How to Prevent Puckering When Quilting and Causes (2023)

Puckering is a common problem in quilting, especially with the new quilters which is why it is always advisable to be cautious while quilting as it can be annoying going through the process of creating a quilt only to realize the occurrence of puckering.

As a quilter or a hobbyist, you might be wondering if it is possible to prevent puckering from ruining your beautiful quilt, well, it can definitely be prevented.

In this article, we will be providing in-depth information on puckering, how it affects your quilt, its causes, and how it can be totally prevented.

Table of Contents

What Is Puckering?

Puckering is unwanted fabric pulls that occur while quilting creating uneven stitches. During the quilting process, horizontal lines get stitched on each other which produces a dense fabric. These horizontal lines are meant to be totally aligned and the seam flushes with each other to produce a flawless finish.

In a situation where the weight gets shifted, puckering occurs and the fabric becomes out of place. This situation can be challenging and difficult to fix and all the efforts put into making a perfect and beautiful quilt might just get wasted.

What are The Causes of Puckering?

When you notice creases at the back of your quilt, puckering has occurred, these can be caused by different factors, below are the common causes of puckering.

  • The inability of the safety pins to perfectly go through the backing leads to the layers not being perfectly held together.
  • When the back of the quilt has not been taped properly
  • When the quilt was not properly held down during layering.
  • Adjustment of sewing machine
  • Weight adjustment and shifting while quilting

How Do I Reduce The Risk of Puckering When Quilting?

As a quilter, your patience, skills, and passion will be tested constantly, quilting is a craft that requires your skill set and time, as you might spend hours trying to make your creations ideal and flawless which, is why it can be disappointing when you notice the occurrence of puckering.

Puckering can be prevented when proper procedures get followed. Below are the detailed preventive measures that can be followed to get your quilts free from puckering.

– Pin Baste Close

It is advisable to go for pin basing instead of making use of the spray baster for a while. When you put in the effort and make a close pin baste, your quilting becomes better and the layers stop moving around preventing puckering from happening.

– Stop Excess Stretching of the Backing

During the basting process of your quilt, make sure the backing fabric doesn’t get pulled too much. The layers tend to get loose at different ends when a layer is more excessively stretched than the others.

– Try a Walking Foot Attachment

when your sewing machine is equipped with a built-in foot and you’re experiencing puckering on your project, it is advisable to consider making use of a walking foot attachment. In most cases, an attached walking foot attachment tends to work more perfectly than the built-in foot.

– Work on a Large Table

The available accessories used in carrying out your project will have an impact on the project result which is why it is vital to provide outstanding support for your project during the whole quilting session.

It is possible for gravity to influence and obstruct a flat quilting process which results in the pulling of layers into wayward directions. To prevent this, you have to make use of a wide working table to ensure all parts of quilts that are not being controlled gets enough space to remain on the table instead of hanging on the floor.

– Increase Stitch Length

Unlike piercing, you make use of a long stitch length when quilting. When the stitch is too short, it produces a high pressure that becomes too much for the foot and can make your project becomes messy.

A long stitch however will ensure the quilt floats in a single piece producing a smooth quilting process.

– Reduce The Pressure Foot

Puckering tends to occur when the weight of the pressure foot becomes too high. When the layers begin to move differently while quilting, unwanted pulling might happen. To prevent puckering, it is advisable to reduce the pressure as it ensures the foot works perfectly producing excellent sewing results.

– Patiently Go Through The Quilting Process

It is advisable to maintain a slow pace during the straight-line quilting process. The walking foot becomes more effective and works efficiently with a moderate rhythm.

By maintaining a moderate pace during the quilting process, you can easily bypass puckering while acquiring outstanding basting integrity.

What To Do If Puckering Doesn’t Stop When Quilting?

How to Prevent Puckering When Quilting and Causes (1)

If the puckering doesn’t stop after making use of the above-mentioned tips, you can consider changing your quilt direction. The process of making a straight line quilting in a single direction for a long duration can lead to puckering.

