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Conversational Threads

Tension problems

rodezzy | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I’m have awful problems with my tension on both machines.  One is a Singer the other a EuroPro.  Help!

How do you reset tension?

Rodezzy, Fiber Artist


  1. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #1

    Have you mucked around with the bobbin tensions? Have you cleaned out your machines lately?
    I am assuming with the amount of quiliting you do that you sew with a lot of cotton thread. It can lint up your tension discs. Take a business card, the uncoated kind, Or unwaxed dental floss, and slide it gently between the tension discs, and see if any "toe jam" has built up. Do the same with the Bobbin tension plate, (DO NOT UNSCREW) using the corner of the card. If all seems well, then we can look at the tension. If you have the automatic tension on your machines, you will have to vacuume or blow the dust out.
    I always check the upper tension first. Right is tight, left is loose on most machines. Same with the bobbin screw. LEAVE THE BOBBIN ALONE FOR NOW> I always make sure my machine is well clean and oiled before I do anything! Put in a new needle and good thread, re-threading the machine. Turn the tension disc adjustment knob fully to the right then to the left and then back to where it was.
    Using a long length of doubled scrap cotton, stitch about 4 inches. Look to see what is happening with the stitches. Where are the stitches sitting on the cloth? If they are sitting on top, with the bobbin stitches pulled up through? Try loosening it a few notches. If it is pulling through, try tightening it a few. Run some more stitches. Keep fine tuning it until it is almost perfect. You should be able to get your stitches almost perfect this way. If the bottom stitches still seem a little tight or loose no matter what, THEN you may adjust the bottom bobbin tension a TAD. Using a small screwdriver, adjust the bobbin a nanoturn at a time. To check to see if your bobbin tension is better, you do not need to sew first. Make sure the bobbin is inserted in the case correctly. Pull the thread through the tension, Holding the whole contraption loosely in your hand, give it a gentle but swift pull. The thread should unwind smoothly and swiftly, and then grab to stop. Kind of like a yo yo at the end of it's descent. Too loose and it will spin in the case, too tight and it will not pull easily. Put it back in and give it a whirl to check the stitches again. Your manual should have pictures of what a good stitch looks like. Hope this is helpful Rodezzy. If you find it confusing, ask as many questions as you need. Cathy

    1. rodezzy | | #2

      O.K.  I will go through all of your instructions tonight!  Thanks so much for your kind attention to my problem.  You are a doll!

      And yes, I did turn the bobbin tension once.  eeeeek..  Did I mess up a lot?

      Edited 9/8/2008 10:53 am ET by rodezzy

      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #3

        Nope, knobs and screws are for turning, it is just a matter of knowing How and When to turn them! Cathy
        PS If you run into real problems PM me and we can go into more detail.
        Since you turned the bobbin screw, start with trying to adjust the tension there a bit first again, OK.
        Edited 9/8/2008 11:02 am ET by ThreadKoe

        Edited 9/8/2008 11:07 am ET by ThreadKoe

        1. rodezzy | | #4

          Yes, I did.  It was on the EuroPro and it really didn't work.  I will do all of the before mentioned cleaning and checking first before I go forth.  I will do it tonight.  Get back to you tomorrow.  What's PM you?  I don't have a computer at home.  Can only talk to you via this thread unless otherwise directed.  The Singer has a drop, front loading bobbin.  Don't know the first thing about dealing with that.  I believe my first steps will be to do all of your cleaning and checking advice first.  Then get back to you....O.K.  I must get it done, because I have much sewing to do with dolls and fall/winter jackets to make.  Thanks for all your help.

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #5

            Private email. PM. If you private email me, I can give you contact info like phone #, so if you get desperate, you can call me or I can call you if it is too expensive. Cathy

          2. rodezzy | | #6

            Good Morning ThreadKoe:  I went home and took a nap.  After which, I freshened up and got to work, following your instructions that I printed out.  I cleaned both machines.  First the Singer, then the EuroPro.  I really opened up both machines and vacuumed them.  Used the machine brush thingie to get in the small places, removed the bobbin cases and shuttles and cleaned everything. 

