Fabric and Stabilizer:
Getting a Perfect Match
When manufacturers make fabric, they don't
anticipate that anything is added to it. When we embroider on fabric,
the weight and tension of the stitches adds stress to the fabric.
Stabilizer, also called "backing," supports the fabric to eliminate or
reduce the stress of stitches.
Stabilizer supports the fabric during the embroidery process. And, it
has a second important purpose, too. It supports the fabric after
embroidery -- during everyday use, wash, wear, etc. Choosing the proper
stabilizer for the fabric not only makes the embroidery work go
smoothly, but also extends the life of the garment or item for years and
Generally we use a medium-weight (2.5 ounce) cutaway stabilizer with
most fabrics. This type and weight of stabilizer is sufficient to
support most fabric types, from stretchy knits to lightweight quilter's
cotton to terrycloth bath towels. A good-quality stabilizer will soften
after a few laundry cycles -- it won't feel scratchy against the skin.
Oftentimes we're tempted to use a tear-away or water-soluble stabilizer
on items such as towels and fleece blankets, to make the backside look
nice and neat. However, this isn't always the best solution. Use
tear-away on terrycloth bath towels, and they'll come out of the dryer
wrinkled and rumpled. Use tear-away on a fleece blanket, and the
embroidery will "cup" and warp the fleece after a few days.
When choosing stabilizer for fabric, think "short-term" as well as
"long-term." Which stabilizer will support the fabric during the
embroidery, and after?
Over the past several years we've published dozens of
Fabrics 101 articles that demonstrate which stabilizer performs best
types of fabrics. You'll find a list of those articles here. We're
always adding more, so check that list often, and send ideas for new
There is also a handy
Fabric and Stabilizer Matching Guide that you can download or print
for a quick reference when stitching. You'll find that guide
If you'd like additional assistance after reviewing those articles,
please send an email