In the following video, Rob from Man Sewing explains how to choose the best stabilizer for various kinds of embroidery. We’ve provided the transcript of the video and you can also refer to this chart, which explains the pros and cons of the different stabilizer options:
Today’s Sewing Science is all based on stabilizing for success. Let’s get started.
Rumor has it you’re loving the Sewing Science out there and I’m loving doing these experiments for you, although this is one I’ve been working on for quite a while.
Some of the first, what do I want to say, texture or technology that got me really excited about getting into the sewing world was machine embroidery.
And that, hold on, I’m not going to teach you all about machine embroidery. We don’t have that kind of time today. But what I want to focus right in on is how to use the different kinds of stabilizers and successfully prepare for different kinds of projects.
So we’re going to talk about some cutaway, some tear away, some wash away, and some toppers.
We’re going to hit those four and get you back onto your embroidery machine, so I’m super excited to present the info.
As you’re looking at my samples, one of the things I learned early, early on was what is called basting into the hoop.
So I don’t actually hoop my fabrics, if you look down here on the table.
You don’t see the fabric in the hoop at all.
What you see is the stabilizer in the hoop.
And then what I do is I use a basting stitching – almost all brands that I’ve ever played with have some sort of function in the embroidery command that’s called, oh gosh I’m going to forget the term. Basting, basting around the design, stitching around the hoop.
There’s all kinds of different little key terms they use.
But what this allows us to do is not only secure the fabric right around the embroidery so we don’t get as much stretch.
But it also allows us to do some really cool placement on embroideries.
How to Use Cut Away Stabilizer
So check this out, here on this shirt I did years ago. You can see I was able to take a logo and put it up even over a shoulder seam and everything because I was able to put the stabilizer into the hoop.
And then I was able to locate the garment how I wanted. It didn’t have to be square. Because of the sleeve this would have almost been impossible to hoop.
So basting into the hoop is a fantastic trick and I use it almost always.
No matter what kind of stabilizer you’reusing, this will work for you, okay? So that’s when you see that stitching.
The very first, and I’m going to kind of work my way down on level of density, let’s say. So this design here, this is a fun one. My good friend Lynn and Robert Enns. Happy Birthday, Lynn. Lynn really wanted an embroidery machine. That’s your husband’s business logo, need I say more? When he came to look at the machine, the logo was running, blah, blah, blah. We did a great job on a sales technique that day.
That was Lynn having me help sell her a sewing machine. So they let me use this logo here. And if you look it’s a very very dense logo. You have nothing but thread.
So I’ve chosen to use what’s called a cut-away stabilizer. And the cut-away you can see is really thick. You can’t really tear at it.
So the density of the stitching is not going to cause the stabilizer to rip away from the design prematurely.
We’re going to talk about that here in a few minutes, ok? So it’s a nice thick stabilizer. It gives me the opportunity to put in nice thick fabrics.
And then what will happen at the end is I’ll cut out the basting stitches and then I’ll take some small scissors.
And then I’ll literally cut the fabric right – or excuse me I should say – cut the stabilizer right up to that satin stitching there. And there will be some stabilizer left in the thread but nothing left in the background.
So that is a cut-away stabilizer. And in order to remove it you must cut it away so you’ll remember what it’s called.
Ok? So moving on.
How to Use Tear Away Stabilizer
The next one we get into is a tear away stabilizer.
Now a tear away, let me grab my sample. Maybe you recognize my wonderful logo here. Now the fun part about a tear away is it is very inexpensive but it does tear quite easily.
The reason I choose a tear away on something like this is I want to be able to tear away the stabilizer in the back area here because I don’t want to have stabilizer on the back.
So all of these little parts and pieces I can actually get in here and I can poke at them with my scissor or a, what am I trying to say, a pair of tweezers or something.
And I can actually just peel that and remove all of that stabilizer.
And why is it important to remove some of that stabilizer? Well sometimes that can show through in your, let’s say you’re wearing a lighter colored garment and the stabilizer might show if you’ve seen it before. It’s like you can see the big white ring behind the embroidery on the garment.
So with something like that we want to be able to get it all away.
It also can start to wash and make a bit of a mess. Tear away will turn to paper in your laundry, so we want to get it all out.
So when I have a design that is some thread and heavy thread and then some large big open areas like this, I choose to use a tear away.
The disadvantage to the tear away is that if you do a lot of heavy satin stitching like I did on that ENNS logo, it could have started to pre-perforate the stabilizer.
