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Thread tensions and common issues

Author: Gary Walker, Managing Director Echidna Sewing  

Just the mention of thread tension strikes fear into many home embroiderers and it shouldn’t. Tension is a very simple thing to understand, as long as you know where to start.

The most common tension issue is when the bobbin thread peeks through to the top of the fabric resulting in little white thread spots in an otherwise good-looking design. In simple terms, this result is due to an imbalance between the top and bottom thread tension. Either the bobbin tension is too loose or the needle tension is too tight. This problem can sometimes be due to the variability of thread and it’s not necessarily a quality issue. Different types of thread can give very different tensions but the first starting point for setting any machine tension is to make sure that the bobbin tension is within an acceptable range.

Unlike the needle tension, there is no dial or electronic measurement to work with, just a tiny adjusting screw on the bobbin case or bobbin holder.

Measuring your bobbin tension

It’s easier than you may think so you should invest in the Echidna Thread Tension Gauge. It’s an inexpensive and simple device for measuring tension.

To measure your bobbin tension view the video or follow these three easy steps.

  1. Load your bobbin and draw the bobbin thread up through the needle hole.
  2. Tie a simple loop on the end of the bobbin thread.
  3. Place the tension gauge hook into the loop you just tied and slowly and evenly pull the gauge away from the machine taking note of where the indicator reads on the printed scale on the gauge. A good starting point is 50 grams. Less than 25grams will definitely be too loose, which means you need to tighten the bobbin tension. More than 75 grams is too tight so you’ll need to loosen the bobbin tension.

Adjusting the bobbin tension

If you have to adjust your bobbin tension remember the old saying lefty/loosie – righty/tighty. Before adjusting however, always check that there is no foreign matter or lint trapped in the bobbin case tension spring. Usually, your machine user guide will provide instructions on how to identify and adjust your bobbin case tension screw.

Additionally, only ever adjust the screw a ¼ of a turn at a time, then measure the tension again. If after adjusting several times there is no noticeable variation in the tension, it is good idea to contact us or your local service agent.

Tip: Always have a spare bobbin case on hand. Bobbin cases are considered consumable items and sometimes need to be replaced. Having a spare can be a lifesaver. 

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