The stitches in your fabric will pucker if there is too much tension in the seam thread. It is a dead give-away that the crafter did not sew the seams properly.
A zig-zag stitch is a side to side stitch used for decorative sewing, stretch fabrics, and seam finishing. You can adjust it by changing the settings on your machine. The higher the number on your stitch length, the longer your zig-zag stitch will be. The width dial indicates and changes the width of your stitch.
Zig-zag stitches also protect the raw edges of your fabric by preventing them from unraveling. You can create this type of stitches by hand or with a sewing machine. But it is more convenient and quicker you complete a zigzag stitch with a needle and thread if you are hand sewing a small repair.
List of Contents:
- How to do a zigzag stitch by hand?
- What tension should I use for zig-zag stitch?
- Why is my zig-zag stitch straight?
- What does puckering mean?
- What causes puckering?
- How do you fix a puckering seam?
- How do you hem without puckering?
- How do you sew stretchy fabric without puckering?
- How do you fix puckered seams on silk?
How to do a zigzag stitch by hand?
Follow this simple guide to do a zig-zag stitch by hand:
1. Anchor your stitch.
a. Put your needle through your fabric and pull it through.
b. Ensure that your thread is lining up and that there are no tangles on your fabric’s flip side.
c. Create a single straight stitch that will anchor the beginning of your stitching.
d. End on the right side of your fabric.
2. Start the zigzag with an overcast stitch.
a. Go around your fabric’s edge and insert your needle on the wrong side, pulling it through the right side.
b. Continue with the stitches that wrap the edge as you work. It creates an overcast stitch up the length of the edge.
c. Go all the way to the top of the edge.
d. If your thread runs out, you can anchor the end of your overcast stitch. Use a small straight stitch before you knot off and clip the thread on your fabric’s wrong side.
3. Start the zig-zag over the edge.
a. Go all the way up the edge of your fabric.
b. Pull your thread up through the hole of the previous stitch,
4. Make the zig-zag stitches.
a. Go over your fabric’s edge and through the next hole, which you made. Doing so creates another line of overcast stitches that tilt in the other direction.
b. Continue down the edge, making a zig-zag pattern.
c. If your material is particularly susceptible to unraveling, make sure to do your zig-zag stitches narrower.
5. Finish your zig-zag stitches.
a. The finished zig-zag stitches must either protect the edges of your work r simply add decorative trim to your fabric.
What tension should I use for zig-zag stitch?
Many crafters believe that a zig-zag stitch is a strong one that does not need high tension. If your tension is too tight, the stitch will pucker and may even snap.
You always need to check the tension indicated on your sewing machine before you try creating zig-zag stitches on your fabric. Low thread tension on the machine can result in an unstable seam, puckering, or plain unattractive stitching.
You need to set the ideal tension on your machine. Doing so will result in perfect machine stitches that interlock smoothly and look the same on both sides of your fabric.
Several factors throw off your thread tension, besides your sewing machine’s tension settings. Try to identify other issues before trying to adjust the machine settings.
- Does the needle on your sewing machine have a burr on its tip? Or is it bent?
- Is your needle bent?
- Are you using the correct size of needle for the fabric?
- Is your sewing machine threaded correctly?
- Most sewing machines have tension disks, thread guides, tension regulators, and a bobbin case spring. You need to raise the presser foot when you thread it.
- It would be best if you always put the spool on the machine and pull up to 18 inches of your thread. Hold your thread firmly in your hand so you can snap the thread into the tension disks. Doing so ensures that you place your thread correctly in the disks.
- Does your machine’s bobbin have the same weight of thread as on the top spool?
- Are you using quality thread?
- Are your sewing machine’s tension disks clean?
- Lint sometimes tends to gather in the tension disks. When this happens, you need to thread your machine as you usually do. Then, pull some thread off the spool in the machine and cut it close.
- Tightly tie two to three overhand knots in the thread. Unthread the needle and pull the knotted thread through the tension disks down by the needle.
- Always cover your sewing machine after each use to prevent dust from gathering in your machine.
Sometimes, you may find that the tension is still bad, although you already eliminated all the possible issues listed above. When this happens, you can try doing a diagnostic test. Follow this simple guide:
- Get light-colored fabric.
- Thread your machine with different colors of thread in the needle and bobbin.
- Sew around 6 inches and look at the fabric’s right and wrong sides.
You will know that the thread tension is too tight if there are loops on your fabric’s right side. Meanwhile, loops on the bottom side mean that your bobbin thread tension is too tight. In most cases, you will have to adjust the upper tension.
You can follow these simple tips if you need to adjust the upper thread tension:
- Higher numbers on the dial show higher or tighter tension, while lower numbers represent loose tension.
- Try adjusting the tension dial down or up to one unit. Then, sew another line of stitching on your swatch to see if the tension got better.
- Continue adjusting the dial until the stitches feel smooth, and no loops are visible on the top side.
