How To Prevent Puckering When Quilting

Regardless of what you may think, puckering is one of the most common issues when working with rich seams in knitted/woven fabrics, quilting included.

As the thread is fundamental for a seam, more often than not it’s the first one to blame for causing the seam pucker. The seam build, the fabric structure, the feeding problems, and thread/needle size are also causing puckering, nevertheless.

Most of the time, several factors are causing the puckering, which is why you should look into it. No quilter likes the idea of creating a quilt top only to have to deal with puckering later on.

Why is the puckering so characteristic for quilting?

It’s only a matter of time with puckering when the three-layer quilt isn’t going under the needle all as one. One of the layers may be thicker or fuller than the other, which is why the puckering is occurring. Puckering happens a lot more on the back of the quilt as there are more stitches to result in small pleats or fabric gathers.

The drag lines between the paths of the top are easy to notice. The quilt drag is another kind of puckering, as pulling effects can develop when your quilt top is shifting throughout the quilting.

What are the common causes of puckers?

When the back of the quilt has creases, there are two leading causes for that:

  • The safety pins may have not to go through the backing. Therefore, they’re not holding the layers together. You should place them 4 inches apart or so.

Once you’ve basted the pin and removed the tape, pick up the quilt and take a look if the pins have gone through all layers or not

  • You may not have taped the backing of the quilt right, or you didn’t hold it down when layering.

How to reduce the risk for puckering when quilting?

The beauty of a handmade quilt is that it comes with fantastic imperfections. The following ideas are going to help you obtain a flatter straight line quilting, nevertheless:

  • Pin baste close

You should put your spray baster aside for a while and try the pin basting instead. You should give your best and make close pin baste (a 3″ grid is a good example). You get better at quilting when stitching, and the layers aren’t going to shift around anymore.

  • Don’t stretch the backing too much

As you’re basting the quilt, try not to pull the backing fabric too much. When one of the layers is drawn more than others, they’re also going to get loose at different rates. It’s common for quilts to over-stretch the backing throughout the taping process.

  • Don’t forget about the walking foot

When you’re doing the straight lines, the walking foot is fundamental. It can feed all the layers of your quilt sandwich right under the needle, with an even pace. When the sewing machine has a built-in foot, but you’re still struggling with wrinkles and drag, it’s a wise thing to try a walking foot attachment. An attached walking foot may work more efficiently than a built-in one.

  • Do your work on a large table

Having excellent support for your project throughout the whole process is essential. More often than not, gravity can modify flat quilting and pull one or more of the layers in all sorts of direction. Make sure that all parts of the quilt that you don’t control are on the table and don’t hang to the floor.

  • Increase the stitch length

You typically use a longer stitch length when quilting, as compared to piecing. When the stitch is too short, it can put excess pressure on the foot, managing the top too harshly. On the other hand, a longer stitch is going to let the quilt float just like one single piece.

  • Lower the pressure foot pressure

When quilting, the weight of the pressure foot may be too high, so pulling the quilt may occur more often. Every time the layers move at different rates in the sandwich, the problems of pulling may appear. It’s vital that you reduce that pressure, allowing the foot to work for better results.

  • Go slow

It’s also better that you use a slow speed throughout the straight line quilting. The walking foot works more efficiently if the rhythm is moderate. You don’t need to lift the presser foot too son. Any of these factors is going to help you obtain the basting integrity.

Still not happy with the results?

When you’ve tried all the tricks and tips, and you still don’t get the results you wanted, it’s a good idea to try to change the direction of your quilting. When you’re straight quilting lines traveling in the same direction for a long time, the machine can lead to puckering.

On the other hand, some machines are only making straight and flat line quilting, no matter for how long you have been quilting lines in the same direction. It’s a matter of luck as well.

When you’re in the middle of your project, and you find yourself completely unhappy with the results, the thought of taking out all the stitches may cross your mind. You may get away with it by using some tricks. Adding more quilting can help you hide and camouflage the puckering and dragging on some level. For instance, dense quilting is going to give a particular texture that hides the puckers efficiently.

At the same time, quilt drag shows more apparent when the stitch lines between the spaces are significant. You may fill in the areas with more quilting and a better distribution of the fabric.

When you’re out of options, buying a new sewing machine may be the ideal solution. Not all machines are suitable for straight line quilting, and you should come to terms with it. Don’t hesitate to make time and go to a sewing machine shop and test some straight lines on your practice quilt sandwich. After all, practice makes perfect!

One final thought

Thread, feed, fabric structure, and inherent pucker are common problems when quilting. You’re not the only quilter out there having to solve it somehow. Just do your homework and see what’s causing it so that you can use the perfect solution for your puckering!

Other resources

How to Stop Puckering in Straight Line Quilting

Machine Quilting: I get puckers

Quilt Backing Fabric Has Puckers