types of stabilizers
these are the most commonly used stabilizers, and the low down on how to use them correctly:
cut away – normally used for non-woven or unstable fabrics like knits, or on projects where visibility of the stabilizer is not an issue. sometimes it’s possible to use woven fabrics as cut away backing – it may give fairly good stability and can be used on projects that must be soft. but once you wash it, some woven backings may become too soft, lose the sizing and cause distortion with repeated launderings.
non-adhesive tear away – usually used for woven, stable materials that do not stretch. tear aways are temporary stabilizers that are fairly easy to remove, but be careful to do so without pulling or stretching the fabric. when a fabric or project requires strong support and you want to use a tear-away, use several layers of a light or mid-weight stabilizer, rather than one heavy product. then gently remove the layers individually. it’s worth the extra effort.
self adhesive tear away – love it! this stuff can stabilize unstable material with fairly loose frame tension or can be used without a hoop. i use it primarily for computerized embroidery, especially when something is too small to fit in an embroidery hoop. for use in the hoop, remove the paper backing within the hoop to reveal the sticky surface. if using it under the hoop, remove the paper backing, then stick it to the bottom of the hoop. this stabilizer is also good for items that are too bulky to hoop successfully.
iron on fabric tear away – similar to self adhesive, but uses heat from an iron for application.
temporary adhesive spray – used when there’s a need to keep two or more layers of fabric in place. especially useful for applique designs, adhering backing to garments and positioning difficult to hoop items.
water soluable film or spray – creates a clean look on the back because the edges are washed away, but i wouldn’t use this on stuff you need to wash frequently because it loses its stability. this can be used as topping for stabilizing and clarifying the embroidery to create clear, sharp stitches. water soluble topping can keep the design above the fabric surface and prevent stitches from sinking.
water soluble gauze – often used for free standing embroidery and lace work. you’ve got to put it in boiling hot water to remove it, which is time consuming, somewhat messy, and not applicable for all types of embroidery. it gives no stability after it’s washed. i stay away from this and would use it only when working with lace.
usually i prefer to use fabric-type water soluble stabilizer, because it doesn’t stretch much, “sits” great in the hoop, and behaves like regular non-woven fabric until you wash it away. gauze/fabric type water-soluble stabilizer also doesn’t stiffen at all and can be stored for many years without quality degradation.
heat away (fusible) – gives good stability and appearance of no backing and is commonly used in allover embroidery. it’s a little time consuming to remove (use a hot iron-this speeds up the process somewhat).
so when do you use this? when the fabric is too delicate for a tear-away, too sheer for a cut-away, isn’t washable or when you’re working with a special technique like making lace at an edge.
two types of heat away stabilizers – woven & plastic-like film. the woven one turns brown and flakes when heated with an iron, and the flakes can be gently brushed away. never use steam iron or water on heat aways – the chemical that causes the stabilizer to crumble when heated is water-soluble and will seriously mess up your fabric.
to remove woven heat-away from a project, split a sheet of two-ply paper towel and lay the fabric between the plies. press with a dry iron until the stabilizer is a light toast color. then crumble the stabilizer and remove the flakes use a little brush. Gently, though, or your project will look like you rubbed burnt toast on it.
heat disintegrating – primarily used for creating bulk within the embroidery to make the embroidery stand out, and it creates dimension. frequently used for free standing embroidery, and it can stabilize an unstable material with fairly low frame tension. The downside is that heat disintegrating fusible backing can be quite time consuming to apply and is sometimes difficult to remove.
many stabilizers look alike and are available in different weights, so if you’re new to stabilizers or easily confused, you may want to keep them in the original packaging or in clearly marked, separate bags. the identifying information you should put on the bags is name and type of stabilizer, weight, manufacturer, and what you’re using it for.
heat-and-melt and wash-away film stabilizers should be stored in ziploc bags because they tend to stiffen with continued exposure to the air. don’t be a sheep and just rely on what i’m saying—always read the manufacturer’s instructions too. baaaaah baaahhh baaahhhh