Avoiding Puckers in Embroidery

Have you stitched a design and you know that it was stabilized properly but, when you pulled it out of the hoop and ironed it, the puckers started to show up? More than likely, that's because either the fabric wasn't preshrunk or the stabilizer wasn't preshrunk. When either one shrinks, it pulls and puckers stitches. 

I always advise to preshrink your fabric and stabilizer so that you don't get any surprises after the fact. I have not seen this issue with non-woven stabilizers but woven stabilizers may shrink.

I used a poly mesh stabilizer on a project and it looked great in the hoop. It looked great when I took it out of the hoop, not a pucker in sight. Then I ironed it from the back as I do. Of course the stabilizer was still there and I noticed some tiny little puckering. It wasn't major, it wasn't horrendous, but it bugged me.

You spend all this time, effort, money, to create your perfect little project and then, when you iron it, there's a little bit of waviness or a little bit of puckering and it just drives me nuts. I finally figured out what happened.

I prewashed the fabric so the only thing that hadn't been preshrunk was the stabilizer.

When I use a polymesh stabilizer now, I preshrink it. Just iron it with the same heat setting that you are going to use on your fabric.


If my fabric is cotton, I iron the stabilizer with a cotton setting. If I'm going to use spray starch on my fabric, I spray starch my stabilizer. If I'm going to use steam on my fabric after the fact, I use steam on my stabilizer. Treat the stabilizer like you think you're going to treat your fabric.


I cut two 10” by 10” squares of stabilizer to test my little theory of what might be going on. I pre-shrunk one square and left the other one alone. Between the two stabilizer squares, there was anywhere from 1/8” to 1/4" difference. That creates puckering. 

It only takes a couple of minutes to avoid the puckering issue when you preshrink your stabilizer. Again, I have not noticed this issue with my non-woven stabilizers but test your stabilizer at home see and if preshrinking is necessary.

See the full video here!

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  • Bonnie Welsh - July 22, 2018

    Dee—I agree! Iron-on cut away stabilizer is great on anything that stretches to stabilize the fabric. =)

  • Dee Landree - July 20, 2018

    I would love to answer what I do with Iron on stabilizer. I use it on knits, t-shirts, or anything that stretches to stabilize the fabric while embroidering on it.

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 21, 2018

    Pam—Thank you for your kind words! Be sure to read my comments to Cindy but but I’ve also got a blog post regarding proper pressing of your embroidery which really helps as well. =)

  • Pam - June 21, 2018

    I’m new to embroidery but not sewing and this answers a lot of questions for me. I’ve had this happen so many times. I’m going to start checking the type etc before buying as well. I usually feel to see how thick etc. Lol
    Thanks tons for your time, I love this.

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 21, 2018

    Cindy—There are many causes for puckers. Normally it’s not choosing the proper stabilizer for the project OR pulling on the fabric after it’s in the hoop. It can also be that the design is just too dense for the fabric chosen. It takes practice but you’ll get “recipes” that work for you and your selected projects. =)

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 21, 2018

    Vicky—The starch was just a way to get moisture on the stabilizer but a spray bottle of water would work too. I just don’t normally have a spray bottle. Steam also works. But since I normally starch my fabrics, I try to treat the stabilizer the same. But I only need to do this with woven type stabilizers. =)

  • Cindy L - June 21, 2018

    Thank you so much for this tip! I’m new to embroidery and couldn’t figure out why I was getting the puckers.

  • Vicky Haynes - June 21, 2018

    I always wash and dry my fabric, then iron and I have done the hot iron on the stabilizer but not the starch. Great advice since even a little puckering is so frustrating. I’m slowly but surely working my way to perfect hooping and stitching.

  • Carole Shaw - June 21, 2018

    Thank you so much Bonnie for this great suggestion.
    I hadn’t even considered shrinking the stabilizers. I will get onto that immediately!

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 20, 2018

    Pat—No need to run it through the washer and dryer. The heat and/or heat and steam will do the shrinking for you. Just remember to treat it with the same temperature you plan on using after the embroidery has been completed. As an added benefit, if the stabilizer shrivels up into a hot mess you’ve not wasted a perfectly good project, just a little stabilizer and you’ll know to choose a more suitable stabilizer for your project.

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 20, 2018

    Sue—I’d normally do what Sandra does (thanks Sandra!) and hold a steam iron over the top of an iron-on stabilizer or I would press directly onto a Teflon pressing sheet (fusible side facing the Teflon). =)

  • Bonnie Welsh - June 20, 2018

    Jane Cappo—You’re most welcome!

  • Pat - June 20, 2018

    So just ironing the stabilizer on the same heat fabric being embroidered is pre-shrinking? Or do I need to run it thru water, dry and iron?

  • Carolyn Toczek - June 20, 2018

    Oh wow! I didn’t realize that! And am curious, too, as what to you do with iron on stabilizers?

  • Sue - June 20, 2018

    What do you do with iron on stablizer.

  • Sandra Tanaka - June 20, 2018

    I usually hold steam iron over top of iron-on stablizers to shrink them as well.

  • Sue - June 20, 2018

    What do you do with iron on stablizer.

  • Jane Cappo - June 20, 2018

    You are so right about this. I was blaming it on the quality of the stabilizer. Now I know to pre shrink the stabilizer. Thanks so much.

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