During the process of machine embroidery, you can face a number of machine embroidery problems, such as machine embroidery puckering. Embroidery puckering is a regular problem for beginners in embroidery, but even experienced embroiderers can experience puckering in machine embroidery if they don’t take steps to prevent it.

This blog will introduce puckering and tips to prevent puckering in machine embroidery, which will lead you to improve your embroidery results.

Table of Contents:

What Is Puckering In Machine Embroidery?

“Embroidery puckering is a common problem in which the fabric gathers or bunches up near the machine embroidery stitches, which ultimately causes the fabric to become distorted and appear uneven.”

In machine embroidery, puckering is caused when the stitches pull the fabric they are stitched into. Therefore, to make an ideal machine embroidery design, we need to prevent puckering in machine embroidery as much as possible.

However, there is not any one solution to quickly stop puckering. But as an embroiderer, there are many things you can do to reduce machine embroidery puckering, and there are also tips and tricks to minimize puckering as much as possible.

What Causes Puckering in Machine Embroidery?

There are several factors that take part in machine embroidery puckering and make the embroidery look unprofessional. Here are some of the main factors defined as the major causes of machine embroidery puckering:

Incorrect Stabilizers Cause Puckering:

Excessive pressure from the thread and bobbin tension can distort and pucker the fabric. Due to its reduced stretchiness and lower required tensions. However, too loose thread tension can also result in loops and thread pulls, which can also cause machine embroidery puckering.

Improper Hooping Can Cause Puckering:

Improper hooping, such as using a hoop that's too large or stretching the fabric, can lead to machine embroidery puckering. This occurs when the fabric relaxes after embroidery, causing wrinkles and distortion in the stitched design.

Type of Fabric Can Be a Major Cause of Puckering:

Fabrics that are light and thin are more likely to pucker. This is because before they start to bunch up, they have less material to “hold” the stitching of your artwork. Therefore, choosing base garments with heavier weights will typically reduce machine embroidery puckering.

For example, the same artwork on a 100% cotton 8oz hoodie might not pucker, but it will slightly pucker on a 50% cotton, 50% polyester 4oz t-shirt.

Size of Design & No. of Stitches Cause Puckering:

How large and detailed your digitized embroidery design is another important aspect of puckering in machine embroidery. You can stitch tiny, thin, and delicate designs on light clothing.

However, a large design or one with numerous fill stitches would cause machine embroidery puckering on the same item of clothing. Therefore, you should choose artwork that takes less stitching to prevent puckering in machine embroidery.

Which Fabric Types are More Like to Pucker?

Different types of fabrics cause machine embroidery puckering for multiple reasons. For example, slippery fabrics like nylon and satin and stretchy knits such as t-shirts can pucker during embroidery due to movement or stretching. Delicate fabrics like broadcloth or linen are also prone to puckering in machine embroidery, as their thinness may cause bunching during stitching.

Avoid Puckering on Slippery Fabrics:

Prevent machine embroidery puckering on slippery fabrics like silk or satin by using a suitable stabilizer, hooping tightly, and adding a sticky stabilizer on top. Choose right machine embroidery needles and reduce machine speed for smoother results, ensuring professional-looking embroidery without puckering.

Avoid Puckering on Light Natural Fabrics:

Prevent puckering when embroidering on light natural fabrics like cotton or linen by using an appropriate stabilizer matching the fabric weight. Use a tear-away stabilizer for lightweight fabrics and a cut-away stabilizer for heavier ones.

Choose the right needle - a sharp one for lightweight fabrics and a ballpoint needle for knits. Slowing down the embroidery machine helps the needle penetrate the fabric without causing shifts or bunching.

Avoid Puckering on Knit Fabrics:

Use a suitable cut-away stabilizer for added support to prevent machine embroidery puckering on knit fabrics. Keep the fabric taut when hooping, but do not overly stretch it. Select a ballpoint needle that will push the fabric fibers aside instead of cutting through them, reducing the risk of puckering. Slowing down the machine's speed will enable the needle to penetrate the fabric without causing undue stretching or shifting.

Tips to Prevent Puckering in Machine Embroidery

Puckering is a real pain and something we all struggle with. But you can certainly reduce it by taking a few precautions. Here are some pro tips to avoid machine embroidery puckering.

Use the correct thread tension:

Set the thread tension correctly to achieve the best results, and lower tension generally produces better outcomes. Perform a test design and check the reverse side's bobbin thread to top thread ratio (1/3 and 2/3). Avoid tight tension to prevent puckering.

Utilize thread tension gauges and refer to your machine's manual for specific adjustments, as embroidery machines may have varying tension systems.

Select an Appropriate Needle Size:

Selecting the correct needle size based on fabric weight and type can prevent puckering in machine embroidery.

For lighter fabrics like silk, use smaller sizes (60/8 or 70/10), while medium-weight fabrics like cotton can benefit from slightly larger sizes (80/12 or 90/14).

Heavier fabrics like denim require even larger needles (100/16 or 110/18) to ensure proper penetration without causing puckering.

Use Low Yarn Thread Weight:

Use lower-weight threads like 60 or 80weight to prevent puckering, especially for delicate fabrics. This reduces stress on the fabric, thus minimizing distortion during stitching.

Using a lighter thread will allow you to add finer details without causing machine embroidery puckering. When using lower-weight threads, it is important to adjust machine tension settings to ensure proper stitch formation and avoid potential issues like thread breakage.

Select the Correct Stabilizer:

To prevent puckering in machine embroidery, effective stabilization without fabric tension is important. This can be achieved by choosing an appropriate stabilizer for the type and weight of fabric you're using.

For lightweight fabrics, choose a heavier stabilizer, and for heavier fabrics, choose a lighter stabilizer. Additionally, you can enhance the results by using a fusible backing, adhesive spray, and an additional topping to secure the fabric and minimize distortion during embroidery.

Hoop the Fabric Properly:

Proper and correct hooping is another important factor in reducing puckering during machine embroidery. Always hoop your fabric correctly with the smallest hoop size possible. Smooth the textile and carefully hoop it without folds, and make sure not to stretch it with the selected backing or topping. The closer the sides of your hoop are to your design, the more stabilization your hoop will provide.

Reduce the Stitch Density:

Low-density embroidery digitized designs generally embroider better on lightweight and elastic fabrics. Choose a design that has minimal, fully filled parts and broad coverage. By lowering the contrast between the stitching and ground colors, you can decrease the design density while keeping the full coverage appearance.


Preventing puckering in machine embroidery requires careful consideration of several factors, including the appropriate needle size and thread weight. Selecting the correct needle size based on the weight and type of fabric being used. Using a lower-weight thread can also help to minimize distortion and allow for more intricate stitching without causing puckering. By paying attention to these details and making the necessary adjustments, you can embroider flawless designs with precision and a professional finish look, free from puckering.