The Avid Embroiderer Presents - Is there too little tension in your life?

Note: items in green are specific information in machine embroidery.

Among the challenging things to learn in machine embroidery, tension is a concept you can really only get the 'hang of' via practice. To attempt to illustrate some methods of seeing tension in your mind's eye, here are three visual aids that just may help you on your journey. 

Some things that show up when tension is not correct are things like, broken thread, which can get jammed up in your machine, broken needles, extra or long loops on the top and/or bottom, AKA Birds Nests.  

The first picture is an oldie, but goodie! Personally, I had no idea about sewing versus embroidery tension. Here it is for your review. I don't remember where I got it many years ago, sorry to whoever created it.
IMHO, seeing that layout helps me to understand how embroidery is more vivid than sewing. Sewing involves the joining of pieces of fabric but embroidery stitches display colors in forms to create a design. Different methods for different requirements.

Then I recently saw this portrayal of tension that may make even more sense to you than the afore noted method. 
This visual was created by the staff at Hatch Embroidery Software, thank you for allowing me to use it.

When I first began machine embroidery in 2001, I assumed that adjusting the top tension was half of the equation. I thought adjusting the bobbin tension seemed likely the answer. As I look at this example, I am delighted that it answers each tension question. Decrease/increase, thread showing on top or bottom.

This photo is courtesy of

What I have created for you for your tension review is a 6 items check for your tests. 
  • The method is to use different threads, types, & weights. For instance, you may be using cotton, rayon, polyester, or metallic spools. 
  • Each of them will have a different tension requirement. 
  • Manufacturers can also have different methods of creating thread. 
  • You may use different weight threads. 

Do test the threads that you frequently buy. Knowing what you are working with is important.

Thanks again for joining me, it is a pleasure for me to write these blogs. Frankly, I always learn something myself. 

Pat, The Avid Embroiderer

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