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Thread: Don't touch that tension...

  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Jun 2012
    North Carolina

    Don't touch that tension...

    How many of you heard your mother say, "don't touch that tension"? I need to get over my fear of moving that little knob I don't blame her, I'm sure her machine (late 1960's) was temperamental.
    So any tension tips for dummies out there?
    I want to add that this board is awesome, so many sweet people who will share their knowledge and love of quilting. Thank you!

  2. #2
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    Feb 2009
    Northern Michigan
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    if your tension is *off* you need to adjust it...many of the new machines are pretty good at adjusting their own tension...you don't mention what your machine is??? your user manual should te ll you exactly how to adjust your tension-and when it is necessary- or maybe you could take a *sewing machine owners class* at a local dealer to learn exactly how to use your machine- that would help you understand all the bells & whistles, maintenance, and trouble shooting. back in the 60's not only did they not generally touch the tension...but they also prided themselves in using the same needle for 20+ years! things have changed with time- now we have tons of choices in threads, stitches, fabrics, needles, techniques, it's all different now. if you do not have an available class and you want to learn about tensions take some scrap fabric pieces (folded in half-or 2 pieces) get out your book & start doing some adjusting---stitch a line- straight stitch & zigzag and look at it---then adjust some more---use contrasting thread that will show up well---just do some experimenting...but pay attention to what you are doing- and write down what is *perfect*... but remember- different fabrics, threads and stitches sometimes need a bit of adjusting...it's nothing to be afraid of- just get comfortable with your machine.
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  3. #3
    Super Member deedum's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
    That was what I heard also,not from my mother as she passed away young, but more I guess the era. If you touch the tension, it was doomsday for the machine! Nice to know we don't have to be scared of it after all.
    Last edited by deedum; 06-22-2013 at 03:45 AM.

  4. #4
    Super Member nygal's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    New York
    Yes, I was brought up hearing that too!
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  5. #5
    Super Member Lisa_wanna_b_quilter's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
    The middle of an IL cornfield
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    I have no fear of the top tension but can't bring myself to mess with bobbin tension. I'm convinced if I turn that little screw on the bobbin case something BAD will happen.

  6. #6
    Super Member patchsamkim's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Fox Valley Wisconsin
    I think a lot of us grew up hearing that. I have though become fearless in changing my tension. It can be different depending on what thread and fabric and needle you are using. I try to always do a sample, and then fine tune the tension.
    Top tension is the less "scary" to change. I bought a separate bobbin case that I use when I want to change my bobbin tension...usually if using a heavier thread.

  7. #7
    Super Member Weezy Rider's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    With some of the newer machines, there are a lot of possibilities. I had a Pfaff 1471, took classes at the dealers.
    There were a lot of new techniques where you HAD to change the tension. Ribbon embroidery comes to mind.

    I now have a 2144. The workbook has stitches where you have to change the tension to get them to work right.
    Rolled hem is one.

    Most of the new machines go back to default when turned off. You usually have a place to save that stitch setting.

  8. #8
    Power Poster
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    Mar 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    The most important first step is to note the tension settings on a piece of paper before you change anything. If you know where the settings started out at you can return them to their original positions if you made the stitching worse.
    Most machines have a factory setting mark on the top tension and I always start there. The tiny screw on most bobbin cases you turn left to loosen and right to tighten.

  9. #9
    Super Member #1piecemaker's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    Ashdown, AR
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    I am learning quite a bit about how the difference in even a different color of thread affects the tension. It drives me crazy sometimes trying to find the perfect setting. Good luck with your machine.
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  10. #10
    Super Member cabbagepatchkid's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    Massachusetts, USA
    I grew up having that drilled into my head, too. I'm pretty sure that it was because it would have been such a nightmare for the Home Ec teachers to have to re-adjust all of those tension knobs, after every class, if the girls played with the knobs during class. So, they scared us about it and there is a whole generation of sewers still afraid of "touching the tension knob". lol

    Now that I collect and repair vintage sewing machines I see that it would be very difficult to destroy a tension knob or even a bobbin case. I can even take them apart, clean and polish the parts AND THEN put the whole thing back together again!!!! The internet is an amazing place to learn all kinds of things.

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