Knowing what stabilizer to use is very important when you are creating or completing embroidery. You need to know the correct one, every time. When I first started doing embroidery and digitizing many years ago, someone said this to me:
You are only as good as your hooping skills.
That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at the time, but it sure does now! Let me explain this to you in a few ways. Hooping skills mean being able to hoop the garment or hat properly, but also using the correct tension and the right stabilizer, and adding a topping stabilizer as needed. You can be an awesome digitizer, but if you can’t hoop properly, you won’t be able to sell too many designs because your “show off” picture won’t look great.. Take that into consideration when you are creating designs or doing test stitch outs – it may not necessarily be the digitizing that is at fault, it is often your hooping skills.
First, let’s take a quick look at the word stabilizer – which is a bit different in embroidery, but has the same meaning:
“to make or hold stable, firm or steadfast” That is what the different forms of stabilizer will do – it keeps the material stable for you to embroider. Have you ever embroidered without stabilizer? This is possible on some fabrics, but otherwise the embroidery won’t look good for very long – it will get wrinkled and terrible looking before long, especially after washing any garment. So that’s the key – the stabilizer is to make the fabric stable and secure and keep it in place while you embroider.
What happens when you use the wrong stabilizer? Quite a few things can happen, but let’s look at a few of them.
OUT OF REGISTRATION: this is a big one, that happens all the time. If you are stitching a design with a thin single stitch outline, for example, you need to have the fabric stabilized properly, or the outline will be out of registration. That means that the outline running stitch will not match up with the embroidery – it will be outside where it should be or inside – either way, your embroidery design will not look right. Some registration issues can come from pull compensation or too many layers, but often it can be because poor stabilization technique. The solution? Stabilize it better. If you are using the thinner tear away stabilizer, switch to the thicker and more solid cut away stabilizer.
CRAPPY LOOKING EMBROIDERY: I don’t know how to describe this in better words – if your embroidery looks less than sharp, letters are not clear and things don’t look right when you are stitching them out, kind of messy maybe- even though it looks great on the computer -stabilizer is the first thing I change. Depending on the fabric, you may need to use 2 layers of stabilizer to make the embroidery look good. Of course, there may be many other contributing factors, but stabilizer is certainly one of them, and it’s also the easiest to try – if it works then you have saved yourself tons of time at the computer trying to figure out some solution!
STITCHES DISAPPEAR: Yep, this can happen. Say you are doing to do a simple monogram on a towel, like a bath towel or something of that nature, if you were to use the wrong topper (which is still called stabilizer), the stitches will disappear into the towel, and you will wonder what you are embroidering! Even though this stabilizer is on the top, it’s still stabilizer – water soluble stabilizer (or WSS for short) sits on the TOP of the towel to provide a good base for the stitches – so you can see them when you have finished Of course, you must use stabilizer on the bottom too, but either tear away or cut away. The WSS on the top will hold up the stitches from the nap of the towel, enabling you to have beautiful stitches, even on the thickest of towels. WSS can be used in a few different ways, but it is necessary for embroidering on towels or anything else with a big nap. WSS in some form or another is necessary – and the design, any design will look terrible without it.
There are many other examples of what can go wrong if you don’t have your hooping skills up to par! Learn embroidery, learn to hoop properly to have amazing stitch outs and better embroidery. Seriously, you can be a better digitizer by keeping up with your hooping skills.
REMEMBER: YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR HOOPING SKILLS. So hoop properly and show off your embroidery!