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If your machine is having what you believe are “tension issues”, it’s 95% likely there’s something wrong with your bobbin.

So many times when I’m trouble-shooting a student’s machine, they think “I have problems with my machine tension!” because there’s thread bunched up under their fabric. But that’s almost never the case. It’s most of the time just a bobbin issue! So stop adjusting the upper thread tension dial, and don’t bother Googling “How do I fix my sewing machine tension problem?” Here’s what you’re probably doing wrong:

1. You aren’t using the right bobbin for your machine
Even if the bobbin fits nicely in your bobbin case or machine, if it’s not the proper classification, you’ll run into troubles .

2. Your bobbin has thread sticking out
No amount of thread (even a little bit of fuzz) should be sticking out of your bobbin. Trim that stuff down completely!

3. The thread in your bobbin isn’t densely packed and tightly wound
If you forgot to put your thread through the bobbin winder tension disk when loading your bobbin with thread, the thread will be soft and you’ll have issues down the road.

4. Thread is too close to the edge of the bobbin
When you’re winding your bobbin with thread, stop when you’re about 1-2 mm (1/16”) away from the end of the bobbin.

5. The thread in your bobbin wasn’t loaded evenly
While loading your bobbin with thread, make sure you keep the thread straight and even and avoid any bumps and dips.

6. The threaded bobbin is put into your machine or bobbin case incorrectly
If you’ve got a drop-in load machine, when your bobbin is put into the machine, the bobbin should spin counter-clockwise when you pull the bobbin thread. If you’re got a front-load machine, when your bobbin is put into the bobbin case, the bobbin should spin clockwise when you pull the bobbin thread and you’re holding the bobbin case with the bobbin facing up toward you.

10 Comments

  • Purplefan_large

    Aug 15, 2015, 05.28 PMby purplefan

    Those drop-in bobbin cases-need to be cleaned often-either between projects or as your fabric yields lots of lint. Don’t use those tiny stiff black plastic bristle brushes that seem standard with machine accessory kits-pay for the longer and softer bristle Singer lint brushes as they will get the lint outside of the bobbin case too. Take out the bobbin case (remove the throat plate) and put a drop of sewing machine oil on that wick in the centre after every project.

    2 Replies
    • Denise_wild_lovesewing_large

      Aug 16, 2015, 10.06 PMby Denise Wild

      Great tip!!

    • Missing

      Aug 18, 2015, 03.13 AMby adgentry

      Excellent tip! Thank you!

  • Eb175c68c6e86cf172dba0a73bdf951828c38776_large

    Aug 12, 2015, 07.35 PMby lincatz

    my tip. Do not stack different threads on a single bobbin meaning: Never ever EVER wind one thread over another thread -no matter what anyone says. Winding new thread on a bobbin already half full with thread is a good way to get all the above problems especially: Uneven winding, too loose (or too tight) winding, bobbin too full, loops in the bobbin thread and more. Each colour/type thread should be on its own bobbin. Bobbins are inexpensive so there’s no reason not to have plenty available to accommodate all your different threads.

    2 Replies
    • 03003e1f_2_large

      Aug 13, 2015, 03.42 AMby sewing fanatic

      great tips thanks! i used to be guilty of doing this and wondering why things were happening lol, I don’t do that now and things are going much smoother haha!

    • Denise_wild_lovesewing_large

      Aug 13, 2015, 04.42 AMby Denise Wild

      YES!!!! So important!

  • Missing

    Aug 12, 2015, 03.39 PMby Relixandria

    There is one more reason that I have found could potentially cause tension problems, that is if the bobbin thread is a different type than the spool thread.

    1 Reply
    • Denise_wild_lovesewing_large

      Aug 13, 2015, 04.42 AMby Denise Wild

      Oh really???? Interesting! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • 03003e1f_2_large

    Aug 12, 2015, 12.41 PMby sewing fanatic

    thanks for the tips! my machine sometimes has threading/tension/bobbin issues, but i recognize them faster now =P

    • This is a question
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