How Do I Know If My Sewing Machine Has The Right Tension?

I knew the importance of having the right tension for your sewing machine the day I got an emergency bridal wear contract. After the cutting, shaping l( you know all those things that had to do with bridal wear), and 20 minutes after placing the fabric on the machine to stitch, I realized the fabric was not stitching properly. 


I was amazed as I had not experienced that before in my few years of sewing, I tried all I could but it was not giving me the right stitch and I had to call a friend who told me it was my tension and taught me how to go about it. However, the wedding was postponed because I finished the cloth late and I didn’t get to collect my full pay for the job.


Your sewing machine has the right tension when the upper and lower stitches lock together without any loop or knot or when both stitches look the same. Any other look apart from this look is a result of a wrong tension.


What Is The Right Tension Setting For My Sewing Machine?

The tension varies depending on the type of stitch so for a straight stitch, the dial settings should be set to 4.5 and you either set it to  3 or 4 for a zig-zag stitch.

What Is The Reason Behind My Sewing Machine Wrong Tension?

Wrong tension could arise as a result of a few things apart from the dial settings and these conditions must be checked first before you touch the dial.

  • Quality Of The Thread.

A low-quality thread will bring about breakage and might not even lock together so you must get a high-quality thread of the same size and type for your needle and bobbin.

  • Wrong Threading Of The Machine.

There is likely to be a loose stitch if your machine is not threaded properly and if you are using a bobbin as a spool.

  • Incorrect mode of  Bobbin Threading.

An uneven tension can arise as a result of threading the bobbin by hand instead of threading it with the bobbin winder pin.

  • Blunt Needle.

According to age, there is a general rule of thumb that says that the “sewing machine needle should be changed every 8 hours of sewing or after you might have used 3 bobbins of threads.”However, few sewists remove it after completing a project.


This was said to avoid wrong stitches or tension throwing due to the bluntness of the needle.


  • Dirty Machine

Failure to clean the machine properly will result in wrong stitches and this is a result of the dirt accumulated from the coupling of the fabric with the thread in the spool and bobbin especially when there are knots on your fabric.

  • Damaged Machine Parts.

Check out the throat plate for any dirt or damage as a hole in the middle of the plate or a rough one can result in an uneven stitch. Besides, the leftover of a broken needle can cause the machine to malfunction.

  • Bobbin Case.

If your bobbin is not inserted correctly or fixed tightly into the bobbin case, it could throw tension off the dial with the wrong stitches but that could be solved by reading your owner manual on how to fix the bobbin correctly into the bobbin case.


How Best Should I Clean My Sewing Machine?

I know you know you don’t have to clean your sewing machine the way you will clean your dishes in your kitchen. However, it all has to do with steps and they are 

  • Switch Off and unplug  Your Machine
  • Read your manual to know the right thing to do.
  • Remove the plate and the bobbin to get under the bobbin case.
  • Brush out all the threads and lint with your machine brush or mascara wand.
  • Oil your sewing machine inner parts with machine-supported oil.
  • Clean the exterior part of the machine after you are through with the interior part.


How Do I Check My Bobbin Tension?

The  wrong tension of your machine could be a result of your bobbin tension and this can be checked in various ways which are

  • The tension of your bobbin is too tight if the bobbin does not come out of the case with the thread still maintaining its position when you hold your bobbin case upside down.
  • When the bobbin and thread come out of the case freely without stopping at a point or even dropping finally to the ground, that means the bobbin is too loose.
  • Your bobbin has a good tension if the bobbin falls two inches below the bobbin case when held upside down without it falling to the ground.


How Do I  Set My  Sewing Machine Tension?

After you might have fixed lt the above reason for a wrong tension and your machine is still not giving the right stitch, the next thing to do is to change the tension settings and this can be done following the steps below.


  • Remove the previous thread on your machine and rethread your machine properly not forgetting to raise the presser foot before inserting the thread from the upper spool through the tension discs.


  • Set the tension on your machine to 4 or 4.5 on the tension control which is always near the tension discs and directly over the needle.


  • For a computerized machine, set the tension on the touch screen.


  • Place your fabric piece(a small sample) on your sewing machine and sew a few inches on it.


  • Remove the fabric from the machine to examine the stitches.


  • Increase the number of the tension if the stitch is too loose by turning it upward or by pressing in the number if making use of a computerized machine.


  • Decrease the number of the tension if the stitch is too tight.


  • Continue your project if the stitch is balanced.


How Do I Adjust My Bobbin Tension?

Your bobbin tension can be adjusted right from the screw on the bobbin case.


If your bobbin is too tight, there is a need to loosen it and that can be done by turning the tiny screw on your bobbin case to the left and giving it a ⅛ to  ¼ turn at a time thereby adjusting the tension on the thread.


Tighten your bobbin case if it is too loose by turning the screw to the right, giving it a ⅛ to ¼ increment at a time and if it is too tight, reduce it by turning it to the left until you get your desired tension.


What Is The Right Tension For My Sewing Machine?

The right tension for your sewing machine is dependent on the type of fabric you are working on coupled with the type of needle and the bobbin case.


However, the right tension can be known when you test run your machine threading your machine with different colors of thread both at the upper part and the lower part(bobbin) before sewing a few inches on a small piece of that fabric you want to work on.


Once the upper and lower stitch is even and firm or the stitches enter into the center of the fabric without poking up, that means the tension for your machine is the right one for the job.


You must also check for the firmness and tightness of the stitches as a loose or tangled stitch is a result of low tension and a tiny stitch causing the fabric to get wrinkled is a result of high tension. Both low and high tension are classified under wrong tension.

What Is The Right Tension To Use For My Thick Or Heavy Fabric?

You might need to keep setting your tension until you get a perfect one for your heavy fabric but you sure need a very high tension which you can start testing from 4.5 which is the normal setting.


The thicker the cloth the higher the tension settings and you might need to make use of a special kind of thread and needle, especially for material like denim and upholstery material that requires a tension setting of 6.

What Is The Right Tension To Use For My Light Weight Cotton Fabric?

Cotton fabric with other lightweight cloth such as gingham and calico requires a tension setting of 3 or 4 in conjunction with a  cotton thread in the upper spool and the bobbin. Test on a fabric piece to see if the upper and lower thread is even.


What Is The Right Tension To Use For My Flannel Fabric?

To get the right tension for your flannel material, you might need to adjust your stitch length to a long one in conjunction with a low tension setting of 3 to 3.5.


What Is The Right Tension To Use For My Polyester Fabric?

Polyester fabric will also require the same tension settings as that of thick fabric as you have to increase the tension settings depending on the thickness of the cloth and test it at each set starting from 4 until you get the perfect one.

What Is The Right Tension To Use For My Silk Material?

In contrast to flannel fabric, the stitch length of the machine should be shortened in conjunction with tension settings as low as 2 or 3 depending on the softness of the cloth to produce a neatly finished material.

What Is The Right Tension To Use For My Stretchy Fabric?

When working on a stretchy material, you need to lower your tension to 2 or 3 and make use of a zigzag stitch or stretchy to produce a good and neat outfit.



Having and knowing the right tension to use for your sewing machine depending on the uniqueness of the fabric can save you a lot of stress and even make your work faster as you will not have issues with thread breakage or wrong stitching.


However, there is a need to check the quality of your thread, your bobbin tension, the sharpness of your needle, the type of fabric you are using, and the state of your machine before you touch the tension dial settings.