10/31 | How to Use Fabric Stabilizer

Fabric stabilizers are invaluable for applique, machine embroidery, and even creating new custom fabrics. As the name suggests, a fabric stabilizer adds stability to fabric so it can withstand the stress that comes from the additional weight of added fabric, thread, embellishments, as well as the multi-directional sewing technique used in machine embroidery. In this post, we’re going to show you how to use fabric stabilizer. 

A fabric stabilizer is often used along with an embroidery hoop to help to keep the fabric flat and prevent it from moving. Most are temporary and removed after use, but some are permanent. For more complex projects, you may want to use a variety of stabilizers for different parts of it as appropriate.

How to Use Fabric Stabilizer

There are four main types of stabilizers. They are generally broken down into categories which describe how they’re removed from the fabric: cut-away, tear-away, wash-away, and heat-away. As with fabric and thread, stabilizers are also available in a selection of weights. You will find fusible, adhesive-backed, and non-fusible varieties as well.

When you choose a fabric stabilizer, you need to consider the kind of fabric you’re using it on as well as why it’s being used. Thicker fabrics usually need a tear-away stabilizer while thin fabrics would do better with a cut-away one. In addition, the higher the stitch density, the sturdier you need the stabilizer to be.

Tear-away Fabric Stabilizer:

These are temporary stabilizers. They’re quite easy to remove but do require some care. Tearing them away from the fabric often results in quite a bit of tugging on the fabric and this may cause it to stretch out of shape.

It is best not to use a tear-away stabilizer on more delicate fabrics as the removal process could cause damage to the fabric fibers. It works well with tightly-woven, natural fiber fabrics of all weights. Using an iron-on tear-away with very dense stitching can prove difficult to remove.

Heat-away Stabilizer:

Another temporary stabilizer, this is a good option for when fabric is too delicate for a tear-away. It can also be an excellent choice for very sheer fabrics which are not suitable for cut-away stabilizer or when fabric isn’t washable.

This stabilizer is, as suggested by its name, is easily removed by heating with an iron. It comes in two types, woven and a plastic-like film. It works well with off-the-edge treatments such as lace trim. You can use heat-away stabilizer for creating your own fabrics too. Simply sew on thread or yarn in a pattern or random arrangement.

Wash-away Fabric Stabilizer:

As implied by the name, these fabric stabilizers dissolve when wet. There are two basic types – paper and a plastic-like film. In addition, you can get wash-away stabilizer in liquid form. This is a very versatile product that when brushed or sprayed onto the fabric and allowed to dry will stiffen.

You can use this stabilizer can be used in the same manner as usual, but it has an additional use as well. Some types of wash-away stabilizer can actually be used on top of a fabric with a thick pile instead of underneath to keep your embroidery from sinking down into the nap of the fabric.

Wash-away stabilizers are great for free-motion embroidery and the film types work well for lace and cutwork designs. They are an excellent choice for soft, delicate or mesh-like fabrics as well as those which are difficult to mark.

It’s important to ensure that the fabric you are using can support the needed water temperature for dissolving the stabilizer. Because it dissolves with water, wash-away stabilizer is not a suitable choice if you need continued stability after the project is complete.

Cut-away Stabilizer:

These are permanent stabilizers. They stay on the fabric to keep it stable not only during the embroidery process but for the life of the project. These are an excellent option for knits and other loosely woven fabric. They help to keep the fabric from stretching while being stitched and while being washed and worn.

They are known as cut-away stabilizers because once your embroidery is complete, you will cut away the excess, leaving only what’s under the stitching.

Fabric stabilizers allow you to do far more detailed and intricate projects than ever before. Choosing the correct one for your project will help reduce your frustration and mean that you can be even more creative and have more fun!

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