Sticky back stabilizer for machine embroidery

By on June 6th, 2020
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sticky back stabilizer for machine embroidery
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If there was ever a major game changer in my machine embroidery habits, it would have to be learning about tear away sticky back stabilizer. Using this type of stabilizer solved a couple of problems for me: hooping difficult fabric and garments and getting my embroidery hoop all gunky. While tear away sticky back stabilizer is a little pricier than generic tear away stabilizer, in my opinion, it’s well worth the money.  Here’s what it is, how to use it and why I think it’s so great.

What is sticky back stabilizer?

Sticky back stabilizer is a form of tear away stabilizer. As implied in its name, a tear away stabilizer is one that you tear away from the back side of the embroidered area after you are done stitching. In this way, it is different from cut away stabilizer that is intended to stay with the garment.

Tear away sticky back stabilizer is exactly like regular tear away on one side. The main difference is that sticky back has a paper film on one side that you peel away to expose a sticky surface.

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Here’s why sticky back stabilizer is so awesome

For many types of embroidery projects, you can get away with using tear away as your only stabilizer.  For example, if the material you are embroidering on is very sturdy and not going to be washed frequently, (e.g.  a canvas duffel bag), you probably only need to use a tear away stabilizer. And, if you hoop that item, you simply hoop the tear away stabilizer with the item you are embroidering.

But, the issue for me is that I’m terrible at hooping things. I find that bulky items like towels are nearly impossible to hoop. The solution is to hoop a piece of stabilizer and then stick the towel onto the hooped stabilizer. Sticky back stabilizer makes it very easy to do exactly that.

If you are floating your towel on a piece of regular tear away stabilizer – you would likely use temporary adhesive spray to stick your towel onto the hooped stabilizer.  However, this can be problematic for a few reasons.

  1. The temporary adhesive spray can be a little bit stinky.  My kids detest the smell.  It comes out of an aerosol can, so it’s probably not good for us nor is it good for the environment.
  2. Temporary adhesive leaves a sticky residue on everything. My fingers get sticky when I use it which makes it hard to continue to work. Plus, my hoops get sticky too, then begin collecting lint which makes them pretty gross. Although I have to admit, this did force me to learn how to clean my embroidery hoops.
  3. When I was using a lot of temporary adhesive, I noticed that it got the bottom of my presser foot sticky. As a result, when I would use a water soluble topper, the pressor foot would stick to it and move it around.

How do you use sticky back stabilizer?

When I first purchased tear away sticky back stabilizer, I was a little confused on how it worked. In fact, (I’m a little embarrassed to admit), I actually hooped the stabilizer with the wrong side on top. When I peeled back the top layer I found that what was exposed was not sticky at all. I actually convinced myself that maybe the stabilizer had been sitting around too long and was no longer good. Doh!

A step by step plan for using sticky back stabilizer.

  1. First, hoop the piece of tear away sticky back stabilizer with the shiny side up.
  2. Next, score the top layer with a pin around the inside edge of the embroidery hoop.
  3. Peel away the top paper layer to expose the adhesive material
  4. Finally, lay down your item on the sticky surface. If you use the folding method, you can easily center a design on a garment.
Hooping sticky back stabilizer and scoring with pin
Scoring the top layer of the sticky back stabilizer with a pin so that I can peel away the paper and expose the adhesive surface.
sticky back stabilizer hooped with adhesive exposed
Sticky back stabilizer hooped with adhesive exposed.

A comparison between regular tearaway stabilizer and sticky back stabilizer

Standard tear away stabilizer

Sticky back tear away stabilizer

  • cheap
  • must use temporary adhesive if you float the item you are embroidering
  • a bit pricier
  • no temporary adhesive needed
  • easy to “patch” which will help you minimize the amount you use.

How to remove the stabilizer from the garment

If you have floated your towel on tear away stabilizer, once you are done, all you need to do is to tear the towel away from the tear away stabilizer. Inevitably, however, some of the tear away will remain stuck to the back of the towel.  I think this looks a bit unsightly and I want to remove as much as possible.

One solution is to toss the item into the washing machine.  Once it comes out of the wash, the excess tear away stabilizer peels off easily.  The problem is that a wash cycle takes time.  So it’s not an ideal solution when I am in a hurry.  Also, some items you embroider on might be too delicate to go through the wash.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a water spray bottle on hand. All you have to do is spray any remaining tear away stabilizer still stuck to the towel  with some water.  Wait a few minutes to let it soak in. Once it’s fully soaked, it will turn  a bit grey. After that, it will peel away easily.

Where to buy sticky back tear away  stabilizer for machine embroidery

Although tear away sticky back stabilizer is a bit more expensive than generic tear away, I do believe it’s well worth the money. Plus, there are a lot of creative ways to save money on stabilizer.  The cost per project should work out to be pennies. Plus, if you buy in bulk, it gets even cheaper.

So, where can you get it?

You can buy tear away sticky back stabilizer from all of the places you would expect and maybe some you wouldn’t.  Here are some sources.

  • Amazon – Amazon Prime that stabilizer!
  • JoAnn’s fabric and crafts.  (don’t forget to use a coupon to knock some $$ of the price)
  • – has sticky back tear away stabilizer in many different widths.
  • – again, loads of varieties here.

Now, enjoy your shopping!  I really hope that learning about tear away sticky back stabilizer helps you out as much as it did me!

Happy stitching!



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