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Embroidery Tips & Techniques

Stabilizer Myths: Fact or Fiction

Stabilizers don’t have to be a mystery.  We are going to dive into the truth behind some common stabilizer misconceptions.  Remember, there are three main types of stabilizers:  cutaway, tearaway, and water-soluble.  There are specialty stabilizers also; however, they will fit into one of the three types.  Let’s get started.

     1. All brands of stabilizer are the same.

There is a difference in how stabilizers are made so be sure and look for the wet-laid type which has a better distribution of the fibers.  A dry-laid or random saturate has uneven fibers, which we saw a lot of in the early days of stabilizers.  Just be sure to buy from a reputable company, like Exquisite by dime stabilizers.

     2. I need at least 2 layers of stabilizer and I should offset them.

Again, in the early days of stabilizers, we were taught this as the stabilizer had uneven fibers and by using 2 layers and offsetting them, then you would get a more even distribution of fibers.  Many of our embroidery items are best with just one layer.  For example, when using a nylon mesh stabilizer, which has no stretch, one layer is sufficient.

      3. Sometimes you don’t need stabilizer.

Really the only thing that doesn’t require a stabilizer is when quilting a quilt layer on your embroidery machine, which the batting serves as the stabilizer, and the quilting design is an outline design.  All other projects/fabrics require a stabilizer to keep the fabric from puckering.  Also, by using a stabilizer, it prevents debris from going into the hook assembly/needle plate area.

     4. Only fabric plays a role in my stabilizer selection – not designs.

You really want to choose the stabilizer to be best for the fabric and the design, especially if there are outlines on the design.

     5. Cutaway stabilizer is the strongest so I can just use it for everything.

It will not work very well on sheers, meshes, etc.  There are too many different types of stabilizers to use just one on everything.

     6. If my design is puckering, I have chosen the incorrect stabilizer.

There is the possibility of the incorrect stabilizer; however, there are other components to consider.  The design might be too heavy for the fabric.  You might not want to put a dense design on a thin t-shirt.  The other component is the needle.  An incorrect needle type may cause puckering.  For woven or non-stretchy fabrics, a sharp needle is best.  For stretchy fabrics, use a ballpoint.  Check out the Triumph Needle Flat Shank – Sampler Pack for a variety of types and sizes.

     7. There is only ONE correct stabilizer for your fabric type.

Again, the variety of stabilizers for your projects are many.  For questions, refer to the Embroiderer’s Compass.  It will give you more than one option for stabilizers and recommended needle type and size.

     8. Floating stabilizer is easier than hooping it and just as effective.

Stabilizer and fabric need to be hooped together for best results.

     9. Sticky stabilizer will gum up my needles and machine.

Sticky stabilizer is a helpful stabilizer and works great with dime’s Sticky Hoop.  Look for the Sticky Hoop stabilizer refill pack and the upcoming precut adhesive water-soluble pack.  Remember, to keep the stabilizer from getting too hot as it will have more gumming issues.

For additional information on stabilizer myths and using the Sticky Hoop, watch Ashley Jones and Deborah Jones on Facebook Live from February 10, 2022.  Enjoy!




  • Lynn K Barstow

    I am trying to decide which sticky hoop to purchase. I have a babylock destiny with the 2 upgrades…I thought I should buy the biggest one as it would be the most versatile…are there certAin size hoops better for certain types of projects? I can’t of course buy all sizes. Looking forward to your suggestions.

  • Karen Poole

    Great article on stabilizers! I’ve too seen changes over the years in the quality of stabilizers. I’ve also seen “new” companies selling them and advertising that it’s just like the others for less money! I have three favorite brands, one of the brands is yours.