Stabilizers – Which one to use for your machine embroidery

Whether you are a beginner to machine embroidery or you’ve been embroidering for some time, there are still times when you don’t know which is the best stabilizer  to use. There are many kinds of stabilizers out there made by so many different manufactures. You can get them at your local fabric, sewing, retail stores or off the internet. Which do we buy, sheets or rolls or by the yard. I don’t push people to buy certain brands because everyone has their preferences. I have preferences and all my embroidery friends have theirs. I can say we are all different in our choices.

One of my first projects I did, I was embroidering on a t-shirt. It was a Fruit of the Loom product purchased at the local flea market. I thought I would make some real cute animal designs on the upper left side. I washed my garment to allow for shrinkage. I took out my iron-on tear-away and put it on my garment, allowing the stabilizer to hold the stretchy fabric from shifting. Next I placed a light weight cut-away using a spray adhesive. Did my design. It turned out really nice, the little koala bear. When it was time to wash my little koala bear t-shirt I was wanting to wear it again and again. Much to my disappointment, I really never wore it again. I don’t know what happened, but either the t-shirt didn’t do all its shrinking or I did not use a heavy enough cut away stabilizer. We all learn our lessons and we always hope that it’s not on an item we are making for someone that they requested for a possible sale.

No matter what type of project I am working on, I always use the iron-on tear-away even if the fabric is not a knit or stretchy fabric. I just like the fact that the iron-on keeps the item more stable, especially when you are hooping. I don’t necessarily hoop the stabilizer like it is suggested. On my stretchy items a cut-away is used. Depending on the weight of the garment determines whether a light or heavy weight stabilizer is needed. When I’ve done denim shirts, I’ve only used iron-on tear-away. A transparent fabric or even polo shirt you use a light weight.  Jackets, coats a heavier stabilizer. It is recommended that if your design has a high stitch count, you should also use a stabilizer (maybe that is why my aprons I had problems with).  I seldomly use a spray adhesive because I don’t like the idea of gunking up machine. What I do is place a large piece (bigger than the design) of stabilizer over the iron-on, then scotch tape to hold it in place. 

When doing terry towels or a garment that has a form of pile or thick nap, a water soluble is placed on top. The water soluble keeps the thread from sinking into the nap or pile. Depending on the project or design determines if a stabilizer is needed underneath. For a towel, water soluble is fine, but if it is a fleece shirt, I would put lightweight stabilizer underneath so that the design keeps its shape. If I were to embroider a terry robe, I would use a cut-away. Some water soluble stabilizers you need to keep air tight so that they don’t harden. I use two different types of water soluble products, one is a mesh type that is soft and the other is a plastic type. I keep my plastic type wrapped in a heavy plastic bag. I’ve seen some of the plastic type water soluble products at local fabric and retail stores and where they don’t wrap it, it becomes hard and for the amount of money you pay for it you want it flexible. The mesh type is nice, but you want to make sure that you keep water away from it cause it totally dissolves if you accidently spill on it!

Have you ever stitched a design on a dark garment and on some of the lighter or pale threads, you can see the color of the garment bleeding through. This is where you might consider putting the tear-away on top of the garment. This gives your item a more clean look. You have to make sure that when you remove the stabilizer you get all the tear-away. Sweatshirts that I’ve done, where I put the iron-on on front, because of the thread count, I used a cut-away stabilizer underneath.  

When I first started out embroidering, there weren’t as many stabilizers out as there is today. I don’t recall mesh nor heat-away stabilizers. I know that when the first iron mesh stabilizer came out, I bought some on sale for 10 bucks a roll. I knew that one application I would use the mesh for was for baby clothing that I would iron the mesh over the stitches so that the babies skin would not be irritated from the thread. Of course babies aren’t the only one sensitive to the sratchy threads, people are too. My boss knew about my embroidery and asked if there was a product that could be put over some stitching from shirts he had gotten. He was very pleased with the outcome. The other application I used the mesh for was for huck towels that I did toile work on. I didn’t know what other stabilizer to use. Didn’t like the idea of using a tear-away because I was afraid I would rip the design or towel. As long as I only used a size of mesh the size of the design I had no problem.

I’m still hesitant to the heat-away, because I am afraid it would gunk up my iron. But the concept is great. Just passing the iron across the stabilizer and it melts away. I’ll have to take the plunge and try it. It’ll be great for toile and red work. I know you can even use it as a water soluble too.

Then you have the adhesive stabilizers for those hard to hoop items. I liked the product and used them when I did baby socks. It was a pain, but it worked. But then again the dreadful thought, stickiness gunking up my machine. I don’t know, I just have issues about glues. How many other stabilizers are out there, I don’t know, but I really like learning about them and knowing more on each type and what different applications you can use them for. The more information you have, the better off you are.

I want to indicate that my sewing club had a representative from Floriana give a show of all their products one year. Was I impressed. No. The representative didn’t do a good job in selling the products. Where I ama potential purchaser, I am interested in all aspects of this hobby. I want to be able to ask a question and get an answer that I fully understand. When you don’t understand a reply and keep questioning and they snip back at you, that doesn’t help sell your product. When a crafter, like myself, has all these ideas or possibilities of how to use their product and you are completely ignored because you are too interested and want information and they continue to ignore you, you don’t need their product. The other killer of the show, when a representative brings in examples of stitch-outs using their products, you should update your samples instead of bringing in items that are outdated or on crummy garments. You are selling a product, you want quality merchandise. So did I leave with any products. No.

The best thing that I’ve seen is how organized you can be with your stabilizer. How many of us have sheets or rolls of stabilizer scattered throughout our rooms. Not knowing which stabilizer is for what or where did we place it last. Sewforless announced last year Stabilize It!  You purchase a box of pre-cut stabilizer, there are 16 items to choose from. Each box has an opening like a box of tissue in which you can see how many sheets you have. You grab a sheet of stabilizer easily from the box. The box has the information of which type of stabilizer it is and they are color coded. There are quick tips right on the box with instructions and uses for each stabilizer. Best thing is that they are stackable to keep your room organized. Oh and BTW, their on sale.

So no matter what type of stabilizer you use, you will learn to know what stabilizer to use on your projects.

See more information on stabilizers at Threads.

One response to “Stabilizers – Which one to use for your machine embroidery

  1. Wow, this article is good, my sister is analyzing these
    kinds of things, therefore I am going to convey her.

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