            I found lots of caked up dust and threads in both.  I oiled them and put them back together.  My tension on both are much better.  The singer had thread jammed in the tension disks.  But I had to go up to #5 on the tension wheel to get a great stitch.  But it is working great.  I thought I had put the paper in my bag with the model #.  It might be 5852.

            The EuroPro is better, but the bottom stitch is still a little too straight, I assume that means the top tension is too tight, but I can't seem to correct it totally.  The tension wheel is at #5 also now.  I spent at least over an hour adjusting everything. 

            I read in the EuroPro manual how the bobbin case is set by the factory and how to test it.  "take out bobbin case and with thread still in place, hold by the thread and shake.  If it is correct the thread will release about 1 to 2 inches of thread.  If too tight, it won't release any thread, and if too loose it will release much more than 2 inches."  I tested and it was too tight.  I adjusted the screw and tested until I got the 1 to 2 inch release.  That stopped the top thread from breaking, which was another problem that had started going on.  With all that said, it is working better than it was and the seams are secure. 

            I ran my stitching tests on folded muslin to simulate a seam.  Actually the seams looked better when I folded the muslin again just to see how it would look.



            Edited 9/9/2008 9:48 am ET by rodezzy

          3. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #7

            What kind of thread are you using? What size of needle? C

            Edited 9/9/2008 11:34 am ET by ThreadKoe

          4. rodezzy | | #9

            I use Coats & Cloaks, Gutermanns, Sulky, machine quilting threads, cotton, cotton covered polyester, rayon, metallics, etc.  I've also used the Sulky specialty yarns in the bobbins for special quilting from the wrong side of the project, so the metallic and/or specialty thread can show up.  That was a process I learned on a quilting show I taped from Simply Quilts. 

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #10

            Do you have the extra bobbin case for the specialty threads? they can really muck up your bobbin tension over time. I have bobbin cases that I use for only regular threads, tensioned for just that, and another for the heavier specialty threads that I muck with. I edited the question about the threads to ask about your needle size. If you are using a size 10 or 12 in your machine? I tend to use a size 10 when fixing my tension, as the needle is right for the muslin and thread. It can make a difference. Cathy

            Edited 9/9/2008 12:05 pm ET by ThreadKoe

          6. rodezzy | | #13

            No I don't have an extra bobbin case, but the thread was thin.  I used it in the bobbin because it kept breaking in the needle.  I used the metallic needle, but it still kept breaking.  Worked good in the bobbin.  I had a size 9 needle in one changed to a 14.  I don't remember what was in the EuroPro.  Not too impressed with my machines I gather.  Yes, they are not fancy.  I never seem to have the money to purchase anything I really want.  I bought the EuroPro off that television program that sells stuff.  I purchased the Singer from a sale I saw in the paper.  My Sears machine I gave to my oldest granddaughter upon her request to sew and they don't know where it is.  Her mother probably trashed it.  She values nothing.  I had a J.C. Penny machine I got from a best friend of which I gifted my cousins daughter-in-law who just bought a home and married my cousins' son.  She sews for her home and has a daughter that is very creative and wants to learn.  I gave them a huge gift basket for the house warming of yarns, crochet & knitting needles, books on everything I could think of, material and the like.  All from my own stash.  Including the machine.  I only replaced on book that I gave away.  The only purchased item was the three foot high basket and a DVD from Liesure Arts:  Knitting & Crocheting.

          7. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #16

            Whoa sweetie, I have not said anything about your machines yet because I have not looked them up yet. A sewing machine is a thing of beauty. I am not familiar at all with the EuroPro. The Singer looks like a nice one. They look well loved. I am just focused on getting your tension where you want it, that is all. I have a bit of a one track mind, and it is thinking hard right now. A fancy shmancy machine still just sews. I own an ancient Bernina. Would not part with it for the world. Saved for a year and a half of my first paychecks out of college. Could have bought a good used car. Cost would have been the same. I even put all my change in a jar to save for that baby. Before that I used an ancient Kenmore, that hardly worked, or my treadle, because it made nicer straight stitches. That is what put me through college. I have a lot of respect for those who work against the odds.
            It sounds like you are on the right track with your tension. If you put a 10 or 12 needle in your machines, and put the same kind of thread in both bobbin and needle, try stitching it out again. See if it makes a difference. Do this with both machines. It sometimes helps if you take away some of the other variables. My machine hates some types of thread, so if yours likes one particular kind more than another, use it. What time will you be available tonight? I can call if you like. Cathy

