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Sewing Machine Tension Question

by Trudy
(Easton, MD USA)

Underneath the quilt, my stitches are looped, but on the top the stitches are perfect. I've adjusted the bobbin tension but nothing has worked. What do I need to do?


When your sewing machine tension goes wonky, it sure can be frustrating, can't it!

In my experience, I've found that I need very few adjustments to my bobbin tension—that virtually all my tension adjustments are made to the needle tension.

But needle thread looping on the bottom can be caused by several different things. We'll get the easy ones out of the way first.

  • Change to a new needle. A damaged needle is the culprit a lot of problems. The points of our needles are so fine that we might not be able to see the problem with the naked, so change out the needle.

  • After you put in a new needle, re-thread your machine. If you've missed a thread guide, or the thread has popped off a guide (or especially the uptake arm), this reduces the tension on your needle thread and mess up your stitches.

  • If you are free motion quilting, make sure that your presser foot is in the 'down' position. With your darning foot down, you'll still be able to move the quilt sandwich under the needle. That's how it's supposed to work. The problem is that the foot doesn't look 'down' making it harder to tell the difference.

    If the foot is in the 'up' position, the tension disks are not closed and no tension is applied to the thread as you stitch. This would cause all sorts of birds nest or 'thread-throw-up', as I like to call it. If this was the culprit, though, I'd expect to see some problems with the stitch quality on the top of your quilt.

  • If the problem is with most or all of the stitches on the underside of your quilt then increase your needle tension. One number up and then test. Repeat until the tension looks better.

  • If it's only on the curves, then what you've got is 'eyelashing'...a very accurate description of what the stitches look like. What's happens is that as quilters go around a curve, sometimes they radically change the speed at which they are moving the quilt sandwich. This has an impact (negative) on the stitches. To fix this, fight the urge to speed up around curves. It takes awhile to make this habit your own because it feels strange. But if you practice, it will come. Tweak your needle tension up just a teeny-bit to help.

Trudy, I believe one of these suggestions should work for you. Thank you for your question.

Readers, if you have more ideas, please do post them using the 'Comment' link below. We welcome your suggestions. Thank you!


Julie Baird

Comments for Sewing Machine Tension Question

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Machine thread tension
by: Pam

Also check to see if the bobbin thread has slipped out of the tension slot or if the top thread has slipped out of the take up lever.

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