And because I only basted into the hoop that stabilizer could start to release and my design could shift.
So that’s kind of the differences.
I think about the end design and the end use when I’m comparing the differences between a cutaway and a tear away.
How to Use Wash Away Stabilizer
Ok, are you ready for one of my favorites which is considered a wash away? Now wash away is great for a couple of different reasons.
Let me bring up here.
First of all you’ll notice the kind of fabric I’m going to show you on. This is the leftover of a Man Sewing shirt. We’ve got a cool Embellish a Hoodie design out there or tutorial for you.
So here is a design I created a long time ago.
It’s supposed to say Born to Sew there. And it is very lacy. It is very open. It’s a design that doesn’t have a lot of thread.
And if I had to flip this over and I had to remove all of that stabilizer by tweezer and scissor it would drive me mad.
So what I use is some sort of a wash away stabilizer.
So think it through, right? You need to make sure that your fiber and the project you’re making it on is going to be something that can be at least washed one time.
Generally wash away stabilizers are best soaked in a bucket. They do get a little bit sticky. So I like to use a bucket and not a sink.
And I don’t want to use my washing machine until the final rinse.
Most all wash aways will have some very specific washing and care instructions on there.
So make sure you’re checking those out while you’re picking the different stabilizers, right? And you can just see again by the design,anything that’s real lacy anything that’s real open, something that I don’t want to pull at, that wash away stabilizer is going to do a fantastic job.
In the rinse process you won’t have any work to do.
And you can still see there that I’ve been basting all of these into the hoop.
One of your questions might be, Gosh Rob, that stabilizer looks a little bit more pliable. It really is not.
You can baste out of the hoop nice and secure. And your design will stay fantastically. And you can see even with the little bit of give in the shirt material the design has come out very nicely.
So I love wash aways.
They can be considerably more expensive because of the special features within them so I don’t use them all the time.
But I certainly use them if I don’t have to weed out all of that stabilizer, ok?
How to Use Toppers
You ready for your last, and this is kind of a combo use, right? Because you’re thinking, ok you showed me all the easy stuff, Rob.
This is a combination because yes I’m holding some fun cuddle or I like to call this stuff goosebumps fabric, right? But it’s got some give.
Number one, look at that stretch in there, ok? Number two, it’s got some bumps.
Terry cloth, polar fleece any kind of like this cuddle fabrics. It has the opportunity to snag on your embroidery foot and cause real problems especially if you’ve basted into the hoop.
So if you look at my final sample right here, you can see that I’ve actually used the cuddle fabric here. The goosebumps.
I don’t know if you can see this real well in the camera but there is a clear topping fabric.
So we’re going to talk about two stabilizers at once right here, ok? So underneath I used a self adhesive. Sometimes they’ll call it a stick on. And you can do self adhesive two ways.
You can buy it as an actual stabilizer that has a removable, and the reason I brought this is I forgot what side was the sticky.
So what you normally do is you put it into the hoop. And you can see the hoop burn or the framework where the hoop was.
Then you’ll take a straight pin and you score around the stabilizer and you peel off what would be the sticker backing. But I did this one upside down.
So I left behind the sticker paper and peeled off the good part.
So always make sure you know which is the sticky side.
The sticky side is the part that’s going to be in the hoop and remaining.
And you don’t want to necessarily peel the paper off and then try to stick it into the hoop because it will really gum things up.
And that’s why I don’t usually use a spray baste when I’m basting into the hoop or using these self adhesive stabilizers.
It certainly works but it can gum up not only your work surface but can really get gummy onto your hoop itself and can be very hard to clean off. So I do like spray adhesives for certain jobs.
This one I prefer to use a self adhesive stabilizer but I also don’t do a lot of this kind of embroidery work. So the self adhesive stabilizer again is more costly but I’m not using it very often.
The self adhesive stabilizer, let me see if I can show you this. I’m going to start to peel away, you can probably even hear that it was stuck on there.
And the benefit to that was, you can still see where the hoop was there. The benefit was is that fabric didn’t shift around at all. So it kept it beautiful.
And then this clear fabric, we call it a topper, this is a clear film but it is also a wash away.
It goes right on top so that as the machine moves around none of those goosebumps or the pile of the terry cloth get snagged on the foot as things are moving around.
And then when I wash all of this away all of the wonderful texture in those goosebumps will come out from around and behind the embroidery. And I won’t have too much to remove either.