Why stabilise?

When doing machine embroidery it is normally very important to stabilise the fabric. This is because you need to add volume to the fabric to support the thread otherwise it may pucker or your embroidery will not stitch correctly and your design will be ruined. If you are using a very heavy, stable fabric such as heavy denim you may not need to use stabiliser but most of the time it is essential.

The general rule is the lighter the fabric, the more stabiliser it needs. Also the more stitches a design has, the more stabilising it will need. So how do you know what to use?

There are many types of stabiliser but the main ones you are likely to need are : cut away, tear away,water soluble and adhesive. You need to match your stabiliser to the weight and type of fabric you are using.

Cut away stabiliser is firmer than tear away so is the choice for lightweight fabrics such as gauze, muslin and organdy. It is also best for fabrics which will stretch or pull, so use it with knit fabrics such as T-shirts and any wool fabrics. Heavier, more complex designs may also need cut away to avoid puckering. Cut away comes in different weights.

Tear away can be used with heavier, stable fabrics that won’t stretch when sewn such as heavyweight cottons, denim, duck, and also use tear away with silks. You can use more than one layer and it may be better to use several lightweight layers than a heavy one. A spray with temporary fabric adhesive helps keep layers together. Iron on tear away is available but needs applying with care. 

Water soluble is used where both sides of the embroidery will be seen, such as on towels, or with fabric that has a thick pile where the design may sink into the cloth e.g. velvet or corduroy. It can only be used on fabrics that will not be harmed by water! It is placed on top of the fabric and hooped with it or applied using a spray adhesive. After stitching tear it away and then dab lightly with a sponge to remove the rest, or if fabric is suitable rinse under  water. If your fabric is sheer you can use several layers of water soluble on top and a tear away stabiliser underneath. Water soluble stabilisers can be cold water or hot water (melt away) soluble.

Adhesive stabilisers are paper backed adhesive sheets. They are stuck to the outer hoop only and then the fabric is placed on top. They are good for things that are too small to hoop or for delicate  fabrics that might be harmed by hooping.

Test stitch your designs to determine the best stabiliser to use. Some companies such as Guterman Sulky sell a sample pack of different stabilisers which allows you to try out the different types.

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2 Responses to “Using stabilisers.”


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