Fabrics 101 Stabilizer & Design Guide


Fabrics 101 Stabilizer & Design Guide
 


When fabric is produced, manufacturers don't anticipate that anything will be added to it. When embroidering onto fabric, we're adding weight and tension of thread and stitches. The fabric needs to be stronger and more "stable" to support the stitches - and that is why stabilizer is used with every embroidery project.

If the fabric isn't stabilized properly, you'll see less-than-stellar results. You might find shifting and gapping, puckering, dimpling, and more.  Choosing the right type of design and stabilizer for your fabric is the key to getting great results.

The Fabrics 101 articles are an excellent guide for your stitching projects, and you can find them all here. This chart is a quick reference guide that summarizes those articles. Below you'll find the type of fabric, along with our recommendation for type of design, stabilizer, and needle. To read the full Fabrics 101 article for a type of fabric, click on the fabric name.
 

Fabric   Stabilizer/Backing   Design   Needle
             
Aida Cloth   Cutaway   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Balsa Wood   Cutaway   Choose light designs, such as Redwork, toile, or vintage.   75/11 embroidery or universal needle

Batiste   Water soluble or tear-away   Choose light and open designs.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used
             

Broadcloth   Cutaway   Choose light designs, such as toile, vintage, Redwork, or designs with light and open areas.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used

Burlap   Cutaway   Choose solid, stitch-filled designs. Avoid light designs (they will get lost in the weave of the burlap).   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used

Canvas   Cutaway   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used

Chamois   Cutaway   Any; but be cautious of running-stitch designs (like Redwork) that may get lost in the nap of the fabric.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Charmeuse   Cutaway   Any, but consider draping (choose open designs for better draping).   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Chiffon   Water-soluble   Open, airy, and light.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Cloth Diapers

 

Cutaway

 

Designs of any complexity will work well. Choose small designs or designs with open areas to avoid leaking

 

75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.


Confetti Dot   Cutaway   If using a large design, choose open, airy, and light; if a small design, solid-filled.   75/11 sharp needle (necessary to penetrate the "dots)

Corduroy   Cutaway   Any for narrow wale; for wide wale, choose solid-filled designs (avoid running-stitch or Redwork designs).   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Denim   Cutaway   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Faux Fur   Cutaway   Solid-filled designs; avoid Redwork or light designs.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Faux Suede   Cutaway in most cases; tear-away with light designs   Any, but consider draping.   75/11 sharp needle (necessary for penetrating thicker fabric)

Faux Leather   Cutaway   Any, but consider draping (open designs will give the best draping).   75/11 sharp needle (necessary for leaving small perforations in the material)

Felt   Cutaway   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Flannel   Cutaway   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Fleece   Cutaway; tear-away may be used for simple and light designs   Any (but in some cases, running-stitch or Redwork designs may get lost in the fabric).   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery or universal needle may also be used.

Gabardine   Cutaway   Any (but consider draping).   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Hemp   Cutaway   Any, but can depend on the weight of the fabric.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Homespun   Cutaway or tear-away depending on the fabric blend   Light and open designs for cotton/poly blends, solid-fill designs for sturdier 100% cotton homespun.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Jersey Knit   Cutaway   Low to medium complexity designs, or designs with open areas, will work best.   10/70, 11/75, or 12/80 sharp or embroidery needle.

Leather   Cutaway   Choose designs that have been digitized specifically for leather, or light and sheer designs.   80/12 leather needle.

Linen   Cutaway   Choose designs with open areas for best draping.   75/11 sharp needle.

Micro Pique

  Cutaway  

Choose light and airy designs for best draping.

 

75/11 sharp needle.
Ball point and embroidery needles may also be used.


Microfiber   Cutaway   Choose small to medium-size stitch-filled designs.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Minkee (Microfiber Plush)   Cutaway   Choose solid-filled designs; sheer or Redwork designs will get lost in the fabric nap.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Moleskin   Cutaway; tear-away may be used for simple and light designs   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Muslin   Cutaway; tear-away may be used for simple and light designs   Choose light, open, and airy designs.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Neoprene   Cutaway   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.

Nylon   Cutaway   Choose designs with light to medium complexity; applique is also a great choice.   75/11 sharp needle.

Nylon Pet Screen   Water-soluble   Choose medium-to-complex designs. Avoid light designs, such as Redwork, as those will get lost in the fabric.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Organza   Water-soluble   Choose light, open, and airy designs.   75/11 sharp needle.

