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Tension and the Anatomy of a Quilting Machine

Do you have tension problems? Join us in a course all about tension! In lesson one, learn how to fix your tension issues by learning the ins and outs of your machine. Get to know your manual and the anatomy of your machine with Karla.



Let’s first talk about setup, from frame to machine, and of course, body position to eliminate the stress and strain of tension. Position your frame at a height that allows you to extend your arms comfortably without having to reach up or hunch over. Those repeated micro-actions and positioning will cause unnecessary tension in your back and shoulders. 


Be sure to extend or retract your machine’s handles to accommodate a comfortable bend in your elbows. You may need to adjust your handles differently depending on the style of quilting you’re doing. 



Pro Tip: To adjust your handle length, release the metal clip at the base of your handle, secure your grip on the machine and handlebar, adjust the handlebar to reach your desired position, and push the metal clip back in place to hold the new length. 

Direct Tension Factors

These are factors that influence stitch quality or tension that directly contacts the thread.

• The thread itself

• Thread guides properly threaded

• Cleanliness of thread guides, bobbin case, hook assembly, and needle plate

• Tension knobs

• Bobbin case

• Needle

• Fabric and batting (fabric tension)

• Bobbin wind tension


Indirect Tension Factors

These are factors that influence stitch quality

or tension without directly contacting the

thread during sewing.

• Frame rail height

• Hopping foot height

• Cleanliness of tracks and wheels

• Track and wheel alignment


Watch Karla’s Video Tutorial Here

Lint Be Gone!

Keep your machine clear of dust and lint because, believe it or not, that buildup can cause tension issues. Karla prefers to use a small lint brush to clear lint and debris from her machine. Using compressed air can push the debris deeper into your machine, further exacerbating the issue. 


Clean the plates between your tension knob (shown below). Otherwise, the plates will begin to separate from the amount of buildup and cause tension issues.



Another place to check for lint and thread debris is under your needle plate (shown below). To clean this area, unscrew the screws and remove the needle plate entirely to clean any lint and loose thread from under the needle plate.


Needles & Tension Issues

You can often avoid tension issues from your needle by replacing your needle with a fresh one as needed. Tension issues related to your needle can occur when:

  • You accidentally run over a pin with your needle (we’ve all been there!)

  • Your needle has become dull

  • Your needle is bent 


For a full tutorial on switching your needle (and more), please watch Karla’s tutorial on tension linked below. 


Watch Karla’s Video Tutorial Here


Thanks for reading. We hope you found this tutorial helpful. 


Until next time, 


The Grace Family


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Posted by Graceframe


For over 25 years the Grace Company has been the leading manufacturer of high quality quilting frames and quilting accessories. What truly sets The Grace Company apart from other competitors is its level of quality, value, and experience toward all their endeavours. From products to external and internal customer experience, the Grace Company responds to market and customer needs and continues to lead the quilting industry. Grace Company frames and hoops are designed to be easy to build and compatible with most major quilting machines. They'll have the quilting product you need.

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