Thread tension on the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen

5 09 2013

On the Yahoo! Group for the HQ Sweet 16 (and now Babylock Tiara), Mary asked about tension and threads.

Here’s my response:

Threads are unlikely to be your problem (except at the very thick and thin ends of the thread spectrum). The main problem with tension is getting to know your machine. For the first few weeks, I got very frustrated with incorrect tension, and then it seemed to click.


Many factors affect thread tension:

  • thread path to the needle – I use 1, 2, or 3 of the little holes after the thread mast or horizontal spool, depending on the thread
  • incorrect needle size – thick thread = larger needle; thin thread = smaller needle
  • tension knob – don’t be afraid to turn that baby several times when testing tension. The better the result, the smaller turns you need to make to get it perfect
  • possible lint/fluff caught in the top tension disks
  • incorrect thread path – did you ‘floss’ between the top tension disks or did you miss them and the thread is in the spring? Have you put the thread through ALL parts of the thread path?
  • thread caught on thread path – thread on the horizontal spool can come off and get caught on the spindle and wrap around it, causing tension to go wacky. I’ve now put one of those felt pads from my domestic sewing machine between the spindle and the spool to help prevent this
  • thread getting twisted — the three holes at the top are meant to prevent this, but some threads don’t go through all three holes, or just don’t behave. I use a thread net for those
  • not getting the bobbin tension right – Jamie Wallen’s excellent video on bobbin tension: You should not have your bobbin tension too tight

Keep a practice sandwich next to the machine to test the tension every time you change threads or bobbins – even if the bobbin was wound at the same time with the same thread and settings as the previous bobbin.

The only threads I’ve haven’t been able to use successfully (yet!) are 12 wt Egyptian cotton threads (my needle sizes only go up to 18, so I need to buy a bigger needle size for that thread) and 100 wt threads (my size 14 needle is probably too big for that and so I may need to buy smaller needles for that thread weight). I’ve used two 40 wt rayon threads going through the needle at the same time, and I believe you can use three threads (using the horizontal spool holder too) if your needle size is big enough.

Tension is a matter of time and patience. Threads are only one part of the story.

See also: