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What is the Purpose of Embroidery Stabilizer?
Just as the name suggests, embroidery stabilizer is used to “stabilize” your embroidery projects. If you were to not use any stabilizer, or not the appropriate stabilizer, your stitches would clump together and not be secure, there would also be alignment issues. The proper stabilizer truly determines the quality of your embroidery projects.
Which Embroidery Stabilizer Do I Use?
There are several different types of stabilizers. The first rule of thumb is the heavier the stitch count, the heavier the stabilizer. Within the different types of stabilizers, there are also different weights: lightweight, medium, and heavy.
The most popular stabilizers include: cutaway, tearaway, wash-away, and heat-away. Each stabilizer has its own speciality as well.
Cut-away stabilizers are essential when you are working with stretchy materials like t-shirts. The purpose of this is to keep the stitches in their correct place as the t-shirt stretches. If you didn’t have the stabilizer, eventually the stitches would stretch and pop and become distorted.
Tear-aways are used for projects when it is not ideal to leave the stabilizer attached. Examples of those projects include towels or banners. It is considered a temporary stabilizer. Cutaway is meant to be permanent.
Wash-away stabilizers are often used on free-standing lace. Free-standing lace is a beautiful art where you don’t want or need any stabilizer left behind. By using a little warm water, the stabilizer will disintegrate leaving only the intricate lace-work. A little trick, do not wash all the stabilizer out and your project will be a little more firm. This is recommended for projects where you want them to stand up like lace buildings or angels.
Finally, heat-away stabilizer is a good idea when dealing with delicate materials when you don’t want the material damaged by water.
What Color Stabilizer is Available?
Stabilizer usually comes in white, black, or a fleshy nude color. White stabilizer is most common. Black can usually be found in cutaway or tearaway. Fleshy nude is usually available as a cutaway stabilizer so that if you use it on a light t-shirt, the stabilizer does not show through as much when it is being worn. Some water soluble and heat away stabilizers will use more of a clear plastic like film.
Are There Other Tools I May Need for Embroidery?
Absolutely! A topper is beneficial when embroidering on thick materials like towels and blankets or knits. This topper will prevent the stitches from falling into the stitches of the material you are embroidering on. It provides a cleaner and more professional looking embroidered project. This topping comes in two forms: tear away and wash away.
Mylar is a unique topper that can provide fun colors and even a glittery look. It is a great alternative to metallic threads which are notorious for being difficult to embroider with.
There is also a backing sometimes called “soft stitch.” Each stabilizer manufacturer has their own name for it, but essentially it is ironed to the back of a project after it is completed. Its primary use is to protect sensitive skin from the embroidered stitches especially for infants.
A sticky stabilizer is beneficial when doing an applique or using multiple layers. It will keep the smaller fabrics from shifting and it “stabilizes” the fabric from puckering or appearing limp. Sometimes 505 Adhesive Spray proves to be a comparable alternative.
Can One Stabilizer Do It All?
No, not really. There is such a wide variety of stabilizers and each so unique in its characteristics. For the best results, you want to use the specific stabilizer for your project. However, one of my favorite stabilizers is the no-show cutaway. No-show was created uniquely so that it is able to support heavy designs and still be flexible. A medium to heavy cutaway is also a great beginner stabilizer for a wide variety of projects as it leaves little room for error.
Which Stabilizers Are Recommended?
At Myers Sewing, we encourage using Kimberbell or Baby Lock Genuine stabilizers. We recommend these products because we find they work well and they’re cost efficient to our consumers. And not going to lie, we love the Kimberbell Stabilizer Slap Bands to identify the stabilizer after the wrapping has been tossed! It’s also great for keeping the stabilizer from unrolling. However, if you’re not ready for the slap bands, just keep the instructions and roll them then stick them inside the tube of your stabilizer. Over time though you will notice you can start to identify stabilizers based on texture, weight, color, and the way it is able to be removed. We also offer starter kits like the Stabilizer Trial Pack to help you learn the different stabilizers and when they are best used.
What Are Other Stabilizer Brands?
Most craft stores will sell a stabilizer or interfacing and one of the most common is probably Pellon which is often sold off a bolt or plastic packaging. However, most embroidery virtual stores will sell stabilizers and some include OESD, Eversewn, Exquisite, Floriani, Hemingworth, and Sulky. You are the artist here and you get to decide the tools you want for your projects, but keep in mind, the quality of your project can be only as good as the quality of your tools. Embroidery stabilizer is one of the most defining tools for embroidery so you want to make sure you are using the right stabilizer or stabilizers for your project.
Can I Use Alternatives to Stabilizer?
Some resources may suggest using coffee filters, wax paper, or even plastic bags for stabilizers… Please do not use any of these! While the texture of these products may be similar to stabilizers, there are still some differences and they are simply not made to be used on your machine. Embroidery stabilizer is often made from a type of fabric meant to be used on your sewing or embroidery machine. Your machine is not meant to sew paper or plastic. And remember, the quality of your project can be only as good as the quality of your tools.
Good info!!! Good job, Nick