Search here...

Stabilizing Cotton Fabric

In October, reader Shirley Clark asked, “What’s the best stabilizer to use for stitching on pillowcases or cotton fabric? I know I’ve played with this a lot, and even used a spray on stabilizer to keep it from puckering. Stitching on knits are easy, but cottons are always challenging.”

Shirley, it depends (great answer, right?) on the design and size of the project. When I’m adding embroidery – think full, dense designs – I often give cotton a little extra lift. I fuse interfacing to the wrong side of the cotton.  When making pillows or quilt blocks, I interface the entire wrong side of the block or pillow front.  Then I add tear-away stabilizer for the actual embroidery.  The interfacing stabilizes the fabric and the tear-away stabilizes the stitches.

I’ve used Pellon’s ShirTailor fusible or tricot knit interfacing. The ShirTailor adds body to the cotton and makes it a bit stiff.  I find it’s great for pillow fronts and whole cloth wall quilts (fused edge to edge).  I started using it many years ago when I wrote my first quilt book, Contemporary Machine Embroidered Quilts. Since then, my style has evolved and I find I don’t really stitch heavy embroidery designs on quilt tops anymore but the technique still works.


Today, when I’m adding embroidery designs (fill stitches) to a quilt block, I fuse tricot knit interfacing to the wrong side of the block. This added layer of support won’t change the hand of the fabric but the embroidery definitely benefits from this addition.

Of course, another way to avoid puckers on cotton is to select a design that is appropriate for the lightweight cotton. Heavy dense stitches need a firmer substrate, one that can endure thousands of needle penetrations.  If you select airy and open designs for stitching on cotton, you’ll be happier with your embroidery.

Always stitch a test of the stabilizer, fabric, interfacing and design combination. Use fabric of the same weight and fiber for the text. Make notes right on the sample if you don’t think you’ll use it in another project. If it’s a candidate for future use, write in pencil on the back.  Down the road, you’ll know what changes were required.

Here’s your assignment this week:

I hope this information helped Shirley for stitching on cotton. Our blog sponsor this week is Graceful Embroidery. Please click on the banner below to visit their site and make sure to tell us what’s your favorite Graceful Embroidery design. Four commenters will be chosen to win a $30 voucher to Graceful Embroidery!


The winner of the last assignment answered the following question:

So tell me, how does your significant other show you that they are thinking of you? One comment will be chosen to win a $20 gift card to Designs in Machine Embroidery.

The winner is:  

Joan: “This week, my husband cleaned and replaced the ceiling light panels in my sewing room. I’m afraid to let him in there for very long for fear he’ll get rid of some of my stash, though.”





  • Sandi Cunningham

    I love all of her Celtic, oh heck I really love anything heirloom, so the whole site. One really beautiful one is the CELTIC ANGEL, though. I’d like to take my Mme Alexander doll (our angel) and make those wings and redo her skirt like this!

    • Hello Sandi

      That sounds a perfect idea. I would love to see the result. In creating mu Celtic Angel I have tried to think of lots of ideas and projects that the designs could be used for but I never though of using them to give your a new outfit or wings!

  • Linda Pratt

    This site is very unique and my favorite was the Celtic Christmas collection. Thank you for sharing !

  • Belinda Germain

    I love the Romantic crazy quilt patterns, they are very Victorian in style.


    Great info on stabilizing cotton for embroidery on quilts, although I am just an amateur quilter, this info would be helpful on other projects, thank you. I love poinsettias during this and every Christmas season, so I have to say the Poinsettias Promises collection woul be my favorite.

  • Lynda

    Nice site with beautiful designs. I like the heirloom designs but they are all very nice.

  • Wende Gennardo

    My favorite design set is almost all of them, but as I must pick one I will say the Romantic Crazy Quilt 7. I really do love all her heirloom sets also, but like I said the entire site is beautiful. Thanks for a new place tro look for great designs.

  • Martha

    Every time I thought I had found my favorite design I scrolled to the next one and loved it too! How can you expect us to pick a favorite?

  • Zoe

    Absolutely love crazy patch, so I picked block #4 of the Crazy Patch.. I want to thank you for the stabilizing cotton information, would not have thought to fuse tricot knit to it. Love the new to me site.

  • Beth R

    I like the Poinsettia Promises collection!

  • Donna G.

    Beautiful designs! I especially like the Smoky Mornings collections.

  • Janny

    Love the Jane’s White Work collection!

  • Michelle H

    I really like the Celtic designs especially the Angle and Celtic Christmas

  • Maga

    Thank you very much for this (for me) very apt blog post. I have done loads of stitch-outs of a design I want on a summer skirt but have not really come up with the right stabilizer for it to be drapey but yet make the embroidery just right. I will have to try the tricot knit interfacing. Off to search for it now. Season’s Greetings to everybody at DIME

  • Jeanne

    Omg, just too many to mention. I’m so glad you linked us to their site. They have soooo many gorgeous designs. But I think since I’m still in Christmas mode, I like the Holly Bells 4. Beautiful!

  • Gail Beam

    I love the Romantic Quilt blocks, but all of her designs are beautiful! I belong to her yahoo group and she gives some absolutely gorgeous designs to her yahoo group members.

  • Diana Slater

    I love the Embroider’s Prayer 3 collection.

  • Laraine Lewis

    All of their designs are truly elegant and graceful but my favorite is the Bridal Lace Collection. I can definitely see myself making these to use on my Shabby Chic projects. Thank you for the link to this site, I know I will be ordering from them soon!

  • Karen

    All the designs are lovey. I really like the snow flakes to come soon.

  • Dianne

    Oh my! I did not know this web site existed. What lovely designs. I can’t wait to buy one. They look like quality work. Ok, but to my choice of design, Japanese Blossoms 1, BEAUTIFUL!

