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Machine and Tool Maintenance Multi-Needle

Multi-Needle Monday! Tension Test!

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog


Refer to your machine’s manual to determine the correct size bobbin for your machine. Do not guess here – follow the manual’s instructions. Most multi-needle machines do not come with a bobbin winder so purchasing pre-wounds in the correct size is a must.  The bobbin slides into the bobbin case just like it does on many single needle machines.

Hold the bobbin case in your left hand and slip the bobbin (with the bobbin thread winding off the bobbin clockwise) into the case. Pull the thread through the guide (or slit) and under the tension adjusting spring. 

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Hold the bobbin thread and let the bobbin case hang down.  There should be resistance on the thread. In other words, the bobbin case should not slide down.   If you bounce the thread, the case will most likely release more thread but it should not fall to the floor.   Refer to your machine manual for tightening the screw on the bobbin case if more tension is required.

Now insert the bobbin case into the hook on the machine, aligning the base’s tab with the notch on the hook. It will snap into place.  Leave about 2-3” of thread tail and close the hook cover. You’re ready to sew!

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Let’s check the tension on the needles. Select the thread tension test pattern on your machine. It is a row of 10 vertical satin columns – each a different color. Hoop fabric and tear-away stabilizer and stitch the design.

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

Critique the tension by first examining the right side. If all you see is the polyester/rayon embroidery thread, then you know you’re headed in the right direction.  Now flip the fabric over and take a close look at the wrong side of the embroidery.  The bobbin thread should fill one-third of the column with equal amounts of the top thread framing the bobbin column. 

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog

If no top thread is visible on the wrong side of the embroidery, then the top tension is too loose.  Tension dials work just like screws: righty tighty; lefty loosey. Turn the dial to the right if no top thread is visible on the wrong side and to left if too much top thread is visible.

It’s best to aim for properly balanced tension so that the machine can produce professional results every time it stitches. Sew the test pattern again – skipping the needles (or colors) that did not need to be adjusted. Once the tension is set, you can move on to your embroidery project.

If your machine does not have a built-in thread tension test pattern, then just make your own.  Use the built-in lettering on the machine to program one capital letter “I” for each needle. Assign a different color for each letter and stitch the newly-created design. Store the design in your machine’s memory for future use. It will save you time down the road.

Next week, we’ll hoop!


This is week 3 of our multi-needle Monday and I have many more helpful topics to cover.  In the meantime, what other multi-needle topics would you like me to discuss?  Let me know by posting a comment!

Did you miss the last three Multi-needle Monday topics?  Need to review?
Multi-Needle Monday Part 1:  Introduction

Multi-Needle Monday Part 2:  Securing your machine

Multi-Needle Monday Part 3:  Basic Threading




  • Donna

    This is probably farther down the road but I still get mixed up when assigning thread colors to the needles within a design. Maybe you could touch on that topic. Please.

    • Cosma Ezzell

      I assign #’s on my thread printout then use the wand as I move through the threads with the + – button….

  • cathy sutton

    thanks for the refresher. cathy

  • Pat Marsh

    Hi, I’m purchasing a Janome MB4 and in the process of organizing a stable table/cupboard etc. for it to sit on. Quite daunting when you take the weight of 45kgs into consideration. A purpose built cupboard is available at the cost of $1,000+ (Aus) but is out of stock and no indication of availability. Do you have any solutions or suggestions for this issue? Thanks Pat

    • Susie Mackenberg

      Hi. I love the set up for my MB4. I have it on a corner shelf. I purchased shelving from an office supply store and on either side of the corner are drawers that the shelf attaches to. It is very attractive and works out well. I’ll send a picture if my explanation isn’t good.

