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Machine Embroidery Stabilizer Basics | Anita Goodesign

Machine Embroidery Stabilizer Basics | Anita Goodesign

Hello! Welcome to Embroidery Stabilizer 101! For today’s blog, we will be discussing one of the most important embroidery necessities on your material list: stabilizer. Most of you have questions regarding this essential notion. I’ve been asked at both in-person events and during our live videos on Tuesday the same crucial question: what stabilizer should you use for your project? 
Stabilizer is the foundation of our embroidery projects, which is why this notion is super important for not only simplistic embroidery motifs, but heavily-detailed quilting designs as well. I am going to break down each individual stabilizer that we use here at Anita Goodesign and hopefully you will then be able to shop with ease as you plan your next project!


As a beginner to machine embroidery, you may be looking to start small. Anita Goodesign has an extensive library that offers everything from small embroidery motifs, projects created in-the-hoop, and stunning, one-of-a-kind quilting collections. However, when it comes to embroidery designs, no matter how small or large, tear-away is your number 1 stabilizer for the job!
For most of our embroidery designs, you will want to use a medium-weight tear-away. This stabilizer works best for designs stitched onto woven fabric and designs that are not too stitch intensive. However, if you are looking to stitch out designs with more detailed embroidery, you may want to consider purchasing a heavier-weight tear-away, or even consider doubling up. For example, our Dog Portraits collection provides you with a realistic, hand-drawn effect with higher stitch intensity. To avoid puckering and pulling, we generally suggest  doubling up on your medium-weight tear-away, or opt for a heavier alternative. How do we know this? Well, with high stitch counts comes the probability of puckering and pulling in your fabric, so you will need to adjust accordingly.
I’m sure you are now asking the second most pressing question: Brooke, how do I know when to use tear-away stabilizer? Well, the answer is simple! If you are looking for an easier way to remove your stabilizer from your project, then tear-away is one of the best options. It’s easier to remove from your design, while leaving behind less mess. Tear-away also works best for freestanding embroidery and projects made in-the-hoop! Easily tear out patches, ornaments, drawstring bags, and more! 
If you are looking for a cleaner finish, tear-away stabilizer also comes in black and white, allowing any remaining stabilizer to appear less visible in the finished design or project.

Sticky Back Tear-Away:

Sticky back tear-away is perfect when the fabric is too difficult for you to hoop and you prefer not to use a temporary spray adhesive to secure it. Some sticky back tear-away products come with an adhesive on the side that faces your material to be hooped, almost like a sticker, while other types may be activated by water. Whichever stabilizer you choose to use, always test it with your fabric of choice to ensure it does not leave behind a residue and will tear away cleanly. 
Sticky back tear-away works well for projects where you are looking to embroidery on a fabric that has already been pre-cut to your ideal dimensions. Some examples include pillow casings and totes bags.

Cut-away / No-show mesh:

The most common stabilizer we use here at Anita Goodesign is Floriani’s No-Show mesh stabilizer. Also commonly referred to as cut-away, mesh stabilizer is generally the foundation we use for our quilting collections. 
Since our Mix & Match quilting designs are stitched directly onto the stabilizer, using the correct kind is very important! We recommend using a lightweight, No-Show mesh stabilizer as the base. For optimum embroidery results, we recommend hooping the stabilizer as tight as possible to ensure a stable base. We also suggest doing a test with your particular brand of stabilizer to be sure you like the results.
Now, it’s time to talk layers! Depending on the collection or design on your quilt block, you may want to double up your No-Show mesh stabilizer! Light density designs have roughly 15,000 stitches or less. Some of these designs include folded fabric and free motion, which usually only include one thread color. Medium density designs, which make up most of our standard releases, usually consist of anywhere between 15,000-40,000 stitches. For any designs with higher stitch intensities or heavy fill shading, you can hoop two pieces of No-Show mesh overlapped perpendicular to one another for an even more resilient base… You may also need to back your fabric with a fusible interfacing, which will eliminate any puckering and distortion in your embroidery designs. A medium-weight, iron-on woven fusible, such as Pellon Ultra-Weft 860F, works well!


Water-soluble stabilizers are great for creating freestanding embroidery designs. Be sure to look for versions that are fibrous, meaning they look like a dryer sheet verses clear like a piece of plastic wrap. We find these fibrous water-soluble stabilizers do not stretch and perforate while stitching and produce much better freestanding embroidery designs!
Once your design is complete, you can remove it from the hoop, rinse it under warm water, let it dry, and voila! You have a handmade embroidery freestanding piece! Water-soluble stabilizer is great for items such as lace and provides an easier way to remove your projects!


There are two types of topping to place over your projects: water-soluble and heat-away. Toppings are used when stitching fabrics that have a lot or texture. You do not need to use a topping on regular cotton. Water-soluble comes in handy as a topping for difficult fabrics like minky, fleece, and waffle weave or when embroidering on garments like sweaters or sweatshirts. When using this type, make sure the fabric you use can get wet! Heat-away topping is best used on towels or terry cloth since it remains underneath the embroidery after use and washing. This topping also works well on fabrics you cannot wet, like velvet or velour.
Our Embroidered Slippers collection demonstrates how to use topping as a great solution for embroidering on minky fabrics!
I hope this guide on stabilizers will help you plan your next project with ease! Just remember, if you are still confused on which stabilizer will work best for your project, our step-by-step instructions placed through each tutorial will often tell you exactly what stabilizer you need to complete the perfect project. What’s even better? This handy tool is included with every single design you purchase!
Our Educator Melissa has some other great tips for using the correct stabilizer for your projects. To view her video, click here!
Don’t forget to tune in next Friday, where I will breakdown the top threads we use here at Anita Goodesign!
Happy Sewing! Brooke
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