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5 Brother Sewing Machine Tension Problems and Solutions

If you own a Brother sewing machine and are currently facing tension problems, it can be quite a difficult situation to be in. You’re most likely caught between trying to fix it yourself or hiring a professional.

It’s one thing to decide you want to fix your Brother sewing machine tension problems and it’s a completely different thing to fixing the problem correctly.

I have compiled a list of common tension problems you’re likely to face on your Brother sewing machine and how to solve them.

Common Brother Sewing Machine Tension Problems

There are several tension problems that could arise in your Brother sewing machine.

It could be that the top stitch is too tight, upper stitch breaks often, problem setting the tension or top tension is too tight. If the top stitch is the problem, you can tighten the bobbin tension while you can turn the knob to lower the top tension if it’s too tight.

Other problems can simply be solved by cleaning out dirt and gunk from the sewing machine, rethreading the machine completely, or replacing damaged parts.

The first thing to do while facing a tension problem on your Brother sewing machine is to determine the exact cause of the problem. Once you’re sure why your machine is not working well, you can proceed to apply the appropriate solution.

1. Top Stitches Too Tight

One common tension problem people face on their sewing machine is when the top stitches don’t come out well. They usually appear like straight threads with small loops emerging from the underside.

Top Stitches Too Tight

This makes the stitches unusually loose and causes the cloth to pucker. Usually, the bottom stitches come out just fine leading most people to believe it’s a top tension problem.


This problem might be affecting the top stitch, but it’s got nothing to do with the top tension. Instead, it’s all about your bobbin tension. All you need do is tighten your bobbin tension and your machine should be back to normal again.

Step 1. When your top stitches are too tight, you will observe that there are some loops on the surface of your fabric or garment that you are stitching. This makes your work untidy and not properly sewn as the stitches don’t hold onto the fabric tightly. This problem is solved by threading your bobbin properly.

Step 2. Pop open the bobbin cover on your sewing machine. This allows you access to the bobbin so that you can rethread it and solve the top stitches too tight problem you are facing. Make sure that you are using the recommended bobbins for your Brother sewing machine.

Step 3. Remove all the thread from the bobbin to thread it correctly. You can cut it out or just unroll it off the bobbin. Unrolling it from the bobbin ensures that you can reuse the thread. You can roll it around another spool to use in another project.

Step 4. Place your empty bobbin onto the bobbin winder on your sewing machine. Push your bobbin winder to the right. Turn the bobbin clockwise until you hear it click into place on the bobbin winder.

Before you thread your bobbin make sure it has no cracks or rust. Cracked and rusted bobbins can easily damage your sewing machine and the fabrics you are working on.

Step 5. Place a spool of thread on the spool pin. Make sure to secure it with the pen cap. 

Always use a new or cleanly wound thread. If you don’t you are likely to end up with bobbin tension problems. 

Sewing Machine Tension Problems

Step 6. Looking at the diagram on top of your sewing machine, or following your manual, pull a thread from the spool and pass it through the guides and tension pin. Make sure to follow threading instructions properly for a flawless sewing experience. For example, make sure that your thread is tightly wound around the tension pin.

Step 7. Wrap your thread around the bobbin a few times by hand. Then, press your start button or the foot controller depending on your type of sewing machine. Also, set the speed for which the thread will wind around the bobbin.

Step 8. Let the thread wind until you have enough thread on your bobbin. Make sure that the thread on the bobbin is as much as is required for your bobbin size.

Step 9. As the bobbin fills up, it will start rotating slowly. Cut off the thread, push the bobbin winder back to the left and remove your bobbin.

Step 10. Raise your needle to its highest position. Open the bobbin cover and put your threaded bobbin into the bobbin case. Leave some thread outside and make sure it unwinds to the left.

Step 11. Push the bobbin down with your finger. Then pass the excess thread around the space provided and cut off the excess and return the bobbin cover.

Step 12. Set your sewing machine tension correctly by turning it up or down to ensure that your threads have the right tension to make sure the top thread is not too tight while sewing.

2. Upper Thread Keeps Breaking

When the upper thread keeps breaking, there are several reasons for this problem.

Upper Thread Keeps Breaking

It could be that your thread is old or is of low quality. It could also be that the machine is not threaded properly or the needle is not right for the kind of fabric.

Yet, from experience, I have come to understand that this usually occurs when the tension device has some gunk in it.


