The Very Best Way To Ruin Your Machine Embroidery Project

When I first started doing machine embroidery it was with a machine that I had borrowed from my mom. I didn’t take any classes and I didn’t read the manual that came with the machine (sound familiar?). I just started pushing button and trying things out.

Needless to say, almost everything I tried came out looking awful. So to give you a good laugh (and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes), here is my list of how to ruin your Machine Embroidery Project.

  1. Don’t change the needle. A dull needle that has already sewn several thousand stitches is one sure-fire way to ruin your project and cause you great frustration in the process. You could get a lot of thread breaks and thread shredding with an old needle. Using the wrong needle size for the thread and fabric you are using can also ruin your project. Schmetz has a great guide (check it out here) that gives you a guide for which needle is right for your project. Sulky also gives needle recommendations for our threads on and on the end of many of the spools!
  2. Just use whatever thread you have laying around. Not all threads are the same. Shockingly, the thread you can get 3 spools for a dollar at the checkout of a big-box store is not going to be the same quality as the ENKA Certified Rayon that is sold by Sulky.
  3. Don’t do a test sew out.

    Picture courtesy of

    I know you paid good money for the embroidery blank, t-shirt, or bag that you are planning to embroider on. If you like messing up and having to re-buy your blanks, by all means, just go for it without testing the design, the stabilizers, or the positioning of the design on the item.

  4. Don’t use the right stabilizer. This is probably the best way to ruin an embroidery project. If you just throw any old stabilizer in, no matter what type of design you are stitching or what type of fabric you are stitching on, I can all but guarantee you will screw up the project. Need some proof? check out these pictures of designs that were not stabilized properly compared to the ones that were.

    Embroidery with the wrong stabilizers.

    Embroidery with the right stabilizer


    If you want to know the right kinds of stabilizer to use, check out the Sulky Stabilizer Selector Tool.
  5. Heck! Don’t use any stabilizer at all! Once again, it’s probably the quickest way to screw it all up.

Truthfully, I don’t want you to have to make the mistakes I made so, please, change your needle! Use good quality thread, and by all means, use the right stabilizer. If you aren’t sure what stabilizer to use, check out our Stabilizer Selector Tool. 

Happy Sewing!

The # 1 FAQ – What Stabilizer Do I Use? – Answered

The #1 Question: What Stabilizer Do I Use? – Answered!

When I asked Patti Lee, Vice President of Consumer Relations for Sulky of America, what is the number one question that people ask you; without hesitation, she said, “What stabilizer do I use?” Every day, all day it seems, Patti is answering this question.

As a result, we created the new….Sulky Stabilizer Selector Tool!

What stabilizer do I use seems like a pretty straightforward question, but the truth is, it’s an incredibly complicated one! The answer depends on what type of fabric you are stitching on and the technique you are using (Applique, Hand Embroidery, Monogramming). Depending on the type of fabric and the technique you are using, the Stabilizer Selector Tool on our website could give you any one of 2,278 different answers! Crazy right?

This tool took our team of experts here at Sulky over a year to put together. We wanted to be sure that you are getting the best information possible so you have great results. Our motto is “Create with Confidence”, after all.

Here is how the Stabilizer Selector Tool works:

First, pick a technique.  There are 34 techniques to choose from. You can choose anything from Applique to Sashiko; and Monogramming to Thread Sketching.

Next, pick your fabric. There are 69 to choose from (did you even know there were that many types of fabric? Me either!). These experts thought of it all. You can choose anything from Cashmere to Cotton, to Lightweight Knit and Hats!


Once you have your combination set, the suggested stabilizer (or stabilizers, as is often the case) pops up. They are listed by which ones should be a backing stabilizer, what should be a topping, and how many layers of each you will need.

sulky stabilizer selection tool

Sulky Stabilizer Selector Tool

Note: I wish I could tell you that using the stabilizer selector and following the suggestions gave you a 100 percent guarantee of perfect results every single time.  However, these are the absolute best suggestions that our experts can possibly give you with the limited information that is being asked; but let’s face it, there are other factors in machine embroidery that are also important for success. For example, all fabrics are not manufactured the same – there are different weights and quality. When is the last time you changed your needle? What kind of thread are you using? Are you hooping properly? Are you spending enough time with your embroidery machine, or is she getting jealous of the other machines in your sewing room, so she is forced to mess up while you aren’t looking, so you will only pay attention to her? (Please tell me my machine isn’t the only one that does this!)

In other words, here is the fine print: Though these results are based on the suggestions of our Experts, there are numerous possibilities that can be used for nearly all techniques/fabric combinations. We are confident you will experience great results with our suggestion, so go ahead and Select With Confidence!

The bottom line: If you use the Stabilizer Selector Tool and follow the suggestions, we are confident you will like what you see and it is certainly a great place to start, especially if you are doing a brand new sewing technique or sewing on a fabric that you have never used before. However, we always suggest that you test before you sew :).

If you want something for your actual sewing reference library on these recommendations, we have some dandies in recipe-format with pretty pictures to inspire you in this book.  It’s a great reference and would make a great gift, too.

Happy Sewing!

The Stabilizer Series: The Blog Round-up

I started a very popular Series in the beginning of 2015 called The Stabilizer Series.

