Stabilizers are essential for keeping your fabric taut as you embroider. They also provide the support that holds your material in place. But you can also embroider without a stabilizer! You can use other alternatives like coffee filters, fabric substitutes, and more.
Note that stabilizers hold excellent prominence in embroidery because of the strength it offers to your fabric. They act as a rigid base to make your stitches look seamless and prevent puckering.
But, certain body types are not suitable for stabilizers. Some people have delicate skin, which stabilizers tend to rub the wrong way. So, I will share in this post how you can embroider without stabilizers. Please continue reading to know more!
List of Contents:
What is an embroidery stabilizer?
As I mentioned, stabilizers give you the support your fabric needs for embroidering. An embroidery stabilizer is your material’s foundation, which stiffens and holds it in place.
Besides preventing puckering, stabilizers also keep the stitches’ integrity. By doing so, the stabilizers help you prevent mistakes and save your work from damages.
Note that there are many types of stabilizers you can use for your embroidery. Here are some of the popular ones in the market:
1. Fusible Stabilizers
A fusible stabilizer is a backing that you stick at the back of your fabric using heat. You can find this type in various weights and sizes, which you choose according to your needs. So, it is best to get the weight that matches your fabric’s weight to maintain balance.
2. Tear-Away Stabilizers
Unlike fusible stabilizers, you can see tear-away stabilizers attached to fabrics using adhesives. Also, you can use this type of stabilizer for any stable woven fabric that does not stretch.
Tear-away stabilizers also come in various weights. Heavier stabilizers work best with thicker fabrics and higher stitch count designs. But, lighter stabilizers work best with lightweight materials and lower stitch count designs.
When tearing these stabilizers away, it is best to ensure that your fingers are on the stitches. Also, it is best to remove them starting from the stitches instead of toward them.
3. Cut-Away Stabilizers
Like tear-away stabilizers, you can cut away this type of stabilizer once you finish your work. But, it is best to leave a little allowance to ensure that you do not damage your embroidery.
Many embroiderers prefer this type of stabilizer because they are more durable and stable. Also, they are great for stability and ideal options for stretchy and delicate fabrics.
Cut-away stabilizers will also support your stitches for the life of the project. Also, they are an excellent option for any project that you will wear and wash regularly.
Like tear-away stabilizers, most cut-away stabilizers also come in various weights. Note that the heavier your stabilizer is, the more stitches it can support. But, it is best to avoid adding a heavy stabilizer to an already heavy design.
4. Wash-Away Stabilizers
Wash-away stabilizers are water-soluble backing that you can wash away after use. They work best with fabrics that do not always need stabilizers like open-weave, organza, and net fabrics.
After embroidering, you can trim away the excess stabilizer and rinse the design with warm water. Note that there are different water types, and there are some that are harder than the others. If the stabilizer does not immediately disappear, you can add a bit of fabric softener.
5. Heat-Away Stabilizers
This type of stabilizer either melts away or dissolves when you heat it with iron. You can use it either as a topping or as lightweight backing.
Heat-away stabilizers work best with delicate fabrics that are too sheer or not regularly washable. Also, they are an ideal option if you are working with special techniques like monogramming and lace.
These stabilizers are also ideal toppings for your embroidery because you can only melt the excess away. It means that the remaining stabilizer will stay permanently between the thread and your fabric. So, it stops the stitching from sinking into the fabric after many washes.
How to remove embroidery stabilizers?
When you use stabilizers, it is also essential that you know how to remove them properly. There are various ways to remove different types of stabilizers. Follow this guide to learn more:
1. Tear-Away Stabilizers
- Place your embroidery with the stabilizer side up on a flat surface.
- Then, support the stitches with your fingers as you carefully tear the stabilizer away. Make sure only to remove the excess stabilizer, so your embroidery will still have support.
- You can leave the stabilizer in some tight open areas within the design. By doing so, you are preserving your embroidery. But do not worry! The remaining stabilizer will eventually disintegrate after repeated washing.
2. Cut-Away Stabilizer
- Use your scissors to trim the stabilizer no closer than ¼” to ½” away from your design’s edge and corners.
- Avoid cutting away open areas inside the design.
- Place your work with the stabilizers die down. Finally, gather your fabric in your hands and cut the stabilizer.
3. Wash-Away Stabilizer
- First, try to remove as much stabilizer as you can by tearing or cutting it away.
- Then, rinse your work under warm running water until you remove all stabilizers.
How to choose the right stabilizers for embroidery?
