Sewing Stitch Adjustments – Stitch Width, Stitch Length, and Tension

There are important sewing stitch adjustments for the machine to sew properly. These sewing stitch adjustments are the stitch width, stitch length, and the tension. The stitch width and stitch length are generally set automatically when a type of stitch is chosen, such as for example, the standard straight stitch, zigzag or the buttonhole stitch. The tension setting; however is generally set manually as the need arises, either higher or lower than the default average setting.

Just what are the stitch width, stitch length and tension?

The stitch width is how wide each stitch can be made, from a narrow stitch to a wide stitch. The stitch width adjustment gives the machine the ability to go from a straight line stitch to a zigzag stitch.

Sewing Machine Stitch Width Adjustment Diagram

Stitch Width

The stitch length determines how much fabric is fed under the presser foot. When the stitch is shortened, less fabric is fed under the presser foot, and when the stitch is lengthened more fabric is fed under the presser foot.

Sewing Machine Stitch Length Adjustment Diagram

Stitch Length

Stitch lengths:

2mm is the short stitch length that should be used for lightweight fabrics, for satin stitching, and decorative stitching.

2.5 - 3mm is the average stitch length range that should be used for medium weight fabrics.

4 - 5mm is the long stitch length range that should be used for basting and topstitching.

The tension is how fast the thread is fed through the machine. Turning the tension number to a higher number tightens the tension, and turning the tension to a lower number loosens the tension. The adjustment of the tension depends upon the weight of the fabric. The tension adjustment in effect is what allows the upper thread and the lower thread (bobbin) thread to lock together properly to form the proper stitch.

Sewing Machine Tension Adjustment Dial

Tension Adjustment Dial

The average tension adjustment is generally 4, tension should be adjusted up or down with the tension of 4 as the starting point.

It is therefore important that the sewer learn to adjust the tension on the machine properly. Although the stitch width and length are generally preset, it is important mainly to know what the stitch width and stitch length are, so that they can be adjusted as needed, dependent upon the type of fabric that is being used for a project.

For specific information about how these adjustments should be done for the particular brand of sewing machine that was purchased, it is important to consult the manual that comes with the sewing machine.

For information about different fabrics and choosing the appropriate sewing stitch adjustments for sewing click on the link to the sewing fabric home page

For other great information related to learning about and maintaining your sewing machine, click on the links below.

Sewing Machine Basics
Threading Sewing Machines
Sewing Machine Feet
Sewing Machine Repair
Sewing Machines Home Page
Sewing Home Page