What the Stabilizer Sellers Won't Tell You

With that title line, I am thinking that there are hundreds and hundreds of things they won't tell you, but I will zoom in on a few of my personal favorites, in no particular order:

  • Those prices - unbelievably, are way overpriced.

This one reminds me of cosmetics, if you figure out the real price, it is astonishing.  My comparison charts for stabilizers (among other things) is available here.  When I did the comparison, I was careful to select the other sellers at random.  Time after time, AnnTheGran was the lowest and joining Ann's Club made a lot of difference!  In their defense, this is their bread and butter so that they can continue to stay viable as a company.  After all, they are in the business of being profitable.

  • Tear Away is only paper.

Tear away stabilizer is, 95% of them, made of paper.  Why on earth do they charge so much for some paper?  Some have a ‘direction' which would create a small difference when you need to use multiple layers.  With the directional types, you would place one at a horizontal position and the second at a vertical position.  That would create a little additional tensile strength (the point at which there is failure) but not a great deal.  Look through your tear away toward a light and you will see, it is likely to be small pieces of paper pressed together.  Tear away is probably where, years ago, some embroiderers decided they could use coffee filters instead of tear away.  Coffee filters are not that cheap, stick with the ‘real thing.'

  • You need a quality water soluble stabilizer (wss) for the best results.

Some of the water soluble stabilizers out there should be shot - make that the manufacturers should be shot.  Some are so thin that you can make a hole in them with a single puncture of the needle.  When you place a number of stitches such as a narrow satin stitch, you are going to have failure with a capital F.  For Free Standing Lace (FSL) wss is a must.  I am a big advocate of Badgemaster Water Soluble Stabilizer.  I don't say that lightly, I really mean it.  You can read my Forum post - A Three Year Journey where I describe my process where I got to being a serious fan of Badgemaster.  I am on my second roll of 50 yards by 15" of it and know I won't have problems, even if I have to rework an area.  I also use it on projects where I would not normally use water soluble, heavy density of stitches does not have a negative effect on Badgemaster.

  • A professional shop uses just one or two types of stabilizers.

You can check on this if there is an embroidery shop in your area.  They do have machines that are much more precise than we can buy (at a reasonable price), but they don't need 15 different stabilizers around.  What is my point here?  Well, I have about 30 different stabilizers in my stash but I won't use most of them.  I use my favorite tear away, my favorite cut away, my favorite adhesive, and my favorite water soluble.  Those others are still around because I am too cheap to throw them away.  I probably will never use them, but sometimes I want to try something different and any old stabilizer will do. 

What are my favorites?  Honestly, all of them are AnnTheGran products and Badgemaster.  I use them for their quality and price.  Whomever sought out the original marketable brand for this site did their homework on these items.  I do have a 'special use' that is a 'heat away' stabilizer.  Ann does not carry that, but I have found one that works well for me. 


Comments (6) -

How do I use up bits of stabilizer?  Usually the embroidery design uses only the middle part of the stabilizer in the hoop.

Hello Maggie, This is an excellent question!  A scrap needs to be large enough to make a difference.  I don't mean a 1" by 1" or etc.

I mean that you can use your scrap as a 'floating' stabilizer.  Your original stabilizer will be attached to the hoop and doing most of the work.  However, some designs need a little more and you would place the scrap under the hoop, covering (from below) the design area.  

That extra stabilizing can make a difference for your design - puckering is one of the ways it will help.

Also, make sure you are using the smallest hoop for your design.  That will make the scrap smaller as well.

Pat, The Avid Embroiderer

fiddlentat 1/8/2012 2:59:30 PM

Here's one way I've found to reduce wasted stabilizer:  after removing stabilizer from the finished embroidery, cut the used piece of stabilizer in half, through the center hole left where the embroidery was.  Then place the two straight outer edges together, overlapping them.  Stitch the two pieces together on the sewing machine using a straight stitch. The rough torn edges are now on the outside edge.  I've frequently been able to stitch out another design without using a fresh "whole" piece of stabilizer, especially if I am using a smaller hoop the second time.

