Top 5 Common Garment Defects

On the back of one of our earlier article Love, Pride & Respect which was about quality, we thought we would discuss the top 5 common defects found in garments.  Because, whether you’re a producer (local or offshore) or the end-consumer there is nothing more frustrating than to find the product has a defect, or worse, multiple defects. Especially when you believe you’re paying for a high standard of quality.

As mentioned in the article Love, Pride & Respect , quality workmanship and fit should be a top priority when competing for consumer loyalty, as respect can be hard to earn but even harder to keep.

So, as a producer it pays to know what to look for and how you can instruct the manufacturer to fix them. 

1. Untrimmed threads

We think this is the #1 defect; untrimmed threads.

Mostly found when the manufacturer is rushing and they don’t take time to trim or check the product before shipping/sending.  In most circumstances the manufacturer will find this fault and trim the threads at their internal QC check.

Untrimmed threads are generally considered a minor defect; however they can become a more serious issue if found in babywear or found in a significant portion of the order.

The main concern for many buyers is that untrimmed threads make the clothing appear “cheap” as it’s a sign of poor workmanship. In babywear, depending on the location of the untrimmed thread, it can be dangerous. If the thread is caught around their fingers or toes it could cause serious damage due to their delicate skin.

Cause and remedies

Untrimmed threads are one of the easiest defects to rectify. The manufacture making the clothing needs to be more vigilant while finishing and packing, trimming any excess threads before goods are packed and shipped.

 2. Broken or skipped (missing) stitching

Broken or skipped stitches are usually a fault with the sewing machine, quality of thread being used, or the worker.

Mainly this is a visual issue, especially for those garments that have contrast stitching, such as jeans. Stitching problems may also weaken the structural integrity of the seam, causing premature wear of the product or even ripping of the seam.

Cause and remedies

Broken stitching can be caused by rough handling or poor quality thread. If there are skipped stitches, workers may be rushing, the sewing machine may be incorrectly set up, or the machine is not adequate for the fabric.

Stitch issues are generally considered a minor defect, but can be major if the issue is evident on a high percentage of the order or in a highly visible area of the garment.

If broken or skipped stitches are found during inspection of garments these need to be brought to the supplier’s attention. The manufacturer may be able to mend these in a reasonable amount of time if goods have not been shipped. If goods have been shipped you will need to come to an understanding with the manufacturer.

Example of slip stitching on a seamv’sA seam without slip stitching

 3. Puckering

Puckering is an irregular seam surface. You’ll see this garment defect more commonly in woven fabrics and knitted ones. Puckering is especially prominent on garments that are tightly woven.

Cause and remedies

A fabrics characteristics can cause puckering however more commonly it is related to one of the following workmanship issues:

  1. High/tight thread tension during sewing, causingthe fabric to bunch/pucker

  2. One ply of fabric feeds into the sewingmachine at a different rate than other plies

Puckering is considered a minor or major defect depending on the location and severity of the issue. Clothing affected by puckering typically cannot be fixed. Removing stitching will leave behind needle holes and puckering cannot be pressed out. If the manufacturer advises they can press it out, when the customers are washing it the puckering is likely to come back as they have had to stretch the fabric to camouflage the puckering. This problem can only be rectified in the sewing process, not after the garments are complete. 

4. Needle Damage

Needle damage is usually more common in knitted fabric however it can occur in woven fabric as well. Needle damage is found in the seams and presents in the form of holes where the needle/thread enters the fabric and more commonly found after the garment is washed.

Cause and remedies

While needle damage can be caused by friction it is generally caused by incorrect needle type being used or a blunt/damaged needle.

Needle damage is considered a major defect as most times it’s not picked up until the bulk is made.

The following are just a few ways to correct the issue.  Keep in mind that these remedies can only fix the issue while in production; therefore only part of the production may be saved. Once the fabric has been damaged it is not fixable.

1.      Friction or heat can cause damages; machinist needs to slow down

2.      Adjust the needle size and/or shape

3.      Change the needles regularly to stay sharp and in working order

4.      Ensure needle remains clean and clear of damage

5.      Ensure the sewing machine is well oiled/lubricated

5. Garment Dimensions Measure out of Tolerance

Dimensional issues can relate to faulty patterns, cutting issues, incorrect stitching or lack of attention to tolerances by the machinists. Incorrect dimensions can be particularly problematic because:

  1. The garment size can be affected, which means the item won’t fit the end-consumer correctly, and

  2. The entire order quantity of that item is likely to be affected

Unlike defects 1-3, garment dimensional problems typically cannot be reworked and need to be remade from scratch.

Developing tolerances and points of measure

Issues related to dimensions can easily cause an entire product order to fail bulk inspection. The best way to prevent this is to make sure your supplier follows a specification sheet. This is a document that indicates what each size should measure too. It also shows the tolerance that you’re willing to accept.

Should you or a member of the team (the manufacturer or your business) inspect the product before it leaves the manufacturer, ensure they have a copy of your specifications so that they can check your product measures to spec or within the tolerance.

If you decide to engage an independent firm to inspect the goods they may have developed their own tolerance levels, so be sure your specification sheet is clear. They also may have their own measuring method, so you will need to provide these prior to verifying dimensions.


Knowing these 5 common garment defects will help you navigate your way through some of the most common quality issues and avoid unacceptable bulk inspections, through to customer returns and unsalable products.

It’s a great idea to have your bulk inspected prior to shipping by the manufacturer, you, team member or a 3rd party business. This will ensure any garment defects or other issues have been addressed before the goods leave the factory.

Lastly, it’s important to understand and recognise that some defects in products are unavoidable.  So it’s important to understand what is commercially acceptable, know your tolerance levels are and ensure your manufacturer understands this as well.  Once you and the manufacturer are on the same page you will both save a lot of time and money trying to fix quality issues later.

Katrina & Team x