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  • Writer's pictureLonda

Tension De-Mystified

Regarding Tension – THAT is something you do NOT want when sewing –

if you ask me, we sew to REDUCE TENSION.  

I always laughed when gals would come into my storefront years ago with their machine – nests of thread on the back side, and insisting that the “bobbin tension was all messed up” – even if it had just been in for service.  UNDOUBTEDLY, I could show them easily the ‘operator error’ which I demonstrated by giving them a properly wound bobbin of one color, and another thread (same type) of different color for the top and asked them to thread the machine.  I would always find one of 3 things:

1.  They threaded the top with the presser foot in the DOWN position.  Hands down – that is the most common  mistake.  When the presser foot is down the tension discs are closed, and the thread has no ‘squeeze’, therefore no ‘tension’, and it is pulled to the bottom.  I could prove that by the color of the ‘nesting’ thread on the bobbin.

2.  The bobbin was inserted going the wrong way.  ALWAYS and withOUT exception (to the best of my knowledge),

  1. Vertical riding bobbins in a case: hold the case with the open side towards you, and the bobbin thread must be coming off the right side, so that when pulled, the bobbin rotates CLOCKWISE.

  2. Horizontal, drop-in bobbins:  the thread must be coming off the LEFT side, so when pulled, the bobbin rotates COUNTER CLOCKWISE, and once it is pulled up through the hole in the throat plate, you MUST see that thread going ACROSS the top of the bobbin = or it is NOT engaged in the tension.

3.  DIRT or FLUFF.  One must keep machines CLEAN from fluff.  Most common culprit?  Poor quality thread!

The other thing that made me laugh was when gals came in wanting a machine with ‘automatic tension’.  Regardless of settings available on a machine, my response was then – and would still be today, despite the amazing advances of machines, that “I hadn’t met a machine yet that eyes and feelers”.  Without KNOWING the exact thread, needle choice, and fabric sewing on, a machine can NOT automatically adjust the tension.  No way, No how.

It’ silly to ‘re-invent’ the wheel, so here are some videos by experts that I have watched and agree with heartily.  Take time to watch and understand and your sewing will be Tension-FREE!

1.  “Thread Therapy with Dr. Bob”  How Tension Discs Work  6:44 minutes of understanding  what is happening with those needle thread tension discs!

Upper Thread Tension Disc Explanation - Bob Purcell

Upper Thread Tension Disc Explanation – Bob Purcell

Just go to You Tube and do a search for Bob Purcell – this guy is a true gift to our sewing world, IMHO!

Helen Godden is a gal – I believe from England, who also has some WONDERFUL understanding.  Everything she says is right on – and it’s not just for the longer quilting machine you see in the video.  Listen up!

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