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How To: Choosing Stabilizers

August 30 2021 – CoCo B. Kitchen & Home

How To: Choosing Stabilizers
How To: Choosing Stabilizers

Here is our easy to understand guide to stabilizers. 


What is a stabilizer?

Stabilizers are a product to help keep a design looking perfect from start to finish.  They keep the fabric from puckering or stretching during the stitching.  Another common term for stabilizers is backing.  Stabilizers are essential for machine embroidery.


How to choose a stabilizer?

There are so many different types to choose from and it matters what you choose.   Your choice can make or break your project.

There are three main types of stabilizers.  They are classified by the method in which you remove them from your project.

  • Cut away
  • Tear away
  • Water-soluble

There are many brands and weights in each category.  

Best practices dictates you choose the stabilizer weight closest to the fabric weight you are using or in accordance with the amount of stitches in your design.  Meaning, if your fabric is heavy or if you have a have a heavily stitched design, you should use a heavy stabilizer.


Pro Tip: Use Temporary adhesive spray before hooping.


Important factors to consider when choosing your stabilizer:


  • Knits or stretchy use cut away only.  It gives the needed support the fabric needs.
  • Weight of fabric should correspond to weight of stabilizer.  Do not expect a light stabilizer to work well with a heavy sweater fabric.
  • Sheer fabric needs water soluble stabilizers.

Embroidery design:

  • If the design is a heavy stitch design, use a heavier stabilizer.
  • Chose a well digitized design that has sufficient underlay.

Back appearance:

  • If you want to see no stabilizer use water soluble only.
  • Most being removed use tear away.
  • You will have excess with cut away.

Hand or Feel:

  • Weight and type of stabilizer will influence how it will feel after. 
  • This might be obvious, but it must be said.  heavier the stabilizer, the more weight it will add to the final project.  Keep this in mind.
  • Lighter the weight greater the drape afterwards.  Doesn’t that just flow?
  • Wash away adds no weight.
  • Cut edges will remain with cut away, could be irritating to skin if apparel items.

Breakdown on Types:

Cut Away:

  • Most stable
  • Used on any type of fabric
  • Must use for knits and stretchy


  • trim no closer than ¼-1/2” from edge and round corners
  • Do not cut open areas in design
  • Project with stabilizer side down, gather stabilizer and cut


Heavy weight
  • sweaters and heavy fabrics
  • huge stitch designs
Medium weight
  • decent support and a lighter weight cut away
  • less stiff
  • medium weight shirts and fabrics
Poly mesh
  • minimal shadow
  • soft and gentle feel
  • perfect for baby and kid clothing


Tear Away:

  • Removes most of the excess.
  • Can be used on anything but stretchy and sheer.


  • stabilizer side up on flat surface in machine
  • Support stitches with fingers while carefully tearing away
  • Some tight spots may be left.


Heavy weight

  • tears away clean and easy
  • stiff edges
  • great for heavy stitch designs

Medium weight

  • firm tear but easy

Ultra clean and Tear

  • soft medium tear away
  • easy to remove and does not stress stitches
  • remaining fibers are easily washed away

Light Weight Tear Away

  • lightest weight and adds very little
  • very clean edge
  • can be printed on
  • great for decorative stitches on sewing side


 Wash Away:

  • Use when all traces need to be gone.
  • Use for sheers.
  • Use when you can see the design from both sides.
  • Does not support many stitches.  If it cannot be washed do not use.


  • Remove as much as possible through cutting or tearing. 
  • Rinse under warm running water until gone. 
  • When creating lace the more it is washed the softer it will be.


Aquafilm backing
  • clear light weight.
  • Quick to rinse away.
  • Use for quilted in the hoop if the quilt itself cannot be hooped. 
  • Too light weight for stand aloe lace.
  • heavy clear backing
  • Can be used for stand alone lace.
  • Very stable that is not prone to premature perforation during stitches.
  • Majority can be torn away before rinsing.
  • Opaque backing supports the most stitches.
  • Can be used in stand alone lace. 
  • Very stable not prone to premature perforation.  
  • Excess cannot be torn away. 
  • Must cut and then rinse.