One of the main questions I get in my Facebook Group is which stabilizers for machine embroidery do I need? Or, do I really need 3 or 4 different kinds of stabilizer? Today I wanted to go over most of the stabilizers I use and breakdown which stabilizer you should use for different projects.

Cut Away

Cut away stabilizer permanently attaches to the back of an embroidery project. When hooping, the stabilizer should be bigger than the hoop so that it pokes out about an inch on all sides. When you are done stitching and remove the item from the hoop, you can then cut the stabilizer around the design. Cut away is usually available in heavy, medium, and light weight. I personally only use medium weight cut away.

I recommend using a cut away on anything you wear, especially knit fabric. However, on white shirts regular cut away can be seen through the shirt once you are done. This is when I use no show poly mesh cut away stabilizer. Poly mesh is a thinner cut away and is sometimes available as fusible, which I love. Whenever I see a stabilizer offered in fusible, I always get that over the regular version. You DON’T have to iron it on, but it is nice to have the option to if you would want. Because poly mesh is on the thinner side, I like to pair it with a layer of tear away (explained in the next section) to give the shirt more stabilization. (See this post on How to Hoop a Toddler Shirt to see how I layer the stabilizer)

How to hoop a shirt for machine embroidery on a brother PE770 or PE800
How to hoop a shirt for machine embroidery on a brother PE770 or PE800

Tear Away

Tear away is a stabilizer for machine embroidery that can be completely removed from the back of an item once it is done stitching. You do exactly as the name implies, tear it away from the thread. It usually removes cleanly and you are able to remove all traces of it on a finish product such as a blanket or towel. Tear away also come in heavy, medium, and light weight. Again I just use medium weight.

There is also two options of tear away that come in very handy, fusible and sticky. I always like to iron on my stabilizer on the back of knit garments before hooping. It helps the stabilizer stay in place and prevents the garment from stretching while hooping. Sticky tear away comes in very hand when floating items on top of the hoop. I mainly use it for bags and hats but can be for anything that is hard to hoop.


Toppers are to help prevent your top embroidery thread from sinking in too much on the item you are embroidering. A good example of when you need topper is when you are adding a name or monogram to a towel. Because most towels are fluffy and have a high pile, its heard to see the stitches once you embroider on them. A way to prevent this is to use a topper on top of your towel to keep the threads from sinking in.

There are two kinds you can get, a water soluble/ wash away or an iron/ heat away. I prefer water soluble topper and here you can find the one I use. When I’m done with a project I just tear away the excess topper then spray my item with a water to remove any remaining topper. Heat away is the same concept except you use an iron to remove any excess topper. Make sure you use a protective sheet like parchment paper or teflon to protect you embroidery thread/ design and your iron.

How to embroider a baby onesie

Wash away can also be used as a stabilizer. They can come in heaver weights, some are clear and some are an opaque white like this one. These a great for in the hoop projects such as patches or freestanding lace. Mainly any projects where you do no want to have any stabilizer visible when you are finished.

Over the Back Cover Up

Whenever finishing stitching a design on any knit fabric like a child’s shirt or onesie, the inside of the shirt can feel rough from the back threads. In this case I add something called a fusible over the back cover up. This is ironed on top of the inside threads to help protect kids and babies skin from getting irritated and give it a smooth finish. Some brands call it Tender Touch or Cloud Cover. I personal like the Word Weidner brand on Amazon. It stays stuck on the shirt a lot better than other brands I have tried. If it does come off in the corners after washing, you can always iron it back down.

How to embroider a baby onesie

Stabilizers for Machine Embroidery Projects

So now that you know what different kinds of stabilizers for machine embroidery are available, here is a cheat sheet. This is by no means the only way to do things, its just my preferred method and what I recommend to others.

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Stabilizer Cheat Sheet.  Explains which stabilizers for machine embroidery you need for different projects

I hope today’s post helped you in understanding stabilizers for machine embroidery a little better. If you have any further questions post them in the comments down below or join my Facebook group where you can ask questions or post pictures of your projects anytime.

Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to see me use all of these stabilizers in different embroidery projects and tutorials.

Here are some other Machine Embroidery posts that you might be interested in checking out:

How to Get Started with Machine Embroidery: Supplies you will need

Brother PE800 Embroidery Machine Unboxing and Setup

Embrilliance Embroidery Software: The Best Program for Beginners

How to Hoop and Embroider a Baby Onesie

Hooping a Shirt for Machine Embroidery

How to add a Name to a Baby Blanket

Applique Tutorial from Start to Finish

How to Cut Applique Fabric using Silhouette Cameo

How to use 5×12 Multi-position Hoop

DIY Craft Table & Pegboard

How I organize Fabric and Blank Clothing

My Favorite Places to Buy Embroidery Designs

How I Built my Sewing and Craft Desk (with mini craft room tour)

Thanks for stopping by today!

The post contains affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.  All opinions are my own and I only promote products that I use and love.

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