What is Auto-Tension on a Sewing Machine? (Machines List)

It all depends on how you want to do your sewing. Many computerized machines do just about everything for you and take all the fun out of sewing. Being old-fashioned and doing many of the tasks yourself is not wrong but a great way to develop your talents.

What is auto-tension on a sewing machine? All auto-tension is, is a device that controls the amount of tension on the thread. Usually, that tension level is set by sensors as those same sensors alter the tension depending on the type of fabric, stitch type, and other factors.

To learn more about auto-tension, just continue to read our article. It explores this topic so you can be ready when the salesman starts bragging about that feature. Take a few moments and learn about this technological upgrade and see if it is for you.

What is Auto-Tension On a Sewing Machine?


To have a true auto-tension feature you must own a computerized sewing machine. These machines use sensors to control the thread tension through a series of sensors that monitor your sewing work.

There is a metered system for the top thread tension control that watches fabric thickness which is said to be the best auto-tension feature available. There is a feature that watches the stitch pattern but it does not monitor the fabric thickness and is considered inferior to the first feature.

While mechanical sewing machines have thread tension dials said to be automatic, they are not true auto-tension features. Those are manual tension features that require you to set the tension level even if the dial says auto or universal on it.

The machine waist for your command and does not do any monitoring until you set the tension level you need. All the auto level does is make switches in the tension when you change the fabric thickness but it cannot do it on its own. If you set the tension dial to 2 or 3 then it won’t monitor the fabric.

True auto-tension features do not need a command from you and work on their own to make sure you have the right tension no matter which fabric you are working on.

Automatic Thread Tension Control vs Manual Tension Control

To put this competition simply, the auto-tension feature has the machine in control of the thread tension levels. The manual tension control leaves you in control as you know which stitch pattern you are using, which thread is on the spool, and other key factors.

According to some sewers, there is little difference between the two controls except who is doing the actual setting and monitoring. If you do not want to be bothered with resetting the tension every time you change fabric thicknesses, then the auto version may be for you.

The thing about manual tension features is that it becomes a piece of cake once you master the operation. Plus, it can be a rare occasion where you have to adjust the tension midstream. Once you set the manual dial, you start sewing and you forget about the tension and the dial.

Actually, the label auto-tension may have been used over the years as a hype word to get you to buy the new expensive computerized sewing machines. Then with the universal setting on the manual tension discs, you really do not have to do anything once you thread the machine.

Which Sewing Machines Have Automatic Tension?


While it is not possible to list every sewing machine model with automatic tension, the first place to start would be Singer. it stands to reason that this company would lead the way in innovation and their Singer 1234 has auto tension. That model is also listed as being great for beginners.

That company also has several models that have the auto tension feature. Brother and Janome are two more of the mainstream sewing machine makers that produce sewing machines with that feature. Then some industrial sewing machine brands have jumped on this bandwagon.

Sunbeam, Smartek, Michley, and Rex seem to have this feature as well. The Michley model is a mini sewing machine but being small does not mean it is excluded from this club.

One top automatic tension feature list of sewing machines had more Brother sewing machines than they had Singer or Janome. That company seems to take this feature seriously and wants people to concentrate more on their project and worry less about the tension.

Finding a Sewing Machine With Automatic Tension

This is going to be a task that will require some effort as the sewing machines with automatic tension will be scattered among all the other sewing machines offered by the different manufacturers.

Most of the time you will have to click on the description to find out if the machine has auto-tension or not. Even those that advertise this feature do not always place it in the meta paragraph or the intro and you have to click to find the details.

But that is going to be the hardest part of this search. Amazon advertises it has sewing machines with auto-tension as do many other online outlets. That means your next hardest task will be eliminating those online sources from contention.

If you do not like shopping online and want to test drive a sewing machine, the best place to go will be the different sewing machine dealers. They should have those models on their display and you should be able to test them out to see if they are the right fit for you.

When you do this, one person suggested that you take your own thread and fabric along with you as the dealers’ samples of both may not fully let you know if that auto-tension works for you and your sewing projects.

