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  • Types of stabilizers in machine embroidery.

    There are two types of stabilizers: toppings and backings.
    A top stabilizer (topping) is used to prevent stitches from sinking into loosely spun and textured fabrics. Use a top stabilizer when embroidering on knitwear, velvet or velour to help stitches to stay in place. A top stabilizer won't prevent fabric from puckering. For this purpose, use backing.  For laces, the backing is used as a base fabric.
    Machine embroidery stabilizers (interfacing, etc.) in our shop.
    Backing
    Backings are special, primarily non-woven materials, that provide support and stabilize the fabric during the embroidery, prevent creasing, distortion, and stretch. They are put under the fabric being embroidered.
    There are several types of backings: tearaway, adhesive, cutaway, water-soluble, heat-away.
    Tearaway stabilizers
    Tearaway stabilizers usually consist of paper of varying density (thickness).
    Tearaway stabilizers are good for most natural fabrics and give only a temporary support. This kind of stabilizer is easily removed and can be successfully used in cases where the wrong side will be seen (towels, plaids, scarfs and so on). It is also widely used with non-transparent fabrics of fair colors, with thick and densely woven fabrics made of natural fibers (denim, for example). Not recommended for any kinds of knits.
    Adhesive stabilizers
    These are glued to the wrong side of the item, thus giving it stability.
    There are several types of adhesives:
    An ordinary adhesive stabilizer with glue on one side. The item is attached to it with an iron.
    Adhesive paper with a sticky side covered with a protective layer. This paper is necessary when embroidering tricky fabrics: velvet, cashmere, leather, which are better not to be hooped. And also for the items that are hard to hoop: collars, cuffs, small details.
    An adhesive paper is placed in the hoop with a sticky side facing up, then the protective layer the size of the embroidery area is removed, and the item is placed on top. Having embroidered the item, tear the paper away. Example: FILMOPLAST®.
    Cutaway stabilizers
    Cutaway stabilizers (backings) are used for stabilizing highly stretchable fabrics and provide constant support during the embroidery. One needs them to embroider a machine embroidery design with a lot of stitches, in order to avoid fabric distortion, preventing the appearance of bulges or concavities (the effect stays even after several washes).
    A cutaway stabilizer is always thicker than a tearaway. It consists of a non-woven fabric made of long fibers on the basis of polyester or rayon. The way the fibers are arranged in a stabilizer defines its purpose.
    If the fibers are mainly single-oriented, it stretches and tears in this one direction. Therefore, to stabilize the fabric properly you need to use 2 layers of backing, positioning them perpendicularly. There are backings of varying density.
    Bonding short fibers (polyester, rayon, cellulose) together by solvent treatment, you'll get a non-woven fabric of high quality, which is soft like a tearaway stabilizer, has a smooth surface and does not stretch in any direction. This stabilizer can be of varying density and just one layer of it is sufficient. It is considered the best embroidery stabilizer because it does not add extra volume to the embroidery and does not show through the fabric.
    Among the cutaway stabilizers, one should note spunbond – a thin, very soft material that resembles a waffle. USA Poly Mesh or No Show Mesh stabilizers. This kind of backing is good because it does not stretch at all, providing support all the time, and is not visible through the fabric. It comes in various colors and densities. It is used for knits.
    Solvent stabilizers
    Solvent stabilizers include a water-soluble fabric-like stabilizer and a water-soluble film of varying density. They are used for stabilizing the embroidery when it is necessary to remove the backing without traces. For example, organza, transparent fabrics, FSL, and cutwork.
    Water-soluble stabilizers come in two varieties: textile interfacing materials and films
    100% polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) stabilizers Both are dissolved in water. Time of dissolution depends on the temperature of water. Approximate valued by Gunold:
    20 °C about 3 min 25 °C about 2 min 30 °C about 1 min 40 °C about 15 sec In real life, water-solubles are not so easily removed, and it takes more than one round to get rid of it completely.
    The intended purpose of a water-soluble film depends on its thickness:
    Thin (20 microns) Used as toppings for lightweight fabrics.
    Medium (35 microns) are used for textured fabrics (velour with and without pile, velvet, fur and loop fabrics). When embroidering small details and letters on textured fabrics the film should be placed on top for better results.
    Dense (80 microns) are used as a base fabric for so-called 3D embroidery, FSL, chevrons, cutwork, and as a stabilizer for the fabrics where the wrong side should look good, also for transparent fabrics.
    Heat-away stabilizers
    They are used when it is necessary to stabilize the fabric, which shouldn't get wet and you need to remove the backing leftovers. They can be successfully used for creating FSL, as well as water-soluble film. They are removed with a very hot iron (no less than 120°) through the paper. Under no circumstances should steam be used with fusible stabilizers.
    Upper stabilizers (toppings)
    These are necessary to prevent the stitches from sinking into the pile, loops, fur and other materials of that kind, also with loosely-knitted fabrics. Gelatin-based toppings are widely known because they can be easily solved in water. This is what is called a water-soluble film.
    There are two types of water-soluble film: thin and thick (dense). Thin film is used practically with everything, thick one – only with high piles.
    Next kind of stabilizers is a fusible stabilizer. They are used in cases when the fabric cannot be washed, and therefore, the use of water-soluble film is not possible.
     

    Water-soluble stabilizer in machine embroidery

    Original text by Olga Armyakova 
    Broidery Magazine 
    A wide variety of stabilizers is used in machine embroidery. Today we'll dwell on the subject of water-solubles. 
    Given that the only the imported stabilizers of this variety can be found on the Russian market, here's the list of names that you may read on the package or a website: 
    Water-soluble  Wash Away Stabilizer  WSF  Water-soluble film  Dissolve stabilizer  All of the above denote stabilizers that are removed by water. 
    They are commonly used as a backing, just as their cut-away and tear-away counterparts. Equally, this is the only type of stabilizer that can also serve as a topping or as your base fabric without any additional materials.  Water-soluble stabilizers are used when absolutely no traces of additional materials are tolerated. Along with that, they do not contain formaldehyde and, therefore, can be used in underwear and other items where the embroidery is intended to come into contact with the skin.  Water-solubles can be removed the moment the embroidery is completed or while washing. Having finished the embroidery, you can easily cut or tear the extra stabilizer beyond the outlines of the design, and the bits within them are destroyed with steam or damp sponge. If necessary, a water-soluble stabilizer is washed away in the running water or first soaked in water and rinsed afterward.  To dissolve the stabilizer in water, use the temperature between 10 and 40° C: this way the color and other fabric properties will stay intact. Just how long it will take, depends on the manufacturer. The higher the temperature, the quicker the stabilizer will dissolve. I strongly advise against heating the water too much: the stabilizer leftovers may turn into lumps and solidify.  Make sure to read the stabilizer specifications, because they might contain important points on how to work with this particular type.  In general, water-solubles expire in 1 year. Better to keep them in a box in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. Once the expiration date has passed, try to use your stabilizer as quickly as possible, otherwise, it will lose all its properties. This is especially true for thin water-soluble film. 
    CHOOSING A WATER-SOLUBLE STABILIZER: 
    In order to choose a right stabilizer for machine embroidery, you need to take into account the following factors:
    The structure of the fabric, type and properties of the fibers  the density of the embroidery and whether the embroidery will come into contact with the skin For a lacy design embroidered with polyester threads two layers of lightweight stabilizer will be sufficient, but the same design embroidered with metallic threads will require a denser one.
    Let's try to sort the wash away stabilizers into categories and describe their fields of application. I will hereafter use the most common names in circulation. 
    WATER-SOLUBLE STABILIZER: DENSITY 
    The principal characteristic of a water-soluble stabilizer is its thickness (specified by the manufacturer in microns) or density (g/m2). 
    Thin, or lightweight stabilizer 
    Thickness: 10 microns 
    Composition: Different manufacturers specify different raw materials: 100% polyvinyl alcohol or 100% modified rayon. 
    The product looks like a thin plastic film. It is used to prevent the stitches from getting lost in heavily textured fabrics. For example, in knitted garments or ones made of terry cloth, also in piled fabrics. First, you create a stabilizer-fabric-stabilizer "sandwich". Then, in case the fabric is thin or you have an outline embroidery design, you hoop it. 
    Medium-weight 
    Thickness: 20 microns 
    Composition: 100% polyvinyl alcohol or 100% modified rayon 
    Some manufacturers' wash away resembles a non-woven cloth, akin to the interfacing material used in sewing, others' is like a thick film. Use it to strengthen the tricky fabrics whenever stabilizer must not be seen. On see-through fabrics, for example. You can use several layers of medium-weight stabilizer spare the fabric. 
    Heavyweight 
    Thickness: 30 microns
    Composition: 100% polyvinyl alcohol or 100% modified rayon 
    This one looks like a very thick greenhouse covering film. It is used for embroidering FSL or 3D designs. Fix it in the hoop without your main fabric. The design should be created in such a way that all its elements are interconnected, in order to prevent it from falling into separate pieces once the stabilizer has been removed. 

    Water-soluble stabilizers in machine embroidery 
    WATER-SOLUBLE STABILIZER: VARIETIES 
    Unfortunately, there are not many brands of water-soluble stabilizers on the Russian market at the moment. Nevertheless, machine embroidery in our country is buoyant. Many consumables, and that includes stabilizers, can be ordered from online shops. For this reason, I'll describe all types of wash aways that can be found these days. 
    First three or four types are non-transparent non-woven fabrics. 
    Adhesive 
    This is a water-soluble stabilizer with a paper backing. A spray adhesive and a stabilizer rolled into one. Pull away the paper to expose the stabilizer's sticky side. Stick it onto the embroidery area before or after hooping. Having done the embroidery, dissolve it in water. 
    This type of stabilizers is used as a backing. 
    Fusible 
    A tear-away, webbing-like stabilizer that is pressed to the fabric with a warm iron. After the embroidery is completed, it is rinsed away with water, leaving no trace. 
    Preventing the fabric from shifting, it is as handy as the adhesive stabilizer, and is, too, used as backing. 
    Mesh 
    Dense wash away stabilizer that is used for FSL and other laces, or heavily textured fabrics such as velvet, corduroy or knitwear, and also diaphanous and light-colored ones. 
    Transparent film 
    Is placed on top of knitwear or heavily textured fabrics. Its main purpose is to prevent the stitches from sinking deep. 
    The film's advantage is that you can see the fabric and the design through it. That allows us to avoid problems that may arise when we join the designs or their parts together. 
    This kind of stabilizer can be used instead of the fabric for such things as 3D designs or FSL. 
    It takes a trained eye to define whether the thin transparent film will be able to withstand the pressure of the design at a mere glance. 
    Liquid 
    Soak the fabric in it prior to the embroidery and let it dry. Embroider your design and wash the design in water. 
    Water removable spray 
    Is sprinkled onto fabric prior to the embroidery. Be certain to let it dry properly before starting the embroidery. It is rinsed away with water once the embroidery is completed. Besides the spray, you can use the starch powder for ironing that comes in aerosol form as well. 
    There are also such domestic methods of firming up fabrics with gelatine or starch, which can be considered the subvarieties of the last one. 
    CONCLUSIONS 
    Every stabilizer has its specifications and user's manual. I advise you to create a special file to keep track of all the stabilizers, needles and threads used in every project. This will make your future choices much easier. 
    Dense water-soluble film. You will easily discern it by sight. It looks very similar to the greenhouse covering material. This stabilizer is used as a backing for laces or, sometimes, as a background fabric. 
    Thin stabilizing film. This type of stabilizer looks like a thin polyethylene bag. It is primarily used as a topping to prevent the stitches from sinking into the fabric. 
    Dense wash away stabilizer. This one is used as a background fabric for laces. It looks like a sewing interfacing material. 
    If the stitches have sunk and the resulting embroidery looks untidy, try choosing another stabilizer or use two layers of the present one, also readjust the thread tension or simply change the bobbin thread and see whether it makes any changes. If nothing helps, blame the design. 
    SOME TIPS 
    When using the fusible stabilizer, make sure that the iron is set at the lowest temperature possible and do without the steam, otherwise, your embroidery will suffer.  Don't throw away the accompanying materials to your consumables. It may contain important information, such what time does it take for a stabilizer to dissolve and at what temperature, the density, the brand name and the item number. Staple this information to the stabilizer's package. In future, it will make the process of choosing a right fabric in a shop much easier.  Don't throw away the stabilizer leftovers after the embroidery has been cut out. In future, they might come in handy: arrange them in the embroidery area of a hooped fabric, and they'll do just as good as a whole piece.  For denser designs and thicker fabrics, another layer of stabilizer may be needed. I recommend testing the design and the fabric first, in order to estimate the required number of layers.  Provide yourself with several pieces of stabilizer that will fit your hoop. It is not too demanding a task; arranging those pieces in the hoop in advance will save you time and fabric.  Before using a water soluble topping, make certain that your fabric doesn't fade.  When embroidering on knitwear with a film on top, don't forget to stick the background material to the underlay – it will prevent puckering.  Small trims can be dissolved in warm water and used as a stabilizer liquid to temporarily fix the tricky fabrics. 

