Choosing the correct stabilizer for the project is one of the most challenging tasks of both new and experienced embroiderers. Start with the following suggestions but use what works for you. Keep an embroidery journal of your projects and always do a test stitch to see how the fabric, stabilizer, and embroidery design work together.

crazy for paisley

Most stabilizer articles focus on the type. Here, we will focus on the technique.


Because most Applique designs have dense satin stitching around the edges, extra stabilizer support is necessary to prevent fabric puckering.

  • Cut-away stabilizers are recommended for applique that is finished in satin stitches. Medium-weight cut-away is usually heavy enough.
  • Heavy-weight tear-away stabilizer may also work well. Be sure to test first.
  • Instead of layering two light-weight tear-away stabilizers, use one layer of medium- or heavy-weight tear-away.
  • Light-weight tear-away stabilizers may work well with applique finished with blanket stitches or raw-edge applique.
  • For freestanding Applique, water-soluble or heat-away stabilizers are ideal.

For more information on the best stabilizers for Applique, read this blog.

funky alphabet


Embroidery fonts are created from several stitches or stitch combinations. They can be created as applique, satin stitches, bean stitches, and dense fills. For that reason, cut-away stabilizers should be used with most font designs.

elsie font

  • After stitching, cut-away stabilizers are trimmed close to the stitching.
  • One exception is bean stitch fonts and monograms. They are light enough to benefit from using light-weight tear-away stabilizer.
  • Another font stabilizer exception is embossed alphabets. Water-soluble stabilizers (WSS) work best both below and on top of the base fabric.

embossed frame monogram

Embossed Designs

Like a wood carving, embossing stitches add dimension to an otherwise flat medium. Since you cannot carve out fabric, the canvas upon which you are embroidering needs to have depth, like fleece or toweling.

  • When stitching embossed designs, using WSS on top of a napped fabric holds the nap down and prevents the embroidery thread from sinking out of sight.
  • Varieties of WSS include clear and milky-white film or semi-transparent mesh. After embroidery, excess stabilizer is trimmed or gently torn away and the item is soaked in water to remove the rest.
  • Mesh-type WSS makes a good base stabilizer as it tears away easily after stitching.
  • Clear WSS works well as a topper. It supports thread above the nap and rinses away easily.

bean stitch

Redwork and Bean Stitch

  • Tear-away stabilizers work well with lightly stitched outline designs such as redwork and bean stitch.
  • Tear-aways are best used with tightly woven base fabrics that won’t distort when the stabilizer is pulled away. Any stabilizer left in the stitching will eventually dissolve after laundering.
  • Fusible mesh stabilizers also work well with light stitch count designs, particularly if the base fabric is a light color. The mesh helps keep threads from showing through the front.

redwork floral hearts

Mixing and Matching

In some cases, multiple stabilizer types may be used in the same project.

  • When embroidering on towels, use an adhesive backing in the hoop, a temporary iron-on on the back of the towel to prevent snagging, and a water-soluble topping.
  • Other times, like when using an adhesive tear-away in the hoop, you may want to “float” a piece of tear-away or cut-away under the hoop for extra support.

Often, using embroidery stabilizers are a matter of trial and error which is why test stitch-outs and keeping an embroidery journal are so important.