THEIt has been a lot of fun to do and then I got busy with many other posts and haven’t been able to add anything to it in awhile. Don’t worry, I will keep adding to this series, but I thought it might be helpful to just get everything in one place. So here is the entire series so far, in order.

  1. The Stabilizer Basics – Series
  2. The Stabilizer Basics – Cut-Away and Tear-Away Stabilizer
  3. The Stabilizer Series – Your Questions Answered
  4. The Stabilizer Series – More Questions Answered
  5. The Stabilizer Basics – Water Soluble and Heat-Away
  6. The Stabilizer Basics – How Do I Get Started?
  7. The Stabilizer Infographic
  8. The Stabilizer Series – Tender Touch

As I add posts to this series, I will also update this post so you may want to bookmark this one! And just because it is so helpful, here is the infographic

The Sulky Stabilizer Basics

Happy Sewing!

The Stabilizer Series – Sulky Tender Touch


We are well into this series now and have gone through the basics of stabilizers and their uses, now lets get to some other uses!

If you missed the start of this series, here are the links: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and the Infographic!

p. 7F -1.5 TenderTouch_01cover

Today I want to tell you about Sulky® Tender Touch™. Tender Touch originated as a “cover-a-stitch” backing that is used when you do embroidery on clothes for babies or small children. That is still the primary use of this product, but there is sew much more you can do with it!

p.5 E - Embro Outfitp.5 D Tender Touch Coverup

For me personally, Tender Touch has saved the day on many occasions. My younger daughter, Krissy, is very particular about what touches her skin. We have had more than one complete over-the-top dramatic melt down over the fact that “something on the inside of this shirt is itching me!” In comes the super hero of stabilizers, Tender Touch! I just iron it over the offending area (while Krissy is still playing out her dramatic scene next to me on the floor) and give her back the shirt. TADA! It’s fixed and we can all go on with our lives. In case you are wondering, Tender Touch will adhere to almost all fabrics including sequins, lamé, tulle, organza and seams of all kinds (guess how I know!).

tender touch for knits

Tender Touch is also a perfect backing when you are doing hand embroidery. Not only does it stabilize your fabric and the stitches without changing the hand of the fabric, it also ensures that the thread doesn’t show through from the back of your design. This means you don’t have to cut and tie off every time you want to move to another area to stitch. You can let that thread string across the back and no one will see it once you finish the project.

Tender Touch with hand embroidery

Have you ever wanted to make a t-shirt quilt but weren’t quite sure how to start? Tender Touch! Cut the t-shirts apart and then stabilize the area you plan to use for the quilt with Tender Touch. This makes that knit shirt more manageable without changing the hand of the fabric, which means it will still stay soft and cuddly for the finished quilt.

Harley Quilt copy

Blue T shirt Quilt copy

Tender Touch is also a perfect fusible interfacing! My friend Mimi G of Mimi G Style uses it this way. Check out her blog post here about her first experience with it.

Sulky Tender touch for facings

Tender Touch is also a good stabilizer to put on the back of a fabric that you are thread sketching! The soft hand of it allows it to slide nicely over your sewing machine bed so you don’t have to fight any resistance when you are working on a thread sketch design.

Occasionally, I will get an email or phone call from someone saying that they used Tender Touch to cover the stitching of an embroidery design and after a wash that it will just come off. In my experience, if the Tender Touch comes off, it usually means it wasn’t adhered well enough. The secret to success for me has been to cut the Tender Touch with pinking shears and to iron it on with steam. The steam and extra edges seem to help the whole piece to stay on the garment no matter how many times I wash it.

How about you? How do you use Sulky Tender Touch? Let me know in the comments below!

The Sulky Stabilizer Infographic!

Hello! I have been away at Quiltcon in Austin, Texas all last week and I am so sorry I couldn’t post. My computer decided to die while I was there. I have managed to recover the pictures from the show and will be sharing those and lots of fun moments in a post later this week.

Today I want to finally share with you the Stabilizer infographic! I finally got it finished and I hope this will be a helpful. As you know, this isn’t everything there is to know about stabilizers, but I hope it will be a good basic guide to get you started.

The Sulky Stabilizer Basics

Feel free to print this, post this, share this and comment on what you think.

Happy Sewing!

The Stabilizer Basics – How do I get started?

Stabilizer Series

When I first started doing machine embroidery I did it all wrong. I used the wrong stabilizer, I used the wrong size hoop, I used the wrong needle! The only thing I did right was use Sulky Rayon Thread. I ruined a great deal of fabric and spent a lot of time spinning my wheels. I didn’t want to call and ask my friends who did embroidery everytime I wanted to put a silly letter on something (letters were all I did for the first year or so!). Does this sound like you? You have the machine, you may have even taken a class on how to use that machine, but now you are sitting in front of that machine with a shirt or bag in hand and all you want is to put a letter on it but you just aren’t sure how to begin.

