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BellaOnline's Sewing Editor


Stabilizers for Embroidery

Guest Author - Tamara Bostwick

Back when I first learned to sew, embroidery machines were not accessible to home sewers, but in the last twenty years, they have come down substantially in price and have become more user friendly. Now machines come with software that allows the user to customize their designs and downloadable patterns are readily available making embroidery machines a popular and frequently seen item in the sewing room.

Even though an embroidery machine does most of the work on its own, it is essential to properly stabilize your fabric so that it does not give way while it is being stitched and become puckered or otherwise distorted. Stabilizers, when used correctly, will give your machine embroidery a more professional and finished look. Fabric stabilizers can be purchased at fabric and sewing machine stores as well as on-line.

There are many types of stabilizers so it can sometimes be difficult to decide which one you need to use for your specific application. By understanding the characteristics of individual stabilizer types, you will be able to better select which one you need. There are several factors to consider: fabric weight and weave, and stitch density of the embroidery design. More densely embroidered designs require the greater support provided by heavier stabilizers.

Fabric stabilizers are first classified by whether they are permanent or temporary. Permanent stabilizers remain in place under the stitching with the excess being removed after stitching. This type of stabilizer is often seen on embroidered sweatshirts and t-shirts and is called "cut-away" stabilizer because it is cut away after stitching. It is available in different weights to match the weight of the fabric and embroidery that it will support. Examples of lightweight cut-away products are Sulky Soft & Sheer Cut-Away or OESD's Poly-Mesh. Sulky Cut-Away Plus is a heavier weight stabilizer, appropriate for dense embroidery on heavier weight fabric. When the project is complete, trim the stabilizer away from the stitches carefully. Appliqué scissors can make this job easier.

Temporary stabilizers are removed after stitching is completed and are classified by the removal method.
  • Tear away stabilizers are available in several weights and are gently torn away from the stitching once it is completed. They are recommended for use on medium to heavyweight fabrics and are typically appropriate for densely stitched designs. Tear away stabilizers should not be used on lighter weight knits or other fabrics that can be distorted by the process of tearing it away. Tear away stabilizers are available in regular, iron-on and self-adhesive varieties. A self-adhesive stabilizer such as Sulky Sticky Self-Adhesive Tear-Away Stabilizer works great on fabrics or textiles that might be marked by the hoop such as leather or velvet. Instead of hooping the fabric itself, hoop the stabilizer and then stick the fabric to the stabilizer. Iron-on stabilizers help keep fabric from moving and stretching while stitching and are good to use on knits.

Click to learn more about embroidery stabilizer types.

Ready to start doing machine embroidery?
This Brother SE400 Computerized Embroidery and Sewing Machine
is available for a great price right now from Amazon and
if you buy before December 31, 2010, you can also
receive a $30 rebate from Brother (link opens a .pdf)!

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Content copyright © 2015 by Tamara Bostwick. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Tamara Bostwick. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.


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