Help! My machine’s tension is broken! :’-(

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If your sewing machine is creating loops or snarls of threads on the back side of your project, or the stitches are skipping, you probably think it’s tension needs adjusting. Chances are however, it doesn’t.

Check these 4 things before you touch your machines tension dial.
Is your machine threaded correctly?
1. Take the upper thread all the way off the machine.
2. Are you using an all-purpose thread?
Specialty threads will take more experience to work with. I recommend only all-purpose thread for the beginning sewist. Make sure it is newer thread. Vintage spools, while pretty to look at, don’t feed as nicely and break easily.
3. Lift the presser foot!!!!
When the presser foot is down, the tension discs clamp on the thread. You can’t feed the thread between the tension discs when the presser foot is down, which results in those mysterious “tension issues.”
4. Bring the needle to the uppermost position.
5. Rethread the upper thread – follow the markings on your machine or directions in your sewing machine manual to make sure you don’t miss any steps.
Is your bobbin threaded correctly?
1. Bring the needle to the uppermost position and lift the presser foot.
2. Take the bobbin out of your machine (and out of the case, if you have a front-loading bobbin).
3. Is the thread wound nicely around the bobbin? It should be smoothly wound, if it isn’t, cut it off and rewind it.
4. Reload the bobbin into your machine.
5. To fish for the bobbin thread, hold the top thread while bringing the needle all the way down and up again. Pull on the upper thread and it will bring the bobbin thread up.
Did you changed the needle yet?
1. If your needle is old, it might be slightly bent, or the tip is broken off. This could effect the timing and result in skipped stitches. Swap out your old needle for a new one. Universal size 80/12 will work for most beginner projects.
2. If you are working with a finer, heavier, or speciality fabrics, you might need a different kind or size of needle for the best results.
Is your machine cleaned and oiled?
Sewing machines collect lint over the course of every project. After a few projects, the lint can become an obstruction to the machinery. In addition to the lint build-up, older machines will also need regular oiling with a special machine oil, but you need to refer to your manual to see if this applies to your machine.
If all else fails, it might be time to take your machine in for some TLC with a qualified technician.