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Setting the tension using two different colored threads

Can you ever get the tension perfect when using two different colored threads? I adjust the top tension so the bobbin thread doesn't show on top, then the top thread shows on the bottom. I just can't seem to get it perfect. Then another problem I have is when I sew one direction, it all looks OK, but when I switch direction the bobbin thread shows on top. I go back the other direction and it is OK again. What am I doing wrong?


  • Do you get the same results after you remove the quilt from the frame? Sometimes when you remove the quilt, your stitches will look better than when it was stretched on the frame -- it kind of relaxes.
  • edited July 2011
    I don't know. I have always switched back to the same color thread on top and bottom. The quilts weren't mine and I just didn't like how it looked so I unquilted what I did and started over. I guess I will just have to try and keep going. I started with a brand new needle, switched that one out with another new one and it seems to be doing a little better but not the results I prefer, but will see once the quilt is off the frame. Wish me luck. It is for a 4-H member to be judged.
  • First of all, the way the Handi Quilter machines are designed, the stitching does better going from left to right. You can run into skipping or shredding problems, especially with straight stitches, when you are quilting from right to left.

    Now for the tension issues. If you are using two different colors of thread (one color on top and another in the bobbin), even if you get the tension perfect, there can be thread showing through the needle holes and it can fool you into thinking you have bad tension. I try to stick with similar colors on the top and the bottom for that reason. If you really are having problems with bad tension, I will go through the process of how to set a good tension.

    The bobbin tension is always going to be the foundation to setting your tension. You set the bobbin tension and then the rest of the adjustments to get a good tension will be done with the top tension knob. Each different thread (even the same weight thread, but a different color) will need to be adjusted in the bobbin. If you have adjusted the bobbin tension and you find that the bottom thread is showing on top, that means that you need to loosen your top tension. Your bottom tension is set right, but the top tension is so tight that it is pulling the bottom thread on top. If the top thread is showing on the bottom, you will need to tighten the top tension. When adjusting the top tension, you will need to turn that knob at LEAST a half to a full complete turn to make a difference with the tension.

    I will now explain how to set your bobbin tension correctly. After inserting your bobbin into the case, hold the bobbin case flat on your hand, with the bobbin facing the ceiling. Take about 6 inches of thread from the bobbin and wrap it around your finger. You should be able to lift the bobbin case up on your hand and when you move your hand out of the way, the bobbin and bobbin case should slide smoothly down like a spider on a spider web. It should just freely do that without having to jerk or wiggle the bobbin case. If it does not do that, you need to adjust the tension on the bobbin case. To adjust the bobbin case, there are two screws on the side of the bobbin case. One of them is larger with a ring around it. That is the one you will use to adjust the tension. If that screw is the one on top, it is "lefty loosey, righty tighty". Take a small screw driver and move the screw the direction you need to adjust it. It only takes hairline movements of that screw to make a difference in the bobbin tension. After you have gotten this tension set, put the bobbin case in your machine and do the rest of the adjusting on the top tension to get it set right.

    I hope this helps you to get good tension while you are quilting. If you have any other questions, feel free to call Handi Quilter at 877-697-8458, Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM-5:00 PM, MT.

    Kathi Salter
    Handi Quilter Studio Educator

  • Kathi hit the nail right on the head. If you want to translate tension into a number system, we recommend using Tension Gauges. To see how they work, watch this video clip we made. We can run any of our thread lines on 3 of HQ's machines in our facility.
  • I have a HQ16 I'm using 2 colors of threads, when I quilt a flower or 2 my thread jumps out of the tension assenbly and thread nest on bottom of quilt.I'v checked my bottom tension it seem to be ok . I'v tighten top tension but keep jumping. How tight should I tighten the top and am I doing the right thing. Thanks Juanita
  • If the thread is jumping out of the top tensions discs, it usually means you have the tension tightened too tight. It may be so tight that there isn't enough space for the the thread to stay in there and it keeps popping out. Try loosening the discs and see if that helps.

    Kathi Salter
    Handi Quilter Studio Educator
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