When at all possible, hoop your fabric. It is the most secure method for embroidery. A few exceptions are Velvet, Corduroy, Satin Faced Silk, Velour and very thick terrycloth. There are other fabrics that benefit from not being hooped as well, mostly expensive silks and fine linens. Many natural fibers crush or mark easily so it is always smart to test a little corner of your finer fabrics before you hoop your project. Some people have success in preventing hoop burn by wrapping their inner hoops with soft fabric. (I use this method as a last resort.)
Fabrics that have loops (such as terry cloth); have a cut pile (such as corduroy and velvet) or have a very loose weave may be damaged by sticking to a stabilizer if that stabilizer will be pulled away after stitching. These fabrics are usually either hard to hoop or tend to mark with hooping, so they really need to be stuck. I like to use Vilene stabilizer and temporary spray adhesive for these projects. Vilene stays well in the hoop and is sturdy enough to support most fabrics. Because it dissolves with water, you do not have to worry about disturbing the pile of the fabric by pulling it away.
Sometimes however, I find myself using a fabric that shouldn’t be hooped or washed, and would be damaged by ripping away a sticky stabilizer. In these cases I use a regular piece of lightweight woven interfacing for my stabilizer and just trim away as much of the interfacing as I can after stitching. Usually these projects end up with a lining, and as interfacing is soft and pliable, you cannot tell that it remains.
Knits are one of the fabrics that benefit from using woven interfacing as a stabilizer. The most commonly used stabilizer for knits is the non-woven cut-away. However, as a knit is already thick and spongy this just adds to the depth, which can cause design distortion. If you have ever embroidered a design on a sweatshirt using a cut-away stabilizer and ended up with a not-so-happy result, the stabilizer was most likely the problem. I like to use iron-on woven interfacing for all my knit projects. Apply it to the back of the fabric, ironing just enough to hold the layers together, and then add another layer of iron-on tear-away stabilizer over that. (The iron-on woven interfacing needs to be slightly bigger than the area of the embroidery design, and the iron-on tear-away needs to be slightly bigger than the hoop.) After stitching and removing the tear-away, gently pull up the interfacing and trim the excess from around the design. Some people like to use iron-on knit interfacing, which stretches in both directions. They usually use two or three layers placed at different angles. I find that woven interfacing works best and only one layer is needed. Remember, when embroidering on knits, the thinner the better!
There are several stabilizers that can be removed with heat. These stabilizers also work well for projects that cannot be washed, you just need to be sure the fabric can withstand the heat necessary to remove the stabilizer later.
Peel and stick stabilizer is popular, but use with extreme caution, as the sticky is very sticky! Any stabilizer can be made into a “stick to” stabilizer by spraying one side of it with temporary spray adhesive.
Fabrics that cannot be hooped also benefit from being basted in place on top of the stabilizer as an extra precaution. Most embroidery machines have a function that will sew a basting stitch outline around the perimeter of the design area. If your machine does not have this function, you can carefully baste the layers together by hand while they are in the hoop.
Follow these steps to avoid puckers:
Iron on or “sticky” stabilizer
Hoop the fabric and attach the hoop.
Insert a layer of cut-away stabilizer under the hoop if necessary
When embroidering on sweat-shirting or any other fabric which is puffy on the right side there’s the danger of losing your work. In other words it can sink into the pile of the fabric. One solution is to use a piece of wash-away solvy, dry cover up or melt-aways on top and remove it when you have finished.