When tackling a new machine embroidery project it is always important to have the right equipment and material on hand. For those of you who have done a little bit of research online, you will have seen a lot of advice leaning towards using test samples to zone in on the right stabilizer for your project.
However, the overwhelming number of stabilizers on the market, may make this an impractical starting point for those unwilling to kick their families out to make room for machine embroidery supplies. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use test samples of material and stabilizer once you have a better idea of which kind to use. Using test samples is also a great way to find out if stabilizers work well together as sometimes using a single heavy duty product is less effective than using two lighter products.
Instructions on How to Use Double Side Tape
And Pin Your Stabilizer to Your Hoop
Before hooping stabilizer in your hoop, we recommend that you line the outside of your inner hoop with a double sided tape. The brand that we used is called X-PressIt and is about 6mm wide. You can get it in all different widths but this was the width that suited our hoop the best. This tape will stop the stabilizer from moving and puckering when your machine is embroidering.
Hoop up two layers of stabilizer in the hoop size you wish to use. This extra layer of stabilizer adds extra support. We also recommend pinning the stabilizer right around the perimeter of the hoop. Please take notice of how we have done this in the photos below. We are basically trying to keep the stabilizer as still as possible while the machine is embroidering.
Different Kinds of Stabilizer
There are essentially four kinds of stabilizer that that can be used for in-the-hoop and hooped machine embroidery designs. These are cut-away, tear-away, heat-away and wash-away. These are all best suited to certain kinds of designs or materials, and will usually have usage advice on the packet.
Cut-away stabilizers are only partially removed once a machine embroidery design is complete. The excess stabilizer is as the name suggests, cut away, leaving a section over the design to aid in holding it together. This is a great stabilizer when the material being used is particularly loosely stitched or hand-knitted. It may also be a good idea to use this type of stabilizer for designs that may be subject to daily wear and tear like clothes or bibs. The big drawback for cut-away on some designs however is that the stabilizer may be visible and therefore not ideal for every situation. Another variety of cut-away stabilizer available is a soft mesh stabilizer. They are great where the stabilizer will remain but you want a soft finish. An example of this would be a quilt in the hoop design.
For machine embroidery designs where it is undesirable or impractical to have any residual stabilizer on the finished item, a tear-away will be preferable over cut-away. Once a design is finished, these are carefully torn from around the stitches. It is very important to test this style of stabilizer before use, as certain brands and heavier duty products don’t tear as easily as others or tear while in the hoop. The last thing you want to do is create a beautiful design only to have stitches come loose when removing the stabilizer. It may also be a good rule of thumb to use multiple lighter gauge sheets than one heavier gauge as they will be easier to tear and can be removed individually. We use tear- away stabilizer in most of our zipper purse in the hoop designs as the stabilizer needs to be removed from the zipper opening.
Finally we have wash-away stabilizers, which can be used effectively for a wide range of machine embroidery designs and are perfect for delicate and mesh fabrics. There are a number of wash-away stabilizers that come in the form of a spray that can be applied to a material and hardens like a resin. These can be great for uneven materials that would leave gaps with a sheet style stabilizer. They can also be some of the most versatile stabilizers on the market. The big drawback for wash-away with certain projects is of course their method of removal makes them completely impractical for any design that will need continued support post-wash. We use this type of stabilizer for all our ornament type in the hoop designs. It is preferable to use over tear-away in this situation as tear-away can leave a fine edge of stabilizer remaining which may be seen on the completed project.
Try it Out
I hope this has shed some light on the different kinds of stabilizers available. Remember to always read the usage advice on the packet and try test samples before beginning any machine embroidery design project.
If you are looking to purchase stabilizer, or any of the items mentioned in this article, take a look at our Essentials collection.