Lightweight tear-away stabilizer (top) and heavy cut-away (bottom).
foundation of your home, stabilizers support the stitches you place upon them.
If the foundation is not good, the structure isn't either. With all of these different weights of stabilizers, which do you use?
early days of machine embroidery, stabilizers were scarce and many tried
alternatives like coffee filters, dryer sheets, and even muslin. Today, there
are dozens of choices, which is good except that it may seem like there are too
many from which to choose. And they are costly (unless you are an Ann's Club
member, then they are half-price!) so you don't want to buy stabilizers you
don't really need.
some guidelines for choosing the proper tear-away or cut-away stabilizers.
Lightweight tear-away stabilizers are semi-opaque. Some, like this one, almost resemble waxed paper.
light stitch designs on light or medium weight, like outline stitching or redwork and heirloom stitching
with a wing needle, lightweight tear-away stabilizers work well.
Back of lightweight tear-away stabilizer. Just peel the stabilizer away from the stitches.
tear-away stabilizers are even good as a topper and guide for quilting. Trace
your quilting design on the surface of the stabilizer (or cut it into 8.5" by
11" sheets and copy or print the design with your printer). Pin it, lightly
iron, or adhere it with temporary spray adhesive to the surface of the item to
be embroidered and stitch along the lines. It should easily tear away. Any
small pieces remaining in the stitches usually wash out in the laundry.
general all-around choice for machine embroidery on stable fabrics is a
medium-weight tear-away stabilizer. They work well for designs that consist
mostly of fill stitching as well as applique satin stitching and even
buttonholes (that is where saving and marking stabilizer scraps is helpful!).
available as an iron-on no-show mesh. These are good for lighter weight fabrics
where the stabilizer may show through or the stabilizer would be so stiff it
would look out of place behind the embroidery.
iron-on stabilizers must be left on the fabric. Others tear away after
stitching is completed. It depends on the finished item which of these will
work best for you. If the item you are stabilizing is purely decorative and the
stabilizer won't show, it doesn't hurt to leave it in. Otherwise, it can be
carefully torn away after stitching is complete.
heavy tear-away stabilizers perform beautifully with woven fabrics, providing a
stiff base that can be torn away following stitching. A general rule of thumb
is that the tear-away stabilizer isn't too heavy if it is undetectable from the
front of the embroidery. If you can see lumps and bumps, it's too heavy. If you
can see puckering, it isn't heavy enough.
Cut-away stabilizers are often used with heavy satin-stitched fonts to prevent puckering. Trim close to the stitching.
fabrics are stretchy, will be laundered frequently, or need to hold up to
repeated wear and tear, cut-away stabilizers are the best choice.
stabilizers stay attached to the embroidered item and are trimmed close to the
embroidery. If remaining stabilizer is in a place where it will be in direct
contact with skin, it may cause irritation. Ironing a piece of fusible mesh
over the embroidery and stabilizer edges on the back of the embroidery will
create a soft barrier, which is particularly beneficial in infant and toddler
No-show mesh stabilizer. Some are temporarily fusible to the base fabric.
fabrics need heavier stabilization, a mesh cut-away stabilizer helps to soften
the base upon which threads are stitched so it doesn't show through the fabric
perforation of stabilizers usually means you need a heavier stabilizer.
stabilizer thickness needs to be taken into consideration when using with
applique or quilting as multiple layers of cloth, batting, and/or stabilizer
can add density to the item you are embroidering. In these instances, often a
tear-away stabilizer is best. It can be torn away to avoid bulk but still
supports the stitching.
- If you
don't' have the necessary weight, tear-away stabilizers can be layered. Carefully
tear one layer of stabilizer away at a time to prevent distortion of embroidery
- You may
also find it useful to hoop a tear-away or adhesive stabilizer and float a
piece of cut-away under the hoop while stitching.
conduct a test sew with the same fabric or (if it is a garment or purchased
piece) a similar fabric before stitching the actual piece. Results will vary by
embroidery machine, embroidery design, thread used, and stabilizer used. It's
just one more reason an embroidery journal is helpful in finding out what works