          8. rodezzy | | #19

            Actually I always wind a bobbin with the same thread I'm sewing with.  I change needles often, but I don't actually count hours.  I also purchase different needles for the type of material being used, lightweight, medium weight, heavy and the like.  I purchased leather needles, quilting needles, metallic needles, etc.  I have twin needles and all.  I have needles for sheer fabric and so on.  I try to stay conscious of most of the academics of sewing.  I am guilty of not cleaning the machine often enough.  The EuroPro suggested lubbing only once a year.  What you think? 

            Yes, you may call me tonight, I will be home.  Will appreciate any advice you have.  It's the EuroPro that is not looking it's best in stitches.  The pics I sent are of the machine and the model number on the instruction booklet. 

            I started sewing in my freshman year in high school, and I should say, I only paid attention to my sewing machine needs later in my sewing experience.  I don't even remember anyone talking about changing needles when I was in high school.  Or machine maintenance.  I really learned that stuff on my own, or shall I say when I picked it up again.  Through reading and the sewing and on TV quilting shows.  I just got back into sewing full force in 1999 when I started quilting.  Then I sort of branched out doing costumes for the grands and then sewing my coats, bedspreads and curtains.  I had put sewing away for a decade at a time.  I've been doing hand crafts, floral arranging, crocheting, some simple beaded projects for sale and the like. 

          9. damascusannie | | #8

            If the bottom thread is laying in a straight line on the bottom of the fabric, that means that your top tension is too loose, not too tight.

          10. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #11

            Thank you Annie, you are absolutely correct. Tension is such a tricky thing, so many factors to consider. Cathy

          11. damascusannie | | #12

            No problem. With all the sewing machines I've worked on, I've gotten pretty good at tension adjustments. The most common problem I know of is lack of maintenance on our machines. For instance, when I'm machine quilting, I clean the lint out of the bobbin area every four hours or so. When piecing, it should be done about once every eight hours. Once a week, a heavily used machine should be cleaned and oiled. The problem with this is that modern machines aren't very user friendly and they are difficult to clean and lube by the owner and unless you insist on being shown how to do it before you take the machine home, your dealer isn't going to clue you in. They want the fees they get for "fixing" them when there is so much lint packed inside that they won't work any more. In fact, be careful when doing home-maintenance because sometimes you can void your warranty if you get too enthusiastic about taking things apart to clean them. This is why I vastly prefer my antique and vintage machines.

          12. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #14

            I know what you mean. I bought an "air pig" (portable air tank) and the attachments to blow air for it. Gentler and just as easy to use as canned air. I also have the attachments for the vaccume cleaner. An assortment of nylon paint brushes and I am ready to go. The Tajima tech who worked on the machines at work showed me how to properly clean the big machines at work, and I just started to do it to my machines at home. What a difference! Just covering your machine when not in use, and cleaning it AFTER you use it is the best preventative medicine.
            Needles are the next big thing. Even a good quality needle wears out quickly. It was explained to me like this:
            As the needle passes through the fabric, it is placed under tension by the fabric and threads, it does this quickly and many many times. This causes flex and friction. The needle flexing and the friction causes the needle to heat. The heat causes the needle to soften, and wear down over time. When a needle flexes, the needle weakens, and will eventually break. The best needles only have about 12 hours of use. That means a total of 12 hours of actual sewing time. So if you sew for roughly a full 4 hours in a night, you should replace your needle every 3 days. Even people powered machines can run at a fairly fast clip. Once a thread snarl or pin hit has happened, you should replace your needle anyway, as the needle has been stressed and has become fragile, and is in danger of snapping. It is now dangerous to you and your project. Why take the chance. Cathy

          13. damascusannie | | #15

            When FM quilting, I put in a new needle with every large quilt, so say every 15 hours or so. With my treadles that see less use, I can go much longer on a needle. I can tell when my needle is getting dull just by the sound it makes going through the fabric. While I can treadle at a pretty good clip for short periods (a minute or two) generally I maintain a relatively slow, constant speed for long periods, so heat from friction is not a significant factor, but just the action of going through a quilt with its heavy cotton batting is very wearing to the point of the needle. I rarely break a needle and then it's usually because my thread snagged somewhere and I don't notice it until it's too late.

