Embroidery Stabilizer Backing
Embroidery Stabilizer provides fabric the taut, unyielding surface that embroidery machines need in order to set the stitches of a design. The fabric and stabilizer act as a unit and are hooped together with the stabilizer to the back—thus stabilizer is often called “backing.” Even though there seems to be an overabundance of stabilizer choices, there are essentially four basic kinds of stabilizer: tearaway, cutaway, adhesive, and soluble, each of which comes in a variety of weights and styles.
Your stabilizer can affect the look of the embroidery design, so it is important to choose a stabilizer that suits your project, taking into account your fabric, the density of the design and your use of the finished product. The basic stabilizers and variations of them are discussed below as a guide to choosing a backing that works best for your project.
Tearaway Embroidery Stabilizer
Tearaway Embroidery Stabilizer backs the fabric as the machine embroiders, and then it is gently torn away from the back of the design. Tearaway stabilizer works remarkably well with most fabrics but is especially effective with woven fabrics, such as cotton, linen, rayon, etc. Since tearaway stabilizer can be almost completely removed from the design, it is the choice for projects that are visible on both sides, such as blankets, banners, flags, etc.
Tearaway is the most popular of all stabilizers because it is so easy to use and because the most common fabric choice of embroiderers are fabrics that work well with tearaway.
Cutaway Embroidery Stabilizer
Cutaway Stabilizer backs the fabric, but it is not removed when the embroidery is done. Rather, excess stabilizer is trimmed away from the back, very close to the edge of the design. Cutaway stabilizer is the best choice for high density projects (those with a high stitch count) or large designs because it provides the firmer foundation such designs require. Also, since the backing remains under the design, cutaway embroidery stabilizer supports the design for fabrics too delicate to do so, such as light-weight knits, stretchy fabrics, and loosely woven fabrics.
Washaway Embroidery Stabilizers
Washaway Embroidery Stabilizer has a clear soluble film on it that provides firm stability during the embroidery process and then washes away like magic with cold water. It is perfect for sheer and lightweight fabrics, lace-making, and other applications where stabilizer needs to be invisible.
Washaway Embroidery Stabilizer can also be used on top of pile fabrics, such as velour, corduroy and terry cloth (towels), to provide an even surface for embroidery and to prevent the design from sinking into the plush fabric. In this case you will use two stabilizers: washaway stabilizer on the top of the design and a medium or heavy weight stabilizer as a backing.
Sticky-Back Tearaway Embroidery Stabilizer
Sticky-Back Tearaway Embroidery Stabilizer is made especially for small fabric projects that can’t be hooped, such collars and cuffs on a finished garment. The stabilizer is a non-directional, non-woven tearaway that has a sticky surface covered by easy-to-tear paper. Hoop the stabilizer, and with a seam ripper score a section to fit your project. Peel the scored section away, and stick the project to the sticky surface. When the embroidery is done, gently peel the sticky-back tearaway embroidery stabilizer away from the back of your design.
The best sticky-back tearaway embroidery stabilizer contains needle lubricants to promote needle glide and to reduce sticky build up. It tears away cleanly and easily leaving none of the fuzzies behind.
Iron-on Tearaway Embroidery Stabilizer
Iron-on tearaway Stabilizer is ironed onto the back of the embroidery project, and then fabric and stabilizer are hooped. It temporarily stabilizes any fabric, eliminating shifting and puckering. After the embroidery is finished, iron-on tearaway is easily torn away from the back of the design. While it can be used on any fabric suitable to regular tearaway, it is especially formulated for fabrics that tend to wrinkle and are therefore harder to hoop, such as ramie, stretchy knit, and raw linen.
Iron-On Tearaway is very user-friendly and is often the choice of beginning machine embroiderers.
Tearaway / Washaway Embroidery Stabilizer
Tearaway/Washaway Stabilizer has all the properties of regular tearaway; plus it dissolves easily in warm tap water. It provides a bit more support to embroidery process, yet the backing can be completely eliminated from the design both by tearing and washing.
Cloud Cover Stitch Stabilizer
Cloud Cover Stitch is a fusible very light weight fabric that is ironed on to the back of the fabric. It provides a smooth and scratch-free surface. This light weight tearaway stabilizer works well with dainty projects such as baby items.
No-Show Fusible Mesh Stabilizer
No-show diagonal mesh is a nylon stabilizer with a diagonal embossed pattern. This design makes the stabilizer almost invisible to see. It is especially effective when you don't want the stabilizer to show through the front of the garment. You can also fuse the stabilizer to the garment for extra stability. After you embroider the design, cut away excess stabilizer from the back of the garment.
A Word about Weight
The general rule for choosing stabilizer weight is to suit the weight of the stabilizer to the weight of the fabric. For example, use light weight stabilizer with light weight cottons, silk, and synthetics. Use medium weight stabilizer with medium weight wool and cotton, etc. And, use heavy weight stabilizers with heavy weight denim, etc.
A Final Thought about Stabilizer
You will find that you don’t always need stabilizer. Some fabrics, such as leather, ducking, felt and so on are firm enough to provide their own support. There is no need to add any other kind of stabilizer when you embroider these fabrics.
If you embroider frequently, however, you will use an immense amount of stabilizer. You should probably consider having a good stash of both tearaway stabilizer and cutaway stabilizer. However, experiment with all kinds of stabilizer before you buy large qualities of any one kind. Most machine embroiderers find that they have a decided preference for certain stabilizers and that one or two favorites will work for most projects. So buying these favorites in bulk will ensure you have what you need when you need it. It is also probably a good idea, as well.