Many times, the use of stabilizers is equated only with machine embroidery. Stabilizers are for machine embroidery, but they should also be used anytime your project will be using decorative stitches. Stabilizers do just what their name suggests: stabilize the fabric. There are as many different types and weights of stabilizers as there are projects, so when purchasing a type of stabilizer, it is most economical to purchase the type you will tend to use the most. For example, if you will be using the stabilizer for decorative stitches on or around quilt blocks you will want to use a light weight stabilizer that is a cut away, such as a no-show mesh. This will stay with the quilt after the stitching is finished and will become a part of the finished quilt. If you are using the stabilizer in a project made from a fairly hearty woven material, it may be just fine to use a water soluble stabilizer that will disappear when exposed to water.
I do not recommend using a tear away stabilizer of any kind if you are using it for decorative stitches. Decorative stitches often distort when tear away stabilizer is removed. Also, since tear away stabilizer is usually more like paper in texture, the stitches often don’t seat themselves as well into the fabric as when a cut away is used. Decorative stitches tend to go back and forth and/or side to side which puts a lot of stress on the thread and the fabric. Using a stabilizer that stays under the decorative stitches especially if the project will see frequent laundering, is best for the long term good looks of the stitching.
Along with the stabilizer, consider using starch or a starch alternative such as “Best Press” to give the fabric even more stability before stitching. If your fabric has a tendency to slip under your presser foot, you may want to consider using a temporary spray adhesive, such as Sulky’s “KK2000” to hold the stabilizer and the fabric together securely. It is important that any temporary spray adhesive be sprayed on the stabilizer and not the fabric. Some adhesives can leave a stain that will not come out if they are sprayed directly onto the fabric.
Lastly, when starting your line of decorative stitches, make sure to hold both the top and bobbin threads, with your fingers or under the presser foot, for the first two to three stitches. This will eliminate the chance of developing a bird’s nest of thread on the underside of the fabric at the beginning of the pattern. Slowing your machine’s speed will also help to ensure your decorative stitches look their very best. Happy Sewing!