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Reduce & Prevent Puckering

Machine Embroidery Tips: How To Reduce & Prevent Puckering

Embroidery puckering refers to the gathering or bunching of fabric near embroidery stitches and happens from the fabric moving around during embroidery.

Puckering prevents the fabric from laying flat giving it a bumpy appearance. Every new embroider experiences puckering of their designs at some point. Puckering looks terrible, is unprofessional and is something you should strive to eliminate in your embroidery designs.

Several Factors Can Cause Puckering

  • Under-Stabilized Fabric
    The most common reason for puckering is inadequate stabilization, usually not enough or not the correct type of stabilizers. The more stretchy your fabric and the larger and more dense your embroidery design - the more stabilization required. Cut away backings are usually more stable and should be use with knits and other stretchy garments.
  • Not Hooping Correctly
    To achieve the best stabilization of your fabric, you should hoop your garment with the smallest hoop the design will fit in and make sure you are hooping your garment correctly. You want to create a taught tambourine like surface without stretching your garment. If you stretch your fabric when you hoop, you will freeze the fabric in a stretched out state under the stitches. When this is done your embroidery will look fine while still hooped but when removed from the hoop all the fabric that is not locked under the stitches will relax and cause puckering.
  • Thread Tensions To Tight
    Overly tight thread and bobbin tension can create too much pull on the stitches causing distortion and puckering. On lighter weight and delicate fabrics, sometimes using rayon thread, due to it's reduced stretchiness and lower required tensions, will produce a better looking pucker free design.
  • Poor Digitizing
    Great digitizing is a skill in itself separate from the skill of mastering embroidery. A professional digitizer will create design in a way that can take into account the fabric you are embroidering on and digitize to reduce puckering. Poorly digitized designs and designs using an auto-digitizer can sometimes stitch our poorly despite anything else you do.

Tips To Prevent Puckering

  • Choose The Correct Stabilizer
    Covered above and in other blog posts; make sure you are matching your stabilizer type and weight to the job at hand.
  • Use Spray Adhesive
    The light use of temporary fabric adhesives, especially with slippery and stretchy fabrics, can provide the extra stabilization you need to prevent fabric from moving and shifting during embroidery
  • Hoop Garments
    Always correctly hoop your garments using the smallest hoop possible. The closer the sides of your hoop are to your design, the more stabilization your hoop will provide.
  • Reduce Density
    For lighter weight and stretchy fabrics, a lower density deigns usually stitches best. Choose open designs without large coverage and full filled in areas.
  • Digitize Correctly 
    If you don't have digitizing experience, hire a reputable digitizer and let them know the type of fabric you will be embroidering on. When digitizing, the correct use of an underlay can help stabilize fabric.
  • Set Correct Thread Tensions
    Use thread tension gauges to correctly set your machine thread tensions based on the type of thread you are using. When making tension adjustments, only make slight adjustments at a time.

Previous article Best Embroidery Hooping Tips & Tricks
Next article Cut Away Stabilizers: What's The Best One To Use


Pat - December 27, 2022

I have that same problem that you are showing on the yellow t-shirt, that says puckering, is that fixable?

Anna Collins - December 27, 2022

I manage a beauty salon, and I was thinking of getting collared shirt uniforms for my staff with our company logo embroidered on the cloth. Thank you for informing us that it’s important to properly digitize the embroidery design by considering the fabric being used to reduce the puckering in the results. I’ll be sure to take note of this while I look for custom embroidery services to hire for my salon’s workwear soon.

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