What Causes Fabric Puckering When Sewing: 4 Reasons

If you wonder what causes fabric puckering when sewing, there are four potential reasons you can check. We’ll also talk about how you can fix them, and even discover if you can prevent seam puckering.

Are you relatively new to using the sewing machine? Please read this tutorial on how to set up a sewing machine as well. It will benefit you to know the proper preparation of the unit to avoid puckering. 

what causes fabric puckering when sewing


Why Does Fabric Pucker When I Sew?


High thread tension

The most common reason for fabric puckering during sewing is high thread tension. The thread tension refers to how much thread passes through the machine for every stitch. Therefore, if the machine uses less thread, the stitch will be tight and vice versa. 


Uneven pressure

Uneven pressure when sewing two fabrics together can cause puckering on one of the fabrics. This issue is called feed puckering since the material that touches the presser foot gets stretched. It will pucker compared to the top fabric since the latter does not experience as much force.  


Tightly-woven fabric

It’s also possible for both materials to experience seam puckering if you are sewing tightly woven fabrics. This is called displacement puckering where the needle and thread that goes in and out of the material during sewing displace the weft threads of the tightly woven fabric. Therefore, setting the machine correctly will solve this issue.


Wrong needle or thread

Incompatible needles for the project are not the only ones that can cause puckering. It would be best to know how to change the sewing machine needle when needed since dull needles stretch the fabric too much during sewing. The needles should always be sharp enough to press and penetrate the material at all times.

Additionally, never overlook the usage of the proper thread for your material. For example, some fabrics require a thicker thread to avoid puckering. A helpful tip is to select the recommended thread for the fabric you’re working on. 


What Do You Mean By Seam Puckering?

Seam puckering is what happens when the seam of the project gathers. It can occur during or after sewing, but the seam can also pucker after the project is laundered. There are many potential causes of seam puckering, and here is how you can solve them:


How to eliminate seam puckering

  • Seam puckering can occur because of too much tension that stretches the thread, then it relaxes and gathers at the seam once it returns to its actual length. You can solve this issue by lowering the thread tension, using a smaller thread, or adjusting the feed timing to get a better pull-off. You can even select a thread with good lubrication if the project can’t change the tension. 
  • Tight or densely woven fabrics can cause puckering since the thread doesn’t have enough space to go through during sewing. Therefore, you can solve this inherent puckering by selecting coarser materials or changing the stitch density and type. It will also help if you switch to a smaller needle. 
  • Feed puckering occurs when you set the foot pressure too high. Therefore, you can solve this issue by using minimal foot pressure, matching the feed and foot, checking the feed dog, and adjusting the top and bottom feed timing. You also want to check how you stretch the fabric as you feed it into the sewing machine. 
  • If your project experienced seam puckering after washing, then it might be from dimensional changes from the material or thread. Therefore, the solution is to check the shrinkage of your thread or select materials that are processed to keep them from changing in dimensions

How Do I Stop Puckering When Sewing?

Stretch the fabric when sewing

When you sew, add a bit of stretch in the fabric at the front and behind the needle with your hands. This will counteract the puckering that occurs when the material is pulled during sewing. 

Adjust the thread tension

Learn how to adjust your sewing machine tension for every project. Avoid using the highest setting since it can cause puckering, especially at the seams. If you own a Brother model, we wrote a tutorial on how to adjust the tension on a Brother sewing machine

Use low fabric pressing force 

Besides the tension, avoid using high fabric pressing force. You also don’t want to use too much presser foot pressure because it will lead to puckering on the bottom fabric if you sew two materials together. 

Use double chain stitches 

Consider using double chain stitches with seams, especially when sewing tightly woven fabrics. Unlike other stitches, a double chain forms loops underneath the material that reduces tension. 

Select the proper needle and thread

Use the proper thread thickness and needle type for your project. You can always search the recommended ones according to the material and stitches you’ll use. 


And that’s it! To recap what causes fabric puckering when sewing, it can be from high thread tension, uneven pressure, tightly-woven material, or poor set up. It should be easy to solve fabric puckering once you identify the reason since it’s just changing or adjusting the settings and materials. 

We hope this was a helpful read. Feel free to leave us a comment.