A GUIDE TO SELECTING THE RIGHT PRODUCT
important element in producing good embroidery is choosing the correct backing*
or stabilizer for your application. You
must first understand the job at hand prior to selecting the right product. It
requires an understanding of the various types of stabilizers offered on the
article is intended to help you make the right decision. This information is
designed to inform you of the many types and varieties of embroidery stabilizers
available to you and how they are used.
is a woven or non-woven material used underneath the item or fabric being
embroidered to provide structure and support. Normally it is to be hoped with
the article being embroidered and is available in various thickness and types
(styles). The two major classifications for backings fall under the headings tear
away and cutaway. We
will expound on these two classifications further on in this article.
DO WE NEED BACKING?
use of backing is required because articles being embroidered often require
support to handle the stitches being introduced to the fabric or article being
sewn. When a manufacturer of an item is making good(s), they do not take into
consideration that the article(s) may later be embroidered. Furthermore,
embroidery machines are not equipped with the ability to determine the type of
materials being embroidered, therefore, make compensations in the design to
adjust for the article being sewn. Hence, we use backing to provide the article
with the additional support it may require in order to prevent distortion of the
design being sewn.
hear the word “Push” and “Pull” being used in embroidery, but what
exactly do these words mean in embroidery.
is the force a thread being introduced into the fibers, threads or skin of the
article being sewn in relation to the design. Imagine yourself trying to enter
into a crowd a people. The moment you begin “pushing” your way through the
crowd, you are exerting force on the bodies of those around you forcing the
other people to move or be squashed. This
is an exaggeration of the point, but there is only so much space is a given room
and ever time another person starts passing through the crowd there is less and
less room and more and more force.
“Pull” is the force that a formed stitch is exerting on the fibers, threads
or skin of the article being sewn in relation to the design. Using the same
analogy, imagine that every other person in the crowd embraces with a one person
in between them. Each pair of persons embracing is exerting another force one
the person trying to pass though the crowd.
like the analogy of the crowd, a thread being introduced into an article being
sewn is exerting a force known as “Push” on the surrounding fibers, threads
or skin and once the a complete stitch is formed a force known as “Pull” is
created on the fibers, threads or skin between the embrace of each stitch.
the forces at play in embroidery, the needs additional support from a backing
should be apparent. Without, backing we are not offering enough support to the
item being sewn to deal with the “Push” of the thread being introduced or
enough support to deal with the “Pull” of the formed stitches. You need
backing to produce good embroidery and you need to know what backing to use for
THE RIGHT SUPPORT
embroidery requires a good backing. With an understanding of what is available
and some experimentation, you will be able to find a suitable backing or
combination of backings for almost any embroidery design. It can be confusing.
There are many choices. The growth of embroidery has made it possible for the
various manufacturers to create as many as 20 different types of backings for
all sorts of applications. Backings
have improved over the past few years. A
review of backing basics is helpful.
the number of products available, all of them can be classified as tear a-ways,
cutaways or specialty backing. This
makes the task of picking one appear at least easier. Your vendors should have various samples to review for your
decision making process. Any
frustration you might encounter in finding the right support for your embroidery
designs should not cause you to leave this important decision to chance.
it comes to selecting your own backings, knowing what backings other
embroiderers use with a particular garment is a good start. Unfortunately, this
information may not provide all of the answers or, for that matter, any of the
answers for your particular machine or design. Stability of the garment fabric,
stitch density, color, stitch length, stitch speed, size of the embroidery and
stability of the design are just some of the variables that can influence
consulting other embroiderers, attending one of the many embroidery trade shows
is a good source of current product, pricing information and application ideas.
At least one of the exhibiting backing suppliers will have sample packs of
products. Most of the shows have embroidery seminars that run concurrent to the
show. These seminars can be helpful.
stretch is probably the most important factor in selecting backings. Backing, no
matter what its type, has to be stable enough to prevent movement during the
stitching process. There are many different types of fabrics and many qualities
within those types. Experimentation is often needed even when changing blank
suppliers of what appears to be an identical garment. A fabric’s structure
(weave of knit pattern) is apt to be a better indicator of stability than weight
well you hoop your fabric has an impact on the finished product. It is important
to know the difference between a hooping problem and whether the backing being
used is the right one for the job. Often poor registration and puckering around
the sewn design can occur from loosely hooped or insecurely hooped garments. This
is not a backing problem. Good hooping technique is a precursor for choosing
the right backing. Hooping technique is a variable and one you need to become
proficient at prior to gaining the experience and knowledge required to make a
good decision on what backings to use.
