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Adjusting the Tension on Your Sewing Machine

Repair person sewing on a machine.
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 page about adjusting the tension on your sewing machine.
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September 29, 2014

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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36 Questions

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February 18, 2021

I have a Brother CS6000i. It's about one year old. The stitches are 1/2 mm too short. It was working just fine and then when I went to do a zigzag stitch, I noticed it wasn't right. I took the machine apart, cleaned it VERY WELL, which it wasn't bad to begin with, but a good cleaning always helps, except in this case.

I immediately bought a new machine, same model, because I cannot be without one. So now I have a properly functioning machine to compare my old sewing machine stitches with and the old machine's stitches are 1/2 mm too short. Has anyone else had this problem? I'm hoping it's something I can repair myself. The closest repair shop is over an hour away and I'm afraid the repair bill might be as much as a new machine. I could really appreciate having two properly working sewing machines! That would be awesome! So if anyone could help me out, I would certainly appreciate it.

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
February 18, 20210 found this helpful
Best Answer

Your 'old' machine is almost new and these are computerized machine which means you really need help from someone that knows these machines like 'the back of their hands' and that means the tech who built them - Brother employees - if at all possible.

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They have a support link that has a lot of information as well as a place to contact them if necessary. They are usually very prompt to assist machine owners.
They may also recommend a shop that specializes in their machine but I believe your problem can be resolved quickly.
www.brother-usa.com/.../cs6000i

I love all the information found on Google when you are looking for help but I'm sure you already have all of this but just in case...
I love the PDF of stitches from Brother also.
www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=Stitch...

You may want to contact the seller of your new machine (or the old machine) and ask for help as I feel sure they will have someone who knows how to answer this question.

There is also a sewing forum that has a bunch of great 'sewing' members that just seem to love to answer questions so maybe you can join their site just in case you have problems in the future.

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The site is just loaded with all kind of sewing tips and free patterns so please, check it out.
www.quiltingboard.com/.../

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 140 Posts
February 19, 20210 found this helpful
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This could be your bobbin tension. This means that your bobbin needs adjusting to reset the issue. Also make sure there is no build up in or around this area. There is always the help of sewing machine parts/sales troubleshooting.- https://sewing.patternreview.com... and this well known link that answer questions- https://www.justanswer.com

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February 16, 2015

loopy stitchesI'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.

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February 17, 20150 found this helpful
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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.

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So you might try changing thread, put the tension back on original and rethread. Your thread spool might be to old.

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Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 282 Feedbacks
February 22, 20150 found this helpful
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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...'.

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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.

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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.

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February 4, 2022

Can you tell me what I need to do to fix this issue? this is the under side of the fabric/top looks good. I tried increasing the tension and the loops got smaller but there were still threads loose.

I inserted a newly filled bobbin but still getting this "mess".

threads looping due to a malfunctioning sewing machine.
 

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Silver Answer Medal for All Time! 425 Answers
February 4, 20221 found this helpful
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If this is the underside of the fabric, all those loops mean your upper thread is too loose, due to the machine not threaded right or the top tension is way too loose. Try re-threading the machine as your manual instructs. If that doesn't change the problem, then you will have to adjust your top tension. Do it in small steps and do some test stitching at each adjustment till you get the top and bottom threads to interlock like they should. Also, a sewing machine needs a good cleaning and oiling once in awhile as per your manual. Of course, how often depends on how often you sew and what type of fabric you're using. Fuzzy fabric leaves behind a lot of lint compared to cotton or denim. A machine full of thread and lint can have many problems, so keep it cleaned out inside, and oil it sparingly with sewing machine oil ONLY, as per the manual. Keeping it cleaned and oiled, changing the needle as needed, using a good thread, and adjusting the top and bobbin tensions to the fabric and thread size you use, will go a long way to problem-free sewing. Good luck !!!!!

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May 7, 2018

The thread on the bottom of the fabric does not properly fit. What can be done with the sewing machine? The sewing machine is an Elna Opal.


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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 107 Posts
May 7, 20180 found this helpful
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make sure that the sewing machine top thread is correctly threaded from the thread spool on top of the machine down through the tension disks, down and up through the thread take-up mechanism and through the needle. Also make sure the bobbin compartment is working properly by opening it and removing the bobbin casing. If the bottom stitches are loose, turn the screw closest to the bobbin case centre an eighth turn to the right with a tiny screwdriver. However, if the bottom stitches are too tight, do the same thing but to the left.

Also this link provides further instructions www.fixya.com/.../t26580511-adjust_tension_control_elna_lotus_sp

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July 28, 2019

I have a Babylock sewing machine which doesn't seem to like even-feed feet. (I have tried three.) It will sew about one inch and then bunch up the stitches very tightly.

Should I change the tension when I put on this foot? Lengthen the stitch? I want to use this foot to quilt and am getting very frustrated. Thanks.

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
July 28, 20190 found this helpful
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Put tissue paper above and below the fabric and it will feed evenly.

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February 16, 2015

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.

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Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 282 Feedbacks
February 22, 20150 found this helpful
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First of all - here's a link to a free download pdf from the Singer website for your machine:

www.singerco.com/.../05cd53760826209952d04b99bc6962f8ea588653...

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.

Happy sewing!

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April 6, 2017

I had brought a mini sewing machine, but the stitches are not being made properly. If I sewed any clothes in that, I can pull the thread very easily from the cloth.

Please help me in repairing my sewing machine.

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 205 Posts
March 9, 2010

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

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March 12, 20100 found this helpful

Make sure you hold the upper thread and bobbin thread toward the back when you begin to sew a seam. That might help with the boggled up mess of thread by the bobbin.

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March 12, 20100 found this helpful

Make sure you have the machine threaded right. I was shown the wrong way, and finally figured it out myself. Once it was threaded right, no more broken or knots. If you get too much slack in the thread, it gets wrapped around where you can't see, and it breaks too.

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March 12, 20100 found this helpful

Double check that you have the bobbin turning the correct direction. That was a problem a friend found out was causing her problem. Start from the beginning to make sure evrything is threaded right. Don't give up!

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March 13, 20100 found this helpful

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.

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April 22, 2019

I have a Brother XL 2230 sewing machine. I always run into a problem with the stitch tension adjustment. When sewing a cotton suede upholstery fabric I was OK when I tested the stitch with a polyester thread.

When I decided to use the extra strong upholstery thread my stitches became loose on the wrong side of fabric. I tried decreasing and increasing the top dial, but it doesn't get better.

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January 14, 2019

I have just bought one of the above machines at a yard sale. I don't know what all the dials mean. It worked at first, but is now making bad stitches. The front of the stitch is OK, but the back has loose loops, they are not gripping the fabric. If I pull one end of the thread the whole thing comes out. If anybody knows how to adjust this I would be very grateful.

Also, do you know where I can go to see what the dials on the machine are for?

Thanks so much.

Sally

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December 26, 2018

I'm sewing on many different items and my white bobbin thread is showing onto my color thread on my item.


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