The Best Stabilizer For Hand Embroidery

I used to try to embroider on t-shirt material without any stabilizer and it was such a headache! The fabric would wrinkle up and I would end up with puckered fabric and embroidery stitches that looked messy. I’m sure you understand this struggle if you’ve ever tried this, and maybe that’s what brought you here looking for the best stabilizer for hand embroidery in the first place.

Below, I’ve narrowed it down to two of my favorite stabilizers that I regularly use and highly recommend for hand embroidery.

This post is a part of a series of posts all about hand embroidery supplies.

Disclaimer: This post has some affiliate links in it. I receive a small commission from purchases at no additional cost to the buyer. I only recommend products I would use and love and that are of good quality. All opinions are my own!

The 2 Best Stabilizers For Hand Embroidery

Embroidery Stabilizer for Clothing and Stretchy Fabrics

Whenever I’m embroidering on clothing, I like to use Pellon stick and tear away to put on the back of the fabric/piece of clothing I’m embroidering on. This stabilizer is made of paper with an adhesive side and it tears away when you are finished. Some of the stabilizer may be hard to get off, so if you’re working on fabric that is slightly see-through, I wouldn’t recommend this stabilizer. However, it is great for t-shirts and sweatshirts that are knit material and stretchy.

What I like about the stick-and-tear-away stabilizer is that once you stick it on, it preserves the weave of the fabric and makes it easier to stitch on it without distorting or puckering the fabric. I’ve also found that it’s easier to get the needle through the fabric because it won’t stretch as much with the stabilizer on.

Best Water Soluble Stabilizer

best stabilizer for hand embroidery

Now, if you’re stitching on fabric that is slightly see-through, you’ll want to make sure that all of the stabilizer comes off when you’re finished. Otherwise, the shadow of the stabilizer may show through to the front of the fabric.

For clothing and see through fabrics I recommend Sulky stick and wash away stabilizer. This kind of stabilizer is available at or on Amazon.

This is also an adhesive stabilizer, but it washes away with some light scrubbing and water when you’re finished. You can put this stabilizer on the front or the back of your work since it is dissolvable. It is also commonly used to transfer a design onto fabric.

Make some basting stitches around the border of the stabilizer because the adhesive on this material isn’t as sticky as the Pellon stick and tear away. This will prevent the stabilizer from moving around or coming off of the fabric.


Can you print on water soluble stabilizer?

Yes, you can! You want to make sure that you purchase a stabilizer that is specifically meant to be printed on, such as the Sulky Stick and Wash Away printable stabilizer. This kind is made to fit most standard printers.

What does a stabilizer do?

A stabilizer helps to support the fabric while you’re stitching on it. This is especially helpful for stretchy, thin, or fragile materials.

What is water soluble stabilizer made of?

Water-soluble stabilizers are made of fibers or glue-like substances that break apart and dissolve in water, which makes them suitable to use on the front of embroidery.

Do you need a stabilizer for hand embroidery?

You definitely don’t need to use a stabilizer for hand embroidery. However, a stabilizer may be beneficial to use if you’re working with stretchy, thin, or delicate fabrics because it will help prevent the fabric from puckering or tearing under the tension of the stitches.

How do you remove water soluble stabilizer?

Cut any excess stabilizer around the area that is embroidered. The remaining stabilizer can be removed in 1 of 2 ways. The first way is to submerge the project in warm water for 2-3 minutes while also rubbing the stabilizer to make it dissolve. The second option is to rinse the project under running water at an angle and again rub the area where the stabilizer remains.

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