When doing machine embroidery, you need to use a stabilizer backing on the underside of the garment to keep the stitches in place while stitching. There are several different types and weights of stabilizers, so make sure you are using the correct stabilizer for the fabric on which you are embroidering.
Basic Types of Stabilizers
Before you begin embroidering, you will want to know what the various types of stabilizers are and how they function. The three most common types of stabilizers are cut-away, tear-away and dissolvable. Cut-away stabilizer, as the name suggests, must be trimmed with scissors after embroidering your design. Tear-away stabilizer looks the same as cut-away, but it tears very easily and can be torn from around the design after embroidering. Dissolvable stabilizer actually dissolves with a little mist of water after embroidering.
When to Use Cut-Away Stabilizer
You will be using cut-away stabilizer more often than any other type. You will need this kind of stabilizer for almost all common cotton and cotton blend shirt fabrics, dress fabrics and quilting fabrics. On tightly woven, medium-weight fabrics such as a twill, you can use a light-weight cut-away stabilizer. On a medium-weight such as an oxford weave, you will use a medium-weight cut-away. On a looser weave such as a polo pique or a lighter weight like a jersey knit polo, you will want a heavy-weight cut-away.
When to Use Tear-Away Stabilizer
When you are embroidering on tightly woven, heavy-weight fabric such as canvas or denim, you can use a tear-away stabilizer. You can also use tear-away on most ball caps. Using a tear-away makes your job easier, as you can simply rip the stabilizer from around the stitching after the embroidery is complete. While this is simpler than trimming with scissors, it can only be used on heavy-weight fabrics, because your embroidery will pucker and distort after washing if used on lighter weight or loosely woven fabrics.
When to Use Dissolvable Stabilizer
If you are embroidering on a loose knit or very light-weight fabric, you will use a dissolvable stabilizer in addition to the cut-away. You will apply the dissolvable stabilizer to the top side of the garment, while applying the cut-away to the underside. The purpose of the dissolvable stabilizer is to keep the under-stitching from pulling through the front of the garment during the embroidery process. After the embroidery is complete, the dissolvable stabilizer is no longer needed and may be removed by simply misting the front of the embroidered work with water.