Be cautious in
using materials not specifically designed as embroidery stabilizer. Many of
these products are available because they are seconds. This means a mistake of
some sort was made. Some products have wild variations in weight. Extreme
shrinkage, particularly dryer shrinkage, and bleeding colors are just two of the
problems that can arise. Puckering can occur when using an inappropriate
material with too much stretch. The use of such poorly performing products is
often a testimony to an embroider's stamina. The cost per garment for
stabilizer of any type is very small. However, using the wrong stabilizer can be
tear away is the backing of choice for most new embroiderers because it
is easy to use and remove. They save us time and time is money.
If you cut one expensive garment, the advantages of tear-a-ways will be
with you for life. Most tear-a-ways range in weight from 1 to 3 oz/yd. A good
performing tear-a-way should be stable and able to withstand repeated
perforations without loosing its ability to provide the garment with adequate
support and the backing should tear easily in multiple directions.
obvious, but some embroiderers are still using backings that tear only in one
direction (unidirectional). Unidirectional tear-a-ways are less expensive to
purchase, however they are tricky when using multiple pieces because each piece
must be pulled off one at a time making this procedure relatively expensive and
time consuming. Even when using one
piece we must keep in mind to tear a unidirectional tear-a-way in the right
direction to prevent pulling on the design to avoid creating any distortion or
even tearing the fabric of the garment.
type of tear-a-way is a wash-a-way product. These tear-a-ways offer us the easy
of tear and possess the stiffness desire to tear the baking away easily, but the
have the added feature washing out the stiffness of the binder when they are
laundered leaving the stitched out design with the support it requires, but also
creating a more comfortable garment for the buyer to wear.
The downside of a tear/wash-a-way is that it leaves residual fibers
around the tear of the design, but these fibers do have a functional purpose in
that they assist in providing on going support to the garment to prevent
distortion even after laundering.
in choosing a tear-a-way, most embroiderers consider ease of tear, cleanness of
tear (not having to pick out small pieces of paper), and hoop stability and
perforation resistance as important factors in their selection process. Tear-a-ways
can be used on most items but, in general, should be used with woven garments
because woven have less stretch and require less structure and support than
stretchy fabrics such as loosely knit sweaters. Swimsuits and socks can be
an exception to this rule, and here a wash-a-way/tear-a-way
is a good choice as well as a peel and stick.
matter what type of tear-a-way is used, the accepted wisdom is that you should
tear the backing as close to the stitches as possible. To leave as little
backing around the design as is possible.
are needed to provide a stable base for delicate and stretchy fabrics both
during the stitching process and afterward. Some fabrics are so stretchy that
they can actually force themselves down the throat plate. A cutaway not only
helps maintain the crispness of a design’s details during the embroidery
process, but it also helps retain the design’s shape after repeated washings.
The experience of having an angry customer return a sagging or stretched design
will help remind you of the advantages of cutaways. A quality embroiderer should
insist that their cutaways are both washable and dry cleanable.
accepted wisdom of cutaways is that you should not cut very close to the
embroidery with your scissors and that a gliding scissor motion rather than a
cutting one should be used. A cutaway that has some rigidity will enable a
gliding scissor motion rather than a cutting one should be used. A cutaway that
has some rigidity will enable a gliding scissor motion. When cutting, both the
stabilizer and the fabric should be kept in view. Do not allow the garment to
fold over. Some consultants to the industry recommend the use of blunt end
scissors to prevent snagging fabric.
range in weight from 1.5 to 3 oz/yd. Cutaways, in general, are more resistant to
needling perforations than tear-a-ways. In choosing a cutaway, most embroiderers
consider ease of cutting, wash stability, hoop stability and perforation
resistance. Cutaways tend to have more bulk than tear-a-ways. Softness, ease of
cutting and stability can often be mutually exclusive properties for cutaways.
In some cases, the embroiderer needs to determine which property is most
important for a particular design. The softer backings tend to have more hoop
stretch and, accordingly, will not allow as crisp of a design as the stiff ones.
Stiffer backings offer less comfort for the garment user and give tend to
project lesser quality to the buyer.
general a cutaways are used on knits and stretchy fabrics such as golf shirts,
sweaters and sweatshirts.
There are many
different items that may be classified under this heading. Some of the major
ones are described next.
