“Sewing Machines and Top Thread Tension”

For many years, I just didn’t understand the role of tension on a sewing machine.  If my stitches looked good, I was happy and if my stitches didn’t look good, or if my thread started to “nest” I thought there was something wrong with my machine.  Now that I better understand machine thread tension I’d like to pass that understanding along to you.

First of all, whenever you begin to sew on your machine, no matter what machine you own, please remember to hold the threads!  You may hold them with your hands  or under the presser foot of the machine, but there needs to be some tension on the thread as it starts to create a stitch.  If you neglect this step, chances are you will have a “bird’s nest” of thread on the back side of your fabric.  Second, you will want to make sure you have threaded the top thread properly through your machine.  This video may help to explain the importance of this step!

Lastly, understand that even though top thread tension is referred to in terms of “tight” and “loose”, it may help to think more about where the thread is being placed during the stitch.  Correct tension balances the top thread and bobbin thread so an equal amount of each shows on the front and the back of your fabric.  This is referred to as the stitches being balanced.  Increasing top thread tension brings more bobbin thread to the top of your fabric and decreasing the top thread tension takes more top thread to the back of your fabric.  If you think in those terms, you may begin to look at top thread tension in a whole new way.  This video may help to show what happens as you adjust the top thread tension. The principles are the same, whether your machine is an entry model or a top of the line machine.  Where do you adjust the top tension on your machine?  For mechanical models, there is usually a dial at the top or on the front of your machine and for computerized machines, the top tension adjustment is usually found in the “Set Menu”.