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Seam Puckering: Causes And Remedies!

To prevent any fabric or seam puckering, I recommend that you always sew a small sample first to prevent the issue from happening on your main garment fabric.

This sample should be sewn with:

  • Your chosen fabric / fabrics
  • The appropriate needle size and thread

And always sew your sampled with two pieces of the fabric, to replicate what will happen to the fabric when sewing as a seam!

Let’s look at the various types of seam puckering, and how you can avoid seam puckering in future!

What Is Seam Puckering?

Seam puckering is when your stitched line gathers slightly and has a wrinkled look. This can happen during the sewing process or suddenly appear after, when your finished project has been washed.

7 Types Of Seam Puckering

Seam puckering results for various reasons, but here are seven main reasons for your puckering fabric:

  • Stitch errors
  • Using the wrong sewing machine needle
  • Using the wrong tension
  • Using the wrong thread for the fabric
  • Fabric type
  • Sewing curved seams
  • Sewing on the fabric bias

How To Fix A Puckering Seam?

You need to start by identifying the cause of your seam puckering. Use the list above to work out why your seam has puckered up, and then use one of the remedies below to stop the puckering from happening again!

Stitch Errors

Stitch errors can be created by incorrect threading of your sewing machine, loading the bobbin the wrong way, incorrect tension, loading the needle incorrectly and even from using the wrong needle for you fabric choice.

And when your stitches skip and slip about, seam puckering can happen.

  1. Make sure your sewing machine is threaded correctly
  2. Make sure your bobbin is loaded properly
  3. Move on to checking your needle is the correct type

Wrong Sewing Machine Needle

Using the wrong sewing machine needle can result in seam puckering

This is one of the main reasons for a puckered seam!

Using the right sewing machine needle for your fabric is important, but more so is using a brand new needle for each sewing project!

Needles can blunt quite quickly depending on the fabric you’re sewing, and a blunt needle will lead to skipped stitches and that can cause puckers.

If the sewing needle is the correct size and type for the project, and you’ve inserted a new sewing machine needle, check that you’ve installed it the right direction.

Learn more about the different types of sewing machine needles here to see if you’re using the right type for your sewing project!

If all of the above is correct, move on to the tension!

Using The Wrong Tension

Creating tension on the upper thread by guiding thread through tension discs on the Bernina sewing machine

If you know you’ve threaded your machine correctly, and your needle is brand new and installed properly, then the next thing to check for puckered seams is the thread tension!

There are two areas to check your tension:

  • Sewing machine needle tension
  • Bobbin tension

Usually, it is the sewing machine itself which has incorrect tension for your fabric.

When your thread tension is set high, you’re ‘limiting’ the speed that the thread can be stitched by the needle, which causes the thread to stretch out as it is being sewn.

Then, when your work is removed from the sewing machine, that high tension stitch line releases and causes puckering.

Always create a tester on a small sample of the project fabric when modifying your tension – and you’re looking at the tension on the top line of stitches!

The stitches should be nice and flat on both side of the fabric, with your needle and bobbin stitches locking right in in the middle of the fabric pieces!

Needle Tension Too Tight

If you can see that the bobbin thread is showing and perhaps even puckering the fabric on the upper line of stitching, this is usually down to the needle tension being too tight, and you’ll want to loosen up your tension a little.

Bobbin Tension Too Tight

If you have loop issues on the upper line of stitching, then your bobbin tension is wonky. You wouldn’t normally have to modify bobbin tension, so do try to play with the upper tension first, and failing that, slightly adjust the tension of your bobbin.

Using The Wrong Thread For Your Fabric Choice

Use the correct thread for the sewing project to prevent seam puckering

Sewing a heavy weight fabric with a fine thread, or a fine fabric with a heavy thread will always cause seam puckering, which will be worser still if the wrong needle is then thrown in!

Be sure to match your fabric weight with the correct thread weight, and use the right needle size for your fabric choice.

Fabric Type

Your fabric choice can have an impact on whether your seams will pucker or not.

Fabric that is very thin, will pucker if the needle and thread are too heavy for the fabric, the tension too tight or if the stitch length is too short.

Likewise, sewing fabrics together that are:

  • Different types (woven and knit)
  • Different weights (heavy and light)
  • Different grains (straight with bias)

Can also cause puckering of your seams!

Woven And Knit Fabrics

Knit fabric puckers as often as woven fabric

Woven fabric is created very differently to knit fabrics, so when sewing the two together, you do risk the possibility of puckers. Using pins to secure two pieces of fabric together is a good way to avoid puckering seams, as you’re more likely to ‘ease’ the fabric into the space naturally.

Lightweight Fabrics

If your fabric is lightweight, make sure to use a longer stitch length with a slightly looser tension to prevent the puckering!

Different Grainlines

Fabric pieces that are cut on different grains and then sewn together will cause possible puckers, often only after the stitching has been sewn and the project washed and pressed.

You can try to stabilise the more susceptible piece before sewing your seam which will help to prevent any puckering of the fabric!

Sewing On The Bias

The bias grain on fabric is quite stretchy, and this can sometimes cause puckering of your fabric. You’ll see this more often when sewing bias binding tape.

Sewing Curved Seams

How To Sew French Seams On Curves

We’ve all sewn a curved seam or hem and seen the fabric pucker up. It’s annoying, but the remedies are simple:

  1. Sew with a longer stitch length while holding the fabric taught as it feeds though the machine. This will give more ‘space’ for the stitches to relax when the fabric isn’t held taught.
  2. Clip and notch the seam allowance so that when gently pressed, the wrinkles and puckering disappears!

There you have it. What to look out for to prevent seam puckering, and tips on how to sew your seams for an un-puckered finish!

Learn more about sewing seams (that don’t pucker) with these step by step tutorials:

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