Brother Sewing Machine With Automatic Tension


The NX650Q Electronic Sewing Machine is just one model that brother has that includes the auto-tension feature. It is a sewing machine that should also work for quilting and it has a lot of other top features that make sewing and quilting more enjoyable.

Then the LB5000M comes with a thread sensor so that may be an auto-tension feature but not the best kind of feature for this purpose. In researching this topic, it seems that the auto-tension feature is not the most advertised featured in the ads.

In fact, it is left out of many ads and there should be more Brother models that have this option than we list here. The best thing to do is conduct your own search as you know your sewing habits and projects the best. that way you can find the right machine with all the features you need.

That way you can see first hand all the feet you get with each model if it is automatic or computerized and so on. Then you can check the price to make sure that the cost is not prohibitive and will fit your budget.

Singer Sewing Machine Auto-Tension

The Quantum Stylist 9960 Computerized Portable Sewing Machine leads the way for this company. Its auto-tension feature is just one of the myriad of features you get when you purchase this sewing machine.

In addition to the auto tension option, there is an autopilot mode that makes sewing too easy to do. Also, an automatic needle threader comes in handy and cuts your frustration down. The cost is reasonable and affordable as some models are going for about $400.

Then there is the 2277 model that says the machine will automatically adjust the tension to the fabric you are working on. It may not be a true automatic tension feature but it does work on its own without help from you.

It may not be the top-of-the-line Singer sewing machine but it does have enough complementary features to make it a good machine for those people who do not do a lot of fancy sewing tasks.

That is one of the keys to finding a good sewing machine. One feature will not make or break the deal as there are so many other features that you may need. Since there is little difference between automatic and manual operation, don’t pass up a great machine if it doesn’t have this feature.

Janome Sewing Machine With Automatic Tension


The DC2015 is said to have auto-tension controls and it is a good feature if you worry about the thread tension all the time. This feature will allow you to concentrate more on what you are doing and leave the tension issues to the machine.

Then there is the 4120QDC which is a computerized model. It has a control panel and lots of automatic features that will complement any thread tension operation. Just turn it on and use the touchscreen to get everything set up and you should be able to sew a lot faster than your grandmother did back in the day.

As an honorable mention, the Janome Skyline S5 is supposed to be one of the best sewing machines with automatic tension. The cost of this machine is more affordable than some of its competitors but it is still not for those people who do not have the budget.

It is said to be easy to use and has a slide speed controller which should make changing speeds quick and easy to do. With 6 LED lights illuminating the sewing area you should be able to see clearly and avoid simple mistakes.

Heavy-Duty Sewing Machine With Auto Tension

It is going to be hard to place specific models here as there are so many HD sewing machines that come with automatic tension now. The reason for that difficulty is that almost all sewing machine brands make top-quality HD sewing machines and some of them have automatic tension.

The other reason is that the auto-tension feature is not advertised that well and is often left off the list of features in the ads. The focus is more on the auto-threading feature and tension seems to be left for a more detailed search.

The best word of advice we can give you here is that Bernina, Singer, Janome, Juki, and Brother, to only name a few brands, will have that feature on specific HD sewing machines. It will depend on your budget and your brand preference as to which one you will buy.

The best thing to do is contact the individual dealers and see what special pricing they have and what models are available.

Things to Consider When Buying a Sewing Machine

Even when considering a sewing machine with auto-tension, the following criteria will help you find the best one.

  • 1. What type of sewing will you be doing - this is the major factor when deciding on a new machine. If you do not do a lot of sewing or your sewing projects are simple, you do not need auto-tension or a host of other features.
  • 2. Are you technology savvy - by that we mean do you understand technology fairly well and won’t get confused by all the technical features on the machine. Sometimes technology is not worth having.
  • 3. Your budget - having a sewing machine with all the bells and whistles can be impressive to your friends but those sewing machines are pricey. Can you afford it is a big question you need to answer.
  • 4. Many do not last - sadly, modern sewing machines, even the ones with auto-tension, do not last that long anymore. Longevity is a key factor in your purchase.

Some Final Words

Auto tension is not a deal maker or breaker. Once you mastered the manual operation, setting the thread tension yourself is simple and does not take up a lot of time. But the choice is yours and if you think you need it, then find the right machine that will work best for you and fit your budget.

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