Stabilizer Basics

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Our February Loose Threads project uses stabilizer to create the machine stitched heart design. Why? If you’ve ever tried to do any decorative stitching on a single layer of fabric before, you may have noticed your fabric puckered and looked terrible. You likely gave up and decided never to do any decorative stitching again!

No – don’t give up! Use a stabilizer instead. Stabilizing your fabric will create a much crisper, clean design that doesn’t pucker your fabric. But there are several different types of stabilizers on the market, so which one is best for your project? Here’s what you need to know about stabilizers, and some tips to using them.

The three most popular types of stabilizers are the Cut Away, the Tear Away, and the Wash Away. Each one is recommended for different fabrics, and different uses.


  • good for stretchy fabric like t-shirt fabric as well as quilting cotton
  • best used with dense embroidery or stitching
  • the majority of the stabilizer remains on the back of your fabric, so use a soft one
  • cut away as much as possible, leaving 1/8″ outside of the design


  • ideal for designs on quilting cottons
  • stitches help to perforate the stabilizer, making for easy tearing away when done
  • helps to use tweezers to remove any small pieces left in the design


  • great for simple designs on quilting cotton
  • best for designs with large, open areas
  • store in protective packaging to prevent from drying out
  • very sticky when washing away, so try to cut away most of it before soaking

Now, don’t go out and buy expensive stabilizer just to do this little project! If you don’t plan to use stabilizer on any other quilts or projects in the near future, our friend Laura at Sew Very Easy has a tips for you! Watch her video to learn more…