I am here to help! Here are my tips for how to get started with confidence:

  1. There is one basic rule, or starting point, I should say: In general, you use a tear-away for woven fabrics and a permanent cut-away stabilizer for knit or stretchy fabrics. This isn’t always true, but when you are starting out, it’s good to have a “simple” rule to guide you.
    Tear Easy and Soft n Sheer
  2. Have the right supplies! If you just got your machine and don’t have any embroidery supplies at all this is what I recommend: 1 roll of Sulky Tear-Easy™, 1 roll of Sulky Solvy® (the lightest weight), 1 roll of Soft ‘n Sheer™, 1 can of Sulky KK 2000, Schmetz 12/80 machine needles, (maybe a couple of 14/90 needles, too – depending on what you’re stitching through) and a few spools of Sulky 40 wt. Rayon in your favorite colors. This will give you just enough to play and learn with, without breaking the bank. All of these supplies are available at most major chain fabric and crafts stores as well as independent stores and at scads of online sources ( for one).
    starter kit
  3. Get to know your machine. I know this is going to sound crazy but read the manual. Yes. read it. The whole thing. You may even want to get a piece of muslin and stitch a few things out. Does the manual give you instructions on how to change your  machine from embroidery to regular sewing? Do the steps! Try changing it. Practice changing the needle, using the automatic needle threader, the decorative stitches. Try stitching out a few of the built in designs or even just one letter.
    Read the directions
  4. Practice. Take some old t-shirts, towels, reusable grocery bags, your hubby’s underwear and start monogramming! When I first started all I did was letters using the ones that were already in the machine. I put my kids’ names or initials on everything and yes, the hubby did have a couple pairs of undies with his name on them. This will help you get to know your machine and let you see mistakes on things that don’t matter. Do you really care if there is tunneling in your letters on the reusable grocery bag that you got for free? No! But you can figure out why it happened (probably not enough or the wrong kind stabilizer), and fix it before you try and embroider on something you spent good money to buy.
    Practice Makes perfect
  5. Find some blogs you like. Find a couple blogs that not only talk about machine embroidery and give you inspiration, but that will help you with your pitfalls. If you ever have a question about anything, you can always email me or comment on a post. If I don’t know the answer I will ask the person who does. The great thing about that is then we all get to learn.
  6. Join an embroidery FB group and like embroidery club pages. I am in several of these groups and the great thing about them is you can ask questions and people answer. You can also get great ideas and inspiration from what other people are doing. I suggest Sulky Of America and the Sulky Embroidery Club as some of the pages you should like on Facebook 🙂
    Like #sulky on Facebook
  7. Email me. There are no dumb questions. Trust me, I have asked a lot of very basic questions. And here is the great part! I may not know the answers but I know the people to go to who do know the answers!
  8. Here is the Silver Bullet to doing machine embroidery perfectly: Trial and Error. Just keep doing it! The more you do, the better you will be, but can I ask a favor? Share your success and failures with me! Post your pictures on my Facebook page and send them to me via e-mail. That way we can also learn from each others trial and errors.

Do you have any tips to help someone get started in machine embroidery? Share them in the comments!

Happy Sewing!

The Stabilizer Basics – Water Solubles and Heat-Away

Stabilizer Basics

We veered off course slightly to answer a bunch of questions, but I hope the answers and comments were helpful! Now back to the basics. Today I am going to chat with you about Water Soluble Stabilizers (Solvy’s) and Heat- Away™. These are both temporary stabilizers that started out with a couple simple applications and because you guys are so creative, you have discovered a million really cool uses for these amazing stabilizers!

Water Soluble Stabilizers:

washaway_logoWater Soluble Stabilizers are just that, they dissolve in water. The number one use for the lightest weight Solvy is as a topper on napped fabrics like towels to keep the loops or pile from poking through the stitching; to prevent stitches from getting lost in the fabric; and/or to enhance the clarity of fine lettering and detail stitching. Sulky has several different types and weights in this category so lets go through some of them.

solvy and towel

Sulky Solvy – Sulky Solvy is the original water soluble stabilizer and is my go-to topper. It is thick enough to help stabilize, but will tear away easily when the embroidery is done. I usually don’t even have to wet it to get the stabilizer off. Anytime I am doing a towel, if I am doing very small lettering or if I am just not sure how an embroidery will come out, I use Sulky Solvy as a topper. One hint: Keep Sulky Solvy in the original clam shell that you purchased it in or in a zip-top plastic bag. Exposed to air it can get crispy or wimpy – depending on the climate in your home at the time. It will still work, but It is easier to work with when it is in its natural state.

Sulky Super SolvySuper Solvy is slightly heavier than regular Solvy. Its primary use is still as a topper but it can also be used as an additional backing when doing free-standing lace designs (it’s too light to use alone for free-standing lace, though). As a topper, you may want this heavier Solvy when you are doing a very dense design or the the nap of a towel is particularly fluffy. I have used Sulky Super Solvy when I have done embroidery on Cuddle fabrics, too.

ultra solvy

Sulky Ultra Solvy – Ultra Solvy is the heaviest Solvy we make. It feels sort of like a piece of vinyl. I love Ultra Solvy for doing very dense free-standing designs, for making thread scarfs and for doing lace or edging designs.  (When doing free-standing lace, try to find out what the design digitizer recommends – either the film-type like Ultra Solvy or the fabric-type like Fabri-Solvy.)

fabri solvy with ornaments

Sulky Fabri-Solvy and Sticky Fabri-SolvyFabri-Solvy is truly amazing and we keep finding new ways to use it that just make life “sew much easier!” Original Fabri-Solvy (without the sticky), started as a great way to do most free-standing lace designs. Because of it’s fabric-like feel, it is easy to hoop and is a perfect base for things like Christmas ornaments, bookmarks, and cut-work designs on towels. With the cut work designs, it is best to use a little KK 2000™ Temporary Spray Adhesive to keep the towel in place, even if you hoop the towel along with the Fabri-Solvy.

