - mostly on Singers!
Your Singer 319W Swing-Needle machine should be able to take that thickness of fabric as it was built to handle everything from chiffon to farm weight (leathers, heavy duty feed sacks, etc) - since it isn't, there may be several reasons why it isn't:
Did you adjust the feed dogs for the extra thickness?
Did you adjust your upper tension?
Are you using the correct needle and thread for the weight of the quadrupled fabric?
*Solutions for all of the above are listed in the user guide (owner manual), here's a link to a free download if yours has gone walkabout:
http://www.singerco.com/uploads/dow ... 5559db4967c61611a81fa4ec0253dd97.pdf
And here's a neat free download of an actual scan of an original (ignore the K designation, all it means is that machine the manual was printed for was built here in Scotland at the Clydesbank factory - have a look and you'll recognise all the same parts as on your W, depending on model year, the slight differences are mainly cosmetic only:)
http://ismacs.net/singer_sewing_mac ... inger-319k-sewing-machine-manual.pdf
I have a brother LS 2125. During sewing the top side of fabric is nicely sewed, but bottom side is in a mess. It is not properly sewed and loose. The thread breaks very easily. It's really very irritating. Attached a bottom side image for your reference.
By Frugal Sunnie 11/24/2013
Hi Abel, hopefully the link MissRebecca posted helped you sort your problem:)
I'm guessing from the appearance of your loopy stitching that you have a side or front loading bobbin system, so to expand on the helps I've posted over the years (lol, see the link:), the problem you're having is stemming almost certainly from your bobbin loading technique.
If you have the manual for your machine, read through it carefully to be sure you're loading the bobbin case correctly into the machine. The front and side load bobbin systems are VERY tricky to place correctly and will always cause the problem you are experiencing if incorrectly loaded. If your machine hasn't been serviced recently, consider having it serviced by a qualified (factory trained is best, check the advert for those words) and ask him/her to check your loading skill. He/she can help you learn the best way for your specific machine to load the bobbin case into the machine.
If you have the money, consider a new sewing machine - the trouble you are having is very frustrating and can put a sewer off sewing altogether. I teach sewing here in the UK and try to steer my sewing students to top-drop in bobbin load systems. These systems are practically jam-proof and end 99.9% of all sewing frustrations.
Good luck, please update and let us know what turned up with your machine!
The top stitch is OK but from underneath you wll find a lot of clogged thread. Please help. Thnx.
By sahakiandianne 02/01/2015
When the sewing machine is clogged with thread below you have to take the bobbin case out and then you can use a brush for that purpose or a tiny screwdriver for the small hard to get to parts to get the thread out and then just reverse the procedure to get the bobbin case in and bobbin then your all set to sew again.
My stitch on top is messing up; the bottom stitch is fine.
By Frugal Sunnie 01/15/2015
Depending on the age and condition of your machine, the problem could be anything from lint and fuzz clogging the tension discs to incorrect thread - needle - tension setting for the fabric you're trying to sew.
Sorry I can't be more help. Use your owner guide (if you've lost yours you can usually download a free copy from the maker's website) to troubleshoot and be sure you're using the right thread, needle, and settings for your machine and fabric - there will be a chart or table outlining the correct items to use for each sewing job.
I am having tension problems on an industrial Juki model # LU-562 machine. The tension is going from fine to loose as I sew. When it's loose it's on the top. The bottom is fine.
By Carol I.
By Frugal Sunnie 06/23/2014
Have you checked to be sure you're using the correct thread and needle for the fabric, and have you adjusted the upper tension with the pressure foot fully raised?
If the above doesn't help, the thread tension changing mid-stitch could be a problem you cannot solve at home.
The tension discs could be worn out OR clogged with lint/thread fluff in a place dental floss won't reach; also, the tension adjustment gear could be worn, or the bottom tension (on the bobbin case, do not try to adjust this at home!) could have been knocked out of place.
Without looking at the machine (I do limited repair and servicing on mostly Singer domestic machines here in the UK), the best advice I can give you is to take this to a qualified repair tech - someone with extensive industrial machine experience.
