There are so many types of stabilizers on the market today that it can be a problem figuring out what you need for your machine embroidery. This article covers the major types of stabilizers available and what materials they work best with. It gives you tips for working with difficult to hoop materials and some hints on hooping.

The major stabilizer categories covered here are:

Tear-away stabiliser. This is torn away after the embroidery is completed.
Cut-away stabilizer. This is cut away after the embroidery is completed.
Water-soluble stabilizer. This is washed away after the embroidery is completed.
Topping film. This is washed or ironed away after the embroidery is completed.

There are many companies making stabilizers and their products have different names. For example, a water-soluble stabilizer made by Sulky is called Solvy while Floriani call theirs Wet N Gone. Marathon just calls theirs water-soluble stabilizer. Very confusing! Ultimately, most of the hundreds of stabilizer on the market can be grouped into these four categories and they will cover almost all your stabilizer needs.

Stabilizers come in different ‘weights’, e.g. light, medium and heavy and you select the weight that is right for your project. Tear-away and cut-away stabilizers often come in both black and white so you can match the colour to the material in your project. Most excess stabilizer is removed after the embroidery is completed and it is how it is removed that determines which category the stabilizer belongs to. So a tear-away stabilizer can tear in two or more directions and the excess is simply torn away after embroidering. The bit under the embroidery remains and adds more stability to the piece during use.

Why use a stabilizer?
You must use a stabilizer when machine embroidering as it supports the fabric during the embroidery process and stops it slipping and distorting. You cannot produce a well-embroidered piece without using stabilizer.
And it is important to match the correct stabilizer to the fabric and to the design. If you are using a cotton material with a medium dense design, try using two layers of a lightweight tear-away. Some embroiderers prefer to use one layer of a medium to heavyweight tear-away stabilizer instead. There is no right answer – only guidelines – and you will need to experiment with a test piece for each new project.