Impressions - Embroidery 2023 - 19

Second, the stabilizer creates a smooth
and level barrier between the machine and
any seams, textured fabric or other parts of
the item being stitched, preventing needle
defl ection or design registration problems.
The Two Key Elements
Again, there are two key elements for pairing
your material with the correct stabilizer. Th ese
include fabric construction and design type.
1) Fabric Construction and Backing Type
What do I mean by fabric construction?
Hint: it's not the fi ber content the fabric is
made from. Th e fact that your material includes
cotton, polyester, rayon, wool, or any blend
of two or more fi bers, doesn't matter when
it comes to choosing backing. Instead, fabric
construction refers to the manner in which
the material is made. Most fabrics fall into
one of two types: Knits and Wovens.
Knit fabrics are made from a continuous
thread, or sets of threads, and are identifi ed
by the knit-and-purl, or looped, construction
pattern of the material, similar to how a
knitted or crocheted Afghan is made, but
much smaller. Th e chain-link construction
of knits is what makes them stretch in
every direction. But while this makes them
comfortable to wear, it also means they are
very unstable fabrics. T-shirts, polo shirts,
sweatshirts and performance wear are all
examples of common knits.
By contrast, woven fabrics are constructed
by the crisscrossing of horizontal and vertical
threads in an over-and-under basket weave
pattern. Generally, this makes for a more
stable fabric. However, because lightweight
wovens are thinner and less dense, they are
still considered unstable fabrics. Sometimes
a blend of fi bers, including elastic fi bers, will
be employed as part of the weave, allowing a
light woven material to fl ex even more. Dress
shirts, chiff on, percale, silk, rayon and some
linens are all examples of common lightweight
As for heavyweight wovens, they are
exactly what they sound like: dense, tightly
woven cloth made for thickness, warmth and
durability. Although they may sometimes be
woven with a small percentage of elastic in
them (think stretch denim) they generally
have little flexibility and are very stable.
Broadcloth, wool tweed, denim, twill, duck
cloth, and canvas duffl e bags are all examples
of heavyweight wovens.
As you might expect, because knits are very
stretchy and lightweight wovens are fl exible,
they require a stabilizing foundational layer
that will support the design throughout the life
of the garment. Th erefore, when embroidering
on knits and light wovens, you must use a
sturdier cut-away backing to keep the design
Diff erent fabric types
require diff erent types of
stabilizers. Images courtesy
of Madeira USA
Knit Fabrics
fl at and well-supported as the material stretches
and fl exes around the stitches over the course
of repeated wearings.
Stable heavyweight woven fabrics, on the
other hand, have enough integrity to support
the design after it has been stitched without
requiring the additional stabilization of a cutaway
backing. Th erefore, when embroidering
on heavyweight wovens, a tear-away backing is
all you need to provide the temporary stability
necessary during the actual embroidering
2) Design Type and Backing Weight
What do I mean by design type? As you
probably know, embroidery designs come in
all manner of sizes, densities, stitch types and
total stitch counts. With this in mind, design
type refers to not just one of those factors,
but all those factors put together. Don't just
think in terms of high or low total stitch
counts. Th e overall size of the design in
light of the total number of stitches matters,
too. Is the design tightly packed in one area?
Or is it a large, airy design without a lot of
fi ll stitches? Consider the design elements,
stitch type and the amount of fabric " real
estate " it's going to take up.
In the lion design on the following page,
for example, we have a 6-inch-by-7-inch
design with over 42,000 stitches, including
a large number of fi ll stitches. We would
call a design like that very " dense. " All those
stitches layered on top of each other in one
central area will require a heavier weight
backing, i.e., one that is thicker and is itself
denser with higher stabilization power.
At the other end of the density spectrum, we
have the owl design (to the right and below),
with a medium to lower stitch count-a
6-inch-by-12-inch design that includes a
lot of unstitched areas and decorative running
stitches with around 22,000 stitches across
a full jacket back. We would call a design
like this very " open. " While 22,000 stitches
is not a small design, it is spread out across
a wide area.
Once you learn how to approach your
backing decisions by thinking in terms of
fabric construction and design type, you
will be better able to analyze which backing
you'll need for every project you want to
embroider. Will you need a cut-away? A tearaway?
Something more specialized? What
follows is a quick and simple guide grouping
backings by type.
Cut Away Stabilizer
Loosely Woven
Cut Away Stabilizer
Tightly Woven
Tear Away Stabilizer
A Special Supplement to impr essions

Impressions - Embroidery 2023

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