Friday, 29 June 2012

How to Adjust the Tension on a Long Bobbin Machine

If a machine has been well looked after, the tension should only ever need adjusting on the top thread.  However, when buying an old machine you never know what tinkering has gone on in the past, and there might be a problem with the bobbin tension.  Adjusting the tension is very difficult to explain without showing the shuttle dangle trick, which I show on this video.

Once you are used to adjusting the tension discs, then regulating the tension on the top thread is a very simple job.  I have been able to remove tension discs for cleaning, replace them and have them set for the correct tension first time, with no further adjustment required and perfect tension when doing the first test stitching.   

However my most beautiful machine (a Vesta transverse Shuttle) was a complete primadonna and it took me four evenings working to past midnight to get it right.  That's when I found out about the shuttle dangle trick.  I hope I have saved people time and headaches by passing on this nugget of sewing machine knowledge.


  1. Hi, What a wonderful site you have.

    I have a hand crank Singer that my parent's bought for me about 40+ years ago. It has recently returned from a stay with my sister and I have started some research on it. It is not clear whether it is a 28k or 128k model. Singer site dates it at manufactured in 1914. I found another site today ( and using the F serial number it also says manufactured between Jan and June 1914 and says it is a 28k. Yet using one of the other sites where you select the features that says it is a 128k...
    possibly because the bobbin winder is high up on the machine.
    Any suggestions for how to clarify this, as I want to get some additional long bobbins and also have some long bobbins that do work in the machine, but I have to remove the entire tensioning mechanism on the torpedo shuttle to get them out of the shuttle - not ideal.
    Many Thanks,

    Jackie H in London

  2. Hello Jackie,

    Thank you!

    Whether your machine is a 28K or 128K makes absolutely no difference to the bobbins you need to get.

    If your machine has a thumb tab under the tension discs, then you have a 28K. If there is no thumb tab, it is a 128K .

    If you get a bobbin stuck in the shuttle, try to dislodge it by giving the shuttle a few sharp downward shakes. If this doesn't work, if the shuttle has a hole on the end of it, put a pin through the hole to pull it out. If there is no hole in the end of the shuttle, insert a pin in the groove at the side of the shuttle to help it out.

    If your bobbins keep getting stuck it might be that your bobbin or shuttle is not an original Singer part, and therefore not perfectly compatible.

    I hope this helps. If you still have problems I suggest you contact Helen Howes:-

    Good luck!

    Love, Muv

    1. Hi Muv,

      Yes, I have a thumb tab (after googling what it is), so I have a 28K.

      I have tried shaking to remove bobbins, it didn't work. The shuttle (that I believe to be original) doesn't have a hole at the end of it. The groove along the side of the shuttle is too narrow to get a pin into it. That's why I ended up taking the shuttle tensioning mechanism to get them out.

      I will contact Helen, perhaps with some photos I can sort out the right long bobbins.

      Many Thanks,


    2. Hello again Jackie,

      I have to admit your predicament is a bit of a puzzle to me, because if the machine sews properly, then the bobbin has room to rotate in the shuttle, so it should follow that it should come out easily. Helen will sort you out, anyway.

      Here is the post about thumb tabs:

      Love, Muv

  3. Which way do you load the shuttle please, I cannot find any instructions on how to load boat shuttles. Please can you help.

    1. Hello Unknown. I assume you are Ann Barnett...

  4. My shuttle is not in the machine it fell out when the machine was delivered does it go in flat side down, on its side or flat side up. Please explain

    1. ... and without any clues as to the type of machine (vibrating shuttle, transverse shuttle), I can't help you.

      I suggest you study the photos on the posts relating to shuttles. You should be able to work it out.

      I suggest



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