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How do I tame puckering in fabric that I want to quilt?

by Heather

Heather writes...

I started my daughter's quilt in 2008 but have only just made time to quilt it.

The last block is 15 ½” x 12” but I should have put pins in it ages ago to stabilise it, I realise.

Now the cotton appears to have stretched a little from continuous handling!

Is there any way I can shrink the fabric so that I can mark out my straight line quilting pattern and finally finish it before she gets married next year?!

Julie replies...

Good Morning, Heather!

From the image you supplied, it looks like this is a block that is a solid rectangle of fabric.

I'll give you several suggestions based on differing circumstances. Some are probably "Duh! I already thought of that, Julie!"—but I want to make sure I've covered all the bases just in case.
  1. If it is truly a solid patch of fabric and the quilt is still a top and not sandwiched, I'd replace the patch if possible. It would be the faster fix if you have enough of the original fabric leftover. It eliminates the puckering problem completely during the quilting.

  2. If the patch is in a sandwiched quilt top, but no quilting, again I'd replace the patch for the same reasons given above.

  3. If the patch is in a partially quilted quilt, I would not rip out the stitching. If the fabric was not prewashed, I would do a quick check to make sure that it doesn't bleed. (Click here for instructions to perform a simple fabric bleeding test to be done on leftover scraps.)

    Once you've confirmed that your fabric doesn't bleed, then the first thing to try is steaming the fabric and then encouraging it into a smaller shape with your fingers. There might be enough shrinkage in the fabric to do it especially if it wasn't prewashed. Let it dry completely before quilting.

  4. If the steaming doesn't work and the fabric passed the bleed test, then I'd spritz it with water—lightly, not soaking—and gingerly press/steam it dry and into place to see if you can't 'force' a bit of shrinkage.

  5. If that doesn't work, then I'd go in with straight pins in that block, distribute the excess as evenly as possile and pin it in place.

    Be sure to use plenty of pins.

    The idea is to contain the excess in smaller amounts throughout the block to camouflage it and not let it get pushed all to one side or corner. If all the excess ends up in one spot, it WILL be noticeable.

    Then mark the straight lines with chalk and quilt. Remove the pins as you come to them, but not before.

    I like flower head pins for this job. Their flat heads don't distort the fabric. It'll be easy to get them in and take them out, just be careful during quilting, you're apt to prick yourself (I know from experience!)

    If you've used a cotton batting and wash the quilt to get that antique 'crinkly' look, the 'crinkles' should camouflage any puckers that might show.

I hope this has given you some ideas how to proceed.

I know this is a problem that you didn't want to have. However, the only way is forward.

Remember, it is a gift made with love and it will be cherished no matter what.

Readers, as always, your suggestions are appreciated—just use the 'Comments' link below to share. Thank you.


Julie Baird

Comments for How do I tame puckering in fabric that I want to quilt?

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by: Heather

Well, thanks to all the suggesitons of de-puckering, I have managed to steam iron the offending block and have now completed (beautifully, of course) my work.
It has been labelled and the finished masterpiece/heirloom handed over to my delighted daughter. Still time before her wedding to make something else ... or not. ;o)

I am so pleased I stumbled across this website as I was nervous to try anything without more experienced help. Thank you.

nearly finished ...
by: Heather

Thanks, Julie.
I appreciate all your suggestions and shall attempt to remember them for next time!

Unfortunately this is the almost central block of a quilt which is nearly all quilted. Which means no replacing the fabric.

I shall now pluck up courage to steam this block; lightly, of course.

Don't hold your breath but I shall report back with results ...


From the Editor: Thanks, Heather. I'll be waiting to hear how it goes...and keeping all my fingers crossed for you!


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