          14. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #17

            I have heard of people who use the same needle for years, and then complain that their machine won't work, or the tension is off. Even the proper size needle is so important to proper stitch making. They never taught this when I was learning to sew! Even the ladies who sell and teach the new machines in the stores do not always know. Needles are not expensive either. Sorry, I don't mean to rant. Cathy

          15. damascusannie | | #18

            Oh, I hear you! I can understand hoarding needles if you have a rare antique that takes a weird, no-longer-made needle, but there's no reason whatever not to change your needles regularly when they are inexpensive and common. It makes such a huge difference to how well the machines stitch.

          16. MaryinColorado | | #22

            I was told NEVER use canned air in any computerized machines!  It will ruin them, including sergers!  It just blows the gunk farther into the machines with preassure.  Please be careful with that! 

          17. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #23

            Thank you for the warning. Yes, I am aware of that. I never use canned air. The air pig I use, I can adjust the air flow, so it is very gentle. I also use a bit of gasline antifreeze(methyl hydrate)(just a few drops) in it to absorb any humidity. I do not have computerized machines. The freezing cold air from canned air can really muck up the machines from condensation. Using too much can also freeze the metal and plastic parts making them fragile. I only use it to blow out the area around the bobbin casing, and feed dogs on the sewing machines, and the same on my serger. I Always blow out and away from the machine, never into it. This is after a thorough cleaning with the brushes first. I only use enough to loosen what I cannot get with the brushes and vac. Cathy

          18. MaryinColorado | | #24

            That makes very good sense, I'm glad you clarified it for those who might be tempted to use the canned air. 

            I was at a  "learn your machine" class for my serger when the instructer came up behind me and reached over spraying the canned air into my machine.  Of all people!  I was so shocked that while teaching us how to clean them, she'd use canned air.  She sure jumped back when I yelled "stop!!!"  That was many years ago, so my machine survived it, probably because it wasn't dirty yet.  It still gives me the willys to think it's still being used.  Mary

          19. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #25

            Common sense ain't all that common I guess. The tech that taught me to clean the embroidery machine showed me how to blow out the machines. He also showed me the spots to vac, the ones that are often forgotten, like the fan blades and air vents, that NEVER should be blown into. So When I vac the floors, I vac the vents on the TV, Computer, Microwave etc. It only takes a sec, and they keep on ticking. Cathy

          20. MaryinColorado | | #26

            here here!

          21. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #20

            Finally had 2 secs to look up your machines. Both are dandy babies. I did not know that the Euro Pro is from the same bunch of people as the Shark Vac people. Neat. You should have a pretty good machine there as the Shark machines are pretty good quality. So many companies change hands and names these days.....
            The Singer is like the one I learned on in college, only lots newer. Pretty foolproof. I would double check with the manual to see where you oil the bobbin race. Most machines need some in the Bobbin Race, to make sure that the bobbin runs freely. They should be cleaned out frequently for lint and threads as well. Sounds like we got the tensions worked out pretty good. You will find your machines run a lot quieter now too. I was so happy to talk with you. Cathy

          22. rodezzy | | #21

            Yes, they are running quieter, and the Singer and I sang up a storm last night as I put together a jacket.  I look to that machine more than the other one.  I'll be cleaning it a little tonight as I put the finishing touches on the jacket.  I have to hem the bottom and sleeves, do some top stitching.  And a little embellishing around the entire front only.  Posting pictures in the thread where I was talking about the jacket.  And posting a picture of the Chicago Park District Quilt in the quilting thread.

            Yes, it was so much fun talking with you.  I love your hardy laughter.  I hope we talk again.  And more than that, I hope we will be able to get that retreat going.

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