When was the last time you have the machine serviced? An industrial machine needs the same (if not more) regular servicing as a domestic one but the tech needs to be qualified on an industrial machine - you'd be amazed at how different the insides of a domestic machine is from an industrial one! A qualified tech will have your machine clean, oiled, and repaired so you can get back to sewing - please update and let us know what the problem actually was:)
I have a relatively new Brother x-5. It was working fine til my latest project when my upper thread seemed to gradually loosen. Adjusting it with the dial did nothing. Now it's a complete mess and I have no idea how to fix it. I re-threaded, cleaned the mechanism and even adjusted the bobbin, but no improvement. How do I fix this? (photo is of the reverse side of stitching)
By Frugal Sunnie 04/07/2014
You may have a problem with the tension discs inside the machine. Since you write it's a fairly new machine it may still be under warranty in which case a visit to the Brother sewing repair tech is in order and shouldn't cost you anything. If not still under warranty, a repair will likely cost you under $100 (closer to $50USD).
But first, are you absolutely certain you have seated the bobbin correctly? Use your manual to go step by step through the process of seating it correctly - if that doesn't solve your problem, and you can answer YES to the following questions, it's definitely time for a trip to the repair tech:
Are you using the correct thread, needle, and presser foot for the fabric?
Have you followed the user manual instructions for clearing lint and thread bits from the bobbin case area?
Again, are you certain you are seating the bobbin back into the machine correctly?
Are you sure you've got the settings on the machine correctly chosen?
I just got my sewing machine. It is a Singer Seventy. I am very inexperienced with sewing and am just learning. I just filled my bobbin and threaded my machine. Everything was fine until I got to the part of setting my thread tension. Right now the dial is set on 8. I need it to be on auto, but the dial won't turn at all. I read in my manual that the foot needs to be down. I put it down and it still won't move. I've tried turning it off, but still no luck. Please help!
By Sarah c
By Catherine 12/30/2013
Usually you have to push it forward (or press it) and then turn it to the right position.
My top thread is not tightening around my bobbin thread. I've done everything I could probably think of and it's so aggravating. I don't know what to do. I'm a semi-new machine user. My sewing machine is a Singer Simple.
By Frugal Sunnie 10/23/2013
First of all, here is a link to a free download of your manual from the Singer website:
Right then, try answering the following questions while sitting at your machine:
Have you just wound a bobbin and forgot to snap the pin back so that the machine is back to sewing mode? (If not, simply snap the pin back towards the head, should solve the problem)
Have you got the front load bobbin case properly loaded and seated? (This one is VERY hard to do! The front load bobbin system is the reason a lot of new sewers give it up - seating a bobbin case whilst holding the bobbin in the case is very, very difficult and takes even experienced sewers several tries sometimes. I always steer my new sewing students to the top drop in bobbin system machines for this reason.)
The way to be sure it's seated is to listen for the 'clicks' that happen when the bobbin is properly loaded into the case, and when the loaded case 'seats' correctly into the machine.
Seating the bobbin case incorrectly, and incorrect threading of the bobbin to the case are almost always the reasons upper and bobbin threads don't lock in the seam.
My sewing machine won't sew and the loop from the spool is coming through the material, but the cotton from the reel is just threading through the loop without making a stitch. Also the cotton from the reel is very tight. What should I do?
By Frugal Sunnie 06/08/2013
Refer to your user manual to learn where your tension adjustment dials/knobs/control pad is located. The manual will have photos or line drawings with examples of the appearance of too tight or loose tension, and will tell you how to adjust the tension accordingly.
If you don't have the manual you can usually find a free download at the manufacturer's website. Google the maker's name and the model name/number of your machine to find the website. Then follow the navigation links to find your manual.
Generally, loops on the bottom means tension is too loose; loops on the top that the tension is too tight.
Most machines use a numbering system to adjust tension so use the following formula:
To increase (tighten) dial to a higher number
To decrease (loosen) dial to a lower number
Use a doubled over scrap of your fabric as a practice swatch to run several inches of the stitches for each increase/decrease you make to the tension adjustment; when you find the right setting for your fabric, write that setting down for further reference during that project.
