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Embroidery Machine Stabilizer Guide

Most beginners when they first start their embroidery journey, tend to use only one type of stabilizer because they don’t have any prior knowledge regarding the other types of stabilizers. This was also the case with me when I first started to embroider. I only used one type of stabilizer called Cut Away stabilizer. Luckily, most of my designs came out well but sometimes my designs were totally out of proportion. So, I started to wonder what went wrong and soon I learned about other types of stabilizers.

embroidery machine stabilizer guide

However, I had tremendous difficulty in choosing the right type of stabilizer. I researched for many days to enlighten my mind about stabilizers. If you are like me who is facing difficulty in gaining more knowledge regarding stabilizers and you are confused about choosing the right type of stabilizer then don’t worry because I have gathered all the knowledge about stabilizers in this post. In this guide, you will be enlightened about everything related to stabilizers.

What Is Embroidery Stabilizer And Why It Is Important

A stabilizer which is also called backing is a paper-like thing that is considered essential for embroidering your project in an embroidery machine. It is used for stabilizing the fabric or the garment while you stitch the design. It holds the fabric tight in one place so that puckering or stretching does not occur.  

Things That Need To Be Considered Before Choosing Embroidery Stabilizer 

There is a checklist that you need to tick before choosing a stabilizer. These can also be called the factors that influence your stabilizer selection.

Types of Fabric

There are many kinds of fabrics; some are stretchy while others are tight or woven and each type uses a different kind of stabilizer. For example, if you are working on a stretchy garment, keep in mind that they tend to slip and are not very strong; therefore, you need a type of stabilizer that could keep this type of fabric intact in one place. So, I recommend choosing Cut-Away stabilizers because they are more stable than others. Plus, they are more havier providing better stability. 

On the other hand, if you are working on tight woven fabrics which don’t slip or stretch a lot, it is better to use tear-away stabilizers because they work perfectly well on these types of fabrics

Consider the density of embroidery design

density of embroidery design

 It is also important to know more about your stitch density. If you are going to use a high number of stitches then probably your design would be densely designed. Therefore, you will have to use a heavier stabilizer, meaning that you’ll have to use cut-away stabilizers because they are perfect for these types.

Don’t forget about the back of the fabric

Some people don’t like the remains of the stabilizer on the design after they are done with embroidering while others tend to like it. However, if you don’t like the stabilizer sticking to your fabric after the project is done then it is better to go for a tear-away stabilizer, heat-soluble stabilizer, or a washable stabilizer. 

Look out for the Washability factor

If you tend to wash the fabric frequently, better to use a heavier backing like a cut-away stabilizer because it won’t come off your design any time soon.

What is Topping and do you need it?

Topping is something that is set over the design to not let the stitching of your design “sink” into your garment. It is mostly associated with garments that can absorb stitches and they generally come in tear-away types. So, it can’t be used for every type of fabric. However, stabilizer backing will always be used for every type of fabric, and on the other hand, topping is used occasionally.

Look out for Stabilizer Weight

All the stabilizers have varying weights. They are categorized into lightweight, mediumweight, or heavyweight.  If you are a newbie, it is better to go for a medium-weight stabilizer as it is risk-free.

However, if you have prior knowledge of embroidering, use a lightweight stabilizer for a lighter-weight fabric. On the other hand, if your fabric has an average weight and doesn’t have a dense design then go for a medium weight stabilizer. You can also go for many layers of stabilizers or heavy stabilizer if the design is heavy.

When should you use Stabilizer?

You have to use a stabilizer every time you embroider your project because it is the foundation of your project. Remember that you can never back away from using the stabilizer if you are embroidering.

Keep an eye on the colors of stabilizers

Stabilizers are mostly available in black and white color. The color you use will depend on the design and fabric. Some use white while others use black if they are sewing darker garments. Therefore, it is totally up to you to decide which color you want to use.

Different Types of Embroidery Stabilizers

After you have ticked the list, the time has come for you to use an embroidery stabilizer. Some say there are 4 types of stabilizers and others believe there are 3 types of stabilizers. But according to my research, there are only 3 major types. 

  • Cut Away
  • Tear Away
  • Water-Soluble or Wash Away Stabilizer

All these vary in weight and usability. They are generally unitized as ounces per square yd. Their usability depends on the type of fabric as some fabrics need a heavy stabilizer and others require a mere lightweight backing. However, the heavier the stabilizer is, the better it is because a heavy stabilizer has more stability. 

However, there are also other special products available that can be used in embroidery projects in place of these stabilizers. They can be called fabric preps as they also keep the fabric fixed and strong and do not allow your garment to unravel, distort, or pucker, for example, there is a special type of foam that can be used instead of stabilizers. However, they are not good as stabilizers. Therefore, it is better to use a stabilizer instead of choosing other materials.

1. Cut Away Stabilizers 

This type of stabilizer stays on the fabric for long periods of time; they don’t tend to slip or tear away from the fabric. Plus, they provide high stability to your fabric while you embroider. Moreover, they are constructed from dense fiber, meaning that they are strong and last longer as they have more power to sustain tense conditions. 

When you are done with your project, you can cut its excess through the scissors. Keep in mind that you don’t have to cut or rip off the whole stabilizer. If you cut the stabilizer from the design area, the whole project will be ruined. 

If you are a beginner then it is better to use a cutaway stabilizer as they can be easily used. Plus, they are more safe and secure, forgiving most of your mistakes. Even if your fabric is unstable, you can use this type. It comes in different shapes and weights. You just have to find a match for your type of design and fabric.

They work perfectly well for stretchy knits as they don’t let designs get stretched on your fabric. They are great for Sweatshirts, Minky, and other dense fabrics that are densely designed because they keep the design in original shape for many seasons.

They are also good for polyester material because they can keep the design intact even after washing and wearing.

2. Tear Away Stabilizer

As the name suggests these can be torn off from the fabric easily and cleanly without any hassle. This stabilizer tears away equally in every direction. In order to remove it, you just have to hold the embroidery design and tear it away from the stitches and not towards the design. 

It is the cheapest among all the stabilizers and it is constructed out from short fibers and therefore not as strong as a cut-away stabilizer.

This is mostly used with stable and non-stretchy fabrics like napkins, collars, and cuffs. This can also be used for cotton, linen, and canvas fabrics as well. You also have to keep in mind that this stabilizer doesn’t have a lot of stability and therefore your fabric must be strong to hold the stitches. Tear-away stabilizers are further divided into fusible, non-fusible, and adhesive-backed forms.

3. Water-Soluble or Wash Away Stabilizer

These are not permanent stabilizers as they come off after they are dissolved in water. They are also called water-soluble stabilizers. They are used when you don’t require any trace of stabilizer on your fabric. They are mostly considered for special and delicate mesh-like fabrics. With these fabrics, you won’t be able to embroider dense designs or use a lot of stitches on your fabric.

When they are exposed to the outside environment they tend to get dry because of air. If you keep them outside for a while they will start to dissolve because of humid conditions. You can only use them on garments that aren’t damaged or affected by water. However, it isn’t good for complex designs. 

They have paper-like material as they should be hooped fully under the fabric. You can use these stabilizers for freestanding lance and also for fine and thin fabric like lawn, organza, and tulle. You also use them instead of a tear-away stabilizer in case your fabric has lots of small areas to be stitched.

Related Article: How to Tea stain fabric?


That is it from me! I hope that you have learned something from this post. And I also hope that after going through my guide, you were able to find the right type of stabilizer for your cause. You can apply the knowledge in this post for your next embroidery project and get desired results.

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