Years ago when I first started embroidering, if you would have asked me what stabilizer was, I would have said it’s something used for sewing clothes. That wouldn’t have been a wrong answer, but I had not idea how beneficial it could be for hand embroidery! This post will be a quick overview of stabilizers that can be used for hand embroidery.
This post is part of a series of posts I have 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!
What is Embroidery Stabilizer?
Embroidery stabilizer is a piece of material (i.e. paper, fiber, or water soluble material) that is used on the back of or on top of fabric to make it more durable when embroidered or sewn on.
There are several different types: cutaway, tearaway, fusible, and water-soluble. Each serves a slightly different purpose, and a lot of it is purely preference as to which one you choose.
Stabilizers also come in different weights depending on how fragile the material is that you are stitching on.
What Are The Benefits Of Using Stabilizer For Hand Embroidery?
Stabilizer is great for hand embroidering on more delicate or stretchy fabrics when you’re worried that the stitching will distort or pucker the fabric. The other reason it’s great to use is for when tracing an embroidery pattern onto the fabric isn’t an option (ex. embroidering on a hat) or the design you’d like to stitch is very detailed and intricate.
Types of Stabilizers
When choosing a stabilizer, you want to consider the reason you’re using it, the type of fabric you’re using, and you also want to make sure that you’re choosing one that isn’t too thick to hand embroider through! The following stabilizers are all ones that I’ve personally used before and have found worked well.
Stick and Tear Away Stabilizer
For fabrics that are stretchy, I recommend using a stick and tear-away stabilizer. It sticks really well to the fabric and has helped me to prevent the fabric from wrinkling under the tension of your stitches. This kind of stabilizer goes on the back of the fabric you are about to embroider, because it doesn’t fully come off all the time but will most likely disintegrate over time after several washes.
NOTE: If you’re using a fabric that is thin and slightly transparent, I would not recommend using this stabilizer, as some of the remaining stabilizer could show through to the front of the fabric
Water Soluble Stabilizers
These stabilizers wash away with water after you have completed the embroidery. They come in rolls like Sulky Solvy, and they also come on sheets of paper with adhesive on the back, such as Sulky Stitch N Wash Away. I use these stabilizers on the front of the fabric so that I can transfer and draw the pattern directly onto the stabilizer.
I have never personally used cutaway stabilizers, but this kind of stabilizer is used for knit and stretchy fabrics. They are meant to remain permanently in place and are used frequently for sewing clothes.
These stabilizers adhere to the fabric when ironed on. It is another type of embroidery stabilizer that remains on the back of the fabric after you are done stitching. These are another great choice for sewing clothes, but you can also use them to cover the back of embroidery on clothes for extra protection.
I hope this post made it more clear what an embroidery stabilizer does and gives you some ideas on how you can use it. Definitely give it a try sometime to see how you like it! I also found an interesting article on substitutes you can use for embroidery stabilizers you should check out.
Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.