No hoop needed

Then, we introduced Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy! This sticky-type has a release sheet on the back and once the release sheet is peeled away, you expose the adhesive that allows you to stick it right to your project and stitch away! This is great for lighter weight fabrics like scarfs and pashminas that you don’t want to hoop but might not be able to handle the strength of Sticky+™ (If you read the Q and A posts here, then you may remember I ruined a pashmina because I used Sticky + when I should have used Sticky Fabri-Solvy). And…just when we thought we had found all the uses for Sticky Fabri-Solvy, we discovered you can print on it! This opened up  another world of uses. We now offer it in 8.5″ x 11″ sheets that can easily and efficiently go through your printer. This is now the only way I do hand embroidery (you can read about it here). Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy in printable sheets eliminates all the things I hate about hand embroidery (tracing the design and the hoops) – and leaves me with all the things I love about hand embroidery, the actual stitching and finishing much faster! People think I am exaggerating when I say the Sticky Fabri-Solvy changed my life but it did! Well, my sewing life anyway.

Sulky Paper Solvy – The last of the Solvy stabilizers is Sulky Paper Solvy. I absolutely love it for paper piecing! Paper Solvy is also printable so if you have a design that you want to paper piece, simply print it or copy it onto a piece of Paper Solvy. Do all of your paper piecing like you normally would. Paper Solvy, for the most part acts exactly like regular paper, until it’s time to remove it. Have you ever done an intricate paper pieced design only to have it ruined and distorted when you tore out the paper? Yeah, me too. Not with Paper Solvy! Once you are finished sewing, take a cotton swab, dip it in a bowl of water and runs the wet swab on the stitching line. The Paper Solvy will dissolve away like magic and the rest of the paper just lifts off. No more tugging on your stitching lines, distorting your image or worrying if you are going to have to just leave that paper in and hope no one notices.  (Hint:  Paper Solvy has an actual wood pulp component, so it’s best used underneath fabrics.)

Heat-Away Stabilizer

heataway_logoSulky Heat-Away – Heat-Away is an amazing stabilizer that disintegrates once you iron it! This is an ideal stabilizer for projects that you can’t get wet, like burlap! Burlap has gotten extremely popular lately, and it can handle a great deal of heat, but does not behave well when wet. Heat-Away is also perfect for thread stetting or just quilting a quilt. Simply trace your design onto the Sulky Heat Away, use a little KK 2000 to temporarily stick the Heat-Away to the right side of your fabric and sew over the lines! You can do it free-motion or let the feed dogs guide the stitching. When you are finished stitching, then comes the fun part. You just iron the Heat-Away in a circular motion, the KK 2000 will dissipate and the Sulky Heat-Away balls up and you just brush the little balls away. Like magic, your project looks great.  (If you didn’t stay on the lines – they’re gone anyway!)

heat away 2

So there you have it! Those are the BASIC uses of all the Sulky Stabilizers. I say “basic” because we haven’t even scratched the surface of the myriad of ways we can use these stabilizers and I will start delving into all of that next week. My question for you this week is: What is your favorite way to use Sulky Stabilizers? Let me know in the comments below. The best way for us to learn is for all of us to share, so please share with us your tips, tricks and favorite uses in the comments. And keep the questions coming!

Happy Sewing!

The Stabilizer Series – More Questions Answered


I mentioned that you guys sent in a ton of great questions, right? Well here is the second installment of the Q and A. I have learned so much from finding the answers to these questions! I have also learned that there is not one right way. The things that I suggest in these answers may not be your go-to way to solve an embroidery problem. If you would do it differently, please let us know by putting it in the comments below. The best way to learn is when we all share what works for us.

I used a sticky stabilizer once and it was too hard to get off. I tried to get it off right away after embroidering?

I had this happen once too and wouldn’t you know, it was on a scarf that I was monogramming as a gift! I later realized that I should have used Totally Stable™ or Tear- Easy™ with KK 2000™ because the scarf fabric was just too delicate and couldn’t handle the strength of the Sticky+™. I was so excited to not have to hoop, that I didn’t think about getting the stabilizer off afterward.  Any self-adhesive stabilizer can become more difficult to remove the longer it remains.  We suggest removing it within an hour after application. And it gets more sticky with heat and less sticky with cold.  If I want the attributes of Sticky+ but don’t want to use a self-adhesive, I use KK 2000 and Tear-Easy on the wrong side of the fabric first, then put it on top of Sticky Plus. When I remove it, everything comes off very nice because the Tear-Easy is on top of the Sticky + protecting my fabric. That means no residue adhesive. Another tip – there is a product called Goo-Gone™ which will usually remove any remaining adhesive, but sometimes a sticky-backed stabilizer is not the best choice for some projects.  You can always use any of our stabilizers and KK 2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive.

