The phenomenal popularity of machine embroidery has given rise to many new brands of stabilizers coming to market and the task of sorting them all out can be daunting. But there are still only a few basic types and they are all designed to support the fabric while the embroidery machine stitches the designs, helping to prevent puckering and bunching of the stitches.

Stabilizers or backings can be permanent or temporary. Excess permanent backings are removed by cutting around the design after embroidering and are made to be laundered with the garment. Temporary backings are removed after the design is done.

Use this guideline as a starting point for selecting the right stabilizer for your project:

Use:    Permanent support  
Best on: Knits, loosely wovens 
Available:  Light to heavy weights     Meant to remain with the garment; not removed, except for cutting away excess.
Notes:  Used by professionals. Washes well and is excellent for jobs where the stabilizer comes in contact with the skin, golf shirts and sweaters for instance
Poly-Mesh Cutaway:
Use:    Permanent support   
Best on: Designed specifically for extra stability on lightweight fabrics and knits   
Available in: Woven    
Notes:  Semi-transparent.  Will not show through white garments.

Use:  Temporary support    
Best on:  Firmly woven, natural-fiber fabrics   
Available in:  Light to heavy weights, fusible and non-fusible    
Notes:  Can be used in single or double layers. Use with medium to heavyweight fabrics and densely stitched embroidery designs. After stitching it is carefully torn away, it can be torn away. Not recommended for delicate fabrics or sweaters.

Iron-On Tear-Away    
Use: Temporary support   
Best on:  Medium to heavyweight knit fabric   
Available in   Sheets & rolls   
Notes:  Avoid stretching the knit when ironing on.

Adhesive-Backed Tear-Away    
Use: Temporary support    
Best on:  Ideal for small collar areas, velvets, napped fabrics, patch blanks and baby bibs and items    
Available in:  Sheets & rolls    
Notes:  Place in hoop. Peel away protective paper, then lay the fabric to be embroidered over the hoop and smooth in place.

Use:    Temporary support    
Best on:  Non-washable, delicate fabrics that can tolerate heat and for off-the-edge stitching techniques   
Available in:  Woven sheets, plastic film    
Notes:  Completely removable with iron and caution. Good for designs not dense enough for Tear-Away.

Wash-Away (Soluble)   
Use:   Temporary support    
Best on:  Delicate, mesh-like washable fabrics and high pile fabrics such as terry. Also cutwork and appliques.    
Available in:  Plastic film, paper sheets, brush-on or sprayable liquid    
Notes:  Dissolves completely in warm water.