Question about Bernina Virtuosa 160

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Bobbin tension Help! I live in the TRNC (Northern Cyprus) where there are no service engineers at all. My bobbin tension on the above machine seems to miss all the time - the lower stitch is looping and not connecting with the upper stitch; timing? I've cleaned it thoroughly for lint to no avail - I'm desperate.

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May i know the exact model/maker of your sewing machine?

Posted on Sep 09, 2008

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    TENSION: As you change projects and start sewing on different
    weight materials, you should test stitch on a piece of scrap material
    of the same weight before beginning the actual project so you can
    adjust your upper tension to that particular fabric. As an example, if
    you're changing from a denim type fabric to a silky fabric, you would
    definitely want to make sure the tension is correct and the stitching
    looks right before you start to sew the garment.

    To determine whether the upper tension is too tight or too loose for
    the fabric you're wanting to use, try the following test. Take a small
    scrap of the fabric, fold it, and stitch a line ON THE BIAS of the
    fabric, using different colours of thread in the bobbin and on top.
    Grasp the bias line of stitching between the thumb and the index
    finger. Space the hands about 3 inches apart and pull with an even,
    quick force until one thread breaks. If the broken thread is the colour
    of the thread in the needle, it means that the upper tension is too
    tight. If the broken thread is the colour of the bobbin thread, the
    upper tension is too loose. If both threads break together and take
    more force to break, it means that the tensions are balanced.

    BOBBIN: The most probable cause of the lower thread breaking is
    an improperly wound bobbin. Regardless of where you wind the bobbin,
    inside the machine, on the top of the hand wheel or on the front side
    near the hand wheel, the basic "bobbin" rules apply.

    Always start with an empty bobbin. Never wind one colour over another colour.

    Don't wind the bobbin so full that it would be tight and hard to insert
    into the bobbin case. Most machines have an automatic "shut off" when
    the bobbin gets full, but if yours does not, be careful not to fill it
    too full.

    Wind the bobbin evenly across and in level layers.

    Never mix different sizes of thread in the bobbin and on the spool,
    unless you're doing sewing machine embroidery or some specialty type of
    sewing. Using different weights of thread on the spool and in the
    bobbin for general sewing will cause ragged stitches as well as other
    stitching problems.


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I cannot adjust my tension. Have had this machine for over 20 yrs & no problems. I have tried different needles, different thread, re threading several times, tried adjusting bobbin case & top...

try this suggestions
take the thread out of the needle, now hold the needle thread in
your right hand,, with your left hand hold the thread above where it
goes into the top tension guide and floss the tension guide,,like you
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the bottom of the fabric.
also clean under the needle plate and in the bobbin area for lint
make sure the needle is inserted correctly
make sure the bobbin is turned the right way in the bobbin case.
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How do I know which tension to adjust?

Are you sure that a stitch is being created each time, or is it missing some....

On a scrap, sew a zigzag to ensure that at least the stitches are being formed, if not, or missing some, look to timing.

This solution is for tension problems...if you cannot form any sort of stitch, the issue is quite different, so please let me know if you need a different problem solved.....

It is quite long, but just work through each section in order.
The "knotting up" can reveal a lot. If you have loose threads on one side or the other, the tension on the opposite side will be the culprit.

Ensure sharp new needle,
Thread guides and Bobbin are Clean & Clear of lint
Set Top Tesion to 4 ....then....
Balance Bobbin to suit.

If the looping threads are on the underside as you sew, it is the top tension. Top tension ought to be between 4 & 6 (this variation to allow for the different weights of fabric in your

If you are using a needle that has seen quite a deal of work, or you suspect it may be blunt, change it for a new one !

Make sure that when you thread the machine the presser foot is up so the thread goes between the discs and not to one side, top tension between 4 and 6, and that you have threaded through all the guides, including the last one, usually on the needle arm, just above the needle clamp.

It may be there is lint trapped between the discs, this will keep them slightly apart and reduce the actual tension, sometimes dramatically.

If tensions appear correct, and the thread is definitely in the channel between the discs, but still too loose and looping, try raising presser foot and remove your thread.

Now, with a 2" (50mm) wide strip piece of fabric 8 - 10" (20 - 25cm) moistened with methylated or denatured spirit, gently insert the fabric strip and clean between the discs with
a see saw / to and fro action.

In the worst cases, gentle use of a needle to pick & remove the jam may be necessary, but be very gentle and make sure the tension is set at Zero and the presser foot is raised, (to
disengage tension plates).... do not gouge or score the plates, they need a polished surface to work correctly.

Far less common, but if the loose threads are on the top, it is bobbin tension that is loose, it too may have lint in the spring and be giving a "false" tension.

I would not recommend fiddling with bobbin tension without good reason, it may end up with missing small screws and spring pieces, however, you can take the needle plate off to clean
the hook race area (where bobbin case sits)

...this is just good housekeeping, my wife does this every time she replaces the bobbin....

just take it out and clean the bobbin case and the fixed metal hook race with a small brush to remove lint. If there is a significant amount of lint, use a vacuum and small brush to get the worst.

Then wipe all this area with a cloth or cotton bud (Q tip) moistened (not soaked) with methylated spirit, especially if there appears to be fine dirty deposits....oil and lint combine to conspire against you.

If it seems likely that you ......really .....actually .....need adjust the bobbin case, first check there is no lint trapped in the metal spring where the thread is tensioned.

Drop-in Bobbin case will look similar to this image with the tension screw in the middle of the metalwork....

4c76dc1.jpg ...the other screw at one end is holding it all together, so is not a tragedy to undo the whole lot and clean it, but very gingerly and lay the bits out in sequence and orientation, or you risk tearing your hair out !

....this is a bobbin case from a front loading machine and works in a very similar fashion to the top loader with drop in bobbin, again, if you dismantle it, take care so you can put it all
back properly.
165ca5c.jpg FINISHING UP
When you are certain there's no trapped lint in top tension or bobbin, set the top tension to 4 and the bobbin tension to a point where you just begin to feel resistance.

Try using good quality thread of contrasting colours so you can more easily spot the changes.

Set your zigzag to one width less than maximum (eg. 5 of 6 ...or... 4 of 5 etc) and sew a sample for a few inches and check the result.... adjust the bobbin tension screw very little at
a time, perhaps 1/16 of a turn.

You may find you are playing with this balance for some little while and if you are putting the needleplate on and off each time begin to think it cannot be correct to do is,
and eventually, you do get a "feel" for the correct tension and then it happens quite a user you won't be doing it very often unless there is lint built up (or are there small hands at work around the house !?!?!)

If you live near the ocean as we do, salt air can play havoc with metalwork inside and out, so to help minimise this, keep a few small packets of dessicant (silica gel) in your machine case ? then make some sort of cover !

Same applies in any damp or humid environment, keep your machine dry and dust free.

Budget for a proper full service every couple of years (more often if heavily used) and if you don't use your machine for a few years, be aware that old oil will dry out and combining with
dust and form a "clag" like glue (another reason for some sort of cover, even a teatowel !)

If it is worth spending the time, energy and money on making something that you would like to give lasting enjoyment......use quality thread, may seem to cost a little more at the
time, but the results, ease of use and added longevity will be worth the extra, and as a bonus, your tension troubles may be fewer and further between, because there is a more consistant diameter with good thread, and less compensating to be done by your tension plates and less thread breaks !

If you want any more help with this, just post back here, or, drop a line through the "Contact Us" page at

Feb 23, 2008 | Bernina Activa 130

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