PEEL AND STICK
This product is a tear-a-way
backing with a pressure sensitive coating and a release liner. Peel and stick
has three general uses. It is used in hard-to-hoop applications such as shirt
collars, cuffs, etc. It is used to stabilize high stretch fabrics such as
bicycle shorts, lycra, promotional sweatshirts, etc. And finally, it is used to
eliminate hoop marks that can occur with certain problem materials such as
brushed denim, or suede. A good Peel and Stick product should not have a gummy
adhesive. Hooping the backing with the release paper facing upward generally
uses the product. An X pattern is lightly cut in the hooped center such that the
release paper is sliced through but not the backing. Enough of the release paper
is peeled back so the portion of the garment to be embroidered can be stuck to
the backing. Many custom shops have a small roll of this product in case it is
needed for a particular job.
CAPS & Bags
Most cap and bag
backings range from 2 to 3 oz/yd in weight and are tear-a-ways. A clean tearing
product is generally preferred. Cap and bag backings are used to improve the
crispness of lettering and columns. This is particularly so with low profile and
unconstructed caps. There are several other less obvious production benefits in
using these backings. Backing keeps up the tension on the bobbin thread. This
allows the embroiderer to switch from flats to hats and back again without
touching the machine settings, but this dependant upon the design and materials
being sewn. The use of this backing can prevent cap fabric and fiber from being
forced down the throat of the machine. An extra fold of backing can be used to
get a firm seating on a rotating cap frame to prevent registration slips.
There are several
medium weight fusible stabilizing products available that can be permanently
fixed to garments with a hand iron or industrial press. The primary application
for these products is as a stabilization aid for very stretchy and hard-to-hoop
materials. Spray adhesives can also be used to fix backing to fabric. The over
spray problem can make fusibles or peel and stick preferred.
All components on
children’s wear should be fire retardant. These binder-free stabilizers meet
this requirement due to their fiber composition. This product is a lightweight
cutaway that can also be used in combination with a tear-a-way on white shirts
to avoid the show through look of heavier cutaways.
Black backings are
used for dark garments such as leather jackets and black sweaters, or
sweatshirts, etc. The use of these products prevents the generation of a
distracting blaze in the interior of the garment that occurs when white is used.
MESH & ORGANZA
These backings are
usually woven products that offer a great deal of stability to lighter weight
fabrics and/or stretchy fabrics. Plus, they are thinner than most cutaways,
therefore, offering a great deal of stability without adding to bulk. Their
shear nature make these products a terrific solution for reducing visibility of
the backing used on lighter weight garments that have a tendency to show the
backing behind the fabric, for example a white, light weight golf shirt.
tend to cost much more than standard cutaways. The reward for the additional
investment is the drastic improvement in stitch quality. These backings are
typically woven; therefore, offer more stability than a standard paper cutaway.
This additional structure becomes particularly useful when sewing smaller
letters. The additional structure given greater hold when sewing smaller letters
for those hard to satisfy customers, but an embroiderer should maintain a rule
of sewing capital letters in block when sewing smaller letters because even
these more structured, woven cutaways have their limitations.
Pre-cut vs. Rolls
The least expensive way to acquire backing is to purchase it
in full or half width rolls when you are talking about direct cash outlay. This
option allows the small embroiderer to have a sensible inventory of only two or
three rolls. One roll of mid-weight cutaway and one roll of mid-weight tear-a-way
will cover the majority of your needs. Specialty stabilizers like peel and stick
or mesh can be purchased in smaller rolls, these are not usually used as
frequently as cutaway and tear-a-way.
Although rolls are less costly upfront the downside is
the time and space required to cut rolls into the desired widths and lengths. An
embroiderer must keep in mind that his or her time and/or the time of the
employee are costly as well. It may very well be to their advantage to purchase
pre-cut backing because the cost in time to convert a roll into the desired
lengths and widths may very well be costing you production time. As an
embroiderer, you are not making money if you are not producing. You are not in
the business to produce pre-cut pieces of backing. You are in the business of
Second, consider the space required to cut ups a roll of
backing versus pulling a piece of precut backing from a short stack off the
shelf. You may think that storing a
box of backing is more wasteful than cutting up a roll as needed, but then you
must consider the amount of workspace required to cut a roll properly.
Some embroiderers have found they have been able to eliminate the cost of
paying for additional workspace by purchasing pre-cut pieces.
For those embroiderers whom work from their homes, you may find that your
business will not take over your living space if you do opt to invest in pre-cut
The decision to purchase precut pieces versus rolls should
be based on your shops investment in workspace and labor not just on price.