      • Pat Marsh

        Thank you Susie, that set up sounds interesting. Unfortunately I do not have a corner, but do have a straight wall approximately 6 ft in length. I’m toying with kitchen cupboards and bench arrangement and perhaps reinforcing the sides of the cupboards for extra support. Your desk arrangement sounds interesting, do you find there is enough support? Have you noticed the desk top bowing? What happens with carriage movement and vibration? These are the main issues I’m concerned about.
        Thanks again Pat

  • Peggy Schroeder

    Hi Eileen,
    TThanks for the info..I think checking the thread tension by doing a stitch-out of the letter I sounds good, Will have to give it a try. I am starting to get the spring cleaning bug, want to clean, purge all this excess fabric and more notions that I can use in a lifetime or even two lifetimes! Of course, so far the cleaning bug is not making much noise, so I am not paying too much attention to it! I get all enthused about doing it, then I go in there and find I don’t have enough room to basically move anything, or put the stuff out of sight, and just give up. I am getting pretty good at drawing out on paper how I think it should look, but it just isn’t workable. Back to the drawing paper, maybe this time I can figure it out. I would like to learn more about doing bigger lettering, and the best place to get them. I am trying to find some 5-6 inch block collegiate letters. I would really like to learn how to do hats, I have the hoops, driver, etc., and they are still brand new, I have never unpacked them or used them. I would love to learn how do do my own designs on the hats.
    Thank you for all of your help, I do appreciate it.

    • Vickie

      it’s not the letter I .. it’s the test pattern that should be in your built in machine designs

  • Joyce

    Thanks for the review. I agree with Donna….I would like to be a little more clear on the numbering of the thread on the machine and the numbering of the design thread. I’ll be anxious to see you cover the subject. So far your directions are much more clear than the manual that came with my 10 needle.

    • Irma Clements

      Joyce this is what I do regarding threads. I write down all colours shown on the machine for the patterns,then get color chart out, mine is brother,write notes next to each color,then if you don’t like color write change next to each number and change it on the spools and rethread. Sometimes I use colors already on machine and change it to the needles Ilike.I hope you can follow this.

  • Carolyn

    Just an added note on letting the bobbin case “dangle.” Make sure you have your free hand under the bobbin case! If, for any reason, the bobbin case falls onto the floor, it can be damaged. I dropped mine, and although it looked fine, it was warped. I was sure I had a batch of “out of round bobbins” until I took my machine in for service. As it was, my bobbin case was out-of-round. I purchased a new bobbin case and another one as a spare.

  • Vicky Isliefson

    If the top thread tension is looser than the bobbin, then wouldn’t it pull MORE of the top thread to the underside?

    Also, your photo of the bobbin going into the case shows the thread unwinding in the anti-clockwise direction. The bobbin itself would turn in the clockwise direction if you pulled the thread

  • Gail

    Ok, here is one for you. My machine (Enterprise) was working fine until one day threads started splitting on 3 of the needles, then making nests underneath, and within moments getting caught in the hook/race stopping the machine. After soaking with oil and pulling threads (many many hours and tears later) it was unjammed. Now the tension is ballistic, no bobbin thread showing, loose (loopy) top thread, even though my gauge reads 150 (high end for polly). Any hints? My dealer is 90 miles away so am trying to avoid the trip, because it will not just be one trip of course and who knows how many weeks it will be this time around. Thank you for any help.

    • Irma Clements

      Gail I had a problem with my 10 needle yesterday, the thread started to split on one needle.The thread was new but I had it in the drawer for 3 Years.I changed that thread and it sewed really well then.I hope this helps. Irma

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  • Eileen Laurette

    Your directions for tightening and/or loosening the upper thread tension are backwards. If the tension of the upper thread is TOO TIGHT, this results in the upper thread not being visible from the wrong side of the embroidery. You would need to loosen the upper thread by DECREASING THE TENSION (turning the dial counterclockwise).

    If the tension of the upper thread is TOO LOOSE, this results in too much upper thread being visible from the wrong side of the embroidery. You would need to TIGHTEN THE TENSION of the upper thread to correct for this (turning the dial clockwise).

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