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If the upper thread is still showing on the other side of the fabric, the tension is too loose. If it is pulling the bobbin thread up to the top of the fabric, the upper tension is too tight
OR the bobbin thread tension is too loose. (CAUTION: make only small adjustments to bobbin tension--1/8 of a turn at a time!!! It also helps to mark the screw groove location with magic marker on the bobbin case BEFORE making any changes so you can back it out and return to the original setting.)
Few things are more frustrating than not being able to get the tension on your sewing machine balanced. Here are a few tips on how to do it:
1. Make it a habit to thread your machine with the pressure foot UP. This disengages the tension disks so the thread is able to slip easily between them.
2. Always adjust your machine's tension with the pressure foot DOWN. If it's up, although the numbers on the tension dial may move, the tension settings on the disks don't.
3. Remember that the numbers on the tension disks are relative. Generally, "3" is a good place to start, but it's only a number. Increase the numbers to tighten the tension, decrease them to loosen it.
4. Use different color threads in the top and in the bobbin to make changes easier to see.
5. Sew a few inches, stop, and examine the stitches. Adjust the tension just a little, stitch a bit more, then examine again. Repeat as needed until there is no (or very little) of the top thread showing on the bottom fabric and no (or very little) of the bobbin thread showing on top.
But how do you know which way to adjust the dial?
This is where a lot of the confusion seems to come from, because it 'seams' backwards! Look carefully on the bottom, the bobbin side. If you're using the same color threads both on top and in the bobbin, it can be hard to see, but usually what you'll see if you have 'loopy' threads on the bottom, is that the loops are actually the top thread and that the bobbin thread is laying on top of the fabric. Using different color threads makes this obvious.
What's happening is that the top tension is too loose, so it's not pulling the bobbin thread up into the fabric.
There's a tendency to see the loops on the bottom and think the bobbin tension needs adjusting, but the real problem is with the top tension. (There is a bobbin tension adjustment but you shouldn't have to mess with that very often, if at all.)
I've posted a couple of photos at www.robbiesews.blogspot.com so you can see what I mean by balanced tension.
Consult the owner's manual. Be sure to always RAISE the presser foot when threading the upper thread.
Test the stitch. If the thread is looping under the fabric, the upper thread tension is too loose. If the bottom thread shows on the top of the fabric, the upper tension is too tight. The tension is correct when the two threads (top & bobbin) meet in the middle of the fabric.
NOTE: when you change needle/thread/fabric, the tension should be tested on a piece of the project's scrap fabric and readjusted before beginning the project. Tension is static and should be adjusted every time a project is changed. (One tension will not work for every project, so get comfortable with tweaking.) Be sure to change needles frequently (damaged needles are an inexpensive fix for a lot of sewing issues). Making sure needle/thread/fabric are compatible is very important. All About Needles
Be sure to RAISE the presser foot BEFORE threading the upper tension. This releases the tension disks so the thread will seat properly.
Start out with the upper tension set at the mid-point. This is generally the factory setting. Then test and adjust. If the thread shows loops under the fabric, the upper tension is too loose. If the bobbin thread is showing on the top of the fabric, the upper tension is too tight. Test and adjust until the top and bottom threads meet in the middle of the fabric.
If the bottom thread is tight there should also be loops on top and this means that the upper tension is too tight.
Get out your manual (http://www.singerco.com/uploads/download/1198_8763-efs.pdf) and turn to page 24. Under "ADJUSTING TOP THREAD TENSION" it tells you that if you're having thread tension issues, change the tension control dial on the top of your machine from auto. It also shows you a diagram with your problem illustrated on the right side of the page. The bobbin tension is set at the factory, so all tension problems can be solved with top tension adjustment. Set it manually and if it loops on top, loosen the tension a little. Test again. Repeat until loops are gone.
Using different colours on top and bobbin and a contrasting fabric (e.g. black top, white bottom, light blue fabric) means you can easily see what's happening. A perfect stitch is when you see exactly the same stitch pattern on both sides of the fabric. On top, the bobbin thread colour appears between stitches as a tiny dot and on the bottom, you see the top thread dot between stitches.
If it's impossible to get the tension right, take it to a technician, because it's a sign that the hook timing needs attention.
The tension of the top thread and bobbin thread are in a "tug of war". If the top is "winning" or too high then the bottom thread will be showing on the top of the fabric. If the top is "loosing" or too loose then the top thread will be pulled through the fabric and show a lot on the bottom. They must be evened out so the "tug of war" is even so the knot is in the middle of the fabric.
START WITH BOBBIN FIRST: Remove bobbin and bob from finger. When you have it adjusted right then the bobbin will extend one inch when you bob it. If you can't bob your bobbin you will have to make an approximate and replace. You may have to do this a couple times to get it right.
WHEN IT'S RIGHT: The bobbin and top tension are equal without being too much pull on both that causes the fabric to pull together.
To check thread tension for straight stitches, use different colors of thread in your top thread and bobbin. If the top thread shows on the bottom of the fabric, turn the dial counter-clockwise (towards a lower number). If the bottom thread shows on the top, turn the dial clockwise. Do not adjust the tension too much (for example, go from 2 to 2.5 if increasing the tension) at a time; test another set of stitches. Alternatively, you can adjust the bobbin tension in the reverse directions. However, it's very easy to damage the set screw in the bobbin case so do this as a last resort. Since this is a vertical bobbin case, put the bobbin in and hold onto the thread. If the thread moves when you dangle the bobbin case, tighten the screw. Loosen the screw if the thread doesn't pull out of the bobbin when you hold the unit.
For zig-zag decorative stitches lower the tension until the puckering stops. Usually the top thread will show on the bottom of the fabric.
If the tension is not changing when you turn the dial, make sure that the presser foot is down. The sewing machine may need repair. The tension mechanism depends on a spring and that can break. See the Singer site for a parts breakdown and contact your Singer dealer for the parts.
If the top and bottom fabric are not moving at the same rate, you can get a different type of puckering. You may want to get an even feed foot if there are several layers of fabric.
Normally you will see the about 1/3 bobbin thread and about 2/3 of the top thread on the bottom side of the fabric. If you dont see any of the bobbin thread on the back side turn the upper tension (needle tension) to a larger number.
The bottom tension is too loose. If your bobbin is in a case there is a little screw on the side that will tighten the plates and increase the tension. Test your thread coming out of the case as you slowly make adjustments to the screw. A slight bit of resistance is what you want. If your sewing still puckers you may have to loosen the tension on the top. Sew on a scrap and go toward the smaller numbers to loosen the top tension until the stitches meet between the two layers of fabric.