Even stitching on both ends of any fabric starts with correct tension on your sewing machine. Tension also ensures your fabric moves smoothly and evenly throughout the sewing process. If the tension is too tight, it will be difficult for the thread to move as you sew. To know what sewing machine tension needs to be set at, it is important first to establish all the problems with your sewing machine.
First, if your threads are looking perfectly even and the sewing machine is working seamlessly, then hands off the tension knobs. The following checklist, however, will help you detect any problem with your sewing.
Before touching the tension knobs, here’s what to do.
a. Ensure the hook area is well-lubricated
b. Ensure the machine is correctly threaded. Check the spool for incorrect unwinding. If you are using a bobbin as a spool, I would suggest you check if the bobbin is inserted correctly.
c. Check for any damaged parts. Check the needle and bobbins for bending, thread guides and tension disks for loose connections, presser foot, take-up lever and throat plate should all be working smoothly.
d. Confirm the needles, threads and fabric all come recommended. Tension settings require the right blend of the needle, thread and fabric, as uneven sizes and types can throw the tension settings off balance.
Once you are done with the check and your machine is not working seamlessly, the following excerpt will help you establish where to set the tension on your machine.
Remember, the top thread and bottom thread should be competing with each other, like a game of tug of war. If both sides are applying the same pressure, neither is winning. If one side is playing and the other side is not, then there is no tension, and thus no sewing.
To adjust your tension to the right calibration, adjust the stitching length to 2mm. This represents 12 stitches per inch. You can also use set the length to the one you use frequently. The upper tension regulator should be in the middle. Run a stitch through your fabric and then examine the stitching. If the stitching is not seamless adjust the bobbin spring. If the needle thread is showing on the underlay, loosen the tension. If the bobbin thread is showing on the upper layer, tighten the tension. You will need to repeat this procedure until the tension is right and your stitching is perfect.
Lower numbers on the tension dial represent less tension. Lower tension is when the resistance is low. Turning the dial right increases resistance and hence tension. The vice versa applies. If you experience skipped stitches then your tension is not properly calibrated. If you also experience bobbin tangles your tensioning is incorrect.
It is always important to remember that different needles work with different fabrics. A piece of fabric that is too tough for your needle the tension will adjust itself to try and match the added resistance. This will result to a tension problem. You can start a log of the right needle for the right thread and corresponding fabric.