When puckering occurs in the middle of a project, you can get frustrated and tempted to lose all the ready-made stitches. Instead of removing the ready-made stitch, you can provide more quilting on it to conceal the puckering. Dense quilting will provide the perfect texture that hides the puckers efficiently.

When the stitch lines between the spaces are significant, the puckering becomes more vivid. In this case, the proper distribution of fabric and filling up the spaces with additional quilting will help to camouflage the puckering.

if the puckering becomes unpreventable, you might want to acquire a new sewing machine. It is important to take note that not all sewing machines are ideal for straight-line quilting.

What Is The Perfect Quilting Tension To Prevent Puckering?

Getting the tension settings right can also help in preventing puckering which is why it is very important to constantly check your sewing machine tension before starting a new quilting project when starting a new bobbin, new thread colour, and new needle, and before proceeding with quilting after the sewing machine has been switched off.

To confirm if your sewing machine has a perfect tension, create a sandwich with the exact material for your quilting project and make use of the exact thread, needle, and foot that will be used for your project to test the machine tension.

Perform some quilting on the test fabric, including curves and sharp points in your designs to check if there are any tension issues. Carefully examine the created stitch on the front and back of the testing fabric and make proper adjustments to the machine tension as required until there is a clear stitch definition on both sides of the test fabric.

When the machine tension is perfect, there will be a clear stitch definition on both sides of the fabric. The stitch will run smoothly and there will be no tugging through of thread to the opposite sides of the fabric.


Puckering is a common problem and you are not the only quilter currently facing this unwanted situation. By following this article, you will have a better understanding of puckering, what it entails, the causes, and how it can be prevented to achieve a smooth and perfect quilting result.


Why does fabric pucker when quilting? ›

Puckers in the quilting usually result from a basting process where either the backing wasn't spread and secured properly or too few safety pins were used or things shifted as the quilt was positioned under the needle and quilting began.

What are the possible causes of puckered stitches? ›

Cause. Tension pucker is caused while sewing with too much tension, thereby causing a stretch in the thread. After sewing, the thread relaxes. As it attempts to recover its original length, it gathers up the seam, causing the pucker, which cannot be immediately seen; and may be noticeable at a later stage.

How do you keep a quilt flat? ›

I spray baste an area on the batting put on the backing. Smooth out and continue across the quilt. Then turn over spray the backing and have your quilt rolled evenly on a pool noodle. Works so much easier and I do it on my dining room table.

What tension and stitch length for quilting? ›

For straight stitching, it is advised to set your machine's stitch length to 2.5 to 3.0 or about 8-12 stitches per inch. This range works quite well for a majority of machine quilting but there are always exceptions when you make a rule. For threads with sparkle or shine, use a longer stitch length.

Should you starch fabric before quilting? ›

Starch your fabric before you cut out your pieces to help stabilize the fabric and prevent it from stretching. This results in more accurate piecing. Begin by pre-washing and drying your fabric as you usually do.

How do you make quilt seams lay flat? ›

Press on the backside of your fabric piece first to get the seam to lay flat. Press your seams however you like. What is this? Then turn your piece over and give it a light pressing on the front side of your seam as well.

What is the remedy of looping and puckered stitches? ›

Looped stitches are usually caused by improper tension. If the loop is on the upper side, it may be corrected by loosening the top tension or by tightening the lower tension. If the loop is on the under side, it is usually best corrected by adjusting the upper tension.

What stitch types prevent seam puckering? ›

Difficult fabrics such as stretch or tulle may need an adjustment in your type of stitch in order to prevent seam puckering. Try using a very small zigzag stitch to get away from straight stitches that tend to pull and wrinkle. This works especially well for stretch fabrics and tulle.

