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Three Main Types of Embroidery Backing

Embroidery Backing – The Invisible Super Hero

What is the one thing that is almost never seen to anyone but the sewer, yet remains the most critical component of embroidery? Stabilizer! (or backing). The three basic types of stabilizer are tear-away, cutaway, and water soluble. Choosing the right stabilizer for your project can be a tricky concept to master. Garment fabric, stitch density, color, stitch length, stitch speed, size of the embroidery, and stability of the design are just a few of the many variables to consider.  As you can see in this picture by Loralie Designs, the wrong backing can leave you with loose, mismatched stitching that makes your work look poorly done.  


Here is a description of each of the three main types of embroidery backing and what they are best used for:

  1. Tear-Away 

    This type of stabilizer tears like paper.  It can be thin and wispy, or it can be thick and crisp.  This is a good overall backing that can be used for most projects. There are three main things to consider when using tear-away backing. One, make sure that you are using a quality stabilizer by checking that it can tear in more than one direction; this will help down the line when you are removing the excess backing from your design. Two, tear the backing as close to the stitching as possible to reduce distortion. This should be done slowly and deliberately to make the tear as clean as possible. And three, avoid using tear-away with delicate or stretchy fabrics, as these are easy to distort or rip in the process of tearing away the backing.  It is easy to fall into the habit of just using tear-away, especially if you have accidentally cut your fabric in the past with other types of backing.  Click here to purchase tear-away backing.

  2. Cutaway 

    This sturdy backing is used for delicate and stretchy fabrics. While you are embroidering or sewing, cutaway backing provides you with a solid foundation, allowing you to make crisp, clean stitches.  Cutaway is great for holding the shape of your design on thin fabrics. This means you don’t have to deal with angry customers returning with sagging or distorted designs after just a few washes. Just be careful when cutting away the backing so you do not cut your fabric! Don’t cut too close to your stitches, and you should use a gliding motion with your scissors rather than a cutting motion.  Click here to purchase cutaway backing.

  3. Solvy Water Soluble

    This type of backing does just as its name suggests – it dissolves in water. It dissolves best in room temperature water. This can be used on the top of or underneath your stitching.  Use solvy on top of fabric that is fluffy or has thick loops like towels. This will keep your stitching from getting lost between the fibers, or the loops from poking through your design.  Click here to purchase Solvy stabilizer.

If you are new to the world of embroidery or even a professional, click here to read some great tips I wish I had known when I started