Eight Great Tips for Preventing Puckers

Sew Inspired by Bonnie Tips for Preventing Puckers

Is embroidery puckering a problem? These tips will help eliminate puckered projects!

Use the Smallest Hoop Possible

A good rule of thumb is to use the smallest hoop for the design size. That will keep fabric and stabilizer tensions within optimum ranges.

Don’t Pull Hooped Fabric/Stabilizer

Tap hooped fabric/stabilizer to make sure that it is nice and taut in the hoop. If it is loose, rehoop. Don’t pull on the fabric or stabilizer to snug it in the hoop.

Preshrink Fabric and Stabilizer

When either fabric or stabilizer shrinks, it pulls and puckers stitches.  To avoid puckering, Bonnie always advises to preshrink your fabric and stabilizer.

If you are using a polymesh stabilizer, preshrink it. Otherwise, you can lose from 1/8” to 1/4" in shrinkage. Before hooping, iron stabilizers with the same heat setting that you are going to use on your fabric.

Match Designs to Your Fabric

Fabric must be able to support the stitch count regardless of the stabilizer. Bonnie stitches her designs on quality quilting cotton. Always use fabric that will support the design.

Mind Your Stitch Count

With regular cotton fabric, waves or puckers mean that the stabilizer used was not adequate for the stitch count of the embroidery design. One layer of medium-weight tearaway stabilizer are usually adequate for Bonnie’s designs but there are instances where you need a couple of layers.

When you're getting up in the 20,000-stitch range, you might want to use a couple of layers of a medium tearaway stabilizer.  The higher stitch count needs more support.

Correct Stretching on the Bias

Woven stabilizers like polymesh allow a little bit of stretch. Fabric stretches on the bias and controlling that prevents puckering.

Stitching causes pushing and pulling on the bias as well as the straightaway. Layering stabilizers at a 45-degree angle gives a straight-of-grain line going right through the bias and maximum control against stretching and distortion of the embroidery.

Use the Correct Stabilizer

Stabilizer needs change according to the design you are stitching, the type of fabric you are using, and the project technique. Always use a cut away type stabilizer with knit fabrics.

Higher stitch counts need heavier stabilization and a more stable fabric to begin with. For example, putting a high stitch count design on chiffon will not give satisfactory results even if stabilized enough to prevent puckers as it will change the drape of the fabric. See a chart of proper stabilizer weights for stitch counts here.

Always Do a Test Stitch

Test stitches on the same or a similar fabric are the best way to test correct stabilization and whether the piece will be puckered.

Share this post...
Previous post Next post


  • Bonnie Welsh - June 13, 2023

    Vicki—If there’s a bit of puckering and you didn’t follow the tips above and it’s already embroidered. The best advice I have would be to iron from the back side with the embroidery facing right side down into a towel. I do this anyway but it really does help to make the embroidery pop and most puckers will disappear. Instructions for proper embroidery pressing techniques are here: https://sewinspiredbybonnie.com/blogs/bonnies-blog/perfectly-ironed-embroidery?pos=4&_sid=a0adabd4a&ss=r

  • Vicki Schlagenhauf - June 13, 2023

    If you already embroider it and need to make it lay down

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 25, 2021

    JuDee, and Sue—I don’t pre-shrink all stabilizer. I normally only pre-shrink cutaway mesh type stabilizers as I’ve seen them shrink up to 1/4" and cause puckers. I normally steam iron them prior to use. I like to use the same heat that will be used on the garment itself.

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 25, 2021

    Ann—So glad you’ve found this post helpful. Let us know how they work for you.

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 25, 2021

    Carol—I only pre-shrink cutaway mesh type stabilizers as I’ve found they can shrink quite a bit. Normally just a hot steam iron will do the trick.

  • Mary Moore - June 23, 2021

    Thank you so much for the advice. It will help a lot!

  • Sue - June 23, 2021

    How to you pre shrink fusible polymesh?

  • JuDee Clark - June 23, 2021

    You recommend shrinking the stabilizer…do you have
    info on how to do this?

  • jackie geisler - June 23, 2021

    Thank you for this article.

  • ANN PICKETT SANSING - June 23, 2021

    Thanks for this information! I seem to always have puckering with my embroidery. I see several things on this list that I’m either not doing or doing incorrectly, so I’m printing this out as a good checklist for future projects.

  • Carol Taylor - June 23, 2021

    How do you preshrunk stabilizers

Leave a comment