You'll want to write down the tension setting because in sewing, tension adjustments will vary depending on the stitch used and the thickness of the fabric you want to stitch at any given point in the project.
For example, let's say you are going to use a simple zig-zag to finish the raw edges of the seams. To make a really nice pucker-free zig-zag edge finish you need to decrease (loosen) the tension slightly; to stitch through several layers if you are using a flat-fell finish you would want to adjust the tension to a looser setting also. Decide your best tension according to a practice swatch.
So you are best served to write all those different tensions for each stitch setting down-makes it so much faster and easier to keep track between the different sections of your project!
**Looping, bunching, snarling, and threads that can be easily pulled from the fabric do not always indicate a need to adjust tension. Ask yourself, "Before beginning sewing, did I...":
Check the manual to be sure I am using the correct thread and needle size for the fabric I am sewing?
Make sure my needle is in new or good condition, is sharp, and is correctly placed in the machine?
Ensure my bobbin thread is also the correct gauge and type for the fabric I am sewing?
Make sure my bobbin case is correctly placed into the machine?
Check that my machine is set for the stitch I want to use?
Look to see that the automatic tension feature (if on your model) set correctly?
Don't give up:) There is nothing quite as satisfying as sewing garments or home furnishings but it does take practice.
I have a Brother XL 3022 sewing machine. The tension on the bottom is loopy. Someone mentioned bobbin tension, but I don't know where on the machine it is.
By Frugal Sunnie 03/08/2013
First of all, download a free copy of your sewing machine manual here:
http://www.brother-usa.com/ModelDoc ... Users%20Manual/UM_XL_3010_EN_239.PDF
Now, look on page 2 to locate the tension adjustment knob on your machine-it's that wheel looking thing sticking out of the top of the machine a little-see it over there on the left of your machine near where the thread feeds down to the machine needle? That's your tension knob (the manual calls it a dial, the terms are pretty much interchangeable).
Next, look on page 19 of that manual for complete step-by-step directions for adjusting your sewing machine tension correctly including a diagram showing how to decide what is wrong and how to correct it.
Finally, based on what you are describing in your posted question, it sounds as though you are seeing loops of thread around the line of bottom thread stitching (better known as the bobbin thread, btw).
I notice that the Brother manual describes stitches as 'locks' which can be a little confusing but if you stare at those pictures and read the text several times you'll see that your problem is that your tension is too loose.
Note: The illustration for correct tension appearance is on page 20. It's a lot confusing because between the directions for increase/decrease and the illustration there is the bit about bobbin tension adjustment.
So you'll need to dial that tension knob to a higher number. Doing that will increase the tension on the threads as they pass through the tension discs inside the machine.
If the loops were showing on the top you would need to loosen (or 'decrease') the tension by dialing to a lower number.
Be sure you are using the right size needle, and run a test strip (or several) on the fabric you are trying to sew until you find the right tension for that fabric-needle-thread combination. Write that down on the pattern (if you are using one) so that you can restore those settings if you use my bonus tip below and therefore change the settings.
In addition to examining for loops and puckers, do the 'snap' test by holding the test strip in both hands and pulling the strip at both ends in a 'snap' motion. If the thread breaks it means your tension is too tight so you'll need to loosen (decrease) it.
Remember-to tighten (increase) you go up a number, to loosen (decrease) you go down a number:
BONUS TIP-when sewing a zig-zag stitch, for example to finish a seam or when sewing knits on a machine without a specific knit stitch setting, LOOSEN THE TENSION one number down from whatever you are using for the straight stitching. Doing so means your seam finish won't pucker or break:)
OH! Never-ever-never try to adjust the tension anywhere but at the dial atop your machine. The bottom tension (better known as bobbin tension) is set at the factory and only in extremely rare situations does it require adjustment by removing the bobbin case and turning a screw - DO NOT attempt. It's just too easy to over-turn that tiny little screw and then too easy to forget to set it back to the original position for the next project. See the manual page 19 for more on bobbin tension.
Can you use upholstery thread in the bobbin? I did and the underside of material is loopy. I tried adjusting the tension, but it didn't get any better. I have a Brother sewing machine, model XL-3022.
By Julie R.
