Troubleshooting the Tension on a Sewing Machine

Adjusting the needle thread tension for a zigzag stitch is crucial to ensure that the final result is neat and balanced. In this guide, we will discuss the correct appearance of a zigzag stitch, how to adjust the needle tension, and the potential issues that can arise from incorrect tension.

The correct appearance of a zigzag stitch is when the bobbin thread does not show on the right side (top side) of the fabric, while the needle thread shows slightly on the wrong side (bottom side) of the fabric. This ensures that the stitch is secure and properly formed.

To achieve this ideal appearance, you may need to adjust the tension of your needle thread. Keep in mind that results may vary depending on factors such as fabric type, thread, and sewing conditions.

Here's a breakdown of the different scenarios you may encounter and how to address them:

1. Correct tension:

The right side (top side) of the fabric should not show the bobbin thread, while the wrong side (bottom side) of the fabric may have a slight visible thread. This is the desired outcome.

2. Tension is too tight:

If the tension is too tight, you will notice that the corners of each zigzag stitch pull together on the right side of the fabric. To rectify this, loosen the tension slightly until the stitch looks balanced and the corners lay flat.

3. Tension is too loose: 

When the tension is too loose, you will observe that the corners of each zigzag point pull together on the wrong side of the fabric. To correct this, tighten the tension gradually until the corners no longer pull together excessively.

It's important to make incremental adjustments to the tension and test the stitch appearance on scrap fabric before proceeding with your actual project. This way, you can fine-tune the tension based on your specific fabric and thread combination.

Remember that achieving the perfect tension may require some trial and error, as different fabrics and threads behave differently. Take your time to adjust the tension gradually, as rushing the process may result in subpar stitching quality.


In conclusion, adjusting the needle thread tension for a zigzag stitch is crucial to achieve a clean and balanced result. By following the guidelines provided and making incremental adjustments, you can ensure that the needle thread and bobbin thread show appropriately on the fabric, producing professional-looking zigzag stitches.

Always refer to your sewing machine's manual for specific instructions on tension adjustments, as machines can vary in their mechanisms. With practice and attention to detail, you will become adept at achieving the desired zigzag stitch appearance for your sewing projects.

Stay in the loop with DIY Fashion for updates on women's sewing patterns and more!