Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tips on Machine Tension

I use a variety of threads and there are many great brands out there.  But more often than not, I find myself selecting products from Superior Threads.  (I do a lot of my piecing with Masterpiece thread and all of my hand applique with Superior Kimono Silk thread- it's amazing!)   They have great education articles on their website.  The following us used by permission from Superior threads.

When I'm having machine problems, the answer is ALMOST ALWAYS to change the needle or use the appropriate needle, or something to do with the thread.  A NEW needle and GOOD thread are often the answer.  If you inherit 75 year-old thread from your grandmother, use it for decoration in a pretty container.  Don't use it to make a quilt!

Anyway- I found the following interesting and I thought you might, too.




Q. Can I rely on the automatic tension system to adequately adjust the top tension?
A. No.  If you use different threads, fiber types, and sizes, your automatic tension setting most likely will not be adequate to adjust properly for all situations. Learning to manually adjust an auto-tensioned machine is very important when using a variety of threads.

Q. How do I know when the top tension is too loose?
A. The top thread loops on the back. You may also get what is called a birds nest, where the top thread bunches up underneath.

Q. How do I know when the top tension is too tight?
A. Thread breakage, thread shredding or fraying, seeing a lot of lint from a high quality thread, and/or feeling excessive resistance when pulling the thread through the needle. Make sure you also check the needle size because these symptoms may be related to using a too small a needle.

Q. Do some threads require looser tension settings even though they are not heavy threads?
A. Yes, especially metallic threads, hologram threads, and other sensitive threads.

Q. Is it necessary to adjust the bobbin tension?
A. Sometimes, but not nearly as often as the top tension. If a good bobbin thread is breaking, check the bobbin tension.  It might be too tight.

Q. It seems like the top tension doesn’t change even though I adjust the setting. Why?
A. There might be lint or debris caught between or behind the tension discs prohibiting them from opening and closing properly.
Q. Can you help me reduce the tension and stress in my life?
A. Yes.  Have a grandchild.

View Bob's Tension demonstration.
Video 1 (3 minutes) Why adjusting tension is important
Video 2 (6 minutes) How tension worksView an interesting illustration showing how tension works, The Thread Tug-of-War


Tension is move involved on longarm machines.  Until recently, there has been no way to measure top tension on longarm machines so it required constant experimenting and guessing.  Bobbin tension also requires frequent adjusting, usually every time a the thread combination changes.
There are two tools available for longarm tension measuring.
1. Top Tension Pro, an electronic device that measure top tension.  Designed mainly for Handi Quilter and Baby Lock longarm machines.
Click here for details