I have a medium-weight polyester knit, and I want to applique shapes that are cut out of Ultrasuede® all over the fronts and back. The knit is very stretchy, I need to use my walking foot, and I will be turning the fabric quite a bit and I need to temporarily stabilize it to eliminate the stretch. The key word is temporary in terms of the stabilization. The only stabilizer I can think of is the sticky wash away? Your suggestions please.

Sticky Fabri Solvy would work, but if you don’t want to get your project wet, then you could use Tear-Easy and adhere it to the wrong side of your base fabric with KK 2000. The KK 2000 will keep the Tear-Easy in place and will dissipate on its own after a few days or immediately with a hot iron.  Normally for knits, we suggest a permanent stabilizer, like Soft ’n Sheer, which would be adhered the same way and then trimmed close to the stitching.

Bonus Tip when working with Ultrasuede: Suede-type fabric cut-outs normally need to be fused in place and stabilized or they will stretch as they are stitched. Trace or transfer the designs onto Steam-a-Seam 2™, remove the protective sheet and place on the wrong side of the suede. Cut the designs out and stick in place. Press Totally Stable on the wrong side of the shirt to stabilize for stitching. That last pressing step is usually enough to fuse the cut-outs in place. If it didn’t then use a press cloth to protect the suede as you fuse them in place. Careful with the iron and heat. Any suede can be damaged by high heat or the direct heat of an iron. If you are satin stitching the appliques, test, test, test. If the stitching is too close together it will actually cut the suede. DO NOT USE LEATHER NEEDLES. Leather needles will cut the suede. I prefer universal size 90 or topstitch 90. If needed, use Sewer’s Aid on the needle. That helps the needle to glide through the suede.  (Test to be sure it doesn’t stain the suede.)

My favorite things to embroider are T-shirts and sweatshirts. I have used Totally Stable for years with good results, sometimes using 2 layers. I’ve read instructions lately for using a cut-away stabilizer for sweatshirts. What do you do for the stiffness leftover, especially for babies and children?

As a general rule, most embroidery professionals use a tear-away stabilizer on woven fabrics and a cut-away on knits or stretch fabrics. That being said, if Totally Stable works for you, you are allowed to keep using it! (That’s what we used before we had cut-aways.) I am blessed with two amazing little girls that are very picky about what can touch their skin. Thank heaven for Tender Touch! Any time I embroider anything for them, I trim the backing stabilizer as close to the stitching as I can and then I cover the entire back with Tender Touch. I cut the Tender Touch out with pinking shears or a wavy-blade cutter and use steam when adhering it to the back to ensure it adheres well.  I have been told that the Cut-Away Plus gets very soft and cushy once it’s washed, but even if I did choose to use a Cut Away Stabilizer, I would probably still cover the back of the embroidery with Tender Touch for children or babies.

What stabilizer to use if the project will touch skin and you want it to be soft?

The stabilizer you choose depends much more on the fabric and the embroidery design, but if it is touching the skin, I would always finish it off by covering the back of the embroidery with Tender Touch.

When should I use 2 sheets of stabilizer instead of just one for best results?

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could give you a hard and fast rule for this one? Unfortunately, I can’t. My best advice is to do a test stitch out on the same or a very similar fabric to what you will stitch the final one. If you can’t do a test for some reason, then I would always use more, than less. Let’s face it, stabilizer is less expensive and easier to buy than having to repurchase the fabric or blank that was messed up because we didn’t use enough stabilizer. Another good tip is to have a piece of Tear-Easy ready when you start stitching out your design. At the first sign of any puckering, slide that extra piece under your hoop.

How many stitches in an embroidery design would dictate more than one layer of stabilizer?

It has more to do with the fabric and quality of the design than the number of stitches.  It’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little.  But remember, even the best stabilized and digitized design may not “drape” nicely on a fabric that is too light for a dense design.

So, this is looking like a very helpful, educational blog – stabilizers!! Can you tell me, what stabilizer do I use to fuse wool to wool, or wool to flannel, so that I can hand or machine stitch with applique stitches?

If you simply want to fuse the two pieces together just long enough to sew them together, then I would suggest KK 2000. It works great on all fabric types, including wool and flannel. It will give you a strong enough hold to sew the pieces together but doesn’t add any extra weight and doesn’t change the hand of the fabrics.  If you want a permanent fuse, you would need to use a fusible web.

Why is it that some tear-away stabilizers (including Sulky) don’t tear away cleanly? Or destroy stitching when removing them? Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid them?

In my ever so humble and completely unbiased opinion :), Sulky stabilizers do a better job than most. Always tear your stabilizers toward the design, not away and if you are using more than one layer of stabilizer, tear them off one at a time. And remember, tear-aways are not intended to disappear, just tear away nicely. They aren’t intended to be invisible like water solubles.  If you have bits left over they will soften and may come away with launderings.  Hint about water solubles:  When you are using a wash away, it may help to dip the end of a cotton swab in water, squeeze out the excess, and then run that at the edge of the stitching. This will dissolve away enough of the stabilizer to help it tear away cleanly.

I need to know if there is a soft-hand stabilizer that is adhesive on both sides.

