Using Embroidery Toppers – Part 1

Embroidery toppers might not look like much, but they can make a tremendous difference in how your designs stitch out.

Toppers help to support embroidery stitches, keeping them from getting lost in the nap or texture of the fabric. Even a basic t-shirt stitches out better when adding a topper before embroidery.

Types of Embroidery Toppers

L-R: Wash-away, heat-away, textured heat-away

There are two basic types of toppers used in machine embroidery. One is water-soluble and the other needs heat to remove it. Both types look very similar, like a clear food wrap. Some heat-away or melt-away stabilizers have a textured side that helps to grip the fabric it is covering.

Water-soluble toppers dissolve away when exposed to water. Just trim the excess close to stitching and soak or rinse the rest away.

When heat-away stabilizers are exposed to a hot iron, they disappear or disintegrate into tiny flecks that can be brushed away.

Before embroidery, toppers should be basted in place or secured with a temporary adhesive. Both types can be torn away from stitching without using heat or water and work particularly well with applique designs.

Which Kind of Topper Should You Use?

The kind of topper you use depends on several criteria:

Can you wash the item you are embroidering? 
If not, a heat-away may be best. Fabrics like velvet, felt, or those that need dry-cleaned won’t turn out the best with a wash-away topper.

Will the fabric be damaged by using a hot iron?
If so, use a wash-away.

Can the embroidery thread used withstand heat?
Nylon and polyester will not hold up well to a hot iron.

Does the fabric have a textured nap?
Heat-away film works best on smooth fabrics. Towels will benefit from using wash-away toppers which will be completely removed from the fibers.

Are you stitching an applique using a fuzzy fabric?
Either type of topper should work. The film holds down the fibers so that the satin stitching has a smooth surface to cover. You can easily tear away the remaining topper from the edges.

Stay tuned for part two, I’ll show you some examples using both types of toppers!