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A Beginners Guide to Stabilizers

A Beginners Guide to Stabilizers main article image
Posted on April 16, 2021 by Ariel Snow

If you want to take the plunge into Embroidery, a machine and thread are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the required materials needed to achieve the project of your dreams! In your embroidery journey, you quickly realize that stabilizers are a must-have! But what are stabilizers, and which one should you stock up on? Use this article as a beginner’s guide to stabilizers so each of your projects can be properly supported and come out as flawless as you imagined!

Before we jump in, let’s cover our bases! Stabilizers act as a foundation for your fabric as you embroider a design. Stabilizers not only keep fabric intact while a project is stitching out, but they also help support the longevity of your machine, protect needles from wear-and-tear, and help your projects stay in one piece and last long enough for everyone to admire your beautiful designs! This article will not only look at the different types of stabilizers but will also look at what situations might arise where you’ll need to choose different stabilizers and how to make sure you are using them correctly. Like most other techniques when on your embroidery journey, practice and more practice will help you figure out what combos work best for you!

Types Of Stabilizers

The three main types of stabilizers used for machine embroidery are cut-a-way, tear-a-way, and water-soluble. Many of them come in different sizes and weight types which makes your options for choosing stabilizers even more complex!


Cut-a-way stabilizers are the most common and for many, the most used when stitching a design. These stabilizers provide a sturdy and reliable backing for embroidery projects across many different fabric types. Cut-a-way is one of the stronger stabilizers and provides the needed support for your projects over the lifetime of the design. Cut-a-way stabilizers are best to use when working with woven stretch fabrics.


When working with cut-a-way stabilizer, it should be hooped while the fabric for your project is hooped or floated on top. Once a project is stitched out, the remaining stabilizer is cut away from the design.


Tear-a-way stabilizers are another sturdy backing for embroidery projects. They are most commonly used for woven fabrics without a stretch because they are not as heavyweight as cut-a-way stabilizers. Like cut-a-way, these stabilizers also come in different weights. Tear-a-away stabilizers are also hooped while the fabric is hooped or floated on top. Tear-a-ways give off a neater finish because the remaining stabilizer is lightly torn away from the stitches leaving a less bulky or visible finish to your project.

Tear a way

Water-Soluble Stabilizers

Water-soluble stabilizers are most commonly used on top of fabric in conjunction with a cut-a-way or tear-a-way. There are a few cases where water-soluble stabilizers can be used as a backing but only for very, very thin fabrics. Water-soluble stabilizers work best with thicker, knit-like fabrics to provide a clean-looking stitched project without too much fabric showing through. When used on top of a fabric, water-soluble stabilizers can be adhered to the fabric before stitching and the remaining stabilizer is dissolved away when soaked or lightly misted with water.

How to Choose A Stabilizer

As mentioned, working with stabilizers takes lots of practice and when you mix and match your different projects to different stabilizers, you are able to decide which method works best for you. However, there are a few factors to consider before deciding which stabilizer you will use for your project.


The fabric you plan to embroider on might be the most important deciding factor in choosing your stabilizer. When thinking about the fabric you are using, consider the weight of the fabric and the thickness. A heavier fabric will need a heavier stabilizer for support while thinner fabrics can rely on a more lightweight stabilizer. Fabrics with. More of a stretch also needs a more study stabilizer so all the stitches can stay in place and are less likely to move with the fabric.

Design Intricacy

Considering how intricate your design will be once stitched out is also an important factor when choosing a stabilizer. If you have a design with lots of stitches or one that needs lots of stitch-filling; a heavier, more stable stabilizer is your best bet. You want to find something that will be able to support the weight on the stitches and keep the fabric intact. Lighter, thinner designs with fewer stitches may not require as much stabilization and can opt for a less heavy stabilizer for support.

Image from

Final Look and Longevity

One last consideration for choosing a stabilizer should be how to stabilizer might impact the final appearance of your project. Some heavier stabilizers paired with lighter fabrics might have cast a visible shadow that can be seen. Lighter stabilizers on heavy fabrics might stretch or pull the project in unwanted ways. It is also important to think about how long you anticipate your project to last and if the stabilizer is strong enough to support that. Considering the end result while choosing a stabilizer will help make sure that your project is not only sturdy with a solid foundation but also looks as amazing as you imagined.

Adhesives for stabilizers

The last important note to consider when choosing a stabilizer is how to attach it to your fabric for the best results. Different stabilizers come with different adhesion methods that can help keep your project protected during the stitching out process. The most common method would be to simply hoop both the stabilizer and the fabric. Another method would be using a temporary adhesive spray to either float a project or to use a stabilizer topper on top of your fabric. Some stabilizers also come with an adhesive backing that is activated once heat is applied like with an iron or heat press. Make sure to pay attention to how you’d like your stabilizer attached to your project for maximum results!

Having a combination of stabilizers in your embroidery tool kit allows you to have options in the types of projects you can stitch out. The task of choosing the right one may come with more research and definitely take a bit of trial and error, but is absolutely worth it to enhance the look of your projects and elevate your abilities to expand your offerings.

Happy Crafting, Friends!

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Daiva Urbikai

November 18, 2021

ačiū už pamoką, man kaip naujokiai, ji labai naudinga


May 12, 2021

Thank you for the information, it is very helpful as I am fairly new to embroidery.

Ariel Snow's profile picture
Ariel Snow

November 22, 2021


My pleasure!

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