Sulky currently doesn’t make a double-sided adhesive stabilizer. If I did want a fusible stabilizer with a soft hand, my choice would be Tender Touch or Soft and Sheer Extra. Both have one side that’s fusible. You could use KK 2000 to temporarily adhere the second side, or use a fusible web, such as Steam-a-Seam 2™ on the other side (For lighter weight fabrics, Steam-a-Seam Lite would work well).  But fusible webs do add thickness and reduce drape ability.

Could you recommend a stabilizer to use when embroidering relatively thin cotton fabric to embroider small (half inch max) text on labels for quilts?

I went and asked some experts in the commercial embroidery business this question and they suggested using Totally Stable for this.  And you might want to use the Sulky 60 wt. PolyLite™ Thread as well to get crisper lettering, and less bulk.

I just had an embroidery machine given to me and I’d love to know more about the whole thing! What should I get to start with on the machine? Do I start with a certain fabric, stabilizer and threads? or what??????? Help!

I remember this feeling like it was yesterday! I remember when I first started playing with my mom’s embroidery machine. I had no clue what I was doing. My suggestion is to start with some scrap fabric that you already have, Sulky Tear-Easy and some Sulky Rayon 40 wt. Thread in your favorite color. Look at the built-in designs on your machine and just start stitching a few things out! See how they turn out. I started with some old t-shirts and tote bags that I didn’t care if they didn’t turn out perfect and put a monogram on them. You also might find it helpful to keep a little notebook nearby so you can write down what worked and what didn’t. The main thing is to have fun!  The best reference for determining which stabilizers for which type of fabric is the book, “Sew, Craft, Quilt and Embroider with Sulky Stabilizers” #900-B19.  It’s written in recipe format, and easy to follow with great projects and pictures.


The Stabilizer Series – Your Questions Answered

Your Questions

I am so excited about the response we have gotten to this series! I was going to wait and do Q and A at the end of it, but we have had so many questions already, I thought I would do a couple posts in the middle of this series with answers to your specific questions. (If you want to catch up, you can read the first post here and the second post in the series here)

So here are your questions and answers:

Tell me what stabilizers to use for Terry Bath Towels, please.  This is a huge challenge to me!

Most often for bath towels, I use 1 – 2 layers of Sulky Tear-Easy™, depending on the thickness of the towel and I always use Solvy® as a topper. The Solvy keeps all the loops and such under control so they don’t peek through the stitching.  Another option would be to use Sulky Heat-Away™ Stabilizer as a topper, and just pull it away from the design when finished, and then it remains under the stitching after washing and can help prevent “pokies” down the line.  This only works if there are no open areas in the design.

Bonus Tip: If you don’t want to hoop your towel, hoop a piece of Sticky +, then iron a piece of Totally Stable on the back of the towel. The Totally Stable will stick to the Sticky + while protecting the loops of your towel from the Sticky +! You will still need a topper which you can put on with KK 2000.

What is the best to put on the backs of a t-shirt for a t-shirt quilt I have to make?

The best backing for t-shirt for a t-shirt quilt is Tender Touch. It fuses to the shirt and stabilizes it without changes the hand of the t-shirt. If you want a little more stability and want to eliminate the stretch, you can use Soft ’n Sheer Extra™, which is also fusible.

Can you make a chart on stabilizers which is best fabric and knits? I am embroider . Please put it on the sulky sites.

With the number of stabilizers available and the endless amounts of variables that go into picking the right combo of stabilizers, needles, thread, etc., there aren’t any hard and fast rules. That being said,  in general you will use a Tear Away stabilizer with a woven fabric and a Permanent stabilizer with a knit fabric. We do have a chart to help point you in the right direction. You can download it here: Stabilizing At A Glance

I want to put a name on the back of a 24-month’s t-shirt.  I could not get it in my hoop without the front of the shirt getting in the way.  So I opened the side seams up to get it to fit.   Now, I can’t seem to get any stabilizer under the fabric.   Is there a stabilizer I can put on top?

Sulky Solvy, Super Solvy and Heat-Away are all primarily “toppers” which means they go on the top of the design. You may also want to try “floating a piece of Tear-Easy under the hoop when you are embroidering this shirt to give you some extra stability. The other option would be to hoop the stabilizer instead of the t-shirt and use KK 2000 or a Sticky back stabilizer so you can stick the shirt to instead of hooping it.

What is the best stabilizer to use on burlap.  I want to do some embroidery on a loose woven burlap and do not know what would be the best stabilizer.  Thank you for any help you can give me and taking the time to answer this question.

Heat-Away should work for burlap! Burlap can take a lot of heat but not water so 1 – 2 layers of Heat-Away as a backing and then another layer as a topper, depending on how tightly the burlap is woven.

Why doesn’t Joann Fabric and Craft Stores carry your whole line of tube encased stabilizers anymore? Very frustrating trying to find them.

We think they should carry all of our stabilizers too :). If you would like to see more of our stabilizers in their stores. Please let them know via the “Contact Us” section on their website.  If you can’t find them locally, you can find any Sulky products at these online retailers.