By Frugal Sunnie 03/05/2012
Most domestic sewing machines are not designed to handle the heavier upholstery threads in either upper or lower parts of the machine. Check your manual and the manufacturer website to see if your machine can sew with the heavier threads, and on the heavier weight fabrics.
If your manual and manufacturer indicate your model should be able to handle the tough stuff, you may need to use a different needle (find the information on which needle size to use on which fabrics in the manual), and you may need to put less thread on the bobbin than you would if using a lighter weight thread.
You may also need to adjust not only the upper tension, but the tension on the bobbin case. That info will also be in the manual.
Another thing you might try is a thread designed for heavy duty work on a domestic machine. Look for the words 'heavy duty' that aren't combined with the additional word 'upholstery'. If you are lucky enough to have a sewing centre near by, ask one of the staff for advice.
Be sure to use thread that is the same content as your fabric-for example cotton thread on cotton fabric, polyester on synthetics. Using the wrong content can cause tension (pun intended:) problems, and can also cause the stitching to break if using cotton thread through synthetic fabrics. If using polyester on cotton fabrics, the thread can cut through the fabric leaving behind a rather neat scissored look to the tear.
My Janome Excell 4014 is looping stitches on the underside of my sewing project. Can anyone please tell me how to fix looping and what I think is a jumping sound on my sewing machine? I have lost my manual so I can't trouble shoot. I am trying to start a new hobby and am not able to quilt due to the stitching. Thank you in advance for your help :-)
By Christine S
I have a Babyloc Imagine serger that needs a bit of adjustment. The overlock is folding over the fabric and the tension is too tight. Does anyone know how to adjust the tension on this serger? I have tried everything and hate bringing it to a center; they charge so much.
By Rose from Malvern, PA
Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.
I need some help with my new small sewing machine my mum bought me for Christmas. I'm having trouble with the tension in the bottom bobbin. How can I get the right tension when there is no guide for the thread to even out on the bobbin when you start a new one, I just use my finger?
As when I was sewing, the bottom of the material had small loops and the bobbin thread was not taking up in sections. I've tightened the tension guide for the top one but that doesn't seem to help. Can anyone help me please as I don't want to give it up and lose interest? I hope this makes sense.
Lambchop from Western Australia
The thread in the bobbin makes loops on the bottom of the material. You do not want loops that stick up, that means you don't have enough tension. Nor do you want loops that pull too much, that means you have too much tension. You want loops that are firm and are flat on the material. If your bottom thread is breaking you might have too much tension in the bobbin. Release a little tension.
You might also be using cheap thread. I compared thread from the dollar store and from a sewing store. The sewing store thread was much thicker and stronger, and well worth the extra money (1.75 us for 1 spool). I could break the dollar store thread with my bare hands.
Likewise with the needle, it makes loops on top of the material. You want firm, but not puckering loops. (01/17/2007)
I hope you understand this, maybe there is someone out there that can explain this to you better than I can. I hope I've helped. (01/17/2007)
Also, you just MIGHT have the bobbin in backwards. Try reversing it if you cannot find the manual or help otherwise. I've taken machines completely apart and replaced every single piece in cleaning and oiling, etc. but it's been over thirty years since I did it. The manual on a similar model might work, if all else fails. You might find one on the Internet. God bless you. : ) (01/20/2007)
I received a serging sewing machine for Mother's Day and I finally took it out to use. The tension is all goofed up and the instruction book's tips are not helping. The stitches are all loopy like is was crocheted instead of serged. Has anyone else found a solution to adjusting tension on a serger?
Judy from Winfield, IL
Also there are other books on sergers, however your book that came with the machine should be all you need. Are you changing all the tensions or one at a time? The side that's loopy needs to be tightened. I hope this has helped some. Judy (09/12/2006)
Loopy stitches mean it's too loose. But the stitches will be loopy by themselves (no fabric). Is your machine new? Have you checked the FAQ in the book? On the website of the make of machine? There are lots of things you can try, but I understand your frustration. (09/13/2006)
How do I go about adjusting bobbin tension on a Singer sewing machine?
After many tries I cannot adjust the tension dials on my serger (new). On the underside, the loops are too big, any help?