You can follow these simple tips if you need to adjust the bobbin thread tension:
- Remove the bobbin and its case from the machine if you have a front-loading one. Make sure that you thread the bobbin thread through the bobbin spring.
- Hold the thread and release the case over a padded surface.
- The tension is correct if the bobbin case falls a couple of inches. Falling several inches indicates that the bobbin tension is too loose. But it is too tight if the bobbin does not fall at all.
- Turn the screw on the side of the bobbin a quarter-turn to the right to tighten the tension. Turn it to the left to loosen it. Remember that it is a delicate calibration, so you need to make small adjustments.
- But you cannot adjust the bobbin thread tension if your machine has a top-loading bobbin with a non-removable case.
- All you can do is balance the tension by adjusting the upper thread.
Why is my zig-zag stitch straight?
Your zig-zag stitch might look straight when the upper thread appears a single line. It usually happens because the lower thread is incorrectly threaded. Instead of applying the correct tension to the lower thread, you pull it through your fabric when you pull the upper thread.
Follow these simple steps to resolve this issue by correctly installing the lower thread:
- First, you need to turn off your sewing machine.
- Remove the bobbin from its case.
- Then, place the bobbin in the bobbin case so that the thread now unwinds in the correct direction.
- Hold the bobbin with your right hand with the thread unwinding to the left. Hold the end of the thread with your left hand.
- Place the bobbin in the case using your right hand.
- Pass the thread through the slit in the needle plate while you are holding the bobbin in place.
- Hold down the bobbin with your right hand and pull the thread’s end around the tab with your left hand.
- Finally, test sew on a swatch to verify if you correctly installed the bobbin in the bobbin case.
What does puckering mean?
Puckering refers to the gathering of your fabric during or after sewing. It causes an unacceptable and unattractive appearance. It is common on woven fabrics and more prominent on tightly woven fabrics.
What causes puckering?
Although the thread is often the cause of seam puckering, it is not the only cause. Contributing factors include fabric structure, thread and needle size, and seam construction. In most cases, the puckering is a result of a combination of a few causes.
There are several types of puckering, and they have different causes and solutions. Tension pucker is one of the most common types. Too much tension causes a stretch in the thread, but it relaxes after sewing. As the thread goes back to its original length, it gathers up the seam, causing the wrinkle.
Inherent pucker occurs because of structural jamming. There may be insufficient space to accommodate a sewing thread without distorting the woven yarns if your fabric is dense. Stitching along a straight line may distort the adjacent yarns, which causes the seam to pucker.
Puckering may also result from poorly controlled fabric feed. Feed pucker usually happens when you do not uniformly feed two plies of material.
How do you fix a puckering seam?
Follow these simple tips to solve tension pucker:
- Reduce the thread tension while you wound it onto the lock stitch button.
- Make sure that you use a balanced tension, which will reduce the amount of puckering.
- Use a high-quality sewing thread that has a low-friction lubricant. It runs more smoothly through your thread guides and tension controls.
Follow these simple tips to solve inherent pucker:
- Cut and sew at a biased angle, so the needle displaces different sets of warp and weft yarns. Doing so will significantly reduce puckering.
- Sew with finer thread and needle sizes.
- The stresses in each row are cumulative, so you need to avoid stitching many rows, which cause more pucker.
Follow these simple tips to solve feed pucker:
- Adjust the presser foot for the ideal pressure. It will also be best to use a low-friction presser foot.
- Always check the feed dog for the correct height, teeth per inch, and the number of rows of appropriate teeth for your fabric.
- Ensure that the timing is correct if your machine has both top and bottom feeders. You need to ensure that the operator is not holding back on either the top or bottom ply.
How do you hem without puckering?
One of the most useful ways to hem without puckering is using hemming tape. You can use it with stretch fabrics because it will help stabilize your fabric’s hem and ensure that your zig-zag stitches will not pucker.
Follow these simple steps in using hemming tape:
- Press the tape across the hem of your fabric’s wrong side.
- Peel away the paper backing and fold it up the hem by half an inch.
- Press the hem in place.
- Zig-zag across the hem on the wrong side, catching it in the raw edge.
- Finish it by giving your hem a final press. Do not skip this step as it flattens the stitches giving a more professional finish.
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How do you sew stretchy fabric without puckering?
You need to use stitches that will hold the stretch of your fabric. They need to stretch with the material, so they do not pucker and break. Narrow zig-zag, overedge, straight stretch, and twin-needle stitches are the best to use when sewing a stretchy fabric.
You can also try a different presser foot to help prevent one layer of material from stretching out while you sew. Remember to check your machine’s manual to see which settings are ideal for each project you make.
How do you fix puckered seams on silk?
When you encounter puckered seams on your silk fabric, you can either cut the pattern with the grain going crosswise or clip it on the bias. But if you already cut out your garment, you can try a different needle size, a finer thread. You can also try stitching seams with the slightest zig-zag stitches.