Correcting Sewing Machine Tension for Free Motion Quilting

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Sewing machine tension can be frustrating to deal with because it can determine how good or bad your stitching looks. While you may have your tension set correctly for piecing and sewing, you may find that you need to make adjustments when switching to free motion quilting. Heather Thomas shows you how to adjust your sewing machine tension for free motion quilting to achieve the best stitching possible.

Know Your Machine

Whether you are dealing with tension issues or are doing any other kind of sewing machine troubleshooting, it is important to know your machine. Sewing machines have tension on both the bobbin and needle thread. Most machines have some kind of dial located on the top of the machine that allows you to make adjustments to the needle tension. Heather explains that the needle tension dials will be labeled with numbers anywhere from zero to nine and will usually have what the manufacturer considers to be ‘normal’ tension marked in some way.

For the bobbin tension, machines will have either a front/side load bobbin or a drop-in bobbin. Front and side load bobbins can be adjusted by turning a small screw located on the side of the bobbin case. Drop-in bobbins don’t have the same kind of bobbin case and therefore you are generally limited to making changes to the needle tension to adjust your sewing machine tension.

Adjusting Sewing Machine Tension

Heather demonstrates what bad tension can look like when free motion quilting on a small sample. She explains what a common tension issue called ‘eyelashing’ is and shows what it can look like on both the right and wrong side of the fabric. She then explains how to fix the issue by adjusting the needle tension in small increments and test stitching after each change. She explains how important it is to make all changes to your sewing machine tension in small numbers and how and why those changes have to be made while the presser foot is in the up position.

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5 Responses to “Correcting Sewing Machine Tension for Free Motion Quilting”
  1. Judy Roberts

    This is a great help. I like free motion quilting but never knew what to do about the “eye lashes” Thanks so much Judy

  2. Nancy

    I get “eye lashing” when I turn curves. I have tried going up on tension and down…slowing my sewing and speeding up. I have a brand new Babylock Destiny II…so I am still learning how it works….different suggestions have me frustrated as some say speed up others say slow down, and go up on tension….go down…..
    My old machine used to be perfect….
    What gives??

  3. jeannieholler126

    This “free video” is framed with American Cancer Society” video and 2 other distracting companies information. This keeps it from being user friendly. The ACS ad is taking a long time to load and I cannot get past it to see the Sewing Machine Tension video – frustrating.

    • Customer Service


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  4. maryjobo

    Great information and excellent presentation! I never knew about raising the presser foot before changing the tension but it makes total sense. Thank you!


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