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Monofilament thread tension adjustments

When using clear thread, do you use the same tension on the top and bottom tension wheels?


This question was asked in the 'Comments' section from Machine
Quilting with Clear Thread"
. I think this question deserves its own separate page.

Let's get to it!

Tension adjustments will depend on your sewing machine.

Sewing machines are designed to... with a balanced stitch when using a fine sewing thread...50 or 60 both the needle and the bobbin. That makes sense. These machines are designed to sew garments. Garment seams are sewn with the same thread.

When we quilters get a hold of 'em, we start using all kinds of threads for our quilting stitches...because they're available, because we can and because they are COOL!!!

With monofilament thread in the needle and bobbin, there should be fewer tension adjustments because you're using the same thread for both.

This thread, however, is not a 50 or 60 wt but even finer. Add to that that the thread has stretch. (Pull on a length of invisible thread and you'll be able to feel it.) That stretch creates/adds tension to the thread as it winds it's way through your machine.

Given these facts, I suspect that you'll need to DECREASE the tension on your needle.

Testing on a practice quilt sandwich is necessary to determine what tension adjustments are necessary for your machine. (I'm assuming it's a home sewing machine.)

Stitch a line of quilting.

Now inspect it. If bobbin thread is showing on the top, your needle tension is probably too tight. Reduce the needle tension.

If needle thread is showing on the bottom, either your needle thread is too loose and needs to be tighten or your bobbin tension is too tight and needs to be loosen. I always start with adjustments to my needle tension first. It's just plain easier.

If you need to change your bobbin tension adjustment because you can't quite get there with the needle, remember to note the original position of the tension screw. You'll want to return it back to its original position once you are finished with your project.

A confession...

I am an invisible thread lover! This is my current stash of it...

Monofilament thread options

From left to right: Madeira, Superior Threads, Sulky, SewArt (clear and smoke) and YLI (clear and smoke)

I used to use monofilament thread in the bobbin and in the needle.

But I don't anymore.

My initial reason what that I could wind more thread onto the bobbin. But with newer threads like Superior Thread's Bottom Line (a 60 wt polyester—virtually no lint which I LOVE!) I can wind a lot of thread on my bobbin.

And you have to pay attention when you wind a bobbin with monofilament thread, especially if it's a plastic bobbin like mine are. You need to wind the bobbin at a slower speed because it has a tendency to stretch as it winds. Next, if you've got a plastic bobbin, it is recommended that you fill if only about half full because the thread can 'burst' the bobbin. I know that sounds strange, but it has happened several times with my viking #1+.

I actually like the look of the top stitches (in clear thread) better when the bobbin is a cotton thread or my favorite Bottom Line. If you try the Bottom Line and have any problems with it 'cutting' your clear thread, then switch to one of the nice 50wt cottons made by Superior Threads, Aurifil or Prescenia. They will all work nicely.

Thank you for your question.


Julie Baird

Comments for Monofilament thread tension adjustments

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Invisible thread quilting
by: Donalda

I love your site. Thank you. I am trying to machine quilt on make it look like hand quilting. I am using the invisible thread on my top. I used the stitch setting for this and adjusted my tension ....and all goes well on looks just like hand . However my bottom stitches do not look like hand quilting but rather long running stitches similar to basting.

Do you have any suggestions.

From the Editor: Unfortunately, this is the look that you're going to get.

~ Julie

Thanks again

Thank you
by: Superior Threads

Thank you so much for your very informative article on monofiliment thread. We have MonoPoly in clear matte and smoke matte colors. It is strong enough to run successfully not only with domestic machines but also longarm machines.


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