When you have confirmed that your thread and needle is fine, your best solution is to clean out the gunk in the tension device.

To do this, take off the top thread and loosen the tension disk completely. Raise your presser foot and try to clean out the gunk with Perl cotton dipped in rubbing alcohol. Clean the tension mechanism thoroughly and set tension back to the midpoint. Rethread your sewing machine.

Your machine should be working perfectly again. If it doesn’t, you should think about taking it to a professional for servicing.

3. Setting Tension

Some times, you could have issues setting tension. If you try again and again and still fail at it, it’s probably due to a number of reasons.

Sewing Machine Tension Settings

Firstly, it could be that the upper thread is tangled. It could also be that your presser foot was not raised while the machine was being threaded.

This problem can also be caused by the use of incorrect bobbin or needle type.


As always, the first thing to do is to determine the exact cause of the problem. If the thread is tangled, remove it completely and rethread your sewing machine. If your presser foot wasn’t raised while threading the sewing machine, rethread and be sure to raise your presser foot so the thread can go into your machine’s tension disk.

Also, be sure to set your tension dial between 4-5. If the problem is connected to the shuttle race, clean out any lint accumulation and rethread the bobbin in the shuttle race.

Follow these steps to adjust thread tension on your sewing machine:

Step1. Confirm that your sewing machine is properly threaded. You can do this first, visually. Look at how your top thread is threaded. Confirm that it is properly threaded following all the threading guides and that it is tightly threaded.

Second, you can confirm proper threading by sewing a piece of fabric on your sewing machine. After sewing check the placement of your top and bobbin thread on the fabric. When it is correctly threaded, only the upper thread is visible on the right side and only the bobbin thread is visible on the other side.

If the top thread is visible on the back side of the fabric, and vise versa, you need to adjust your sewing machine tension. If the bobbin thread is visible on the right side of the fabric, the bobbin is not properly threaded, hence affecting tension.

And, if the upper thread is visible on the lower side, the top thread is poorly threaded hence loss of tension.

Step 2. Thread your sewing machine correctly. Follow all the guides to thread the top thread as it should. Second, thread your bobbin properly. Further, make sure that you are using the right size of bobbin for your sewing machine.

Also, check that your bobbin is not broken. This could lead to loosening the tension of your bobbin thread as the crack may prevent proper movement of the bobbin during sewing.

Step 3. When adjusting your sewing machine tension, you need to confirm that you have the right needle and the right thread for the fabric you are sewing. If you are working on a strong, woven fabric, you need a different thread and needle from when you are working on a silky fabric.

Using the wrong needle and thread may affect your sewing. This may cause you to have tension problems that make your thread and fabric bunched up.

Step 4. Adjust the tension of each of the sewing threads for a flawless sewing experience. When you have properly threaded your sewing machine, test on scrap of fabric before you start sewing.

If the top thread is visible on the underside of your fabric, you have low tension. You need to increase the tension by turning the tension knob to a higher number. Test each time you move the tension knob until you have the right tension for your top thread.

If your bobbin thread is visible on the top side of the fabric, you have a high tension on the bobbin thread which needs to be reduced. Thus, turn the tension dial or knob to set a lower tension for your sewing thread,

Test your new tension settings on a scrap fabric. When you have an evenly produced thread, then you have found the right tension for your sewing.

4. Top Tension is too Tight

As a result of the bobbin threads being visible on the top all you have left to do now is to reduce the tension on your sewing machine.

Top Tension is too Tight

When the top tension is too tight, you are likely to see loops appear on your fabric. This means that you will have an untidy stitch on your fabric.

Correct thread tension makes it easy for you to sew anything. As long as you have the correct needle and thread for the fabric that you are sewing. However, when you don’t have the correct tension, you won’t enjoy sewing.

When you have your top thread too tight, it means that you don’t have enough top thread going through the fabric. This means that you will have a weak stitch that could easily unravel. Thus, your sewing produces low quality products.

How Does Top Tension Work?

When you look through your sewing machine, you will see two metal discs at the top. The correct top tension is provided by these two metal discs. On one side of these two discs is a spring. The spring is important as it provides and regulates the pressure that goes onto the thread.

Step 1. To get pressure onto the thread, the spring is controlled via a dial. This is the tension control dial. The pressure exerted onto the spring by the dial is characterized by the numbers shown on the dial. The higher the number set, the higher the pressure and thread tension.