When I make thread lace with water soluble stabilizer, I frequently get goop on the needle, which I have to stop and clean off. It is not a really big deal, but if there’s a way I can avoid it, it would be better to do so. Is there a recommended needle type for this kind of sewing? When I do scarves, I typically use one layer of Sticky Fabri-Solvy and one layer of the lighter-weight Solvy. I adore making bowls, scarves, and thread lace to incorporate into my fiber art. It is highly addictive!! and such fun!! Your products are great!

Yes, thread lace is a wonderfully addictive hobby! When I am using any stabilizers that have a sticky back, I put a drop of Sewer’s Aid on my needle. This is true with fusible webs, too. This helps the needle glide through without picking up as much residue (which often comes from the sizing in the fabric, too). As far as needle choice goes, that depends more on the thread than the stabilizer. We have needle recommendations for all of our threads on  and here is another chart you can download that may help you as well: Thread and Needle Guide

I am doing a dense embroidery design on a preshrunk 100% cotton shirt yoke. Is there a fusible stabilizer that will also act as an interfacing?  I reduced my tension for the design, but it still puckers after the stabilizer is removed.

I would use Soft ‘n Sheer with KK 2000™ Temporary Spray Adhesive, or Soft ‘n Sheer Extra.  Be careful with the Soft ‘n Sheer Extra to not use too hot of an iron.  It is nylon and it can shrivel with too much heat.  Steam is good; or a damp press cloth to protect the stabilizer from the hot iron.  Test your iron with the Soft ‘n Sheer Extra.  Also, when the embroidery is complete, press the Soft ‘n Sheer Extra lightly and peel up any extra and trim it with pinking shears along the design for minimal show-through.  You can also use a layer of Heat Away as a topper.  However, a design that is too dense for a knit, will never look relaxed and natural on a knit.

I have purchased several kinds of stabilizers from various companies seeing which ones I could work with the best when I was just starting out in sewing and wanted to do a lot of embroidery. Since then, I don’t know one from the other as the company’s I purchased them from did not come in containers or mark them. Is there a way to tell difference between the stabilizers?

If you no longer have the original packaging for your stabilizer, the best thing to do is purchase a Sampler Pack of our stabilizers. This pack gives you one 8” x 10” piece of each of the Sulky stabilizers and each one is labeled. You can use that to compare to the stabilizers you own, then go to our website to download all the information for that stabilizer.

Several years ago, Sulky put out a Heat-Away stabilizer which was a wonderful option for anyone who was embroidering on a napped fabric like towels.  It was put on top of the fabric and embroidered over, then ironed around the design which removed the fibers beyond the edge of the design and the stabilizer stayed under the stitching to help prevent the nap from poking through and remained intact if you did not put an iron to it.  Do you still sell Heat-Away?

What you seem to be describing is the old muslin-type Heat-Away, which was discontinued many years ago.  But it was replaced with the film-type new Heat-Away.  And Yes! I love the new Heat Away even more! It is perfect for exactly what you describe here and I also use it to “cheat” at free-motion quilting. If there is a design that I want on a quilt, I draw in onto the Heat Away, use KK 2000 to put the Heat-Away on the top of my project and I just follow the lines to sew. When I am finished, the hot iron takes away the Heat-Away and the KK 2000! If you are having trouble finding Heat-Away in your local store, go here to find where you can buy all of our products on-line.

I am really having a tough time with figuring out how to stabilize towels for embroidery.

I know I already answered a towel question, but that was specifically Terry Cloth towels. For most towels, the answer is the same, Tear-Easy (1 or 2 layers) on the bottom and Solvy on the top.  However, for a more decorative kitchen or bath towel, you may decide that you want a permanent stabilizer to help avoid the design “balling up” when you wash it. In this case, Soft ‘n Sheer may be a better choice. Once you have finished the embroidery, simply trim the Soft ‘n Sheer as close to the design as possible. If you use Soft ‘n Sheer Extra, trim it with pinking shears and then iron in down with a warm (not hot) iron.

The Stabilizer Basics – Cut Away and Tear Away Stabilizers

Stabilizer Basics

Note: This is the second in a series about stabilizers. You can read the first installment here.

When I started doing research for this series, the more I uncovered, and the more I realized there was to learn! One of my first questions was “How many stabilizers are there?!?!” It can feel like there are 4 million different kinds and they all seemed to have a very specific use.

There are basically four different types of stabilizer: Cut-Away, Tear-Away, Wash-Away and Heat-Away. All of our stabilizers are color-coded, too. In this post, I will give you the basics and primary (most common) uses for Cut-Away (purple packaging) and Tear-Away (green packaging) stabilizers. This is not a list of embroidery rules. This is a list of the most common uses of these stabilizers. You may find that for your specific project you need a completely different stabilizer. This list is not the boss of you, it’s just a guide to help you get started if you are as lost as I was when you first start out in this new world of machine embroidery.

Cut-Away Stabilizers

cutaway_logoCut-away stabilizers are permanent stabilizers which range from rather heavy, like Sulky Cut-Away Plus™ to very light like Soft ‘n Sheer™. They are perfect when you need a design to be stretch resistant and you need continued stabilization through many laundering and wearings. Cut-Away Plus is what you see on the back of most of your sweatshirts and golf shirts that have embroidered designs on them. Most t-shirts will use the lighter Soft ‘n Sheer which stabilizes and is stretch resistant so your design tends not to distort over time, but doesn’t have the bulk of Cut-Away Plus.  (You know how some embroidered designs tend to “wad up” after washing?  Using a permanent, cut-away helps to prevent this.)

clutch purse 3

Cut Away Plus is used to stabilize this monogram on a purse

canes shirts satin stitch

I used Soft ‘n Sheer to stabilize this applique for this shirt.

