Selecting the Right Stabilizer for Machine Embroidery

We love adding embellishments like embroidery designs, appliqués and trims to our projects. These little accents are the "artist's touch" on our handiwork - that extra something that can turn a project into a masterpiece. This week, we'd like to talk about machine embroidery, one of the most common embellishment methods. We're often asked for tips related to machine embroidery, particularly regarding stabilizers.

Stabilizers are used for stabilizing the design during machine embroidery. This is necessary since the addition of a lot of thread on top of fabric can "shrink" or "pull" the fabric thus contorting your embroidery design.

Machine embroidery from Mary's Graduation Dress Designs
adds a beautiful finish to this dress.

How many layers of stabilizer do I need?  The number of stabilizer layers needed is usually determined by the density of the design and the type of fabric you are embroidering on. You must consider both of these when considering how many layers of stabilizer to use. Generally, the more dense the design, the more layers you should use, and the lighter the fabric, the more layers you should use.

What type of stabilizer should I use?  The type of stabilizer to use is usually determined by the type of fabric you are embroidering on. Below is a chart to use as a guide:

Cut-away:  Used for knits and other types of "stretchy" fabrics. Usually comes in different weights (heavy, regular and light) to correspond with the weight of your fabric. When your embroidery design is finished, the stabilizer is then cut away from the embroidery design.

Tear-away:  Used for stable, woven fabrics such as cottons and denim. This also comes in different weights to correspond with the weight of your fabric. When your embroidery design is finished, gently tear away the stabilizer from your design. This type of stabilizer is also available as an "iron on" and "sticky back".

Water-Soluble:  Generally, this type of stabilizer is used as a backing for only stable, woven fabrics. It can also be used as a "topping" on any type of fabric that has a nap or loop to it, such as corduroy and terry cloth. It is also great for making "free standing" embroidery such as lace. No matter what type of fabric or application you are using this type of stabilizer for, when your embroidery design is finished, simply wash away the stabilizer with water (your fabric must be able to tolerate water).

This ready-to-embroider linen gift bag features machine
embroidery from My Lil' Friends. The casing pull was
made using spaghetti bias.

Will you share some specific stabilizer recommendations?  Below, we've provided a list of fabric types matched with recommended stabilizers.

Woven Cotton, Batiste, Denim, Linen, Broadcloth - Stitch N Wash

Silk, Silk Dupioni, Satin, Taffeta - Dream Weave

Towel, Terry Cloth - Base: Wet N Stick or Perfect Stick, Topping: Water Soluble Topping or Heat N Gone

Velvet, Velour, Suede - Perfect Stick, Heat N Gone Topping

Polar Fleece, Meinke - Any "stick to" stabilizer

Knit, Piqué - No-Show Nylon Mesh Fusible

Sweater Knit - No-Show Nylon Mesh Fusible, Heat N Gone, Water-Soluble Topping

Cotton Organdy, English Netting, Sheer Fabric that can be ironed - Wet N Gone Fusible

Nylon Organdy/Organza, Netting, Sheer that cannot be ironed - Wet N Gone Tacky

Hard to Hoop - Perfect Stick, Wet N Stick, Wet N Gone Tacky

For more machine embroidery tips, check out our new DVD, Machine Embroidery 101 (also available as an SD or HD download). Pam Mahshie, Education Director for Baby Lock, makes machine embroidery come alive for beginners who know little or nothing about it as she covers hoops, notions, articles to embroider, formats, downloads, marking for perfect placement, design opening basics, stabilizers for different fabrics and more.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia