How to Adjust Tension on a Sewing Machine?

  • By: joleenllorence
  • Date: May 29, 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Sewing machine tension refers to the ability of your machine to handle a certain amount of thread at a given time. A looser thread means that more cable is being pulled at once. Conversely, tight stitches indicate that less line is being produced at once.

It is known as sewing machine tension. This is because it can’t cooperate and gives the sewist lots of stress.

Okay, so that’s a joke. However, I could see it being part of its origin.

Let’s discuss how to set tension on a sewing machine.

What Does A Sewing Machine Tension Do?

Despite the tension it can cause, sewing machine tension serves an essential function for your machine. As you’ve probably noticed, sewing machine tension can be a problem we don’t often think about until something goes wrong. Each fabric comes in a unique weave and weight.

When you switch fabrics, your tension will need changing. Without stress, your thread and material won’t feed well through the machine. An incorrectly adjusted thread pressure is a common problem in sewing. However, you should take your time with a repair shop. It is easy to adjust the thread tension. 

This depends on the thread type and thickness, fabric, stitch size, and sewing machine. It is essential to have a detailed manual and lots of patience. Even the most high-quality and expensive sewing machines require extra thread tension adjustments to accommodate different fabrics.

Sewing Machine Tensions


How to adjust tension on sewing machine? The tension settings of a sewing machine can be affected by several factors. One factor is the type and material of the fabric you are stitching. You will have different tension settings for fleece than leather when sewing it.

This is a short guide on which tension settings are best for each fabric type.

1. The Sewing Machine Tension Settings for Thick Fabric

The rule is that the thicker your fabric the higher the tension. A higher tension in this instance will raise the fabric’s lower threads towards the fabric’s middle layers. Adjust the tension to 4 to 5 for smooth stitches if you are stitching thicker fabric.

2. Sewing Machine Tension Settings for Denim

You need to set a higher tension for something as thick and durable as denim. It can be adjusted to a higher number using the dial on the front or top of your machine. The ideal tension is between 6 and 6, as it can get too high after that, pulling on the top stitches to make it flat.

3. Polyester Tension Setting for Sewing Machines

It can be challenging to identify the proper tension for polyester sewing. There are too many variables to think about in this case for example, the type and colour of polyester you will use. To set the machine to a maximum tension of 4, this setting should be able to handle most types of polyester fabric. 

4. Sewing Machine Tension Setting for Lightweight Fabrics

Once you are familiar with the settings of machine tension for heavy fabrics and what to do about lightweight materials, now you will be able to decide how to set them up for lighter materials. It would help if you remembered to loosen the tension when you have thin or light materials.

5. Setting the Sewing Machine Tension for Cotton

Top threads with a high level of friction are found in densely woven fabrics such duck cloth, denim or batiks. This is not true in cotton, which has a loose weave.

6. Sewing Machine Tension settings for leather

Setting the tension on leather takes work. Adjust the top tension, so each knot is pulled straight to the top. The pressure will then be at the right level. Now, you can adjust from an initial point of no tension.

Once you have the correct tension, let it pull at the top. You can reduce pressure until the knot is pulled into the hole. Please take note of the adjustments made at that point and keep them for future reference.

7. Flannel – Sewing Machine Tension Settings

The quality of your flannel can make a big difference in how the machine tension is set and what kind of stitch you use. The price of flannel increases with the increase in thread count.

In most cases, it is necessary to reduce the tension and use 3.0mm stitches (because shorter lengths will cause the fabric to stretch). However, most flannel fabrics are compatible with the 4th standard tension.

Sewing Machine Tension chart

This reference chart can help you figure out the tension settings you should use for a new sewing project.

Sewing Machine Tension Chart

Recommended Tension SetTension should not be lower for fabric with thicker layers.
PolyesterIt all depends on how thick the cloth is. Start with setting four and test the stitching.
FlannelLower tension settings, such as 3, may be needed. You can also increase the stitch length setting of your machine.
SatinReduce tension to 3 or 2 points. The best fabric for this is a smooth one.
SilkTo make this delicate material, reduce the tension setting by reducing it to two or three. Use 2 mm stitches with a shorter length than regular straight sewing.

Frequently Ask Questions

u003cstrongu003eWhat Tension Should A Sewing-Machine Have?u003c/strongu003e

There are nine tension settings. The default setting in most sewing machines for normal straight-stitch stitches is usually at position 4.5. This should work for most fabrics.

u003cstrongu003eWhen Should Tension Be Lowered On A Sewing Machine?u003c/strongu003e

If your thread is slipping, twirling, or puckeringu003cstrongu003e,u003c/strongu003e you might need to adjust the tension in your sewing machine. A tension adjustment is also necessary if the stitches are not straight and uneven.

u003cstrongu003eWhat Tension Should I Use For Thin Fabric?u003c/strongu003e

If tension isn’t correct, lightweight fabrics like chiffon or georgette, voile or lawn, behave worst. Turn the tension dial down to 3 for lighter weight fabrics.

u003cstrongu003eHow Can Tension Be Fixed In Sewing?u003c/strongu003e

If the tension isn’t perfect, adjust the bobbin Spring to fix it. It should be tighter if the bobbin thread shows on the top layer and looser if it delivers on its under layer. Test again and inspect the stitches. Repeat until the stitch is in balance.


Constantly adjusting sewing machine tension, dial slowly and check your stitches on a scrap of fabric before making more drastic adjustments. Your sewing machine should be regularly cleaned and oiled to keep running smoothly.

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