Outdoor Weather-Resistant (Sunbrella)   Cutaway   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.

Pashmina   Water-soluble   Choose light, open, and airy designs.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Pique   Cutaway   Choose designs of any complexity, but consider draping.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Polyester Shantung   Cutaway   Choose designs of low to medium complexity, but consider draping.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Pre-Quilted   Cutaway   Any.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

PUL   Cutaway   Designs of varying complexity work well.   75/11 sharp needle (for smallest perforations)

Quilter's Cotton   Cutaway   Choose designs of low to medium complexity.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Ribbon   Cutaway   Choose designs of low to medium complexity.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Satin   Cutaway; tear-away may be used for simple and light designs   Choose designs of low to medium complexity.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Sherpa   Cutaway   Solid-filled designs; avoid sheer or Redwork designs.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Silk   Cutaway for heavier silk; tear-away for light and translucent silk   Choose light and simple designs for translucent silk; can use more complex designs with heavier silk.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Spandex   Cutaway   Choose open designs, with light to medium complexity.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Straw Hats   Tear-away or water-soluble   Any (but can depend on coloration of straw).   75/11 sharp needle.

Sweater Knits   Cutaway   Dependent on type of knit; choose light designs for tightly-woven knit, and more complex and filled designs for knits with a loose weave.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Sweatshirts   Cutaway   Any (but consider draping).   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Taffeta   Cutaway   Choose open and airy designs for best draping.   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

T-Shirts (Cotton/Knit)   Cutaway   Choose designs of low to medium complexity (consider draping).   75/11 sharp needle.
An embroidery needle may also be used.

Towels (Tea, Flour Sack)   Cutaway; can use tear-away if using light or Redwork designs   Choose designs with low to medium complexity.   75/11 sharp needle. An embroidery needle may also be used.

Towels (Terrycloth, Linen)   Cutaway   For linen towels, choose designs of any complexity. For terrycloth, choose designs of medium complexity; avoid Redwork or running-stitch designs.   75/11 sharp needle. An embroidery needle may also be used.

Tulle   Water-soluble   Light designs with open areas (avoid Redwork or running-stitch designs).   75/11 sharp needle. An embroidery needle may also be used.

Velour   Cutaway   Designs of medium-to-high complexity. Avoid light or running-stitch designs.   75/11 sharp needle. An embroidery needle may also be used.

Velvet   Cutaway   Choose designs with medium to high complexity. Avoid light or running-stitch designs.   75/11 sharp needle. An embroidery needle may also be used.

Vinyl / Oilcloth   Cutaway   Choose designs with low-to-medium complexity. Avoid very complex designs.   75/11 sharp needle.

Waffle Weave   Cutaway   Choose designs with medium to high complexity. Avoid light, sheer, or running-stitch designs.   75/11 sharp needle. An embroidery needle may also be used.

Wool   Cutaway   Any, but consider the weight of the wool. For lightweight, choose light and airy designs for the best draping.   75/11 sharp needle. An embroidery needle may also be used.


Brands of stabilizer:
 

Each brand and type of stabilizer has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone has their favorites. Here's what we use: 

Cutaway.  Choosing a soft and pliable cutaway stabilizer (nothing stiff) will bring the best results, both during embroidery and during wear/use/laundering of the item as well. We use a 2.5 ounce cutaway called Soft-n-Stable made by Brother. We also enjoy a wide variety of the Floriani cutaway products (in particular, No-Show Mesh).

Tear-away.  We get great results with Terradon Clean Tear, as well as Floriani tear-away products.

Water-Soluble. Vilene (a fibrous water-soluble product) is a dream to work with when making freestanding lace items. We've also used Sulky Ultra Solvy with excellent results.


Notes about needles:  We prefer to use a size 11 sharp needle (not an embroidery needle) in all of our projects. A sharp needle has a fine and small point, whereas an embroidery needle has a rounded tip. A sharp needle will give a crisper and neater look to the stitches than an embroidery needle.

When embroidering and using a cutaway backing, you can use an embroidery needle instead of a sharp needle (the difference in the results will likely be negligible). However, if you are using tear-away
or water-soluble stabilizer (for in-the-hoop or freestanding lace projects), always use a sharp needle. Using an embroidery or universal needle will rip, tear, or leave large holes in the stabilizer. That can cause misalignment issues, as well as thread looping, breaks, and other tension problems.

 

Questions or comments? Send us an email! The address is stitch@emblibrary.com.

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