Comparisons and overviews · Multi-needle · Thread tension

Thread tension for twin needles – inspiration

Domestic sewing machines typically have a single tension control unit for the upper thread. This is fine for sewing with a single needle, but is often insufficient when using twin or triple needles. Have you noticed how overlockers have separate tension controls for each thread? We need the same on a sewing machine!

On an overlocker each thread not only has its own tensioner, but also its own guides – a completely separate path down to the needle or looper.

โ€‹I have recently run into tension trouble sewing with a twin needle using different types of thread. Different threads require different tension, but a single tensioning unit can only deliver one and the same tension for both threads. I could solve the problem there using an extra tensioner normally meant for winding the bobbin, but this is not a general solution.

I’m looking for ideas!

KL 950 from Pfaff. Click on the picture for more info.
Yes, this is a sewing machine, not a weaving loom. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I get carried away.

Prazak 5200SM3 elastic thread 12-needle smocking machine. Click on the picture for more info.
โ€‹This is more like it! May be a ted too many threads, but a good idea to arrange the tensioners on a rail like that.โ€‹

Singer 68/69 tacker machine. Click on the picture for more info.
Just the one needle, but how sweet!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Singer 37-2 two-needle machine
Ah, that’s more like it! Two needles, one bobbin, basically the same as our domestic twin needle solution, except for the separate tensioners. Notice how they are arranged in one unit back to back.

But nothing can beat this beauty:โ€‹โ€‹โ€‹

Singer 41-12. Click on the picture for more info.
She’s got her curlers on! ๐Ÿ™‚ This 12-needle machine uses just a single bottom thread. Because of the large overall width, it could not be a bobbin, but the thread came in tightly wound cops that fitted directly into the shuttle. But I think it would have been much easier to use a transverse shuttle – it can cover any width easily. Back to the weaving loom – the original inspiration for a lockstitch sewing machine!

But back to our domestic machines. Since we don’t really want to modify the needle clamp, the easiest thing is to use standard twin or triple needles.

It is important to separate the threads as they come to the needles, but many machines only have a single thread guide near the needle clamp. That’s easily fixed – a new guide can be made out of some wire and fitted instead of the old one. Here is what I’ve done for my New Home 580:

I think it should be sufficient separation, the threads can pass through the other guides together, as long as they have their own tensioners. Each machine already has one tensioner, so if I make some sort of a clip-on unit with two tensioners on it, I’ll be able to move it from machine to machine. As well as the spool pins! Hmmm… Now, where was that thinking cap?โ€‹

6 thoughts on “Thread tension for twin needles – inspiration

    1. Using the same type of thread on both needles is usually ok on one tensioner. The problem arises when you try using different types of thread. I wanted to use thicker top stitch thread on one needle and fine and sticky lurex on the other in order to make a raised satin stitch embroidery with golden shading… That just would not go at all due to tension problems. It’s a pity really because my Singer 328K takes two separate needles which would be perfect for such applications.


    1. I showed the picture to my husband. “So you know what will happen if I ever see that on eBay?” – “Yes, all right, you can have another table then.” ๐Ÿ˜€


  1. I know the problem Elena. Have you thought about leaving out some of the guides, or even putting somemore in (taping paper clips to the machine) to either increase or reduce the tension for a particular thread. I’m no expert but I’ve read some instruciton manuals that even recommend by-passing guides for some threads.

    Paper clips also work for extra thread guides to separate threads near the needle.

    We are still in the process of moving by the way – hiccup at the moment with some solictiors questions, so very stressful, but we are keeping our fingers crossed. Most machines except 2 ready and waiting to go into storage!


    1. Paper clips are universal tools! ๐Ÿ™‚ I did play with guides first, but the tension adjustment is not fine enough – you either get too much tension or not enough. And it’s just too fiddly – reminds me of the tension “device” in a Singer 12 shuttle: you just wrap some thread around a pin! :-p Perhaps acceptable in 1890 but not in 2017. I want proper tensioners like on an overlocker. ๐Ÿ™‚

      So I see you are moving! Have you sold your house already? I assume you are not moving into your permanent house yet since the machines are going into storage. Busy times! Good luck!


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