  • susan james

    i love the celtic angel design. i am a fan of anything angel related.

  • Barbara Grant

    I didn’t know about this designer. All her designs are gorgeous! I can’t possibly pick one, but I loved her Christmas design collections.

  • Judie

    I am loving the “Almond Silk Paisley” collection. I love heirloom work and thhis takes paisley to a whole new level. Thanks for the link.

  • Valerie

    I adore the Celtic Christmas collection

  • Genene

    Of all of Hazel’s designs I like the Una Petite Princess collection. It seems so nice for many projects and will work with many others, so that makes it a ‘go to’ design set for many people limited in funds available to spend on their hobby.

  • Paula

    I love the Grunge designs! Both the Fleur de Grunge and the Amore de Grunge. They’re very light feeling and would look great on a blouse.

  • Elizabeth C

    How can I choose just one!!! The all of the Celtic designs are what first attracted me to this designer. But I have my set on starting the Romantic Crazy Quilt after the holidays.

  • Shirley Clark

    I think I saw my name up there! Thanks for the information. I will share it with my friends.
    I’ve never seen that embroidery site either. I love a lot of those, but I am always smitten by paisley so I’ll have to say the Almond Silk Paisley collection.

    • eileenroche

      You did see your name, Shirley! Thank you for the question. I’m always on the lookout for blog subjects, so keep asking!

  • LindaW

    I discovered this wonderful designer several years ago. There are so many pretty designs on her site–it’s difficult to choose one favorite. I do especially like Le Babe Royale. The small eyelets can be cut out or filled with crystals–beautiful!

  • Nancy Stansbury

    The Celtic Christmas Collection (all 4 sets) are just beautiful and will be perfect on my new tree skirt for a start.

  • Diane

    My favorite on the Graceful Embroidery site was the project of the week – a Christmas Crazy Quilt….it was just beautiful and breath taking…..

  • DeAnna S

    Beautiful elegant designs. The Folk Roses are awesome!

  • JudiC

    Another embroidery site that is new to me :o) All absolutely beautiful! My favorites are all the florals, simply beautiful.

  • Saundra Romanus

    Thank you for your input on embroidering on cotton! I have had problem with puckering on a fill design on cotton 2 or 3 times and I thought it was because I used interfacing. I will definitely try it your way next time! Thank you soooo much!

  • Jody

    I love all her beautiful creations! If I have to pick a favorite it would be Cotton Candy 3. I want to do this on pillows for my bed.

  • Chris Lyon

    The designs are lovely, but I found the site hard to navigate. Not quite sure what is included in each collection. I think my favorite would have to be Celtic Christmas, but that may change tomorrow. Too many beautiful choices.

  • Donna Morgan

    All the designs are elegantly and beautifully designed I was, how ear, most inspired but the Elegant Christmas message collection.

  • Pamela McDonald

    Hands down. The machine embroidery Crazy Quilt blocks. They are beautiful!!

  • Pamela McDonald

    Also, thank you for that stabilizer tip as well!!

  • Barbara

    I loved the Harriet 2 designs.

  • Lois Van Ackern

    I am planning ahead for a Christmas Tree skirt for next year and fell for her Celtic Christmas Collection…….so beautiful

  • Simone

    I’m still a machine embroidery newbie, and I have to say I LOVED LOVED LOVED the Holly Bells collection. Maybe I’ll tackle some projects using those designs for next year!
    Also, thanks for the stabilizing tip for cottons. I’m making some pillows for gifts tonight!

  • Debbie

    The designs are beautiful but the celtic designs really appeal to me.

  • Tammy W.

    I love the Anastasias collection. That would make a beautiful quilt.

  • Kelly Sas

    I’m Irish and love her Celtic designs, but I also have my eye on the Embroiders Prayer collection too!

  • Dawn Miller

    I love the Celtic Grace Collection

  • Susan Hensel

    i love the Fleur de Grunge

  • debe

    Ohh, I like all the Heirloom designs & go often to drool over them. My all time favorite design collection has to be the one shown- Poinsettia”s Promises. They are beautiful!! I’d love to win, lol.

  • Kathryn Barnhill

    These are gorgeous! I’m going back for the free sample but I can see using many if there for my garments
    I especially appreciate that they are not cutesy.

  • Kathy E.

    Graceful Embroidery’s site has so many pretty designs! My favorite is the Amore Grunge Collection. I also found many freebies that I liked and downloaded!

  • Barbara Wright

    I love the Romantic Crazy Quilt designs. I love crazy quilt projects of all kinds. These are really special and unique.

  • Sara Redner

    Thank you for the great tips. I try so hard to hoop and stabilize right and get so frustrated when I still end up with puckers.

    I loved all of the designs but being the week before Christmas probably influenced my decision of Poinsettia Promise as my favorite!

  • Doreen Linehan

    I like the Celtic Angel. She’s pretty

  • LeAnne L

    I really like her new Celtic Angel. I have a bunch of Hazel’s designs and love them all.

  • Paule-Marie

    I like the lace angel on the home page and the romantic crazy stocking

  • Linda De Angelis

    I love the Heirloom designs, especially the Sweet Innocence collections. I think I could make many items with those designs, including a beautiful sofa pillow.

  • Kati

    I appreciate all the great tips on embroidering on different fabrics!

  • Vicki B.

    I love Hazel’s designs. I was so happy when I found her website. Great info on stabilizing quilt blocks.

  • Jone Pan

    Hi!Whether are you very confused what you can not find a pair of ladies’ boots fit you?if it is true,you click here to view this pair of boots just now,and they will make you satisfied.

  • Merlyn Gooden

    great information you are sharing.

  • googleplay

    Thanks a lot