Embroidery

Choosing embroidery stabilisers

This week Rose will explain embroidery stabilisers, so if you’ve ever found yourself looking at all the options available but not sure which is the right one for your project then Rose is here to help!

If you own an embroidery machine then you know that you need to use stabiliser underneath your fabric, but the question is which do you choose? There are several different stabilisers to choose from and each one has a different purpose, so in this blog I’ll aim to demystify embroidery stabilisers for you!

Why do you need to use an embroidery stabiliser?

The fabric that you’re working on is the foundation of your design. Using a stabiliser will prevent the fabric from puckering and slipping, allowing a well-formed stitch to be created. The less stable the fabric is and the more stitches your design has, the more stabiliser you will need.

Choosing a stabiliser

To decide which backing to use, you need to consider the following:

  • The type of fabric
  • The density of the stitches in the design
  • The weight of the fabric
  • The embroidery design itself
  • The colour of the fabric (most stabilisers are white but some do come in black as well. Generally I would choose white but if there’s a choice then choose white for light coloured fabrics and black for dark)

Hooping up

As well as choosing the correct embroidery stabiliser, you also need to take care when hooping the fabric. Always hoop up on a firm surface such as a table, trying to do it on your knee really won’t work! If the fabric is too loose in the hoop then the needle will deflect your material and design registration will be adversely affected. That means that your outlines may not line up with other portions of the design.

Types of stabiliser

There are several types of stabiliser to choose from and I will I explain how each is used. I have included a table at the end so you can see the applications of each type at a glance.

Tear away stabilisers

Tear away stabilisers are the cheapest and the most used stabilisers, I keep a big roll in my cupboard! Stitch and Tear is recommended for use with medium to heavyweight fabrics. After completing the design, it can be torn away in either the horizontal or vertical direction. It should be removed carefully in order to not disturb the stitches in your design. I wouldn’t recommend using it for delicate fabrics or knits.

Stitch and Tear (before it has been torn away around the embroidery)

Tear and Wash is similar to Stitch and Tear but is easy to remove and leaves no stabiliser remnants under the stitching. Simply damp around the edges of the embroidery to release the extra stabiliser and the remainder of the stabiliser will disappear during washing. Please note: although this stabiliser is water soluble it is NOT suitable for freestanding lace projects.

Cut away stabilisers

Cut away stabilisers such as Polymesh are woven stabilisers ideal for stretch fabrics as they remain on the back of the fabric supporting the embroidery during washing and wearing, preventing the design from distorting. Polymesh is semi-transparent and known as a no show mesh, meaning it won’t show through on the right side of the garment. It is especially designed for extra stability on lightweight fabrics and knits. We stock two types in both black and white: Polymesh Fusible and Polymesh Non-Fusible. They both do the same thing but the fusible stays where you put it – it’s my favourite to use when embroidering onto T-shirts.

Adhesive-backed stabilisers

Adhesive-backed stabilisers can be both tear away (Filmoplast, which comes in black as well as white) and wash away (Wash Away Adhesive) and both are very similar in the way they are used. They are perfect for difficult-to-hoop projects – just hoop the stabiliser, score and remove the release sheet (it’s a bit like sticky back plastic, if you can remember that!), then stick the item to the stabiliser and embroider.

Adhesive-backed stabilisers are great for small areas that are too small to fit the hoop area, such as collars or pockets. They are also ideal for thick fabrics that are difficult to hoop, or for velvets and napped fabrics like towelling that really don’t want to be hooped conventionally as they will mark. They are great if you own a metal hoop with magnets too, as the stabiliser will stick underneath the hoop.

Filmoplast, the adhesive-backed tear away, is removed by tearing the stabiliser from around the design and the Wash Away Adhesive is removed by washing once you have removed the excess. Which you use is down to preference and whether you want the stabiliser to remain under the design or to wash away.

Filmoplast used to stitch onto a pocket in a magnetic hoop
Water soluble stabilisers

We have already covered two water soluble stabilisers, Tear and Wash and Wash Away Adhesive. A third option is Soluble Fabric, a water soluble stabiliser that is a whopping 153cm wide, which is why it’s known as Extra Wide! It is soft, sheer and stronger than dissolvable films; it has no fibre residue and is fully dissolvable in warm water – simply cut away the excess and wash. It is ideal for when you want to embroider standalone embroidery designs and other projects that require 100% complete backing removal.

Other machine embroidery products

When I’m talking about stabilisers there are two other products I like to mention. Although they aren’t stabilisers, they sort of fit in with them as they are used with machine embroidery.

Solvy is a thin water soluble film – it’s not a stabiliser and is not stable enough to use under the fabric. It’s known as a topper and is put on top of the fabric to prevent the embroidery stitches from sinking into the fabric. This is an absolute must when embroidering onto pile fabrics such as velvet, fleece and towelling. It easily dissolves under cold or warm water when the embroidery is finished.

Solvy used to prevent the stitches from sinking into towelling

Over the Back Fusing is well-named – it is for using over the back of the embroidery. Fuse it over the back of your embroidery design when it is finished and it will give a smooth surface next to the skin as it seals in any loose and scratchy threads.   

A final tip

It can be difficult to identify a stabiliser just by looking at it so make sure to label your stabilisers so you know what they are. And be sure to store your water soluble stabilisers in a seal top bag to prevent them from getting damp and deteriorating – the smallest splash of water can make a piece unusable!

You can browse our whole range of stabilisers on our website, or use the table below to help you decide which stabiliser is most suitable for your project. Happy stitching!

Embroidery stabilisers at a glance

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