P is for Puckers

P is for PuckersPuckers are those nasty little things that appear around the edges of your embroidery designs. Sometimes, if you’re not careful, they can turn into nasty big things – and you always wish that they weren’t there!

If you’re working on a project that is going to end up in a quilt, little puckers can generally be “quilted out”. Stitching in the ditch around the appliqué shape (refer back to D is for Ditch) followed by some decently dense quilting in the background usually makes little puckers disappear, and subdues bigger puckers so they blend into the background.

The best option is to not have puckers in the first place. How do you achieve that?

There are 3 keys to keeping puckers away:

  1. Use enough stabilizer
  2. Make sure the background fabric is attached to the stabilizer (refer back to B is for Basting)
  3. Apply interfacing to the background fabric if necessary

1 and 3 kinda sort of go together. There are a lot of “it depends” but there are also some reasonably faithful “rules”.

  • If you’re stitching an embroidered appliqué design onto a background fabric which is regular quilting cotton:
    • Use 2 layers of a medium weight tearaway stabilizer. My favorite is OESD Ultra Clean and Tear. Make sure that at least one piece of stabilizer is held nice and taught in the hoop. The other piece is usually basted onto the back of the background fabric – and then the background fabric and this second piece of stabilizer are basted onto the stabilizer in the hoop (B is for Basting)
    • For a design which can be stitched in 1 hooping, the 2 layers of medium weight tearaway stabilizer can be replaced by 1 layer of heavy weight tearaway stabilizer. My favorite is OESD Heavy Weight Tearaway. It’s good to know, though, that the 1 layer of heavy weight stabilizer under the appliqué shape will not be as soft in the finished project as the 2 layers of medium weight stabilizer.
  • If the background fabric is a lighter than normal weight quilting cotton (e.g. Michael Miller’s Cotton Couture fabric):
    • Apply interfacing to the fabric – in addition to any stabilizer that you are using (see above).
    • The interfacing could be a fusible interfacing such as Pellon Shape Flex (refer back to I is for Interfacing).
    • The interfacing could be a mist of Mary Ellen’s Best Press (spray starch) applied to the background fabric which is then pressed until crisp. I’ve found it’s best to do a small test on a scrap of fabric before treating the whole piece to make sure that the spray starch doesn’t leave any unsightly shadows on the fabric.
  • If you’re stitching an embroidery design that is all stitches (rather than an embroidered appliqué shape) then you will more than likely need a lot more stabilizer to support all of the stitches, possibly adding some interfacing as well.

For an embroidered appliqué design, the appliqué shape acts as stabilizer. You will more than likely never get any puckers on the top of the appliqué shape. They tend to accumulate around the edge of the appliqué shape in the background fabric if they’re going to appear at all.

Daily Deal

From 12:01am on July 8, 2017 until 11:59pm on July 10, 2017 enjoy 16% off everything Petal Power

Use promo code “A2Z-P” at the checkout

Add to CartPetal Power 4i $20.00
(Delivered as a digital download, optional CD available at the checkout)

Add to CartPetal Power 6i $30.00
(Delivered as a digital download, optional CD available at the checkout)

Add to CartPetal Power 8i $40.00
(Delivered as a digital download, optional CD available at the checkout)
(This collection includes the pattern for the Petal Power Mini Tuffets)

Add to CartPetal Power 12i $60.00
(Delivered as a digital download, optional CD available at the checkout)

Add to CartPetal Power Hassock $10.00
(Delivered as a digital download)
(This pattern needs at least the Petal Power 6i collection to add embroidered appliqué. Click here to see lots of alternatives for the top)

Add to CartPetal Power Mini Tuffet $12.00
(Delivered as a digital download)
(This pattern is included with the Petal Power 8i collection but it can be used as a stand alone pattern if you love to do hand or regular machine appliqué)


What I love about these collections… There are so many different things you can do with these designs! 4 sizes, 6 designs in each size.

Pat's Petal Power 6i PantsUse them on baby quilts and kids clothing. Use them on adults clothing too for that matter! Check out this pair of capri pants that Pat decorated using the Petal Power 6i designs. Notice that the designs still look fabulous even though Pat didn’t use any appliqué fabric, just pure thread! (Don’t stitch the appliqué placement lines if you’re not going to be using appliqué shapes).

Use the small designs on hand towels for your kitchen and powder room.

Petal Power Towels

Stitched on a BERNINA 880 featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread

Wow your scrapbooking friends with your own version of a spectacular card featuring an embroidered flower.

Petal Power Cards

Stitched on a BERNINA 880 featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread and Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost fabric

Petal Power TshirtWhat do you think about this adorable t-shirt that Carol decorated for her niece using the Petal Power 4i designs? And not a pucker in sight! How did she do that?

