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Thread: Don't touch that tension...

  1. #1
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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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
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    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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    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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    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.

  11. #11
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    I am still a believer in "don't touch the bobbin tension" IMHO it is very tricky to turn the bobbin screw and a little turn goes can make a really big difference in the bobbin tension. and then it is hard to get it back right.I am not aware that there is a special mark on the bobbin tension screw that will help you get it back to factory preset.so how do you know where you started. To test you machine tension- sew a live o the DIAGINAl on fabric. gently pull the fabric at both ends on the line and see if/which side breaks, If the top thread breaks then the top tension is too tight, if the bottom breaks the bottom tension is too tight, and is neither breaks then tension is good. I will try adjusting the top tension only first before messing with the bottom tension svrew.
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  12. #12
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    The tension is the first thing I change on any machine I sew on, new or old. I start with 0 setting and move up 1/2 until I get the perfect stitch. You can't use the same tension with all the different type threads weights and needle sizes. And you have to adjust for weight and ply of bobbin thread. If a dial or button is on a machine it is there to be pushed or turned. Bobbin tension is not scary. Only if the bobbin thread is extra heavy do I have to change the bobbin tension on my machines.
    Last edited by BellaBoo; 06-22-2013 at 06:43 AM.
    Got fabric?

  13. #13
    Super Member willferg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lisa_wanna_b_quilter View Post
    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.
    I always heard that, too. When my machine started messing up I called the dealer/repairman, and he told me to adjust the screw or bring my machine for a three-week sleepover, he was that backed up. He did suggest turning just a quarter circle at a time, which I did, and it was no big deal. It was nowhere near as fussy as I'd always heard it would be.
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  14. #14
    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    I never that term, I know from past experience, it is hard to get the tension perfect on 50s and 60s machines. Been there done that. I love my newer machines, much easier to sew on.
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  15. #15
    Super Member DOTTYMO's Avatar
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    Well after over 60 years with sewing machines never heard this before. My mother and great aunt allowed me to pull their machines apart put together and fiddle with everything. As long as it was the same at the end as when I began. Even my father pulled clocks and bikes apart to put together. Later in life I did car engines myself then with very much younger brother. Never had a screw left.
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  16. #16
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    Bernina 440QE

    My Bernina dealer told me she didn't think I could get consistent stitches usinging King Tut 40/3 in the top and bobbin. She recommended if I wanted to try it I should buy another bobbin case. ($60). Because, she said, I should never touch the original factory bobbin case setting. Does anyone have experience with this? Is she just trying to sell bobbin cases? I'd like to believe that is not the case.

  17. #17
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    lots of info in the vintage sewing section: http://www.quiltingboard.com/vintage...s-t170748.html
    I have found that the older machines and those plastic wonders seem to have a lot in common - user errors. That post is old but if you cut and paste some of the links will come up. There is other good info around, too.
    User error: someone bought a couple vintage machines and left their 'old' plastic wonders with me. The only thing wrong with both plastic wonders was they both had the needles in backwards. Be sure to check to see what is really wrong with the machine. Someone else brought in a machine that he thought had a messed up tension. The pressure knob was set wrong and the feed dogs were slightly dropped. The bobbin tension was set wrong for the thread. If the tension isn't happy the machine isn't happy.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  18. #18
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    I always check the tension on a scrap of the fabric of the project before beginning piecing. The easiest way to see if it is right is to do a zigzag for about an inch and a half. When I bought my Pfaff 2044, I bought an extra bobbin case for those special thread stitches that need adjusting.

  19. #19
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    OMG - I thought I was the only one who grew up with "hands off the tension knob"!

    Debbie

  20. #20
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    I'm very lucky and can go by this rule. I have a Viking Diamond Deluxe and it auto adjust so I've never had to worry about that. I know that if I use speciality thread that may change. I've used metallic and it did fine after I took it off the machine and put it in a coffee cup. Bottom line is; if the stitching/thread is messing up on the bottom of fabric it's your top area that has the problem rather its tension or rethreading, etc and if the messing up is on the top, then its the bobbin area which most of the time can be fixed by rethreading the bobbin, rewinding the bobbin or even cleaning it out. I try to make sure my top and bottom thread are of the same type and this helps eliminate problems too. I was told in class this weekend that all spool threads even the small ones should be used standing up. I've never had a problem with them laying down so she said I was lucky. It is another area that I can investigate when I have an issue so its good to know.
    Judy

  21. #21
    Super Member ube quilting's Avatar
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    Consider this. Why is the knob there if you are not to change the tension. A manufacturer wouldn't put it there, would they? Get over it or when you really do need an adjustment you won't know how to do it. If you are fearful of this, ask a shop to teach you.
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  22. #22
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    I try to teach people how to adjust the tensions when they buy the machine. Half the time they don't take the time to learn. Some are too scared. Some assume it works so it will work forever.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

  23. #23
    Super Member coopah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lisa_wanna_b_quilter View Post
    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.
    Just turn it in very, very, very small increments and you will be okay. I had the same fear until I had no other option. Just go slow and small when adjusting.
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  24. #24
    Super Member Dodie's Avatar
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    I have learned to play with the tension on my machine so I have no fear of the top tension I did buy an extra bobbin case to play with and can also create some fun things that way so much to do so little time just don't get your 2 bobbin casings mixed up

  25. #25
    Power Poster miriam's Avatar
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    The idea of a second bobbin case is good - I've suggested that many times. Going back and forth with various threads is doable much quicker that way - the upper tension would still have to be adjusted to go back and forth.
    NEVER let a sewing machine know you are in a hurry.

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