Sulky Fuse ‘n Stitch™ is a permanent stabilizer and one of my favorites! I love it because it is a permanent iron-on stabilizer that provides extra support to your project. This is the perfect stabilizer if you are making a purse or tote bag and you want that extra stiffness. I also use Fuse ‘n Stitch when I am making coasters and mug rugs. I did a tutorial for a 45 minute mug rug that uses it here.  Anytime you want the fabric to have extra body.  Also great for framed embroideries.

I used Fuse n Stitch to give these bag tags the stiffness they needed.

I used Fuse ‘n Stitch to give these bag tags the stiffness they needed.

The last stabilizer in this category is Sulky Tender Touch™. Tender Touch is a soft, fusible stabilizer that is usually put on a completed embroidery design to cover the stitches on the wrong side. You most often see this on baby clothes. (You get the best adhesion for these often-washed, and often-stretchy items by using a pinking shears or wavy-blade rotary cutter to cut the piece you need.) I also like to use Tender Touch as a fusible interfacing for clothing projects. Check out this blog post from Mimi G Style. She used Tender Touch to line a dress and loved it. It is also a great way to stabilize t-shirts for a t-shirt quilt.  Helps minimize stretch, but still keeps it soft and cuddly.

Tear-Away Stabilizers

tearaway_logoTear-away stabilizers are temporary stabilizers that are easily removed once you have stitched out an embroidery design. This is most likely what you will use when embroidering on towels, scarves and regular woven fabrics. They prevent an embroidery design from tunneling, distorting and puckering while the design is being stitched out but since they are torn away once the design is sewn on, they do not give the on-going support like cut-away stabilizers do. Tear-away stabilizers like Sulky Tear-Easy™ are great, because although you sometimes only need one layer, you can use several layers (and you can even float one or two layers under the hoop “just in case”) and then tear them away individually so you don’t have to worry about your design getting messed up while pulling off a heavier stabilizer.

This is tunneling. I used a tear-away when I should have used a cut-away because of the open weave of the fabric

This is tunneling. I used a tear-away when I should have used a cut-away because of the open weave of the fabric

Embroidery with the wrong stabilizers.

Embroidery with the wrong stabilizers.

Embroidery with the right stabilizer

Embroidery with the right stabilizers

Sulky Totally Stable™ is an iron-on, tear-away stabilizer that feels and looks a lot like freezer paper, only thinner and not made of paper, so therefore it won’t hurt your really expensive embroidery machine and doesn’t dull your needle! This is good when you need a lighter amount of stabilization for a design, like when stitching out a line drawing or less dense design, but the fabric can be ironed. I have talked to many machine embroiderers that love Sulky Totally Stable simply for the fact that it does iron onto the fabric and yet, it is not permanent. “It allows me to get my stabilizer in the exact place I want it and I don’t have to worry about anything shifting around when I hoop it,” one embroiderer said. “In my sewing room, Totally Stable is totally a staple!” Totally Stable is also great for design placement by tracing the design onto the stabilizer and then ironing it onto the front of the fabric, and it’s re-positionable and can be reused many times.  (It would be for placement only, though.  Normally you won’t use a tear-away on the right side of project to stitch through, just for placement or to stitch around.)

A simple monogram like this is perfect for Totally Stable stabilizer!

A simple monogram like this is perfect for Totally Stable stabilizer!

Sulky Sticky+™ is a wonderful stabilizer that is not only a strong tear-away stabilizer, but it has a backing sheet with a grid on it that is torn or peeled away to reveal a sticky back. Discovering this stabilizer allowed me to stop cussing at my machine. Well, more specifically the hoops. If you have been embroidering for any amount of time at all, then I guarantee that you have had run-ins with the hooping process. With Sulky Sticky+, you can simply hoop the stabilizer, score the release sheet with a large X using a pin, then peel away the backing sheet to reveal the sticky stabilizer, and then stick whatever it is that you are embroidering to it! I have done nylon tote bags, baseball caps, towels, grosgrain ribbon, linen napkins and scarves all with this stabilizer – all unhooped! You just have to love a stabilizer that allows you to take out the worst part of embroidery. HINT: It’s best to remove Sticky+ within an hour or so after use, for easier removal.  AND DID YOU KNOW…. All stabilizers with a release sheet tend to get stickier with heat and less sticky with cold!  

award ribbons 5

Using Sticky+ to embroider on ribbon

Is your brain swimming yet? I hope not! I hope this helps you understand the basic uses for these two stabilizers. Next week we will talk about wash-away stabilizer and heat-away stabilizer. I will go over the basics of those two groups but I will also add in some amazing other things you can do with them as well.

Did anything confuse you or spark an additional question? Let me know in the comments. I am keeping a list of all the questions and will be addressing every single one of them at some point in the series.

Until then…Happy Sewing!