Friday, November 27, 2009

The Fine Art of Stabilizers

Recently I was invited to Jackman's in St. Louis for their November Embroidery Club. First let me say that it is a fabulous store. The staff is experienced and knowledgeable, the fabrics are gorgeous and they carry the very coolest buttons and trims.  I just wish I lived closer so I could hang out there more often.

I've made a lot of cool stuff (its what I do) to show them. But the same question came up over and over again. "What stabilizer did you use?" So I'd like to give y'all a little bit of what I've learned about stabilizer.

First of all, do not cheap out and use paper towels or used dryer sheets for stabilizers. I've seen that suggested as a frugal alternative. Don't do it. Your time, your threads, your garment or project are worth much more than a little sheet of stabilizer so please use the real thing.

The function of stabilizer is to counteract the pull of the threads (ahhhhh, physics!). A very dense design will need more stabilizing power than a loose or "airy" design. A base fabric that stretches will have less ability to resist the pull of threads and will also need more stabilizing power. A stretchy base fabric that will be washed a gazillion times (just think of the things babies do all day) will need more stabilizing support than a project that hangs on the wall to be enjoyed.

That said, there are three basic types of stabilizer: Tear Away, Cut Away and Wash Away. In general Tear Away is for woven fabrics, Cut Away for knit or stretchy fabrics and Wash Away is for items where the threads cover the raw edge of the fabric, like an embroidered scalloped edge.


These stabilizers come in different weights.  Light weight for light weight fabrics or "airy" designs, Medium weight for heavier designs and Heavy Weight for really dense designs. Here's an example...most of my embroidering happens on lightweight cotton quilting fabrics so I use a Tear Away light (woven fabric, lightweight, not too dense design). If I were stitching on a sweatshirt to give to my favorite nephew I would use Cut Away Light or Medium (stretchy fabric, weight depending on how dense the design).

The other question that came up was "What brand of stabilizer do you use?" I've used every brand out there at one point or another. While at Market this past Fall I met some folks who manufacture some truly awesome stabilizers. I haven't talked much about them until now because I wanted to make sure that I had thoroughly tested every single product they make. I've done that and I can tell you every stabilizer they make is top-notch first quality!

The company is called Bosal, there's a photo of some of their goodies above. I like the products and I like that they use a minimum of packaging which is better for the earth. I couldn't find it locally (I live in the boonies, remember?) so I will be carrying their products for you to order. Call or email me if you'd like some. I hope to have it up on the website soon.

This is just a little overview of stabilizers, I'll be posting more as I write some tutorials on specific techniques.

Check back soon.

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