The Avid Embroiderer Presents - Who needs all this tension, with tension tests? And an embellishment freebie

Tension is a word that has very bad PR. The mere word gets blood pressure to rise and grow feelings of stress.

Alas, Machine Embroidery (ME?) is more of the same. But we are talking tension in your machine, not a personal issue.
  • What is good tension?
  • How do I know what good tension looks like?
  • Why does my machine go out of tension?
I have a couple of tricks for you that may help you find your way through the quagmire.

What is good tension?

First of all, you need a simple look at how your machine works. A sewing/embroidery machine uses a similar configuration. In sewing, your machine combines two or more fabrics together equally, thread use is about equal.

However, an embroidery machine uses the top thread to cover your fabric while the bottom thread holds the top thread snugly to the fabric.   This method uses approximately 40% more top than bottom thread.   This diagram is courtesy of Designs in Machine Embroidery, you already know that you will see top thread on the bottom of your design, as it should be.

How do I know what good tension looks like?

This picture shows what good/bad embroidery tension looks like. I don't have to ask when was the last time you checked your tension, I am sure it was recent . . .

The two circled tests are not in correct tension.  Loosening the top tension will fix this issue. Here are the tests, download and use them. The above test was likely done on a multi-needle machine. Each thread has its own tension regardless of the number of needles. (372B) (248B) (351B) (300B) (4.1KB) (1.1KB) (295B)

The last query (above) Why does my machine go out of tension?

While tension can be a mechanical issue that can mostly be resolved by your technician, many are from other causes.

  • The first thing you need to do is download your tension file that works on your machine.
  • Collect three polyester threads in different colors. Thread manufacturers tell us that different colors can be (slightly) more dense than others. For instance, white versus black. A light green can be more sparse than a dark green.
  • Mainly, you want to look for how the polyester is stacking up to the tension currently on your machine. But the minute color difference can be a game changer too.
  • Select three weights of fabric to test. Tension for a Voile versus a Denim is different. Chose a light, medium and heavy weight.
  • Keep those swatches of fabric in a Samples File. In your Samples File, you should be keeping 'discovery sews' aka sew-outs or test designs. Those will guide you in the future, so make notes directly on the fabric, notes will get lost eventually.

For the next three lines of the test, chose a rayon thread in the same manner. There is no question that tension for polyester versus rayon can vary. In many designs, you just might use colors that are a mix of each of the thread types. Sometimes it won't make a significant difference, but it can when you are doing very detailed designs.

Better embroidery comes from your knowledge. Learning and Sharing are Gifts. Share something with all of us in the Comments below. You have something someone needs your information today.

I saw this the other day and wonder if this is true -

The caption said that if you press the '57' on a fresh bottle of ketchup, it will flow freely. I don't use ketchup, but if someone out there does, let us all know if it works. (See, you may have learned something today.)

Here is the freebie for this time. Embellishments can enhance your projects and this one is simple enough to use on many items. Some call this stitch "Candlewicking" others say "Colonial." In either event, it is a lovely one.

candlewicking embell 25 points 11k (62.2KB)

Comments (3) -

team_smooth 9/9/2017 12:42:00 PM

Thank you for the tension test. Great tool !  Ive been enjoying and learning from reading several of your blog entries, I'll be back for more.

Thank you Team Smooth, that's one interesting name. You'll have to let us know how it came about. My  blogs are the result of an issue/problem I encountered and how I ended up fixing it. It may not be the only way to repair a problem, but it is one way that work for me. You will see different  embroiders giving different advice. I always caution my readers to beware of anyone who says absolute statements for instance "never use X stabilizer" or  "always use X thread". I have several blogs on threads. In the AnnTheGran Search line, (upper right corner) put "the avid embroiderer" and you will get a complete list of all my blogs from which to choose.

I cannot get the tension test files to download.  I click - double click and nothing happens.  I have a new 15 needle that I am struggling to get adjusted.

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