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How to Prevent Embroidery Puckering

There are a number of issues that can occur when using an embroidery machine, such as puckering. Puckering refers to the bunching or gathering of fabric near embroidery stitches that happens when the material is moved around during embroidery. It stops the fabric from lying flat so you see the folds, and it can give the finished product a bumpy appearance.

All new embroiders will experience puckering at some point while working. Slippery fabrics like nylon and satin are more prone to it as they can slide around on the stabiliser. Puckered fabric is not a good look for a finished product, looking both unprofessional and messy. When working with embroidery, you should strive to prevent puckering. Here’s a look at what factors can contribute to puckering and how you can prevent it from happening.

Causes of Puckering

  • Inadequate stabilisation

One of the most common causes of puckering is under-stabilised fabric, usually from using not enough or the incorrect type of stabilisers. The more stretchy the material and the larger and denser the design, the more stabilisation is required.

  • Hooping incorrectly

To ensure your fabric is stabilised, hoop your garment with the smallest hoop that will still fit your design, and make sure you hoop it correctly. You will need a taut tambourine like surface without stretching the garment. If you stretch the fabric when you hoop, it will remain in a stretched-out state beneath the stitches. This will look fine while in the hoop, but when it is removed, the fabric will relax, and this causes puckering.

  • Thread tensions too tight

Tight thread and bobbin tension can create too much pull on the stitches, which causes distortion and puckering. Some embroiderers favour rayon thread for thin or delicate fabrics, as its reduced stretchiness and lower required tensions will often produce a pucker free design.

  • Poor digitising

Aside from the embroidery itself, you will need to know how to use the digital software on your machine and consider the fabric you are embroidering on and digitise to reduce puckering. Poorly digitised designs can stitch out incorrectly and lead to puckering.


How to Prevent Puckering

  • Correct stabiliser

Make sure you match your stabiliser type and weight to the job at hand. You will need a stabiliser that does not stretch or shrink or lose integrity during stitching.

  • Spray adhesive

You could use a light temporary fabric adhesive, especially with slippery fabrics like satin, that provides extra stability to prevent the material from shifting while embroidering. Use a light embroidery adhesive to avoid gumming the needles or leaving residue on your substrate. 

  • Hoop correctly

Always hoop your fabric correctly with the smallest hoop possible. The closer the sides of the hoop are to your design, the more stabilisation your hoop will provide. Keep the hoop ring tight enough to stay taut without stretching the material.

  • Reduce density

For lightweight and stretchy fabrics, lower density designs usually stitch best. Opt for designs without extensive coverage and full filled areas. You can reduce the density of a design while retaining the look of complete coverage by reducing the contrast between the stitching and ground colours.

  • Digitise correctly

If you are new to digitising, consider getting some advice and guidance from a professional. Let them know what type of fabric you are embroidering on. Using the correct underlay while digitising can help to stabilise the fabric.

  • Use correct thread tensions

Use thread tension gauges to ensure you set your machine thread tensions correctly, based on the type of thread you are using. When making adjustments to the tension, ensure you are careful and only make slight adjustments at a time.

  • Slow down

A simple way to help avoid puckering is to slow down when working. Puckering can be avoided by reducing the run speed.


Puckering can be a frustrating occurrence during embroidery, but as you develop your skills you should see the amount of puckering on your fabrics reduce. Provided you pick out suitable designs for your chosen fabrics, reduce the stress on the material with stable backing, correct hooping, light stitching and careful pathing, ensuring that the design is run at a low pace, you can reduce the puckering in your finished products.

If you are looking for industrial embroidery machines or commercial embroidery machines, contact Embroidery Machinery today or feel free to browse our range on our website.