Wednesday 30 November 2016

Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2: Tension

I have been merrily freemotion-quilting away over the last week. Very enjoyable indeed!

Since the last service of the machine which was earlier in the year, I did notice some tension issues, particularly when stitching on the thinner cotton batting. I was not particularly fussed about this as it was very minor. It made sense to me as the technician would service the machine, then try out the tension via the decorative stitches and make slight adjustments, if necessary. I doubt he would have tried the machine on its freemotion quilting capabilities...anyway, every now and then I did notice that the bobbin tension was just a touch looser than what I had come to consider normal. Made a mental note to mention this to him next time.

During my recent feathering though this started to become a bit more noticeable.
If you look at the left side for the third curl you can see that the top thread is starting to lie on top of the fabric while I was stitching the curvature of the swirl...while this is not a big issue it did, sort of, through my concentration off every time this happened. So it was time to tackle this. While my stitching looked ok otherwise, it was time to have a bit of a closer look. I put some dark brown thread in my bobbin
You could clearly see that the bobbin thread was coming through. While this is not entirely preventable, this was just a bit too much and definitively accounted for my top thread lying on top of the fabric particularly when going slightly faster.

The Pfaff machine has a drop in bobbin case which is similarly adjustable as in machines with the  'normal' bobbin cases. When I took the bobbin case out and pulled on the bobbin, it did feel particularly loose. If you need to start fiddling with your bobbin tension, I suggest that you make a note (or better still, draw or photograph the position of your tension screw) at where your tension screw sits before touching to change it. Alternatively, you can use a second bobbin case to alter your tension. I have got a second bobbin case and changed this. You will need a tiny screw driver for this

My tension screw in the bobbin that I am using was sitting at just after 12 o'clock, so I tightened the new bobbin case to about 10 past 12 o'clock, turning the screw to the right.

If you don't know which side I am looking at, here is a photo of the bobbin case in my hand. The closed section of the bobbin case is facing my palm
You can see that my tension screw has been set at about 10 past 12 o'clock. Tried this and presto...we are back to normal
This is still stitched with the dark brown bobbin thread so the tension is just right, enough to pull the top  and the bobbin  thread right into the batting.

You will probably wonder why I did not talk about the top tension...normally with tension issues, you will adjust your top tension first. In my case I have stitched with the same thread for years (Aurifil) and use the same top tension (usually sitting at about 3.8). In order to adjust the tension, I would have had to make the top tension looser...given the thread was lying on top that would suggest that the top thread is pulling the bobbin thread too hard making it come up through the layers. However going down in tension would mean that my stitching would not look quite right as the top tension would be getting too loose. So the problem was clearly with the bobbin tension. Hope that made sense.

Stitched the next section without any problems and was loving it. Almost done with my little wall hanging!



  1. Thank you for this post Karin! I have a Pfaff expression 3.0, I sew mostly clothing and lately the tension is just never right, no matter what I set the top at. This evening I showed your article to my husband and he changed the bobbin tension, perfect! I can finally get on with sewing those trousers.
    Interestingly enough: I am South-african born and raised, have been a British citizen since 2010 but currently live near Bielefeld in Germany, about 2.5 hours drive from Hamburg!

  2. Thanks for this! I’m using a loose basting stitch on my project and can’t stand the loopy back...and it clogs the workings. I don’t really want to tighten up my basting stitch so I’ll mess with loosening the bobbin tension, going in the opposite direction you did with the screw, and for future projects I’ll get another bobbin holder for basting. Thanks a million! Happy sewing!


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