Machine Embroidery Stabilizers Guide - Choosing the Correct Backings

Any one that knows even a little about machine embroidery, must be aware of the significance of machine embroidery stabilizer in creating beautiful results for any embroidery project. 
Well, if you aren’t fully aware of different types of stabilizers available in market, we have bring the complete guide to help you get started. Continue to read on to know everything you need to know about different types of stabilizers and how you can get better results for your embroidery projects by choosing the right stabilizer.
So, without wasting more time let’s get started…

Should you use branded embroidery machine stabilizer?

While you can use stabilizer from any vendor, we recommend going with stabilizer with a reliable embroidery brand (you may compare and order online on price point).
 In majority cases, users are more concerned with the pricing and not the brand or quality of the stabilizer. This is also the case since there are only few main manufacturers of stabilizers in the industry and more stabilizers you find in the market will only be white-labeled pieces from those big manufacturers. However, as an exception, we don’t recommend purchasing stabilizers from big retail stores like Walmart and others. That’s primarily because while you will surely get your hands around real cheap stabilizers on these stores, but then remember, you will only get what you pay for. So, don’t fall for cheap pricing; rather, make sure you buy a quality stabilizer that gets the job done for you.

Why Is Stabilizer Important?

To put it simply, stabilizer is the very foundation of any embroidery project. In real definition, machine embroidery stabilizers prove the support required by thread and fabric to sustain embroidery work. Without a strong foundation, the embroidery design will be off, you will get frequent puckering and in worst case scenarios, the very fabric may distort. So, yes, the choice of stabilizer will have make or break influence on your embroidery project.
If we look at the most popular types of embroidery machine stabilizers, we see that “cut away” and “tear away” stabilizers are two of the most preferred types by commercial embroiders. The “wash away” stabilizer is mostly used by commercial embroiders for fabrics that has raised or nap fibers. 
One of the primary reason why home embroider fails to get quality embroidery designs is because they try to become too creative to stabilize the fabric. We have seen people using wrapping paper, coffee filter, paper towels and all sorts of stuff as stabilizers. These stuff can’t make up for the accuracy and quality of the design and the lack of stabilization only leads to poorly lined-up stitches or puckered fabric. So, next time around when you are looking to embroider at home, instead of getting creative, use a proper stabilizer for the fabric.

Types of Stabilizers for Machine Embroidery

There are 3 types of embroidery machine stabilizers, including;
1. Tear Away
2. Wash Away
3. Cut Away
Before we move on to see each of these stabilizers in detail, here’s a summary of when you can use each of these stabilizer:
  • For stretchable fabric (frequently used in manufacturing of knits, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.) go with Cut Away Stabilizer
  • For stable woven fabric, go with Tear Away Stabilizer
  • For freestanding lace designs or sheet fabrics (frequently used in manufacturing of 3D flowers, 3D leaves, vintage laces, etc.) use Wash Away Stabilizer
  • Last but not least, try to fuse the stabilizer to the fabric (whenever possible)
Apart from these three major types, there are certain other specialty stabilizers offered by the brands for individual use cases. For instance, you may use fabric preps, which adds stability to the fabrics which are prone to puckering, unraveling or distortion. However, this may add to the overall stitch count, thereby, it’s best used for a heavy stitch count design. There are certain other specialty products as well that helps to add textures to the design like soft foam shape or a firm shape. However, these specialty products aren’t the alternative to the major types of stabilizers but can be used to supplement tear away or cut away stabilizers.
Now let’s move on to our main types of machine embroidery stabilizers and see what each of these types brings to the table for embroiderers;

Cut Away Stabilizers

These are preferred as the most firm stabilizers that offers most stability for the fabric during the embroidery process. As can be taken by name, once the embroidery process is over, you will simply cut away the excess stabilizer close to the embroidery design; whereas, the rest stays on the fabric. 
Cut Away stabilizers is highly recommended for new embroiders; especially with unstable fabrics (or simply when working with any wearable garment). That’s because these are inherently stable and forgiving than others types of machine embroidery stabilizers. Thereby, you will have a chance to rectify some of the mistakes. 
Overall, Cut Away stabilizers are great for all sorts of stretchy fabrics including polyester, and knits; since they provide a firm support and prevent any stretching of the fabric.

Tear Away Stabilizers

As can be taken by name, Tear Away Stabilizers are torn and removed from the fabric after the embroidery process is over. These are inherently less stable compared to Cut Away Stabilizers and thereby often used for less stretchy fabrics, and products where the backside is visible (towels, linens, etc.). While these provide less support and stability to the fabric, these are preferred by commercial embroidery shops for higher efficiency (you simple tear away the complete stabilizer). At times, Tear Away Stabilizers are used in conjunction with Cut Away Stabilizer for added strength and support during the embroidery process.

Wash Away Stabilizers

These stabilizers for machine embroidery are used mostly with sheer fabrics, where you don’t want the stabilizer to shadow through like cutwork designs, 3D designs, laces and others. Once the embroidery process is over, you can simply immerse the garment in water to dissolve the stabilizer.


To sum up nicely, there is no one perfect stabilizer type and you would need all three types of embroidery machine stabilizers for your embroidery business. Just make sure you know the best use cases of each type of stabilizer and you will definitely start getting amazing results for your embroidery projects.