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Stabilizers for Machine Embroidery

A backing should always be used to prevent puckering and slipping. The fabric must be stabilized so that a well-formed stitch can be created. The fabric that you're working on is the foundation of your design and the less stable it is, the more need for stabilizer. The more stitches your design has, the more backing you will need too.


Choose a Multi-Directional or Non-Directional Stabilizer.

A good stabilizer allows you to achieve proper fabric tension in the hoop.  The goal is to have a taut embroidery surface, like a tambourine skin. In other words, you need the tension to be spread evenly in all directions, called a multi-directional, or non-directional, tension. 

If the fabric is too loose in the hoop, 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.  So, it makes sense that you would need a non-directional stabilizer, one that has no "give" or stretch in any direction. A non-directional stabilizer is the only type that can help you truly achieve this "skin" type tension in the hoop.

When buying your tearaway hold it up to the light.  Do the fibers run in all directions or predominately in one.  There are a variety of brands on the market and some tear only in one direction and are not as easy to remove. 

Dont Over Stabilize.
Correct stabilization is the foundation of good embroidery. Yet, we shouldn't over-stabilize. Using too much stabilizer creates bulk and sacrifices the drape of your fabric. It is also more expensive. Try not to get in the habit of solving problems with poor registration resulting from poor digitizing by using extra layers of stabilizer.  Instead choose a qood quality stabilizer, that is multi-directional to get the best results.  Best results will come from a single layer application of the correct high quality stabilizer.  If you find you need to use two layers of a stabilizer for a dense design, use a heavier stabilizer instead.  We supply a range of high quality backings - you can find out more about them by clicking here.


Cut Away stabilizers  - Cut away stabilizers are used a lot in the embroidery industry.  They are available in a variety of weights:

  • Heavy woven is used for medium to heavy weight knits
  • Soft touch is recommended for baby wear and if  the design has a low stitch count it can be used with knits
  • Medium weight is for medium knits or two layers for heavier knits or stitch counts
  • Light weight is for lighter knits

Polymesh cut away is available in three perforated sizes and is used on light colors to prevent shadows from showing through on the front where the stabilizer has been cut away.


Types of Stabilizers
There are a variety of types available. Some are papery and are torn away from the design when you're finished. Some dissolve in cold water. There are clear plastic-like stabilizers which dissolve completely in water. Professional embroiderers mostly use tear away stabilizers for woven fabrics and cut-away stabilizers for knits. One of the stabilizers we supply is called Hydro-stick - it is great for embroiderying in tricky areas that you cannot hoop easily.

These are general guidelines only.  There are many variables in embroidery and every shop or every person does things differently.  Machine tensions (top and bobbin thread), type of thread, needle, machine speeds, stitch density, hooping tension, the weather, with proper digitizing being the most important variable.  Each material has variance as some knits stretch more than others, as do nylons, fleeces etc. Also the weight if the fabric also comes into play.

Cutaway vs Tearaway
You will usually get better definition with a cutaway than a tearaway.  Cutaways are usually more dense with a slightly longer fiber - therefore able to grasp the thread easier.  The type of fabric determines the kind of backing. The standard rule is if the fabric stretches, use cut-away. If it doesn't you can use tear-away. We stock an excellent Cutaway and Tearaway stabilizer.

Sometimes if your stitch count isn't too heavy you may be able to get by with a quality tear-away on knits. We like to use the soft Polymesh Plus backing on t-shirt embroidery.

ake sure your cloth does not stretch, horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Try and cut your cloth parallel to the selvedge, because all cloth stretches to some degree.

When using sweatshirting or any other fabric with a puffiness on the right side there is a danger of losing your design. In other words it can sink into the pile of the fabric. The solution is to use a piece of washaway on top and remove it after the stitching is finished.  We supply a backing called Dissolvable which does this perfectly.

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