For WSS  I do the same thing, but instead of sewing the pieces together dampen the overlap of one piece slightly, finger press the overlapped edges of the two pieces together and wait until completely dry before using.  

Maybe these ideas will work for you, too.

Hello Fiddlentat - (Interesting name!!!)

I love it when people share their experiences.  These simple examples that you shared will assist others and I know they appreciate you giving this information.

There are many ways to save on stabilizers, these are two excellent ones.  

When you consider that stabilizer will cost less than a dollar (most of the time) for your project, be frugal but not to the point that the tensile strength is lost.  Just use your common sense. . . .


creativechris 4/8/2012 3:49:05 PM

I use an iron on stabilizer to the back of my used stabilizer to fill in the hole.  It usually doesn't take much and you get several uses out of your original.

Thank you for this post - I come back to it frequently!  I live in the UK which appears to be 'behind' with things like this!  I am looking for a good 'heat away' to use to stabilise tee shirts.  I have seen a few sites that recommend using a cut away stabiliser but I am concerned about how stiff this will make the garment - it is a tee shirt I want to use with PJ bottoms (to sleep in).  Therefore, I don't want something that will constanly rub my skin.  I also like to embroider on baby garments - which have similar properties and concerns.  Can you tell me what I should be looking for/what you would recommend, please?  Thanks Angela

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Pattern Variations: Getting the Colors Just Right

Pattern Variations: Getting the Colors Just Right

Much about creating, whether it is sewing, quilting, embroidery, or any other artistic form, depends on having the ability to visualize the project in your head. I don't know about you, but it is getting harder and harder for me to do that every day.

Sometimes, it is easy to bypass a pattern or embroidery design simply because it isn't presented in a color combination of your liking. The quilting or embroidery may be lovely, but a yellow banana is much more appealing than one that is brown. Imagining designs in your color palette can be even more challenging. Here are two examples.

While visiting one of my favorite local shops, the owner was in the process of piecing this quilt top. Because I am fond of green, pink, and ivory colorways and like machine applique, the pattern was particularly appealing to me. Until I saw it.

At any other glance, the photo on the pattern cover (above) was not one that I would give a second look, but seeing it in colors I like made me purchase the designs on site.

On another visit to a local shop, I saw this wall hanging on display. Again, the colors and fabric prints were spot on. 

The pattern (below) was okay, particularly if you like shades of blue, but I would never have purchased it had I not seen it created in another colorway.

The next time you see a particular embroidery design, technique, pattern, or shop display you like, try to imagine it in thread colors and fabrics you would use.


Here are some ways to gather ideas:

  • Visit fabric, embroidery, and craft-related shops. Their displays often inspire a new project or color combination.
  • Take a photo and jot down notes. Include them in your embroidery journal.
  • Search trade magazines.
  • Browse online blogs, forums, customer galleries, and project pages. The same designs used differently in layouts and color combinations provide numerous possibilities.
  • Sites like Pinterest, Flickr, and Facebook often showcase creations from the artistic world.


Who knows what you might discover!

What is the most unlikely pattern you have ever purchased?


Debbie SewBlest


Comments (2) -

Great Blog!  Understanding colors and their affect on each other and us as people is simple and complex at the same time.

You have obviously zeroed in on your colors.  You have a palette that is right for you and your surroundings.  Not everyone is able to make that determination.

One way to determine your personal 'favorite' color (I have loved them all at one time or another-I remember my 'avocado' phase.), you can sort all  your clothing together by color.  Mix the dresses with the pants, tops and even shoes.  You will see some sort of pattern as to what YOU like.  

Pick up some paint chips from your store and keep them in an envelop in a handy place.  Having those to see with your idea can be very helpful.  Additionally, put some colors in your Smart/iPhone.  Use Evernote.com, it is free, and put those color/pictures in the notes to give you a sense of what is right for you.

I have been doing this for awhile and have been trying to play with new colors for me.  It is HARD to break old habits of the colors I like, but I do have a chance to try something really new.

Pat, The Avid Embroiderer

Thanks, Pat. I remember my mauve and colonial blue phase. Paint chips are a great idea! I

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