How to adjust a singer sewing machine

Updated February 21, 2017

The Singer Sewing Company has been making sewing machines in the United States since 1851. Today, they make a wide variety of machines, from the traditional zigzag machine to more complex embroidery machines. To properly care for a Singer sewing machine, the machine needs regular maintenance, including cleaning and lubrication, after which, the machine needs to be adjusted. By using the proper techniques for testing the needle, needle plate and pressure foot mechanisms, you can adjust your singer sewing machine and ensure it continues its excellent sewing performance for many years.

Check that the needle that you are using is the proper size for the machine. Your owner's manual will indicate what size of needle you should be using. You may also need to adjust the needle diameter, depending on the type of fabric that you want to sew. Each thread size requires a different needle diameter and using a larger diameter needle than you need can result in a stitch that is unattractive.

Examine the quality of the needle. Over time, needles can dull. They can also shift in the bar clamp so that they are no longer straight. If so, you need to adjust the needle by loosening the bar clamp and straightening the needle. Push the needle all the way into the clamp until it reaches the stop pin, before tightening the clamp. If you have a machine with an adjustable needle-bar housing system, make sure that the needle is positioned to go directly through the centre of the needle hole, which is located on the needle plate.

Check to make sure that the needle plate does not have any scratches or marks. If so, it could affect your stitches. If you find any scratches or marks, go over them with a cloth or emery paper to try to smooth them out.

Adjust the feed dog. The mechanism should hover over the needle plate so that its serrations are exactly level with the top of the needle plate. It should always be level with the top of the needle plate when it moves whatever material is being sewn before each new stitch.

Increase or decrease the pressure on your foot presser. The method for doing this will slightly vary depending on the type of machine that you own. You may be able to increase and reduce pressure by pushing down on an inner pin or releasing an outer ring. If your machine has a thumb screw, tightening or loosening it will increase or decrease pressure. And finally, your machine may have a simple dial located by the foot presser to increase or decrease pressure. Make sure that you adjust the pressure according to the needs of the fabric.

Adjust the machine's upper and lower tension mechanism. Depending on your machine, the upper tension mechanism may be located on the face plate, needle-bar housing unit or the upper arm. The lower tension mechanism is on the shuttle case. Adjust the upper tension by turning the levers forward and backward. Adjust the lower tension by turning the screw nearest to the spring. Depending on the type of fabric you want to stitch, you will need a different distribution of tension. It may be helpful to practice several stitches with various tension settings on a sample piece of the fabric before starting a sewing project.

Things You'll Need

  • Cloth
  • Emery paper
  • Screwdriver
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About the Author

Jessica Jewell is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who began writing professionally in 2005. Her chapbook, "Slap Leather," is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Her recent work has appeared in "Nimrod," "Harpur Palate," "Copper Nickel," "Rhino," "wicked alice," "Poetry Midwest" and "Barn Owl Review." Jewell was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University.