Sewing Machine Tension Service

If your machine is anything like mine every so often it has a tantrum. The stitches will start skipping, or the thread keeps breaking, or the bobbin thread starts looping... you name it, my machine has done it! 

Its mostly because I'm always using different fabrics and threads which mucks everything up after a while of sewing. But its also because my machine is about 60 years old! I guess after all those years its getting a little tired and saggy. A bit like a guitar with old strings - it still plays a lovely melody, but you have to keep tuning it every 10 mins to keep it sounding good. :)

Every couple of months when I give my machine a clean and oil I'll also perform a tension reset. But on the odd occassion I start getting sewing problems I do a reset to help eliminate issues. Most sewing problems can be solved with a new needle and tension adjustment. 

So, if your stitches a looping on the back, or the top seems too tight, or you are skipping stitches here are the steps to getting perfect tension settings:

Reseting Sewing Machine Tension 

Red thread
Green thread
New sewing machine needle 
Small screw driver

1. After you have cleaned and oiled your machine change your needle to a nice new one. 

2. Top thread your machine with red, checking it is threaded correctly*.

3. Wind an empty bobbin with green, inserting bobbin case the correct way round for your machine**.

4. Set your stitch length to 3. 

5. Set your tension dial to between 4 or 5.

6. Fold a piece of calico in half and sew a straight line. 

7. Examine the stitches: 

    a) If the top red thread shows on the bottom of your fabric remove your bobbin and loosen the bobbin screw by a quarter turn.

    b) If the green bobbin thread is showing on the top of the fabric tighten the bobbin screw by quarter turn. 

8. Sew another straight line.

9. Examine the stitches again and re-adjust bobbin screw again if necessary.

10. Repeat until the top thread only shows on the front of your fabric, and the bobbin thread only shows on the bottom. Thats when you will have perfect tension!

* Check your instruction manual to ensure you are threading your machine correctly.
** The bobbin needs to be inserted into the bobbin case the right way around so check your instruction manual.... If inserted the wrong way the thread will come out too quickly.


Anonymous said...

Gonna have to clean, oil, and tune my baby up! Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

I believe you meant white, not green....
Thanks for the advice!

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Ha! Great spotting, thanks! :))

jesoto84 said...

I had no idea been fighting with my machine for months now

Anonymous said...

Any ideas when dealing with a drop in bobbin?? I've been wrestling with my machine for weeks and would love to sew with it without wanting to throw it thru the window! :)

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

I don't own a drop in bobbin machine myself, but I understand they still have a tiny screw in/around the bobbin case. It can be difficult to find so see if your manual tells you were it is. But it will be there somewhere. When you find it only adjust it a TINY bit as a small turn can make a huge difference. Left-y loose, Right-y tighty is the directions you need to go. Good luck! Antonia

Anonymous said...

I have a drop in bobbin and it is a pain! I have found if you have trouble putting the bobbin and case back in the machine, turn the machine on its side, makes a huge difference. Plus the screw does need adjusting often, just trial and error unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

My machine is a couple months old, I jeep ha ing orobkens with the bobbin. The machine sew for a few seconds and the bobbin underneath becomes a tangled stuck mess. Any suggestion?!?

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Hi, the bobbin tangling up is probably incorrect tension so follow the steps in this tutorial. Also check that your bobbin/spool is inserted in the bobbin case the right way. To check this hold the bobbin case in your left hand and the spool in your right hand. The spool thread should be winding around so the end thread is on top of the spool, with its tail trailing away from you. Also check that you have threaded the machine correctly (check user manual for instructions), and that the top thread is fully inserted in the tension wheel/adjuster. Other things to check is a sharp needle that is inserted correctly...it is common to put needle around the wrong way. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I also have read that if you are not using the correct bobbin for your machine the tension will not be right.Some bobbins look very much alike...but aren't !

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Yes definitely, its not wise to use bobbins from another machine. Some may fit into the bobbin case but might not necessarily work. Thanks for adding that! :))

suzieq said...

