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Tips and tricks on the use of machine embroidery stabilizers

With so many types of machine embroidery stabilizers available it can be confusing. Let’s take a quick look at some and I will share some tips on their usage. Stabilizer is essential in machine embroidery. It sits under the fabric and supports both the fabric and thread, keeping the embroidery stitches in the right place. Choosing the right stabilizer for any project is very important if you want the finish to be perfect. Basically they fall into 4 categories, based on how they are removed once the embroidery is complete. I have listed these in the order of how frequently I use them, along with my favourites.

Selection of Sulky Stablizers
  • Tear away stabilizers – quality stitch and tear on a roll from my dealer (source unknown)
  • Wash away stabilizers – Floriani Wet N Gone
  • Cut away stabilizers – Sulky Soft N Sheer
  • Heat away stabilizers – Sulky Heat away

It is important to consider to consider your fabric when selecting your stabilizer. I love the Sulky website as it offers a Stabilizer Selection tool and there is a lot of information about how to get the best out of their stabilizers. Mostly I use a good quality tear away stabilizer and I use two layers. One layer is hooped and I then lay another piece or pieces on top within the hoop area. These are attached with temporary adhesive spray. Lastly I apply the fabric with the spray too, and secure everything in place with a box of stitches. When my embroideries are finished I cut carefully around the excess stabilizer and these cut offs are kept for future second layers. Lay them straight edges together, with no overlaps.

The second layer of stitch and tear inside the hoop area.

As I love to embroider on silk dupion for my samples to display on the website, I cannot use a wash away stabilizer, believing that silk dupion should never be washed. In the instances where all the stabilizer needs to be removed from the silk, I will use a heat away one like Sulky Heat away. This can be a bit of a messy job but the only option! Go for quality and never buy cheap stabilizers then you will not be disappointed in the results. This also is useful for any embroidery where tearing away the stabilizer may damage the stitches. The fabric needs to be able to take temperatures of around 260 degrees.

Overlapped pieces of wash away stabilizer dampened to hold the join

I also love Sulky Soft N Sheer, which is a cut away stablizer. I use this for most of my angels as it hardly shows through and I would rather not use wash away as the colours can deepen a little. A longer soak can help.

Sulky Soft N Sheer with sparkly organza for my Embroidery angel

Wash away stabilizers are great for embroidery on tulle and other washable sheer fabrics. I use the fibrous Floriani Wet N Gone for this and I find one layer is usually enough. I much prefer this to the filmy types of wash away stabilizers. I have successfully used off cuts of this stabilizer, overlapping them by about an inch, securing the overlap by dampening one side slighty so they stick together.

Soaking Rose Gold Bridal Lace

I remove as much stabilizer as possible and do all the trimming of the threads on the back, before rinsing under the tap to get a visible amount of stabilizer out, and then soaking in water. The longer you leave it to soak the softer the embroidery will be. Around 12 hours is my preference with several changes of water.

Keeping label inside roll of stabilizer

Always label your stabilizers carefully. I usually keep the wrapper and push it into the top of the roll for future reference. With no labels it can be confusing to tell them all apart.

My huge roll of Stitch and Tear on Toilet roll holder

Tear away stabilizers are cheaper than the other types and I invest in a huge 520mm wide roll of this and I stand the roll on a toilet roll holder for easy cutting!! I can cut a piece from this roll for my 360mm deep hoops, but sometimes I turn the hoop around cutting a longer piece. The excess can them be used for the second layer. It is important to consider which way to place your hoop on any roll of stabilizer before you cut. Don’t always place the hoop vertically. Swivel the hoop around to each which is the best way to cut, so that what is left can be used for further hoopings. Always be economic with your stabilizers. It often pays to have severals different widths for the stabilizers you use more often.

Always purchase the very best quality stabilizers

Cutting a piece of stablizer for 2 x 240mm x 150 hoopings

For example when I am embroidering with my 240mm x 150mm hoop, I cut a strip off my stitch and tear roll that is around 260mm wide. Then this is cut again for two hoopings. Another consideration you should make is whether to have a long strip of stabilizer beginning on the right hand side and leaving the excess hanging over the embroidery arm for subsequent hoopings which can be made right up to the edge of the previous embroidery. This works particularly well for smaller hoops.

How I get the best out of stitch and tear stabilizer

One of the more exciting and expensive stabilizers is a tacky wash away! Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy is my choice for this. This is marvellous for embroidering on tulle and I used it recently for some of the samples from the Rose Gold Bridal Lace collection. It is also perfect for embroidering in difficult place on items of clothing. The tacky stabilizer has a peel way backing and this is great for magnetic hoops. You can also print your design on the paper side. It is best to purchase sheets for printing as the rolls do not always lay flat. Sometimes I have found it necessary to lift the stabilizer gently from the paper and reapply to get rid of bumps. It is a little awkward to place in your hoop and the paper should be uppermost. When in the hoop the paper is scored with a seam ripper and then removed. It is very satisifying to hoop in this way.

Embroidering lace designs on tulle with Sticky Fabri-Solvy

When I did not have a really wide piece of this stabiizer for my 360mm x 260mm hoop, I cut 2 pieces around 540mm long. One of these sections was then cut into 3 long strips which I was able to use to extend the width of the other piece and subsequent pieces. This was very useful when I was making lace from Rose Gold Bridal Lace 5, as I managed to stitch out 2 x GFE-RGB-5-15, shown above. It was a bit fiddly but it worked and the join was to the left side of the embroideries as you can see in the image above. Here is a section of one of the finished lace samples after the stabilizer was removed.

Rose Gold Bridal Lace 5-15 finished with a hint of rose gold metallic thread

Swivel your hoop on the stabilizer before you cut.”

There is another useful stablizer with is used on the top of your fabric if it has a nap. Sulky solvy prevents the stitches sinking into towels and fabrics like velvet.

Removing topper on velvet Father Christmas using a round ended seam ripper

It need not be washed away. It rubs off easily with a rounded end seam ripper.

Sulky Solvy for toppings

Many stabilizer manufactures produce sample packs of their available stabilizers. These are well worth testing out. Keep an eye on the stabilizer market and when you discover a great product share with others on social media or within my Group Forum. I hope this has been helpful. Be brave and test out a new type of stabilizer and please let me know in the comments what your favourite one is. I know that I have not covered them all and unfortunately I am limited here in the UK as not all these marvellous products are available without expensive postage and import duties. Always stock up if you are abroad!

Happy embroidering from Hazel

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