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Mastering Hand Embroidery: 7 Tips for Using Wash Away Stabilizer for Perfect Results


7 tips for using washaway stabilizer

Transferring the pattern is one of my least favorite parts about the hand embroidery process. Some fabrics are too dark for the pattern to easily show up, others are too textured, and other times the pattern is super detailed. Because of this, I often use a wash away stabilizer to transfer my designs.


This wash away stabilizer makes it easy to transfer a design onto almost any fabric. I love that I can either run the water soluble paper through my printer or draw directly onto it. Then the backing peels off like a sticker and adheres to my fabric. When I'm all done embroidering, the pattern washes away with warm/hot water.


While this does sound super easy, there are a few tip (7 to be precise) that I've found helpful for making this process seemless and my embroidery look great when the stabilizer is washed away.


7 Tips for Using Wash Away Stabilizer for Perfect Results


flowers being embroidered on blue shorts with a stabilizer

1. Buy a Good Brand

Often times you can find dupes of brand name products that work just as well as the name brand for a fraction of the price. I've tried quite a few different brands of wash away stabilizer and I've found that not all brands are created equal. When looking for a good quality wash away stabilizer, stick with well known brands like Sulky, DMC, or Pellon. They've been making hand embroidery and sewing notions for a very long time and know what they're doing. My personal go-to is either Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy or Sulky Stick 'n Stitch.


2. Test It on Your Fabric

When using a new product or material, I always recommend you test it before going full bore on a project. There have been times when I was overly eager to get started, didn't test my materials and was very sad at the end of my project because a thread color bled or the fabric did something weird. Don't do this to yourself!


Cut a quarter inch size of stabilizer and test it on the fabric you plan to stitch on. I'd also recommend making a few stitches through the stabilizer and fabric. This will show you what the thread and fabric will look like when the stabilizer is washed away and ensure your thread colors don't bleed too.


green fabric in an oval hoop with pink cone flowers embroidered onto stabilizer

3. Cut Away Excess Stabilizer

When designing and printing out my designs, I like to see how the pattern fits in the overall shape of my hoop. This often means I trace the hoop shape and draw or print inside of that shape. This also helps me position the pattern onto my hoop.


The drawback of this technique if that it can leave a lot of excess stabilizer on the fabric. In order to make sure the stabilizer don't clump or leave excess bits on the fabric, trim away as much as you can either before or after stitching.

4. Actively Wash

You might have seen the videos on Instagram or TikTok where embroidery artists let their pattern soak in water to let the stabilizer dissolve. While this might look good on camera, I DOT recommend this method.


Instead, use the pressure from your faucet to help dissolve the stabilizer. I found the pressure of the water and my finger tips tend to be enough to gently scrub away any excess stabilizer. Also, the more layers of stabilizer used and the denser the stitches, the more actively you need to wash it away.


5. Use Hot Water

When rinsing out a stabilizer from my fabric, I have found that the hotter the water, the quicker it will dissolve. Thankfully for my patterns, one of our bathroom sinks has no concept of warm, hot, or scalding water, so it's pretty easy to wash them away. Be care the water isn't too hot for your fingers though! Especially if you're following tip 4 and actively washing the fabric.


bright pink fabric with leaf stabilizer patterns and green embroidery floss

6. Lay Flat & Check Your Embroidery

After the stabilizer is washed away, it's important to lay the design flat to dry, or in the shape it's going to be when dry. This is because the stabilizer sticking backing can leave a little bit of glue in the embroidery. If it dries in a weird shape, then the embroidery will be in that weird shape.


Same with your embroidery stitches. Check that they're laying flat and in the directions you want them to go when the embroidery is wet.


7. Wash Again If Needed

If some of the stabilizer is still visible, your stitches didn't dry flat, or there's something funky going on with your embroidery, wash it again. This can help remove any excess stabilizer that might not have come out the first time, and help you fix any stay embroidery stitches.


***Thanks you for reviewing my recommendations. This post contains affiliate links. Should you purchase an item listed, I may receive a small portion of the sale.***

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