“The Stabilizer Journey”

In honor of National Embroidery Month, I thought I would take a moment to talk about stabilizers.  Whether you are quilting on Silk Dupioni, adding decorative stitches to a woven fabric or creating a machine embroidery design on a project, your fabric will need to be stabilized in some way.  To say I can tell you the best stabilizer choices for every project would be unlikely, since there are entire books written on the subject, but I can give you some guidelines that help me.  First of all, if you are using a machine to stitch on fabric with anything but the most basic of stitches, you will likely need to stabilize the fabric in some way.  How can you tell if you need to do this?  Test the stitches you intend to use on the fabric without using anything to stabilize it.  Does the fabric pucker?  Then you need to use a stabilizer.  “What kind of stabilizer should be used?” is usually the next question.  Generally, if your fabric is tightly woven, with no stretch to it, you can use a good quality tear away or wash away stabilizer.  If your fabric has stretch, you should use a good quality cut away stabilizer.  Stretch fabrics include any fabric that has some “give” to it, such as denim.  Fabrics don’t have to contain Spandex to be considered a stretch fabric.  Once you know this basic rule, you may start to buy stabilizers that will most closely fit your needs.  I tend to purchase light weight stabilizers and then use multiple layers if I need a heavier stabilizer.  Just a note, when using multiple layers of stabilizer, I always use a basting stitch first to hold everything together while the stitching is going on.  This reduces the chance of the stabilizers slipping under my embroidery hoop or from under the fashion fabric.  If the back of my embellished project will not be seen, such as for a lined garment or pillow, I always use cut away stabilizer, regardless of the project’s fabric type or weight.  This is especially true if I know the project will be washed frequently.  One last thought….if you are working with a variety of fabric types, you will need to acquire a varied collection of stabilizers.  That’s just part of the art.