Note that your choice of stabilizer can make or break your embroidery project. Quality stabilizers are essential if you want beautiful results, so it is best to know how to choose! Here is how you choose the right stabilizer for embroidery:
1. Fabric Type
It is best to remember that there are different appropriate stabilizers for various fabrics. So, when choosing a stabilizer, it is ideal to consider your fabric’s properties. These characteristics include its density, elasticity, and how to wash it properly.
As a rule of thumb, lighter stabilizers work best with lightweight fabrics. But, heavier stabilizers will work best with heavy and stretchy fabrics. Stretchy fabrics tend to move a lot, so they need something heavy to hold them in place.
Also, it is best to consider how much you wash your fabric. Note that it is ideal to use heavier stabilizers for projects that you will frequently wash. Do not worry if they feel too stiff at first because they will eventually soften after repeated washes.
2. Stitching Density
Note that the more stitches and details your design has, the heavier and more durable stabilizer you need. So, heavy stabilizers will work best with embroidery with a high stitch count. But, lighter stabilizers will work best with embroidery with a low stitch count.
3. Ease of Hooping
You can choose any suitable stabilizers for projects that you can hoop with ease. But, it is best to spray on some adhesive stabilizer if you find hooping challenging for your project. Doing so will save you a lot of time. Also, it is the easiest way to support and keep the fabric stable.
3. Intended Longevity of Your Project
Ultimately, it is best to choose a stabilizer that does not negatively affect your project. So, it is ideal that you use one that will not affect your work’s end-use and longevity.
Use Tear-Away Stabilizers for:
- Aprons, baby bibs, and bandanas
- Canvas, linens, and leather jackets
- Blankets, towels, denim, and corduroy
Use Cut-Away Stabilizers for:
- Shirts, sweatshirts, and onesies
- Flannel, fleece, and quilter’s cotton
- Performance wear, jersey knit, and spandex
Is stabilizer the same as interfacing?
These two materials primarily have the same purpose because they both give support to fabrics. But interfacing and stabilizers are not the same things, and they have essential differences.
Before you buy these craft materials, it is best to know their differences beforehand. By doing so, you can ensure that you get the right one for your project.
Unlike most stabilizers, interfacing supports fabrics in one direction while flexing in another. It is usually a permanent material that adds shape and stiffness for reinforcement. Here are some of the key differences to know between stabilizers and interfacing:
- Stabilizers usually provide more structure to your project.
- You remove stabilizers after you finish your work. But, interfacing becomes a part of your finished work.
- You will usually see stabilizers on tote bags and crafts. But interfacings are usually on apparel projects that need shape reinforcement.
Can I use interfacing instead of stabilizers?
Since they both add support to the fabric, you can use interfacing instead of stabilizers. You can use them as a cut-away type of stabilizer! But, make sure to only lightly fuse a particular area so it will not ruin your project.
You can also use interfacing instead of stabilizers when doing machine embroidery. But, it is always best to test your piece first to see if it goes well with the interfacing.
What can I use instead of embroidery stabilizers?
As I mentioned many times over, stabilizers are essential for supporting and keeping your fabric in place. But what if you run out of stabilizers? Do not worry! Here are some of the alternatives you can use instead of embroidery stabilizers:
1. Coffee filters.
Coffee filters are light, flimsy materials that you can easily tear away from your fabric. If you want to try them as stabilizers, you need to iron and pin them into place. Also, coffee filters are an excellent option because they will not mess up your needle.
2. Baking paper.
Like coffee filters, baking paper is an excellent stabilizer substitute because it is light and easy to tear. They will also ensure that your needle operates well as you finish your embroidery. But, it is best to use the ones without wax so it will not ruin your project.
3. Wax paper.
Another excellent alternative for tear-away stabilizers is wax paper. They are light, flimsy, and easy to tear, like the baking paper and coffee filter.
4. Fabric substitute.
Note that you should base the stabilizer substitute on your fabric’s weight and stitch count. So, if you are working on lightweight fabric, it is best to use a lighter fabric stabilizer.
Any fabric that matches your material’s weight should do. But, be careful when using alternatives. It is best to test them out first before using them for your project.
5. No-show mesh.
If you want an alternative for a wash-away stabilizer, then a no-show mesh is an ideal option. You can easily wash it away while leaving behind some fibers, so your project does not lose its shape.
Note that not everyone will agree with using these stabilizer alternatives. So, it is always best to explore and experiment on what materials will work best for you. The items I listed above are only some substitutes you can consider.
It is also ideal to try each alternative first on other pieces before using it for your project. Some can mess up your machine or your project if you are not careful enough. So, please be sure to use these items with precaution.