How to Adjust the Sewing Machine Tension to Work with Silk

Adjusting the tension on your sewing machine can be a frustrating task. This is especially the case for a beginner who has to learn the different techniques and steps involved with sewing. Granted, learning what stitches work best for different weights and textures of fabrics will take time some to master, but with practice, preparation and a diligent effort to learn the functions of your machine model and the various sewing materials needed for your sewing project will greatly ease this process. Silk is an example of a light weight fabric that you will need to handle carefully while sewing and will require that you adjust your sewing machine’s tension for a neat stitch. In general lightweight fabrics, especially natural fibers need a specific type of thread used.

Silk thread or #50 to 60 mercerized cotton is ideal.Choose sewing machine needle sizes from 9/70 or 11/80. Silk is a fabric that tends to be very ‘slippery’ and needs to be held taut to create uniform stitches. In addition, you will need to set your machine for 12 to 16 stitches per inch. Most domestic sewing machines have a lockstitch feature; meaning they use both an upper and lower spool of thread to bind the material together. When threads lock together properly they will form a knot between the two pieces of fabric, and are not visible.

If the thread tension is too loose, the fabric will bunch or gnarl into unsightly knots and will be uneven in texture. If you can clearly see these types of knots on the bottom or top layers of the material, you will need to adjust the tension on your machine. Before sewing on the actual material you will use to make your garment, first use a test swatch of silk and begin sewing a section to monitor the appearance of the stitches. Gradually increase the tension on your sewing machine until the thread knots ‘pull up’ and are flat and smooth. Silk is a fabric that tends to be very ‘slippery’ and needs to be anchored down to achieve stitching that forms a uniform tight stitch. Use a magnifying glass if necessary to observe the formation of the knots until the stitching is balanced. With a little practice and most likely with a few mistakes along the way, you will automatically know how to adjust your machine’s tension when sewing silk .