Stabilizing Super Stretchy "Technical" Fabrics

spray_sheetFortunately, manufacturers have developed wonderful, lightweight, moisture-wicking materials to keep us dry and comfortable in this record-setting heat. Unfortunately, stabilizing these materials is not as simple as other knits. In addition to being very thin, they also have more stretch than typical shirt-weight knit fabrics.

There are a couple of secrets that I can share with you. One is the best stabilizer to use and the other is about hooping technique for these fabrics.

The manufacturers of these fabrics, such as Under Armor, use heavy cutaway stabilizer to control these materials. Check out the embroidery done by the manufacturers on their own shirts and you are likely to see multiple layers of heavy cutaway. While the embroidery does look good, the downside of this approach is that it is incompatible with the weight and intended comfort factor of these lightweight fabrics.

I have had success using the No-Show Polymesh type stabilizer with these fabrics, but I recently became aware of another solution that I like a lot. Bedsheets! That's right - old bedsheets make great stabilizer for this fabric type. Woven stabilizers have always had wonderful stabilizing properties but they fell out of favor many years ago, manily for reasons of cost when nonwoven products became widely available.

 Some large manufacturers are now using woven poly/cotton type stabilizers for this type of fabric, although they aren't using bedsheets. But if you have a set of sheets that's seen its better days, go ahead and give this option a try. It works well with many unstable materials, but it just could be the magic bullet for some of your most troublesome embroidery materials.

Next is the issue of hooping technique. Spray the woven stabilizer (the bedsheet) with a light mist of embroidery spray adhesive. Then, let the technical fabric "settle" over the sprayed backing. Gently finger press the fabric to adhere it to the stabilizer. Then hoop, without recessing the inner hoop. Normally, it's desirable to push the inner ring through the outer ring to place the fabric close to the machine bed and to gain good fabric tension. In this instance however, recessing the inner ring only serves to stretch this lightweight material.

As long as you have appropriate design data, your embroidery on this difficult material should be beautiful.

For ideas for dealing with other difficult materials, visit my web site to get my book, Machine Embroidery on Difficult Materials".

May embroidery always bring you joy -

Deborah Jones

Comments (5) -

susiesembroidery 8/13/2011 12:04:51 PM

Thank you for sharing your ideas with us. I do have a question and it is regarding LYCRA for swimmers and dancers. How do I hoop these to the best ability for my customers? Please help me.  Thank you very much. Susie.

Thank you for sharing this - I have used polycotton to stabilise a number of fabrics but never tried it on a stretchy fabric - in fact I avoid 'difficult' fabrics altogether.

I know this will turn out to be a silly question but, when you say 'hoop the fabric but do not recess the inner hoop', what do you mean?   How else do you hoop the fabric, please?  Thanks again.  Angela (UK)

I have the same question as Charlie 207.  How else to hoop the fabric without using the inner hoop?

I apologize for not making it more clear about what I mean when I use the term "without recessing the inner hoop."

This refers to the practice of pushing the inner ring so that it is lower than the outer ring, making the fabric taut and placing it close to the machine bed.

This is usually desirable, particularly with regular knits. However in the case of these thin, super-stretchy knits, it can cause distortion when the atitches are applied. Just insert the inner ring so that it is flush, or even, with the outer ring.

It should be noted that some home embroidery hoops have a lip on the outer ring that does not allow the lower ring to be recessed lower than the outer ring.

Hope this helps!

Thanks for your question Susie. Hooping multi-directional knits is a bit different than hooping the technical, moisture-wicking knits described in my most recent blog. The basic guideline is this:

When the multi-directional knit will be stretched over the body, such as a swimsuit, the knit should be stretched very slightly when the hoop is applied. After the embroidery has been applied, the knit tries to recover its previous position, creating a slight "slck" around the area now occupied by the embroidery. The provides a bit of extra fabric that helps avoid the knit surrounding the embroidery from being overstretched and creating holes around the embroidery.

If the multi-directional knit will not be stretched over the body, as in the case of a skjirt or neck gaitor, do not stretch the knit while hooping.

Remember, the stretch is only very slight, and the stabilizer I recommend is PolyMesh No-Show type.

I hope this helps!


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