Seam Puckering – Top 10 Tips for Smooth Seams

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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 co-operation 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 puckeringPinSeam Puckering


HOW TO STOP SEAM PUCKERING WHEN SEWINGTIP #1: Seam Puckering When Pulling TIP #2: Seam Puckering Due to Incorrect Threading TIP #3: Seam Puckering Due to BobbinTIP #4: Seam Needing ClippingTIP #5: Check the TensionTIP #6: Check the NeedleTIP #7: Try BastingTIP #8: Try a Zig ZagTip #9: Check the Throat PlateTIP #10: New FabricSeam Puckering – In ConclusionMORE TROUBLESHOOTING ARTICLES


Sew…What can you do?

TIP #1: Seam Puckering When Pulling

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.

If you are having trouble with the fabric feeding through evenly under the foot, then switch to a Teflon foot or a walking foot.

TIP #2: Seam Puckering Due to Incorrect Threading

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 thing that I do.

TIP #3: Seam Puckering Due to 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

TIP #4: Seam Needing Clipping

If you are sewing a curved seam, then it might not be the stitching that is causing the seam puckering. 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.

Further Reading:How to Clip Seams

Seam Puckering from Clipped CurvesSeam Puckering from Clipped CurvesPinSeam Puckering from Clipped Curves

TIP #5: Check the Tension

Check your sewing machine tension dials and adjust slowly as you try to get the tension right. The upper and lower threads should be evenly stitched with no loops.

Take a look at the diagram below and adjust accordingly. Your sewing machine manual will also have advice on the correct tension settings.

Upper thread and bobbin thread are balanced – no adjustment neededUpper thread too loose or bobbin too tight – increase tension (higher number)Upper thread too tight or bobbin too loose – decrease tension (lower number)

Seam Puckering from TensionSeam Puckering from TensionPinSeam Puckering from Tension

TIP #6: Check 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

Lycra/Spandex Stretch Needle
Leather/Vinyl Leather Needle
Woven Universal Needle
Knits/Stretch Stretch or Jersey Needle
Denim Denim or Jeans Needle

Seam Puckering Due to Needles

Is the needle the right size for the fabric? 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 holes in delicate fabrics.

Very Fine 8/60, 9/65, 10/70
Fine 11/75, 12/80
Medium 14/90
Heavy 16/100
Very Heavy 18/110
Extra Heavy 20/120

TIP #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

TIP #8: Try a Zig Zag

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.

Try a zig-zag with a width of 1 and a length of 2.5 and see if that makes a difference.

Further Reading: How to sew stretch fabric and how to sew tulle

Tip #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?

TIP #10: New Fabric

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 – In Conclusion

Most of all ‘Keep calm and carry on sewing’ while you check the list of possible problems to your seam puckering. Where there’s a wrinkle there’s a way especially if you take it easy and persevere.

 seam puckering seam puckeringPinHow to Stop a Seam Puckering


Sewing Needle Keeps Breaking How to Clean a Sewing MachineSewing Machine Thread Keeps BreakingSewing Machine Skipping StitchesSeam Puckering when SewingSewing Machine ManualsSewing Safety Tips for BeginnersSewing Machine TroubleshootingSewing Machine TensionHow to Thread a Sewing Machine

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