How do you sew a hem without puckering? ›

How to get a super tidy hem with no fuss.
  1. Step 1: Run the basting stitch. ...
  2. Step 2: Iron up the hem using the basting as a guide. ...
  3. Step 3: Fold the raw edge to the fold. ...
  4. Step 4: Sew the hem. ...
  5. Pull out your basting stitch by pulling gently.
Feb 13, 2015

How do you stabilize a quilt before quilting? ›

To stabilize a quilt, stitch the long axes of the quilt. Begin by stitching all the vertical axes, then stitch the horizontal axes. Stitch from the top of the quilt to the bottom of the quilt and knot off before beginning the next row. Do not rotate the quilt after every row–that introduces shifting.

Can you use flannel instead of batting in a quilt? ›

Quilt batting is not needed when making a quilt. You can make a quilt by quilting the top and back together without a middle layer. You may also choose unconventional batting like a flannel sheet or quilting cotton. These can be more cost-effective options if you're wanting to save money on batting.

What should the tension be on my sewing machine? ›

The dial settings run from 0 to 9, so 4.5 is generally the 'default' position for normal straight-stitch sewing. This should be suitable for most fabrics.

What is the defect on fabric puckering? ›

Puckering is an irregular seam surface. You'll see this garment defect more commonly in woven fabrics and knitted ones. Puckering is especially prominent on garments that are tightly woven.

How do you get pucker out of clothes? ›

Use your clothes dryer.

Add something moist—a couple of ice cubes or a damp towel—with your wrinkled clothes in the dryer. The moisture will turn into wrinkle-removing steam. If you'd like to add a fresh scent to this technique, dampen a couple of dryer sheets and use them instead of the towel.

What is the best stitch width for quilting? ›

The average machine quilting stitch length chosen is between 10 and 11 stitches per inch. This length complements both delicate designs as well as bolder quilting motifs. However, your stitch length may need to change as you increase both your batting thickness as well as your thread thickness.

What is the best size needle for quilting? ›

Use a 90/14 needle. A Quilting Needle has a slim, tapered point and slightly stronger shaft for stitching through multiple fabric layers and across intersecting seams. Use a 70/10 or 80/12 for intricate designs. Use a 90/14 if your quilt sandwich is thick.

How far apart should quilting stitches be? ›

How far apart do you want your quilting? If I'm doing horizontal lines, I'll usually do 1"-1.5" apart. If I'm doing criss cross quilting (lines in both directions, like I did in this quilt), then I'll quilt my lines further apart... typically about every 2"-3".

Why do quilters use spray starch? ›

The advantage of using spray starch (whether homemade or commercial) is that it adds stiffness to your fabric. This can be really helpful when you prepare your fabric for cutting and piecing. It will make your cuts more accurate and it will be easier to sew and match seams.

Should you use steam when quilting? ›

The reason some quilters like to use steam is because moisture is the key to shaping and reshaping the fabric pieces when needed. It can be the answer to squaring up a block that is slightly skewed.

Is it best to wash fabric before quilting? ›

Washing your fabric before cutting and piecing is an important step for your quilts because it ensures your fabric will not leak excess dyes and will be easy to work with through every step of the construction process.

What thread tension for quilting? ›

Most sewing machine manufacturers calibrate tension using 50 wt thread on the top and in the bobbin. The technicians adjust the machine to create a balanced straight stitch while sewing on two pieces of fabric.

How do you keep fabric from warping? ›

Depending on how unruly your fabric is, some of these methods work better than others.
How to Stop Knit Fabric from Curling and Rolling
  1. Use Pattern Weights. ...
  2. Serging Knit Fabric Edges. ...
  3. Starching and Pressing Knit Fabric. ...
  4. Terial Magic to Uncurl & Stiffen Knit Fabric Edges. ...
  5. DIY Water-Soluble Stabilizer Solution.
Nov 6, 2021

Why use a quilters clapper? ›

Quilters use clappers to help flatten seams, whether pressed open or to one side, and to make sharp seam edges in foundation piecing projects.

Do you press seams open when quilting? ›

Many quilters always press seams open, with good results. Press open when lots of seams come together in one spot, creating too much bulk. Quilt tops are flatter when seams are pressed open; that problem becomes more of an issue when using heavier fabrics such as flannel or denim.

How tight should bobbin tension be? ›

Proper bobbin tension is essential to good embroidery. If tension is too tight, unwanted bobbin thread may begin to show on top of your garment and you may begin to experience frequent thread breaks which wastes time and money. Bobbin tensions should be 18 to 22 grams (up to 25 grams when embroidering caps).

Is puckering with stitches normal? ›

This is from an eversion technique of suturing that is perfectly acceptable. The holding is that the skin edges actually touching each other are in minimal tension and will have a finer scar. As the sutures used dissolve (4-6 weeks) this current appearance will disappear.

What tension setting for thin fabric? ›

Adjust the dial to a lesser tension level, such as 2 or 3, if you're stitching thin or light textiles like cotton voile or lawn. The recommended stitch length ranges from 1.5 to 2.4 mm.

How do you sew curves without puckering? ›

Use the hand wheel to sink the needle down into the fabric, then lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric slightly before putting the foot back down as you sew. Any time you see the fabric bunching too much around the presser foot as you sew curved seams, lift the foot so the fabric relaxes. Then continue sewing.

What kind of stitch it is used by most Quilter's to establish a steady sewing technique? ›

Most quilters use a simple running stitch when quilting by hand. Insert the needle through the front of the fabric, catch a little bit of the back and then reinsert through all the layers.

What stitch is used by most quilters to establish a steady sewing technique? ›

The running stitch is used by most quilters to establish a steady sewing technique. This simple stitching method involves inserting the needle through the front of the fabric and then catching a tiny piece of the back of the fabric.

Why is my material bunching up when I sew? ›

If your sewing machine is threaded correctly but your fabric is still puckering, you might be using the wrong threads. Use a thread that matches the weight of your fabric: for sturdy, thick fabrics use a thicker upper thread and bobbin thread. For lightweight fabrics, opt for a fine thread.

How do I stop my hem from curling? ›

Use lower heat settings—like permanent press—on automatic dryers. Do not allow the fabrics to dry completely. Remove clothes while still slightly damp to avoid over drying that can cause shrinkage that leads to curling. Skip the dryer completely and allow laundry to air dry.

When should I use stabilizer in quilting? ›

Stabilizers are generally used to provide strength and security to fabrics being appliqued to other fabrics or to support machine embroidery. Usually a medium to stiff weight fiber-like fabric, a Stabilizer is pinned or fused to the underside of the project prior to adding the appliques or doing the embroidery.

Do you bind a quilt before quilting? ›

Binding a Quilt: a Complete Tutorial. Binding a quilt is the final step in finishing. Before you bind, you need to somehow “quilt” your quilt. This means to attach the front and back, with batting in between.

Do you have to quilt soft and stable? ›

Do you have to quilt your fabric if you're using Soft & Stable? No. You can still use Soft and Stable without quilting the fabric.

What is a quilt without batting called? ›

A flimsy (n., pl: flimsies) is a completed quilt top, but not quilted, with no batting, backing, or binding. Some folks feel the term demeans their slaved-over work, but it's generally meant to be lighthearted, with no malice.

Can you use old towels as quilt batting? ›

They can also be used for quilt backing and even batting, but it can be thick and difficult to work with. It also may not hold up well down the line. Lightweight Towels – Can be used as a substitute for batting, but it will definitely give a different thickness and feel to a quilt.

What is the thinnest batting for quilting? ›

Bamboo is the lightest loft of batting. Batting typically comes in white and off-white colors. Polyester and bamboo batting drape batter than cotton and wool batting.

How do you stop puckering on thin fabric? ›

As your machine is stitching, if the fabric is not lying consistently flat, and instead, moves slightly when that needle comes down, the fabric will bunch up. Therefore, the secret to avoiding puckering is to keep your fabric in place while you're stitching out an embroidery design.

How do I stop my quilt from bunching in the cover? ›

Velcro Strips

Attach a piece to each corner of your duvet, and each inside corner of your cover and align the pieces when you put your cover on your bed. The velcro strips will grip and secure the corners of your duvet and duvet cover together and prevent slide.


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