I’ve seen the question so many times I just mostly make a resigned sad face when I see it now, but it still bothers me. The question usually starts with the words “Can I..” and then goes on to ask whether it’s acceptable to use freezer paper or printer paper or plastic grocery bags as stabilizer for embroidery. I get the idea behind the inquiry – stabilizer can be expensive, or at least more expensive than a roll of freezer paper. Things like printer paper or plastic grocery bags are also usually at hand and don’t need to be purchased specially. I also suppose, to some people, using a common household item might be less intimidating. There are understandable reasons why people might pursue the option of using something other than the item specifically designed for the purpose, but there are also several reasons why that’s not usually a good idea.
Before I go into the reasons why we think using things like freezer paper is not the ideal option, I do want to address the one exception, using freezer paper for applique. When cutting patterns for applique, freezer paper is an option for stabilizing the fabric while you cut out the shapes. It’s also a viable option for fusing to the back of a fabric you are intending to draw or paint on, as raw fabric tends to wrinkle. Keep in mind, both these activities are embroidery adjacent, not actually embroidery, so I still stand by that statement that freezer paper is not generally a great option when it comes to stabilizing embroidery. Now let’s discuss the reasons why we think this is so.
Reason 1: Many stabilizers are designed specifically for machine embroidery – I’m sure there are stabilizers out there that started life as pocket lining or something, but there are also several classes of stabilizers that are intended specifically to be used with machine embroidery. This category includes poly mesh, fusible, and adhesive backing. Something that is designed specifically for the requirements of the job at hand will most likely work better than something used randomly.
Reason 2: An embroidery stabilizer can help improve the look of embroidery – Stabilizers are sometimes designed with a specific weight or type of fabric in mind. The proper marriage of backing or topping, fabric, thread and digitized design will create the most professional look and the best outcome. Using a stabilizer designed for the fabric you want to embroider and the type of look you want to create will give you a much better chance of a successful finished product.
Reason 3: An embroidery stabilizer can speed up production – Designs tend to sew out better when they’re stabilized properly. There’s less puckering, fewer thread breaks and definitely a cleaner and more professional looking finished product. Removing stabilizer more quickly with a tearaway option or presenting a tidier and more professional finished look with a washaway option are also benefits to using a stabilizer designed for embroidery.
Reason 4: The right tool for the right job – Freezer paper is designed to protect food from freezer burn. Plastic grocery bags are designed for carrying your produce and pasta home from the store. Embroidery stabilizer is designed to lend stability to embroidered designs, to improve stitch-outs and to help provide a professional finished appearance. Using products as they were designed will generally bring about the most successful outcome.
In a nutshell, those are the reasons we think embroidery should be stabilized with machine embroidery backings and toppings, but we’d love to get your take on this topic. Have you ever stabilized your embroidery with something other than standard stabilizer? What was the result? We’d love to know what you think.