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How to pick the right stabilizer for embroidery?

Learn the advantages and disadvantages of every model.


how to choose an embroidery stabilizer


Stabilizers are essential to machine embroidery. Also known as backing, these items support your fabric while the machine is stitching out your design.

There are different types of embroidery stabilizers. In today’s post, we are going to explain the advantages and disadvantages of three popular choices. This way, you can compare them and check which one fits your needs. Keep reading!

On this article:

Cut-away embroidery stabilizers/a>
Tear-away embroidery stabilizers
Wash-away embroidery stabilizers
How do I choose an embroidery stabilizer?
Useful links


Cut-away embroidery stabilizers


These stabilizers reinforce the cloth while you are stitching out your design. Once you have finished, you just have to cut the excess with a pair of scissors.

how to choose an embroidery stabilizer

Advantages of cut-away embroidery stabilizers


Cut-away stabilizers are the most durable type of embroidery backing. They will always keep your stitches safe and together. These pieces will always be part of your garment.

Even though they are strong, you can use cut-away stabilizers on any fabric.

If you place your cut-away stabilizer correctly, it will keep your stitches in place forever. These stabilizers are great for long-lasting projects.

These backings are an excellent choice for knit clothes: the stabilizer will keep the original aspect of the embroidery piece, preventing it from stretching out.

Disadvantages of cut-away embroidery stabilizers


You can never remove the stabilizer altogether. The only thing you can do is to cut away the excess after stitching out your design.

You must remove the excess with care, and you can’t cut areas inside the design. The stabilizer must remain in place for the lifetime of the cloth.

Some models are only available in black and white. As we said, you can not cut away open areas inside your designs. This means that the stabilizer is more visible than you’d like it to be.

Tear-away embroidery stabilizers


These stabilizers are natural to remove. After you have finished stitching out your design, you only need to find or cut an open end. Grab the stabilizer from that open-end and tear it away. It’s simple but effective!

how to choose an embroidery stabilizer

Advantages of tear-away embroidery stabilizers


You can use tear-away stabilizers in almost any fabric.¬†After you’ve stitched out your design, you can remove the excess of backing very quickly.

These stabilizers support a large number of stitches. They are ideal for big projects.

The procedure is straightforward. Tear-away stabilizers are easy to use and remove. These elements will make your workflow more agile.

In case there are any traces that you can not remove, don’t worry! These pieces will disappear after you’ve washed the item many times.

If you need extra strength, you can layer these stabilizers. Remember to remove the layers individually at the end.

Disadvantages of tear-away embroidery stabilizers


You can not use tear-away stabilizers on knits, stretchy fabrics, or very sheer clothes. You could ruin your artwork during the removal.

Tight open areas within the design could be hard to remove. If you don’t remove your stabilizer from the regions where there are not any stitches, the backing will be visible.

These stabilizers are less secure than the cut-away stabilizers. Therefore, your designs will be less stable.

Some tear-away stabilizers can be more natural to remove in a specific direction. It’s essential to figure this out before the backing’s resistance affects your work.

Wash-away embroidery stabilizers


Water-soluble stabilizers are also known as wash-away stabilizers. Both terms are quite descriptive. These stabilizers remain at the back of your stitches until you wash the garment. You can dissolve them by applying water.

how to choose an embroidery stabilizer

Advantages of wash-away embroidery stabilizers


These backings are perfect for projects with fabrics that are not easy to mark. You can draw on the stabilizer as much as you want: the drawings will disappear once you apply water.

Wash-away stabilizers are perfect for projects that can’t have any backing once they are finished. The stabilizer will disappear completely.

If you are creating stand-alone lace with your embroidery machine, these stabilizers are the perfect choice for you.

Disadvantages of wash-away embroidery stabilizers


Once you remove the stabilizer, nothing is holding your stitches together. Unlike cut-away stabilizers, wash-away stabilizers won’t contribute to durability. Also, the stabilizer itself is not as strong as the other ones.

You can’t use these stabilizers in a fabric that you can not wash.

This backing does not support as many designs as cut-away, or tear-away stabilizers do. You will have to be very mindful of your design choice.

How do I choose an embroidery stabilizer?


There are three main factors that you should take into account before choosing an embroidery stabilizer: the fabric, the embroidery design, and the back appearance.

how to choose an embroidery stabilizer



Your stabilizer has to be a complement to the fabric that you are using. If you are using some cloth that can’t be washed, you shouldn’t choose a wash-away stabilizer. If you are stitching on knit items, you shouldn’t use tear-away backing.

To make sure that there are not any problems, check the instructions of your stabilizer before using it on a project.

Embroidery designs


High quality digitized embroidery designs are always crucial to success. Good digitizers always add some underlay as a base support for the stitches.

For designs with a high number of stitches, you will need a heavy stabilizer. These variables are directly proportional: the more stitches, the heavier the stabilizer must be.

You should also check if the design has empty areas with no stitches. For those cases, you must choose a stabilizer that you can remove easily.

Back appearance


The aspect of an embroidered cloth is not the same in the front and the back. For some stitches, like stand-alone lace, the aspect of the back matters a lot. In those cases, you should always pick a stabilizer that you can remove altogether (like a wash-away stabilizer).

Take these three aspects into account before choosing an embroidery stabilizer. In any case, our advice is always to test the stabilizers before you stitch out the final design.


Making sense of stabilizers, an article by Threads Magazine.

Just embroider it! All about stabilizers, an ebook edited by Bernina.


You can find the rest of the articles in our Ultimate Machine Embroidery Guide here.


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