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I am a big fan of stabilizers.
They are crucial anytime you want to add stitch to fabric as an embellishment but I often get a blank look when I talk about them in class or at a party. Ok, so I haven’t been asked about stabilizers at any parties recently but I am not good at party small talk so I would really love someone to ask about them as we eat canapes.
Stabilizers are like a great foundation garment. They give support in all the right places. They aren’t usually needed when you are piecing two fabrics together but if you want to add stitch details on a fabric they will save your sanity.
The most common question I get is what stabilizer to use and when. Of course that is an ‘it depends’ answer…depends on what you are doing, what fabric you are using and if it can stay in or needs to be removed from the final project.
One of my pet peeves is when directions or supply lists indicate you should use Pellon or Vilene stabilizer. I could just scream!! That is like writing ‘use meat’ in a recipe. What kind of meat? Beef, chicken, elk, sea bass, goat? You will get very different results if you aren’t using the right one.
Don’t make me guess. Tell me exactly what type of stabilizer I need!!
A stabilizer’s main purpose is to add stability to fabrics…the fusible aspect of any stabilizer is simply to make it easier to apply the stabilizer to the fabric. Extra stability allows you to add dense stitching without distorting the fabric. The more stitches you want to add to the fabric the heavier a stabilizer you need.
There are about a bazillion different stabilizers on the market and a little time getting to know them will serve you well. You don’t need to know them all. That would take quite a while. There isn’t any one best, right or perfect stabilizer. While there are many stabilizer brands there are only a few stabilizer manufacturers. It is more important to become familiar with the ones you can easily purchase.
Try my stabilizer sampler exercise to help you learn about them.
Make some Stabilizer Samples!
This works great as a stitch party…everyone brings a different stabilizer and you all swap around.
my stabilizer sample ring-be sure to use the same fabric on each so you can compare weights easily
For this exercise, gather an assortment of interfacings, fusible, tear away and cut away as well as heavy weight stabilizers. Grab some fabrics-pick weights and fibers you use the most often. Cut small sample squares (or circles or rectangles). Apply the stabilizer to the fabric.
If it is a sew-in stabilizer, sew it on.
If it is a fusible stabilizer, fuse it on.
Write on the back of the stabilizer the brand name and item code so you can easily purchase it again.
stabilzer samples from my book: Threads: the Basics and Beyond
Now, stitch a decorative stitch on the edge. The lighter the stabilizer the more open the decorative stitch should be. With a heavy stabilizer you can add a detailed stitch. If your stabilizer isn’t stable enough for the stitch you selected it will distort the fabric. DON’T throw that away. The samples that don’t work are really more valuable than the ones that do work.
Put them on a ring or a string or in a book so you have a reference for the future.