    Machine embroidery with a woolen thread: in search for ideas

    Original text by Marina Belova 
    I'm currently raking my brains about embroidery with a woolen thread, or, to be more precise, with an acrylic one — I want to embroider a very simple design on a pillow, black on the white-and-gold background. It will match the wallpaper and sofa in my room. Besides, if you embroider on wool with a woolen thread, the pillow will be agreeable to the touch, which is nice. Sadly, there is little information on embroidery with this type of thread, except the most basic one.
    It's not that I do not understand how to use it, but I still want to see how it looks in reality. Suddenly I have come across the Husqvarna Handlook Needlework design collection, which is imitating hand embroidery with woolen threads. The photos from this collection are very inspiring — they prompt you to try and embroider all of this yourself. And besides, it is always good for the brain to scrutinize someone else's design from every angle. 
    So I went through their files: took measures, counted stitched, chose a design and tried to create something like that myself. Judging from what I've seen, I've figured out that a design like this is based on a very simple principle — use of the motif stitches and satin stitches. The motif stitching, if I got it right, should resemble something like this: 

    I would never imagine anything like it for the woolen thread. All the basic principles of digitizing, like making longer stitches for thicker threads, are swept away by the length of connector stitches, which Husqvarna digitizers successfully use in their work. To see these nuances you need to study the works of other people, for there is always someone who knows more than you. I think I've already expanded this topic. 
    This is how my design looks: 

    My first sample with 1.5 mm long connector stitches turned out to be rather dense: 

    I reduced the density by increasing the connector stitch length to 2 mm, and got a much softer result: 

    It doesn't look very good, of course, but now it's clear that this technique requires another, simpler design and repeating of satin stitches several times at the same place is definitely unnecessary. I created a design: 

    Here it is already embroidered: 

    The result in not that bad, the only thing that disturbs me is that the connector stitches are visible between the repeating stitches, creating a so-called beaded border: But with a right type of the design everything will be good. Or you can hide this border by changing the angle of the connector stitches in relation to the next row of repeating stitches. But in this case the stitches should be done by hand, and I don't like the idea of it. 
    So I decided to return to the basics of the technique I set out to imitate. Having opened a book, I was surprised to see that the embroidery with woolen threads looks exactly the same as an ordinary one — satin stitches, running stitches, other decorative elements that are not available in machine embroidery. Although there is a similar stitch. It is called the Fly Stitch and is mostly used for small leaves. Below is the example taken from Trish Burr's book called Crewel and Surface Embroidery: 

    And then I got an idea of using 3 or 5 layers of satin stitches of low-density instead of motif stitches so that to avoid this border. For is will not make all the elements look better. 
    In order to try I created a design with 3 layers of stitches of 1.5 mm density: 

    Here's the sample — columns look monolithic. 

