Stabilizers – starting a conversation

All sorts of stabilizers – photo from pinterest

Let’s talk a little bit about stabilizers and what their job is when it comes to machine embroidery. There is NO WAY that one blog post can cover everything about stabilizers – I actually started out being very general in my post and then thought it would be best if I focused on one thing at a time.

Now just to clarify what I’m talking about when it comes to stabilizers – this is something that is used to create a stable foundation in the hoop at the embroidery machine.  There are many different brands and types, each has its own job, there really is no ONE stabilizer that works for every single application.

I took a class many years ago from a commercial digitizer, when the home market of machine embroidery was in its infancy and something he said has stuck with me ever since. For results that will last washings, wear and time, the stabilizer you use is most important, the item you are stitching on is completely irrelevant.  Choose your stabilizer type and weight to fulfill the needs of the design (stitch count, density, etc).  I like to keep this thought in mind when I’m choosing which stabilizer to use for a project.

It makes sense if you think about it – if the stabilizer is what is holding all the stitches, your embroidered item is just “hanging out” enjoying the embellishment.  So with that frame of mind, if you used a cutaway stabilizer, you could probably stitch any design on any fabric!  But we use other types of stabilizer for our projects because we don’t want to add the bulk of a cutaway for fabrics that do not need this type of stability.

AH – so you choose a tearaway to match the cotton fabric, you stitch the design and something is not right – maybe you’ve got a bit of puckering or the outline doesn’t match. Maybe the design feels really thick when you take it out of the hoop and remove the stabilizer.  These are “signals” that the design you are stitching may be too dense for the fabric you have chosen to stitch on — the last part of that sentence is what you need to contemplate.  “the fabric you have chosen to stitch on”.

ProjectAdvisorYes different fabrics will react to having a design embroidered onto it differently than others.  There is no 100% correct all the time end all be all solution match up embroidery design, fabric & stabilizer – sorry!  Unless you like the look of cutaway showing through on your batiste curtains.  There is however some good charts and resources available to you so that you have a starting place for your choice.  Some software programs like Embrilliance Essentials will offer you suggestions right in the program.  Other programs like Embrilliance Density Repair kit will not only offer you these suggestions, but will try to adapt the design to match the fabric you are choosing to stitch on.

I also like the PDF file provided by Embroidery Library that has quite a robust chart of types of fabrics with the type of stabilizer used AND the styles of embroidery designs that works best!  This is very handy and a great place to start when planning your embroidery projects.  Here is the link to that PDF file from Embroidery Library.  Not only is Embroidery Library one of my goto resources for finding particular embroidery designs but they also have a great resource in their project section.

So here is a teenie tiny slicing start for a conversation on stabilizers 🙂  I have to laugh that on one of the embroidery groups I belong to, someone commented about all the photos of beautiful projects I post.  If they could only see all the whoops of bad choices I’ve made over the years!  I may not be an expert in stabilizers, but I’ve surely made my fair share of poor choices with interesting results — I just choose not to photograph and share all of those!  Learning by experience has the S.O.P. for my journey into machine embroidery.  Just hope that I can share a little of that experience with you and maybe it will help!

Until next time – happy stitching!

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3 Comments on “Stabilizers – starting a conversation”

  1. wcdesigns says:

    I’m glad someone is talking about this. This was one thing that is still a little tricky for me when it comes to machine embroidery. I have read so much information and test and re-tested samples. I’ve learned so much about stabilizing, it’s a huge part of the process because it’s time consuming to figure out and can be expensive to test samples. I’m glad there is so much information available but testing is really how I learned too.

  2. I really appreciate your posting about stabilizers in machine embroidery. I am also looking for some classes about embroidery. Can you suggest me any useful resource that help in my embroidery designs business?


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