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Guide to Machine Embroidery Stabilizer

There are many options for machine embroidery stabilizer based on the fabric weight and how the stabilizer will be removed, if it's removed at all.

The proper weight machine embroidery stabilizer with a hoop will keep your design from puckering or shifting as it's stitched.


  • Lightweight -- Use on lightweight fabrics, knits and wovens.
  • Regular weight -- Use for common quilting cloth and most fabrics.
  • Heavyweight -- Use with heavier fabrics or use 2 sheets of lightweight if heavyweight is not available.

Basically, there are two types of stabilizer in terms of removal: permanent and temporary. Cut away is permanent. The rest are temporary.

Cut Away Stabilizer
Must be cut away. It does not tear. It's good in projects where the machine embroidery stabilizer can be left in the finished piece. It's necessary for dense embroidery or for clothing items that will be washed frequently because it stays in and gives added stability. There are some iron on and sticky (see below) cut away stabilizers available now.
When making clothing with stabilizer that stays in, consider its scratchiness against skin, please! I've had some bought shirts that were embroidered on the front and too itchy to wear, so I had to get rid of them. Find a way to make your creations beautiful and practical.
Tear Away Stabilizer
Most commonly used by quilters or on hats or tote bags. Tear away the excess. It cannot handle as many washings as cut away stabilizer, so it shouldn't be used on garments. Some are ironed on to stay in place.
    • Sticky Stabilizer
      A tear away stabilizer with a sticky side. Use for things that cannot go in the hoop such as extra small pieces of fabric, leather, velvet, or anything that would wrinkle badly. Place a sheet in the hoop, score the desired opening with a needle, and carefully peel the backing paper away. Use spray adhesive on tear away stabilizer to make your own sticky machine embroidery stabilizer!
Water Soluble Stabilizer
Cut away most of it then rinse the rest away. It's most commonly used on lace and for lace making effects. If embroidering terry cloth or fleece, use sticky stabilizer underneath instead of placing it in the hoop, and pin or tape a water soluble stabilizer on top. It'll make the surface smooth for the machine to stitch with even tension.

    • Liquid Stabilizer
      Thoroughly wet the fabric with the stabilizer. Allow it to dry completely then iron to remove any wrinkles. Wash after embroidering to remove the stiffness.
    • Spray Adhesive
      Temporary spray that wears off in about a week or can be washed off. Place the fabric in a cardboard box to keep the surrounding area clean, hold the can about 8" above the fabric, and spray lightly.
Heat removable stabilizer
Can only be used on non-synthetic fabrics that can be ironed. Remove this machine embroidery stabilizer by ironing in small circles. It will melt into little balls you can brush or vacuum away.

Can't decide what to use? Sulky makes a Stabilizer Sampler Pack!

Interfacing is another option. It's basically the same as cut away stabilizer, but interfacing is primarily used for added stability when sewing garments. For example, it might be an added layer around the neck inside a dress to keep it from stretching.

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