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How do I stop embroidered fabric puckering?

I am embroidering a picture onto calico and using 3 strands of DMC embroidery cotton. I am using backstitch as a fill stitch and the calico around it is starting to pucker. I have put it into a hoop now, but I'm not sure this is going to help as I don't seem to be able to get it very tight. This is the first time I have attempted a bigger's about the size of an A4 it will be a shame if it doesn't work out, as I was going to enter it into a competition! What should I do?
Joined: 10/22/2011 11:22 pm
Posts: 2

Re: How do I stop embroidered fabric puckering?

Hi, Wendalene -

Well, if you started without a hoop and that's when the puckering started, it might be a little late to do much about it. However, you could always see the project through to the end, block it, and see if that helps. To block it, use a cork board and push pins, and pin along the edge of your work, one side first (helps to have a line drawn on your cork board, to ensure you are pinning it straight), from the center edge of that side up to the right edge (or left - doesn't matter) and then go back to the center and pin to the left edge. Pin about every 1/4 - 3/8ths inch, so pretty close pins. Then slightly stretch the fabric as you pin the opposite edge to the corkboard in the same manner. Then pin the two remaining sides in the same manner, only slightly stretching as you pin. Then mist the whole thing lightly with a spray bottle, and let it dry. As it dries, it will shrink up a bit and tighten, smoothing out wrinkles and so forth. Another option: after pinning, you could also take a steam iron and hold it somewhat close to the surface, but not too close - maybe 4" away - and use steam to dampen the fabric slightly. The advantage of steam is that it will initially relax the threads a little bit, which may help with the puckering. Instead of a steam iron, you could use a very hot dry iron, held within several inches of the surface, and then drape a wet towel onto the iron and let that do the steaming.

As you let the piece dry, hopefully all the puckers will come out, but if not all, most....

When you use a hoop with embroidery, your best bet, first off, is a good hoop. Plastic hoops are "ok" when starting out on little projects or for kids, but esp. if you're working on a large project, a plastic hoop just isn't going to keep good tension. And neither is a "cheap" wooden hoop like the kinds sold at most craft stores. For the most part, on the cheap wooden ones that run a couple dollars, the hardware isn't good enough to withstand heavy tensioning, and the wood isn't finished and smooth - it can damage your fabric. So a good hoop is essential. Hardwicke Manor hoops are really the best wooden hoops on the market today - they're smooth and finished, come in lots of sizes and shapes, and the hardware on them is heavy brass and very sturdy.

Even with a good hoop, though, binding the hoop ensures the best tension on the fabric, so that you don't have to keep pulling on the fabric and tightening as you're stitching. Here's a tutorial on binding a hoop: ... -hoop.html

I hope that helps a little bit! Best of luck with your competition!

Joined: 6/1/2011 9:45 am
Posts: 437
Location: Kansas
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Re: How do I stop embroidered fabric puckering?

Thanks so much for that information Mary, I will try the blocking when I've finished. And thank you for the hoop information as well, I have just been buying the wooden hoops from the craft shop (Spotlight here in Australia), so I will have to look out for the brand you mentioned.

I love your website and all the information and how to videos, which are so helpful! Thank you for being so quick to reply also! I can get on with it now, with more hope for a good outcome!
Joined: 10/22/2011 11:22 pm
Posts: 2