What Is Fabric Stabilizer?

Updated March 23, 2017

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 stabilisers avoid these problems and give a better look to the finished design.

Importance of Fabric Stabilizers

Proper selection and use of fabric stabilisers 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 minimised, the design appears shabby. Fabric stabilisers are nonwoven materials used to support the fabric from below or above at the time of stitching to maintain design integrity. Dense stabilisers offer greater support to the fabric. The fabric and the stabiliser 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 stabilisers is to support the fabric during stitching. After the stitching, the stabiliser is removed. Depending on the methods of removal, they are classified as cutaway, tearaway, heat-away and wash-away fabric stabilisers. Stabilisers may also be classified as permanent or temporary. Temporary stabilisers are removed from the fabric by washing or tearing after stitching. Other kinds of temporary stabilisers are heat-away stabilisers and soluble stabilisers. Heat-away stabilisers 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 stabilisers remain on the fabric after stitching. They are cut away only around the edges, with the top portion remaining intact. Permanent stabilisers include poly-mesh cutaway and lofty stabilisers. Poly-mesh stabilisers add extra weight to light fabrics and lofty stabilisers add a raised or quilted look to the design.

Fabric and Stabilizer Matching Guide

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

Tips for Choosing Fabric Stabilizers

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

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About the Author

Hailing out of Pittsburgh, Pa., David Stewart has been writing articles since 2004, specializing in consumer-oriented pieces. He holds an associate degree in specialized technology from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute.