Calibrating the Tension Assembly on a Vintage Singer 201k or 222k

If you find that your machine is not producing a perfectly tensioned lockstitch on a double layer of medium-weight cotton fabric and a tension of around 4.5, then you need to calibrate the tension assembly so that it does.

This process is both simple and quick and requires no tools apart from a fingernail.  It is not necessary to take the whole thing apart, just nudge part of the assembly around a little.  The following photos show the procedure conducted on a Singer 222k although I have also recently made exactly the same adjustment on my main machine, the 201k.

Push back against the numbered ring on the tension assembly and you will find that it is springy.  Push it back hard, away from the front thumb-screw part of the assembly and you will see – look carefully because this part of the assembly is black – that there are a number of holes drilled into the front of the dial plate.  In front of this is a small, bright metal pin which, when slotted into one of these holes, allows the numbered dial to rotate as one with the thumb screw.

Because it is possible to slot this pin into any of the holes in the dial rim the tension can read just about anything so what we need to aim for is to get one full rotation of the dial within the maximum (tightest) and minimum (loosest) setting of the thumb screw.  In other words, when the thumb screw is screwed down tight it should read close to 9 and when it is screwed out as loose as it will go it should read close to 0 but don’t worry if it isn’t exact – as long as you can fully tighten and loosen the screw this is fine.

Just keep nudging the numbered dial back with your thumbnail and moving the pin around one hole at a time until you’re happy.

Tension Dial, pushed back to show calibration holes.

Thumb screw showing the pin which slots in to the calibration holes.

Use your thumb to nudge the numbered dial around so that the pin engages with the next hole along from the present one.

Dial fully loosened (see how the end of the tension pin is flush with the end of the thumb screw)

Dial fully tightened (see how the end of the tension pin is below the end of the thumb screw)

 All content copyright of the blog owner 2010.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. singersewinginfo
    Jul 20, 2011 @ 16:34:27

    Dear edsmum,

    I have often read your sewing blogsite as I have not only found the content interesting, but I enjoy your pleasant style of writing and clear photo’s.

    I manage the information site as a public resource and I was wondering if perhaps you would possibly consider helping us to add some more to the content.

    One of our key features that gets a large amount of traffic is the accessories parts list at You will notice that we still have many images missing. Is there any chance that you may have some of these accessories that you could photograph against a plain background. Also of course you may well have some extra items to add that we don’t have listed yet.

    There is still a major part of the main site that is ‘work in progress’ and not published yet. That is a section on adjustment, maintenance and restoration. One of the most fundamental things that people often ask about is tension adjustment. Your own blog entry about this seems to cover it perfectly, and so rather than me write something from scratch, I was wondering if you would consider letting us extract the content from your blog and use that. If you agreed then I would of course be very happy to reference you as the source/author.

    Best regards


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