    I think that if one lowers density even more, to 2 mm, it will be a good imitation of hand embroidery. But the "border" technique will do for several kinds of designs. 
    Perhaps, someone will share their thoughts on embroidery with woolen threads? So we would not be reinventing the wheel. 
    Besides, today I found out that the tension of the acrylic thread should be increased. There won't be any breakages: everything looks splendid.
    But loose tensioning leads to "bird nesting". 
     

    Tearaway adhesive stabilizer

    Tearaway adhesive stabilizers are used for the embroidery designs on various fabrics. The main goal of a sticky stabilizer is the prevention of puckering; it is, perhaps, its only goal if you don’t count the ones that rampant imagination can conjure. Adhesive stabilizers vary in weight. The most lightweight stabilizers are intended for delicate fabrics (batiste, sateen, satin). Heavier stabilizers are used when working with such fabrics as drape cloth, linen, denim, etc.
    Tearaway adhesive stabilizer
    You can purchase black and white stabilizers in world As I’ve already said, they vary in weight: the higher the weight, the thicker and stronger the stabilizer. Stabilizers are similar to paper made from pressed fibers, they have one coarse and one smooth side covered with a layer of glue. The only difference between sticky and non-sticky stabilizers is the adhesive layer. It allows gluing fabric to the stabilizer with the help of an iron and nothing else.
    Weight is the main property of a stabilizer. It is measured in grams per m2. The greater the number, the denser the stabilizer. The figure may vary from 25 to 130 g/m2. The lightweight stabilizers are used with thin and delicate fabrics, whereas heavyweight stabilizers – with dense and thick ones.
    Composition: 50-70% cellulose and 25-30% synthetic fibers, also 100% rayon or 100% polyester.
    Stabilizers are often sold without any marking, and newbies get puzzled trying to figure out whether it is good for the fabric they've chosen or not. It is very easy to define stabilizer density by touch. Feel the material and take a cue from that. The stabilizer should not be much denser than your chosen fabric, otherwise, you’ll get a thick patch on the thin fabric.
    When buying an adhesive stabilizer, try and learn who produced it, how it is marked and what fabrics it is intended for. In case it's difficult for you to remember a wide variety of stabilizers, create a supplementary sheet for every one you own, fill in all the relevant information and attach a sample. This will help you to distinguish among the different types of stabilizers.
    Usage embroidery stabilizer.
    Sticky stabilizers are used when there is a high possibility of puckering during the embroidery, and no hooping restrictions apply.
    In order to attach the stabilizer, place the fabric with its wrong side facing up, and put the stabilizer on top of it with its sticky side facing fabric. With a hot iron glue the stabilizer to it. Hoop the “sandwich” with the right side of the fabric facing upward.

    After the embroidery is completed, carefully tear away the stabilizer along the edges. Tearaway adhesive stabilizers are also noted for being easy to remove from the wrong side of the fabric after the work has been completed.

    If the stabilizer does not tear, it is not a tearaway, but a cutaway. A tearaway adhesive stabilizer should tear easily in all directions. When purchasing a stabilizer, give preference to those that tear more easily. They will make your job easier.
    It’s better not to use tearaway adhesive stabilizers when doing Walk Stitch or Run Stitch because they are hard to remove from the wrong side. If, for one reason or another, you had to use a stabilizer, tear it away gently on completion, so as not to damage the stitch lines.
    Storage rules.
    Store the carefully folded stabilizers in a plastic bag where the sun cannot reach them. Bear in mind that the stabilizer’s adhesive layer may deteriorate in the course of time, and therefore, do not buy the three years supply. Keep to the minimum. Try not to crease the stabilizer, because this will damage its adhesive properties.
     
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