Step 2. When you press the presser foot or switch on your machine, the discs open up and let your thread through to the needle and fabric you are stitching.

When the pressure foot is lowered, the discs come back together and provide the set tension to the thread before the next cycle of sewing starts. For this reason, never thread your sewing machine with the presser foot down. You will encounter lots of tension problems.


Once you’re sure your top tension is too tight, the only solution is to loosen it.

To do this, turn the knob in a way that has the number decreasing. You can try going half or a number lower than the current top tension.

Test this new tension with a small piece of fabric using a different thread color. Keep going low until you’re able to sew evenly on both sides and until the bottom thread no longer shows at the top.

5. Top Tension is too Loose

Another frustrating tension problem you can face on your Brother sewing machine is when the top tension is too loose.

Top Tension is too Loose

This problem is similar to top tension being tight. The major difference is that the top thread is visible at the bottom.


When the top tension of your sewing machine is too loose, the stitches on your fabric will look out of place. When you are a sewing beginner, you need to learn how to properly thread your sewing machine. Proper threading goes a long way in making sure that you have the right tension on your sewing machine.

Here is how you can get your sewing machine back to normal if its top tension is too loose.

Step 1. Proper threading also includes the bobbin threading. Confirm that your bobbin is properly threaded and installed into the sewing machine before you touch the tension dial. Change or also re-thread your bobbin if necessary.

Most times, proper threading of your sewing machine is what you require to solve this tension problem. Also, knowing what needle and thread to use for the fabric you are sewing will help reduce the instances of your top tension getting too loose. 

Step 2. Also, depending on your sewing machine, you could activate auto tension. Mechanical sewing machines don’t have this feature. However, most modern sewing machines will do.

Auto tension means that your sewing machine can automatically detect the type of fabric you are sewing, your needle and type and size of thread. As a result, it will set itself to the required tension to make sure that you don’t face any tension problems.

Step 3. As you increase the tension of your sewing machine to solve this problem, make sure not to overdo it. With every turn of the dial to increase tension, make sure to test out the result on a different piece of fabric. Make sure your test fabric is similar to the one you are working on.

Common Causes of Brother Sewing Machine Tension Problems

The following are the most common reasons why your Brother sewing machine has tension issues.

1. Incorrectly Threaded Machine

Many tension issues arise from machines that are incorrectly threaded. This mistake usually happens when sewers thread with the presser foot down stopping the thread from slipping all the way between tension disc.

Incorrectly Threaded Machine

The best solution is to rethread the sewing machine completely and with the presser foot raised upwards.

2. Dirty Machine

A sewing machine that hasn’t been cleaned for a long while will certainly pose several problems.

Dirty Sewing Machine

For sewers who sew regularly, it is always best to clean your sewing machine at least once every week. This takes away the lint and gunk that would otherwise be hidden between the tension discs.

Always see to it that your Brother sewing machine is lint-free to ensure you don’t have tension issues.

3. Damaged Parts

So what’s the state of your machine? Is your needle broken? is it the thread guide, tension disc, or take up lever?

Sewing Machine Damaged Parts
Always be careful not to leave any broken parts without fixing it as this could seriously affect your Brother sewing machine’s tension.

Once you notice your machine has been damaged in any way, be sure to get professional help.

4. Thread, Needle, and Fabric

If your needle is not the right size for the project, it could easily affect your machine’s tension. Also, the wrong thread size can get your tension settings messed up.

Thread, Needle, and Fabric

The solution is to always get the right needle, thread, and fabric for the project at hand.

Brother sewing machine is one of the finest brands of sewing machines on the market. If you ever face a tension problem, always be sure to consult your manual guide to see if there are directions for tackling such problems.

If you do try the above solutions to their corresponding problems and they fail to work, simply hire a professional to service your machine and get it working properly again.

How Do I Know If My Sewing Machine Tension Is The Problem?

If the stitches stops turning out like a professional job, then it’s probably the tension. It could be that the stitches are loose or they don’t form properly.

What Is The Most Common Brother Sewing Machine Tension Problem?

The most common Brother sewing machine problem for most sewers is setting the tension. If you ever need to reset tension, simply refer to the manual guide to see directions for how to set tension on your Brother sewing machine model.


Hello, I am Jessica Flores, and you are welcome to my website. I am a professional fashion designer and a seamstress. I always carried a passion for craftwork. My love for craft grew along with time. I have spent years researching and practicing in this field to gather colossal experience.

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