When you’re quilting, are you usually as happy with the back of the quilt as you are with the front? How about when you’re doing embroidery? Most of the time, nobody’s going to see the back of an embroidery project – unless you’re using your embroidery machine to quilt, in which case you want to make sure the back is as nice as the front.
For quilting in the hoop, you need to know how to adjust the tension on your embroidery machine. I’ve noticed that the mention of changing the tension on an embroidery machine can bring up a lot of anxiety for many people. Let’s see if I can reduce that anxiety!
When you’re doing “regular” machine embroidery, the default tension setting on your embroidery machine is designed to bring the top thread down to the bottom. If you do a satin stitch, when the tension is set correctly, on the back (wrong side) of the embroidery you should see mostly bobbin thread (shown in pink in the diagram below) with a little bit of the top thread (shown in blue) on either side. On the front (right side) you should see only the top thread.
To achieve this tension, the bobbin thread is set at a higher tension than for regular sewing. For my BERNINA 8 Series machines, I have to thread the bobbin for embroidery by getting the bobbin thread inside a little clip. For my older BERNINA artista machines, there’s a different bobbin case to use for embroidery. One has a little pigtail to wind the bobbin thread through, one has a tiny hole that the thread needs to go through.
For quilting, whether it’s in the hoop or not, you want for the top thread to stay on the top and the bobbin thread to stay on the bottom, meeting somewhere in the middle of the batting.
There are two ways to make this happen:
- You can tighten (increase) the top tension OR
- You can loosen (decrease) the bobbin tension.
On most embroidery machines, it’s much easier to adjust the top tension.
On my BERNINA 8 Series machines, the default tension setting for doing embroidery is 2.75. To increase the tension, I want to make that number bigger. I might try 3.5 as a first increase. If that doesn’t achieve the desired result, I’ll keep increasing the tension – raising the number – by increments of 0.5.
There’s a caveat to increasing the top tension. If the tension gets too tight, you run the risk of the top thread breaking. If you get to this point and you’re still seeing top thread on the back of your quilt, you’re going to need to back off the top tension a little bit and adjust the bottom tension.
Watch out for part 2 – how to adjust the bottom or bobbin tension – in a few days!
Beautiful Top Tension…
Beautiful Bottom/Bobbin Tension
Check out the Happy Quilting Collection – beautiful quilting in the hoop designs that are a perfect match with the embroidered appliqué designs from the Happy Popups Collection and the Happy Tuffet Collection.