At times it is difficult to choose which type of stabilizer may be best suited to the fabric to be used since there are several different types, weights and brands available.
Stabilizers used when sewing decorative stitches or embroidery prevents puckering of the fabric and ensures smooth stitching. Tear-away, cut-a-way, iron-on tear-away and stick-on stabilizers are used on the underneath of fabric; water soluble stabilizer is often used on top of napped, heavily textured and knits to keep stitches from sinking into and disappearing into the fabric as well as underneath. Stabilizers are most often removed after stitching.
Tear Away - as the name implies, this type of stabilizer is (gently) torn away from the stitches on the back of the fabric. The small amount left behind does not affect the wear or look of the garment. There are light and medium weight varieties.
Iron on Tear Away – this stabilizer is ironed on, fused to the wrong or back side of the fashion fabric. This stabilizes the fabric to keep it from stretching while stitching. Not used for close stitching on knits as the needle will perforate the stabilizer many times in a small area and it will pull away and not be useful.
Cut Away – does not tear and comes in many different weights for use for soft fabrics like knits and unstable fabrics. Embroidery on ready-to-wear soft knits like T-shirts is often stabilized with cut away types. The excess stabilizer is merely cut away from the fabric back. What remains can withstand repeated washing and wearing.
Water Soluble – has the appearance of see-through plastic sheeting but quickly dissolves in water, often by just misting with water. Used on top of napped and looped fabrics such as terry cloth to keep the loops from snagging any embroidery or underneath when all stabilizer residue must be removed after stitching as in cut-work embroidery. Water soluble stabilizer is also used to transfer designs for embroidering, appliqué or other decorative embellishments.
Disintegrating – different than water soluble it is a stable very loosely woven fabric used in cut-work and for crochet-off-the fabric-edge. It is placed under stitching and removed by pressing with a dry iron, then brushed away with a soft brush.
Sticky – is a paper-backed sticky paper used for hoop embroidery when a fabric cannot be secured in the hoop's edges or when velvet or other napped fabrics would show crush marks from the hoop's edges.
There are always new stabilizers for sewers to consider. It is important to try several different kinds to see which one will work best for the fabric type and which application is best suited to the sewing project.
Sew happy, sew well.