What Is Fabric Stabilizer?


Machine embroidery offers innovative designs on fabric. Embroidery adds weight to the fabric with its thread and stitches. The fabric is not be prepared to handle extra weight, resulting in issues such as puckering and gapping. Fabric stabilizers avoid these problems and give a better look to the finished design.

Importance of Fabric Stabilizers

  • Proper selection and use of fabric stabilizers is critical to producing quality embroidered designs and embellishments on fabric. When a design is being stitched out on a fabric, it causes distortion of the fabric. If distortion is not minimized, the design appears shabby. Fabric stabilizers are nonwoven materials used to support the fabric from below or above at the time of stitching to maintain design integrity. Dense stabilizers offer greater support to the fabric. The fabric and the stabilizer should be secured tightly in the hoop, not allowing the fabric to move during stitching. Movement of fabric causes wrinkles and adversely affects the design quality.

Types of Fabric Stabilizers

  • The goal of stabilizers is to support the fabric during stitching. After the stitching, the stabilizer is removed. Depending on the methods of removal, they are classified as cut-away, tear-away, heat-away and wash-away fabric stabilizers. Stabilizers may also be classified as permanent or temporary. Temporary stabilizers are removed from the fabric by washing or tearing after stitching. Other kinds of temporary stabilizers are heat-away stabilizers and soluble stabilizers. Heat-away stabilizers are used in fabric that can withstand high temperatures. Soluble fabrics are gelatin based and come out when fabric is washed in warm water. Permanent stabilizers remain on the fabric after stitching. They are cut away only around the edges, with the top portion remaining intact. Permanent stabilizers include poly-mesh cut-away and lofty stabilizers. Poly-mesh stabilizers add extra weight to light fabrics and lofty stabilizers add a raised or quilted look to the design.

Fabric and Stabilizer Matching Guide

  • The type of stabilizer chosen ultimately depends on the fabric used and the design. For instance, if you are working with natural fabrics such as cotton, tear-away stabilizers are a good choice because the fabric lies flatter after embroidery. Thinner fabrics and synthetics may not be compatible with tear-away stabilizers. Cut-away stabilizers are the best option for such fabrics. The stitch density of the design is important while choosing a stabilizer. Irrespective of the fabric, if the design has high stitch density, a sturdy stabilizer needs to be used.

Tips for Choosing Fabric Stabilizers

  • The simple rule is that heavier fabrics need lightweight stabilizers and light, flimsy fabrics require heavy stabilizers. For most fabrics and designs, with the right stabilizer, single layer is sufficient. Very rarely more than one layer of stabilizer is required. Since there are numerous options for stabilizers, you may need to experiment to find the right stabilizer for a project. Take test samples of the stabilizer with the fabric before making the final decision.

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