Double check that your have your bobbin in correctly. I had not used my machine in a while..and it was tangling up in the bobbin..so I sold the machine..later the person said the bobbin was in backwards.. ughh ! 137 ddwins

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Oh no Suzieq that is such a bummer. :( Inserting the bobbin the correct way is definitely very essential. I hope your new sewer is serving you well now. :)))

Sassington said...

I'm a novice at sewing in general and I recently bought an old Singer... I learned to wind fresh thread on the bobbin like a champ the first time around... When I ran out of thread, I went to wind more thread on the empty bobbin again and it winds about half full before it jams up and stops like it hit a brick wall! I took out the half wound bobbin to inspect and the thread is wrapped up around the bobbin housing and it takes forever to get everything un-jammed and working again.
This same issue keeps happening (three times after before I gave up) and I can't seem to figure out why it won't wind a full bobbin without jamming up something awful.
Any ideas? Thanks in advance ;-)

Kimbo said...

You may have the wrong size bobbin in your machine. Not all bobbins are the same size even though they look identical. Good Lucia,

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Hi Sassington. I was going to say exactly what Kimbo said about it being the wrong bobbin. But I'm guessing you're using the same bobbin as the first one you wound up?
When my thread gets wound around the housing its because I A) haven't clicked it all the way into place or B) the cotton isn't threaded to the bobbin winder correctly. In both cases the thread doesn't line up in the centre of the bobbin so ends up winding outside of it. Does that make sense? So check how the cotton goes from the cotton reel to the bobbin winder. And also give it a really good clean to make sure no lint etc is stopping the bobbin engaging all the way on perhaps? Ant

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Sassington heres a picture showing the thread and bobbin sitting correctly on my machine. If the thread comes in too high or too low it will get tangled up. Same principle, if the bobbin isn't clicked all the way down it will also get tangled. Hope this helps. https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/c2w4hFyk3u9BJG-Us4djCYGnEHJ4FvSY1GNHmcCiIqw?feat=directlink

Sassington said...

Thanks Antonia and Kimbo - I only have one bobbin for this machine and I haven't been able to find a replacement in stores - I hate to think how I'm going to go about finding a replacement online :) Anyway, Antonia, you're right, I have been able to successfully wind the bobbin in the past without issue. I can deal with a half-full bobbin, it just has to be reloaded more often.
I checked out your picture and your machine looks a bit different from mine but same principle I suppose... I have a drop in bobbin and that whole housing is not being my friend.
I'll have to keep playing with it - the top thread spool is nearly empty - not sure if that has anything to do with it... it's just so frustrating :/ :)
Thank you!

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Sassington, can you send me a picture of
your machine with closeup of the type of bobbin winder setup you have...


Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Sorry, I had to edit the email address above. To confirm its voodoomolly@xtra.co.nz

Christina said...

Hey there... I sent those pictures to your email last week.. it's funny because right after I sent them, I tried messing with it again and, of course, it wound a full bobbin. The only thing I did different was put a new top spool of thread on the machine and I rethreaded the machine.

I don't know... Weird. Thank you!

Cassie said...

Thank you! I have been arguing with my machine for months as the bobbin was showing on the top. I'm self taught so don't know much about machines and was getting ready to buy a new one. Just tried your tips above and it works great again! Thanks heaps. Now I need to learn to about my overlocker/serger which is driving me nuts! (again, self taught, I should probably just get lessons)

Antonia@Voodoo Molly Vintage said...

Thats great news Cassie!! Well done of figuring it out, they can be real pains in the butt sometimes can't they. lol. Ant

mquinnalt said...

Another thing people don't always mention it that in many machines you need to thread the machine with your presser foot in the down position to get the tension right.

Lillian Mahoney said...

I have been sewing for years, but have a different machine now (haven't sewed for a while). Your tutorial looks awesome!

Anonymous said...

That's great for an old machine that
has a bobbin you can take out and turn the screw, but none of my
machines have a take-out bobbin;
you just take out the bobbin spool and there's no way to adjust the bottom tension. I wish there was.
I've got to take my Brother machine to a repair shop, because NOTHING I do will keep the bottom thread from
looping really badly. I've cleaned, oiled, changed needles,
tried the upper tension at every number and NOTHING helps. So-
I pay!