A good stabilizer prolongs the life of machine embroidery, helps keep the stitches intact, and keeps your sewing machine running smoothly. Stabilizers play a key roll in producing professional looking embroidery designs, but how do you choose the right stabilizer for each project?
Take the mystery out of stabilizer package labeling and end-uses for the general groups of stabilizers. Extensive charts correlating fabric type to stabilizer types are in my book, Stabilizers—The Foundation Guide Book. Read more details expanding on today’s blog post in the book.
As we go forward, I’ll be talking about stabilizers used in machine embroidery. Stabilizers and interfacings for garment sewing will be another blog post for another day.
Machine embroidery stabilizers can be broken down into three categories:
How to Choose
- How dense is my stitching design?
- What is the end use of my project?
- How is my project fabric laundered?
- How long will this embroidery project be used?
- Is my embroider area difficult to hoop?
- Does my fabric have a nap or pile?
Cut-Away Stabilizer Tips
Cut-Away Stabilizers Weights
- Translucent textured nonwoven (lightweight)—Semitransparent stabilizer resists stretching, eliminates show-through, and is comfortable next to skin.
- Fusible Mesh Cut-Away Stabilizer (lightweight)—This stabilizer is applied with a low temperature iron, and it ensures fabric will not shift while embroidering.
- Nonwoven (medium weight)—This category of stabilizer provides optimum support and eliminates pulling or sagging of designs. It can hold adhesive spray or fusible web for hoopless embroidery.
- Iron-On Nonwoven (medium weight)—Applied with a low temperature iron, this stabilizer ensures fabric will not shift during stitching and eliminates the need for additional adhesive products. This stabilizer is somewhat soft and flexible.
- Water-activated adhesive nonwoven (mid-heavyweight)—Hoop the stabilizer, moisten with a damp sponge, and apply the fabric to the stabilizer. It will not leave gummy residue on your project.
- Nonwoven (heavyweight)—This stabilizer resists washing damage and shrinkage and provides optimum support for heavy duty projects.
- Iron-on textured crisp nonwoven (heavyweight)—This heavyweight permanent stabilizer has a soft hand and excellent stability. It has a permanent fusible coating and is ideal for projects that need extra stiffness and retained support.
Tear-Away Stabilizer Tips
Tear-Away Stabilizer Weights
- Iron-on translucent film (very lightweight)—This opaque film turns translucent after applied to fabric with a low temperature iron.
- Nonwoven (lightweight)—This stabilizer provides good stability with effortless removal.
- Iron-on nonwoven (lightweight)—Fusible and handy to support stitches without shifting, sliding, or puckering. This stabilizer is recommended when pairing stabilizers for the float technique.
- Fusible/adhesive nonwoven with release liner (lightweight)—This double-sided adhesive stabilizer is ideal for appliqué designs. Iron the fusible side to the back of the appliqué fabric, remove the liner to apply, and stitch.
- Flame retardant nonwoven (light-midweight)—Nonflammable stabilizer is made of 100% polypropylene. Perfect for embroidering children’s sleepwear.
- 100% cotton nonwoven (light-midweight)—100% cotton nonwoven is soft and gentle to the touch, yet strong and firm for hooping and stitching. This stabilizer is extremely comfortable against the skin.
- Nonwoven (midweight)—Nonwoven is an excellent all-purpose stabilizer; soft to the touch, strong enough for hooping and stitching. It is a good stabilizer to choose when using the float technique.
- Iron-on nonwoven (midweight)—This product eliminates the need for additional fusibles or adhesives and holds projects taut and straight while stitching.
- Tear-away disintegrating nonwoven (midweight)—This stabilizer disintegrates in the wash. Simply tear off the excess, and any additional bits that were not removed will be eliminated over time in the laundry.
- Colored vinyl (midweight)—Use this unique stabilizer to prevent the base fabric color from showing through the embroidery stitching. It prevents embroidery from sinking into high nap fabrics and gives a 3D lift.
- Adhesive stabilizer with release paper (midweight)—Eliminate hooping your fabric when you use this eco-friendly adhesive stabilizer with release paper.
- Nonwoven (heavyweight)—This very heavy stabilizer is surprisingly soft, pliable and easy to tear away. Be mindful to not pull the stitches when tearing this product from behind your design.
- Water-activated adhesive nonwoven (heavyweight)—Only hoop this dense stabilizer as it removes the need to hoop the fabric. After moistening the stabilizer with a sponge, the fabric will stick!
- Soak the fabric in water. This is best for heavyweight wash-away stabilizers.
- Mist the stabilizer using a spray bottle. Misting is best for lightweight wash-away stabilizers.
- Massage stabilizer under warm running tap water. Adhesive wash-aways may require this treatment.
Wash-Away Stabilizer Weights
- Water-soluble web (very lightweight)—Use this stabilizer to prevent stitches from sinking into pile fabrics and prevent loops from pulling on knitted or napped fabrics.
- Transparent film (very lightweight)—This eco-friendly stabilizer leaves no residue after washing and can be removed by misting with water or blotting with a damp sponge.
- Water-soluble fabric (lightweight)—Water-soluble fabric looks like a sheer fabric but it will actually wash completely away. It is easy to hoop and is very stable.
- Transparent film (lightweight)—This film is twice as heavy as the very lightweight transparent film and will require more water for removal.
- Water-soluble nonwoven (midweight)—This stabilizer is soft and flexible. It is easy to cut, handle, and hoop. It looks and feels like mesh cut- away but completely washes out.
- Adhesive water-soluble nonwoven (midweight)—This soft and stable adhesive provides extreme stability when stitching. The release liner protects the adhesive, and once you are finished with the embroidery design it all washes away, even the adhesive.
- Transparent film (mid-heavyweight)—An extra firm plastic-like film such as this provides great stability and doesn’t stretch. Embroider directly on it to create lace and other free-standing projects.
- Water-soluble paper (mid-heavyweight)—Paper with an attitude. It is traditionally used for foundation piecing by transferring designs via copy machines/printers. It does not hoop well but is an excellent choice to top small embroidered letters.
- Adhesive transparent film (heavyweight)—Adhesive transparent film bonds to fabric without heat or spray adhesives and leaves no residue.
Heat-Away Stabilizers are best used for fabrics that cannot be washed, such as velvet, satin, and some corduroy. Special techniques like making lace will use heat-away stabilizer as the designs are too delicate for other support options.
- Heat sensitive clear film (light-midweight)—Heat-Away stabilizers are removed when exposed to the heat of an iron.
If you are new to machine embroidery and stabilizers, get started with my book, Stabilizers—The Foundation Guide Book and watch the following episode of Sewing With Nancy:
Watch Machine Embroidery in Six Easy Steps (Part One and Two) on Sewing With Nancy online.
Bye for now,