If your machine is causing seam puckering on your precious fabric, you are going to be very unimpressed. Sewing with stretch and soft silky fabrics needs a bit of extra time, patience, and the cooperation of your trusty machine. It is a good idea to go through the checklist below before you blame your machine completely for the seam puckering.
Seam Puckering Tutorial
Here are 10 things to try to stop puckered seams. When sewing, the aim is to have smooth seams without any wrinkles.
Before you start troubleshooting the puckered stitches, give your seam a good press. Some types of seam puckering can sort themselves out after ironing. If your seam is still puckering, then start reading these step by step instructions!
How to Stop Seam Puckering When Sewing
1. Stop Pulling to Stop Puckered Seams
Seam puckering can be caused by excessive pulling as you sew.
Make sure you are letting the fabric glide through the machine and are not pushing or pulling. It can be particularly tempting to pull when you are sewing stretch fabrics or thicker fabrics that don't feed through as well.
2. Rethread the Machine
Seam puckering can be caused by having your sewing machine incorrectly threaded either on the top or bobbin.
Re-thread your machine and make sure the thread clicks in the tension wheels. If you are new to this, read my article on how to thread a sewing machine. Even if the machine looks like it is threaded correctly, this is often the first troubleshooting puckered seams thing that I do.
3. Fix the Bobbin
Re-thread your bobbin even if it looks like it is in properly. Make sure the thread is through the tension slit.
Also, take a look to see if the bobbin is wound evenly and tightly. Ideally, the bobbin should be the same thread as used in the top spool.
Further Reading: How to wind a bobbin
4: Clip the Puckered Seams
If you are sewing a curved seam, then it might not be the stitching that is causing the seam pucker. Curved seams need tiny little clips put into the seam allowance for them to sit flat. Seams with corners also need clips to release the fabric and produce a nice square.
Take a look at these 2 pieces of fabric. The one on the left has been clipped, and the one on the right has not. The right of course has a puckered seam.
Further Reading: How to Clip Seams
5. Check the Tension
Check your sewing machine tension dials and adjust them slowly as you try to get the thread tension right. The upper and lower threads should be evenly stitched with no loops.
Take a look at the diagram below and adjust the top and bottom thread tension accordingly. Your sewing machine manual will also have advice on the correct tension settings for a balanced stitch.
- The upper thread and bobbin thread are balanced – no adjustment is needed
- Upper thread too loose or bobbin too tight – increase tension (higher number)
- Upper needle thread tension too tight or bobbin too loose – decrease tension (lower number)
6. Change the Needle
Is the needle type right for this fabric? Different types of needles suit different types and weights of fabric. Wrinkles caused in knit fabrics can be solved by using a stretch needle. Heavy fabrics need heavier needles that can handle thicker threads.
Further Reading: Guide to needle sizes and types
|FABRIC TYPE||MACHINE NEEDLE TYPE|
|Knits/Stretch||Stretch or Jersey Needle|
|Denim||Denim or Jeans Needle|
Is the needle the right size for the fabric? Using the wrong needle will cause seam puckering.
Ensure your fabric and the needle size match. Practice getting the right one for your fabric before you ruin a seam and have to unpick. Unpicking causes needle holes in delicate fabrics.
Here is a guide to the correct size of the needle required:
|FABRIC WEIGHT||SEWING NEEDLE SIZE|
|Very Fine||8/60, 9/65, 10/70|
7. Try Basting
Use hand basting stitches to secure the seam and stop the seam puckering. The basting thread will help hold the material as you sew and prevent it from slipping and causing wrinkles.
Further Reading: How to baste before sewing
8. Try a Zig Zag
Difficult fabrics in garments 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.
Try a zig-zag with a width of 1 and a length of 2.5 and see if that makes a difference.
9. Check the Throat Plate
Check the throat plate of your machine. Small nicks can affect the tension and cause fabrics to wrinkle. These nicks are usually caused by a broken needle or sewing over pins. If it has been a while since you have had your machine serviced or checked this is quite common. Often you can gently sandpaper the nicks to extend the life of your throat plate. If yours does need replacing, these are usually quite inexpensive.
Further Reading: Should you sew over pins?
10. Use a New Fabric
To stop seam pucker, choose a different fabric for your project. While this does seem a little extreme, I have come across the occasional fabric that is my machine's worst enemy.
Luckily it doesn't happen very often! If your machine sews other fabrics without wrinkling and this one still wrinkles no matter what you do, then consider it a sprinkle of bad luck and choose another fabric. Some fabrics are just not worth the frustration.
Seam puckering can also happen when you are stitching together fabrics of different types or weights. For example, if one fabric is a knit and the other woven, you are likely to get a puckered seam. This will also happen if you have one heavy weight fabric and one thin fabric.
11. Adjust the Stitch Length
Making the stitch length longer can fix puckered seams. This is especially good for thicker fabrics or multiple layers of fabric.
12. Change the Thread Size
It is important when stopping seam puckers to use a thread that matches your fabric. A thick fabric should have a thick thread. A lightweight fabric should have a fine thread.
13. Change the Presser Foot
Some fabrics like Lycra will stick to the bottom of a regular presser foot. Try a Teflon foot or walking foot that will feed the fabric layer through more evenly. You may need to change the foot pressure as well.
Seam Puckering FAQs
How to Stop a Curved Hem Puckering
Curved hems are notorious for puckering. The best solution is to use bias tape on the hem. This will give you a nice smooth line without any hem puckering.
Can you Iron Out Puckering?
Many times you can iron out puckering. Always try this first before you go through the above checklist to stop fabric puckering. Other reasons can be a lack of clipping, incorrect tension, or adjustments needed to needles, fabric, and thread.
Seam Puckering - In Conclusion
Most of all, keep calm while you check the list of possible problems with your seam puckering. Where there’s a wrinkle, there’s a way, especially if you take it easy and persevere.