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Kenmore Elite Tension Problem. Pls Help!

vanderpooch | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on


I am a regular at Breaktime, but this is my first post here.

My wife has a Kenmore Elite sewing machine, model #19365.

She seems to be unable to adjust the tension to her satisfaction and consequently has not been doing the projects she would like. She has tried using the auto setting, and has also tried manually adjusting the tension.

The problem seems to manifest itself in two ways:

1. The top thread lies flat, while the bottom thread is pulled up and through the fabric, rather than meeting in the middle…


2. The thread bunches into large loops on the back side of the fabric.

The manual and the video which came with the machine are both pretty useless as far as troubleshooting go.

Does anyone out there have any advice, insight or experience with or about this machine?

I thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I will be happy to provide any more information that might be helpful.


Kit Camp

Technique is proof of your seriousness. – Wallace Stevens


  1. suesew | | #1

    Is it possible to tightern the bobbin tension? If you have a removable bobbin case you should be able to tighten the little screw prhaps a quarter turn to the right and try again. The thread bunching problem sounds like the needle thread is not through the take up lever ( the lever that goes up and down above the needle. ) Maybe the whole thing could use a good tune-up.

  2. GinnaS | | #2

    Kit -

    She should clean the bobbin area and the tension disk areas.  Small threads in those areas can result in tension problems.  She should also make sure that the tread in fully engaged in the tension areas.



  3. carolfresia | | #3

    I'd work on cleaning the bobbin area first, before adjusting the tension screw on the bobbin. If I'm not mistaken, that machine has a drop-in bobbin, and so messing around with its tension is slightly more difficult than with a front-loading bobbin in which the bobbin case is removable. Ask your wife to rethread the machine (I'm sure she's done so, but it can't hurt to do it again), and install a new needle.

    Do you have a sewing machine dealer nearby, preferably a Janome dealer? If so, you could take the machine in to be looked at. My impression is that if you go through Sears, you have to send the Kenmores away and it can take a while to get them back. Personally, I'd rather have my machine serviced locally so I could get it back ASAP. Kenmore machines are very similar to Janomes, so a Janome repair person should be able to work on this. I hope you can get it sorted out--that machine, when working properly, is a very nice model to have.


    1. vanderpooch | | #4

      Thanks to you all for the replies.

      I am confident we have the machine threaded right. This "symptom" came on kind of all of the sudden. We haven't had it very long and haven't really used it too much.

      I will try cleaning, putting in a new needle, and maybe tweaking the bobbin tension.

      I will also look for the dealer Carol mentioned. We are trying to avoid taking it into Sears...


      1. SewTruTerry | | #5

        Kit also make sure that when you are threading the machine that the needle is in the most upright position and the presser foot is up.  I know this may seem fundamental but that is the biggest problem I see people doing when threading their machines.  Also check to see if the thread is actually getting into the tension disc because no matter how much you adjust the tension if the thread is not engaged in the disc nothing will happen.

      2. Kiley | | #7

        Possibly the auto tension dial is out of adjustment. I have the same machine and it has lovely stitches some of the best I have seen and the auto tension works very well not needing tension changes. Could the bobbin have been inserted incorrectly on your wifes machine and could you possibly be missing a thread guide..there are two guides above the needle.  I open the face plate when threading to be sure that I do not miss one. Also, do open the face plate and check the foot pressure control dial to be sure it is in the proper position. Using correct needles and good thread helps also. I do hope you get the problem figured out so the machine can be enjoyed. It is a wonderful smooth sturdy machine with loads of great features.

  4. Dixedreg | | #6


    I have the same machine. I have no problems with it, but one time I managed to put the needle in backwards. I ended up with the same problem that you are describing.

    Recheck all the thread paths and check to make sure the needle is in correctly and facing the right direction. lol

    Oh and another time, during one of my finer brilliant moments...I was sewing some thick fabric and I forgot to put the presser foot down! That also made the same kind of mess.

    Good Luck,


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