Stabilizer Float or not to float

Article Posted 07 July 2018

Ashlea Stoodley - Bunnycup Embroidery

Stabilizer is defined as a thing used to keep something steady or stable and there is a reason stabilizer is called stabilizer!

If your fabric is not kept steady or stable during stitching it will move with the stitching, and consequently you will get gaps and puckering in your embroidery if you do not keep the fabric stable during the stitching process. To obtain optimal results during your embroidery, you must keep the fabric stable during the stitching process.

This is also why hooping fabric and stabilizer is so incredibly important for exceptional results. If you don’t hoop the stabilizer and fabric, you are reducing the likelihood that the fabric will remain stable during the stitching process and increasing the risk of gaps and puckering. Generally as a digitizer, we do not recommend floating stabilizer or fabric just because you can (but there are certainly times when it may strictly be required).

It is interesting, we recently purchased a new Janome 500E embroidery machine and even reading the manual, they made a number of points that we could not agree with more:

  • Cut the stabilizer larger than the hoop and set it in the hoop so the whole piece (and fabric) is fastened in the hoop to prevent any looseness in the fabric
  • Sometimes you may need more than one layer of stablizer
  • Sticky stablizers (adhesive stablizers) should only be used for fabrics that can not be secured in the hoop – such as velvet or napped fabric that would be permanently marked by the hoop

Basically what they are saying is you should only ever float fabric if it will suffer hoop burn. Now, if the manufacturers of embroidery machines specifically state that in the manuals, there is a reason for that!

If you are embroidering items that are very small or difficult to hoop and are using small embroidery designs (for example, stitching on socks), you may find that you do not have a choice but to float but the stabilizer should always be hooped. If the stabilizer is not hooped it is not providing a stable foundation to the stitching and fabric. It can itself move during the stitching process thereby not making it stable.

Another time you may require to float a fabric, is if all the layers will be too thick for hooping. Another interesting fact I found in the Janome embroidery manual is that you should avoid stitching on layers thicker than 3mm (1/8”). If too thick, it will can result in skipped stitches or broken needles.

And just a reminder, the larger the design and the more stitches in a design, the more stabilization is necessary. You may find that you require two layers of stabilizer to be hooped.

In conclusion, our advice is not to float unless it is strictly necessary as you are reducing the stability required for successful embroidery. That being said, there are definitely times that floating may be required.