Why do I need stabilizer when sewing? Basically, stabilizer holds your fabric in place while your machines stitch out your design, helping to prevent pulling and puckering. Stabilizer also helps hold your stitches in place and allows your machine to run smoothly while creating your design.
It’s very important to use stabilizer intended for sewing or embroidery. Internet searches may lead you to believe that using other household materials like paper towels or coffee filters will do the job, but don’t believe it. Using anything other than stabilizer specifically designed for sewing or embroidery will cause excess lint to build up in your machine and can break apart during the stitching process, ruining your project or even damaging your machine.
There are several different kinds of stabilizers on the market. To get the best result when embroidering, using the most suitable stabilizer is key! It is also important to use stabilizer when sewing decorative stitches. As with most things, decorative sewing and machine embroidery takes trial and error with lots of practice and patience! You’ll eventually find your preference, but we recommend stocking up on a variety of stabilizer types and pulling some old clothes of varying material out of your closet to practice on.
Below is a short explanation of the most common stabilizer types.
- Tear-Away stabilizer tends to be one of the cheapest options. It is formed from low-density short fibers and comes in a variety of weights, most commonly light or medium weight. High-quality tearaway stabilizer will tear equally in all directions. Shop small business sewing, quilting and embroidery shops for high quality options.
- Once you’ve stitched over this stabilizer, it tears off from the back of the fabric. When removing tear-away stabilizer, hold the design with one hand and tear with the other hand so you don’t pull the fabric and risk removing any stitches or stretching the fabric.
- Tear-away stabilizer is best for stable, woven (non-stretchy) fabrics such as cotton, linen, canvas, poplin, or broadcloth. This type of stabilizer does not provide much support, which is why the fabric needs to be strong to support the stitches. Note: Detailed or dense designs with a high stitch count might be better suited to cut-away instead of tear-away regardless of fabric type.
Iron-on Tear-Away Stabilizer
- Iron-on Tear-Away is a spin-off of regular tear-away, but includes the adherence benefit that can keep the fabric and stabilizer on-grain during hooping without stretching or distorting the fabric. It also helps prevent any shifting that may occur during stitching, especially when stitching a large area.
- This is a stable stabilizer that has a slick side which will iron on to fabric. It is recommended for knits and all unstable fabrics that can tolerate the heat from an iron. Fuse it to the opposite side of the fabric before decorative stitching and/or hooping.
- Similar to regular tear-away, once you’ve stitched over this stabilizer it tears off from the back of the fabric. When removing the stabilizer, hold the design with one hand and peel/tear with the other hand so you don’t pull the fabric and risk removing any stitches or stretching the fabric. Iron-on Tear-away is a little more difficult to remove due to the adhesive characteristics.
- Cut-Away stabilizer is formed from longer, denser fibers and is stronger and more stable than tear-away options. Cut-away stabilizer does not tear so the excess has to be cut away as stated implied in the name.
- Once you’ve stitched over this stabilizer, cut excess stabilizer off. Leave a small amount of cut-away around the design and trim closely enough so there is not a visible impression of the stabilizer on the front of the design. Be careful not to trim too close so the design is maintained overtime or even worse, you could accidentally cut stitches or fabric.
- Cut-Away stabilizer does not stretch in any direction and is best for unstable or stretchy fabrics such as knits, fleece, minky and such. It is also a good option when the back of the design will be covered with batting or another fabric as it will last a long time through repeat use or machine wash cycles.
- Cut-Away works great with dense designs and comes in a large range of weights.
Water Soluble Stabilizer
- This stabilizer is a paper-like or heavy film-like stabilizer. After completing your design, just place your work in water to dissolve the excess stabilizer. Just make certain your fabric won't be damaged by placing it in water.
- Water soluble stabilizer is placed on top of the fabric when embellishing/embroidering napped and looped fabrics such as terry cloth.
- When embroidering cutwork, use it underneath the fabric. It’s great for sheer or fine fabrics such as lawn, organza, and batiste as well as for embroidering free-standing lace.
- It is available in different thicknesses and works great on fabrics that could be potentially damaged by the act of tearing. It’s also a great substitute for tear-away stabilizer if your design has lots of small areas where you’ll spend a long time picking off each individual stabilizer piece.
- Disintegrating stabilizer is a stable, loosely woven fabric that is used for techniques such as cutwork and to crochet off the fabric edge.
- The stabilizer disappears with heat. You use an iron to crumble the topping after stitching. Always test your heat settings 1st!
- It’s essentially a substitute for wash-away topping on fabrics that can’t be washed like velvet, velour or satin.
- Heat-away stabilizers or melt away stabilizers are also great for towels or terry cloth since it remains underneath the embroidery after use and washing.
- If you’re in a hurry with limited time to wash your fabric, this is another good reason to reach for heat/melt away.
- Sticky stabilizer is used to hoop embroidery when the fabric is to delicate.
- Hoop the sticky stabilizer with the paper side up. Remove the paper and stick the fabric onto the sticky surface. Tear away sticky stabilizer after stitching.
- It’s good for adhering lightweight stretchy fabrics that may move in the hoop as well as socks, cloth napkins, and embroidering on baseball caps. It’s also great for hard-to-hoop items or items too small to hoop that you’ll have to float (i.e. collars and necklines).
- There are not as many weight options with this type of stabilizer, so you may need to use an extra layer of stabilizer underneath your hoop for dense designs.
- Ion some fabrics, this stabilizer can be difficult to remove. Always test 1st!
- These combo type stabilizers are great for quilting with an embroider machine as well as lining purses or other small in-the-hoop projects.
- They help provide structural integrity while saving time and are fun to sew with!