I’m not 100% sure how Carol achieved her no-pucker look on this t-shirt, but this is what I would do:

  • Apply a fusible wash away stabilizer to the back of the t-shirt fabric (the back of the front of the t-shirt – if that makes sense!). My favorite is OESD Aquamesh Plus
  • Put a medium weight cutaway fabric in the hoop. My favorite would be OESD Polymesh.

I can imagine that this t-shirt is going to go through the washing machine a hundred times. The Aquamesh Plus will be gone after the first wash while the Polymesh will stay in place to make sure that the design doesn’t fall apart after repeated washings.

The Petal Power mini tuffets will delight any little girl who has and American Girl doll – they’re the perfect size to go together.

Petal Power Mini Tuffets with the American Girl Dolls

Petal Power Mini Tuffets

Stitched on a BERNINA 880 featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread and Michael Miller’s Fairy Frost fabric

I’ve been contemplating an extra large Petal Power Popup basket (like the Happy Popup baskets) using the 6i and 4i designs – with some foliage added. Who’s in for this? (Let me know in the comments below). The cool thing about the design I came up with is that it can also be used as a cover for a body pillow – and it would make a springtime table runner too.

I’ve also been contemplating a Petal Power coloring book – and if you happen to be a quilter too, you could turn any of the coloring pages into a quilt using the Petal Power designs. Who’s in for this? (Let me know in the comments below).


  1. Thank you for another great tutorial! Love your embroidered capris and doll tuffets.

  2. Congratulations on your alphabet instructions. They all are very essential to the applique and also are easy to understand. You have obviously put in a great deal of thought for all sections.

  3. Thank you for today’s information so enjoying each day

  4. I love trying to guess what each letter stands for! So far batting 100%!
    Thank you for all the very useful information.

  5. Thank you again! Thank you for sharing all this valuable information.

  6. Thank you for the info. I have found stabilizer to be one of the most things to understand, so every bit of info helps. Keep up the great work.

  7. I love the petal power pop up basket idea.

  8. The mini tuffets are so cute.

  9. I am also am also a quilter and could see using the designs for FMQ.

  10. Pat Gamble Crouse

    Thanks for the great info. Puckers can be the Plague! I love the petal power pop up idea!

  11. Thank you! It’s good to know that two layers of medium are softer than one layer of heavyweight.

  12. Kamie Clements

    I would love that. They have the small and mini pop ups could you design for that and that way I could have a small one for my sewing machine. Love your work.

  13. This was VERY helpful. I guess i wasn’t using enough stabilizer to keep the puckers away. I have bookmarked this page so I will be sure to have it close at hand in the future.

  14. Your ideas for a Petal Power coloring book and extra large pop-up basket sound great. I would love to see them!

  15. I loved your post on facebook. Great pic of Heather and me. These have been great tutorials. Off to BU. Will miss you.

  16. Absolutely re the XL petal power popup basket!

  17. Love the “pop up” basket idea and really like the coloring book idea. I love to color and would add yours to my collection if you create one. I am enjoying your daily alphabet information.

  18. Enjoying each day as I look forward to another alphabet letter

  19. Enjoying your daily tips! Looking forward to them each day.
    Love those beautiful tuffets, both large and small!!

  20. Thank you this information is wonderful, useful and perfect. Love the idea of the flower pop up.. I love all of your designs. I’m so enjoying this

  21. Great information.

  22. Thank you for the great tips. I always learn something from you!

  23. Like the idea of a large flower pop up . Thank you for the information on stabilizer.

  24. okay, bought me some armo weft and ironing it on the back of my background fabrics. WHAT a difference! This is NOT an inexpensive hobby! lol But…if I am going to invest my time and efforts…and they are “priceless”, then I want stunning results. Thank you for helping me achieve those kinds of results.

  25. I’m loving the daily A-Z tutorials and am learning so much. The Petal Power Popup and Petal Power coloring book are wonderful ideas! I’m in!

  26. Love the pop up ideas.

  27. Count me in for the coloring book and pop up basket!

  28. Sharon Krulitz

    I love these designs. I have the 4i, 6i and 12i. The pop up is a wonderful idea.

  29. Thanks for the great lesson. Everyone so far has been great. Keep up the great work. Someday I will have one of your designs.

  30. Count me in for the colouring books great idea. I have your pop up, tuffet and wine bottle designs. I love them all. I amloving this a-z instructions. Cheers

  31. Stabilize, stabilize, stabilize is certainly key to pucker free embroidery!! Like your idea of backing fabrics with fusible interfacing to eliminate possible shadow through. Also appreciate you telling us the products that work well for you. Like your idea of a Power Pedal Pop-Up!! Thanks again for all of your great information and designs.

  32. Darn, I can’t remember what stabilizer I used either. I do remember ironing a soft fusible over all the stitching on the inside of the shirt so it would be soft on the skin. Love the Petal Power.

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