Stabilizer Secrets: Weight and Why it Matters

One of the more mysterious things about stabilizer,  for some people anyway,  is weight and what that means when it comes to selecting and using stabilizer for a particular job.   On the surface,  backing weight seems pretty simple,  ounces are a familiar weight measurement,  so saying a type of backing is 2.5 ounces seems fairly easy to understand.  What complicates things is when you start factoring backing weight into the success or failure of an embroidered project.   Will using a 2.0 oz. backing rather than a 2.5 oz. backing mean the doom of your design?  Does the weight you choose to use really have that much impact on the success or failure of your project?  Manufacturers go through the bother of weighing stabilizer so the weight much have some impact on the function.

The first thing to understand about stabilizer weight is how manufacturers determine what that weight should be.  The weight of a piece of backing is measured by the square yard.  This means that,  should you have 1.5 oz. backing of the same type but from different manufacturers,  each square yard you weigh should weigh 1.5 oz.   Heavier weight backings,  a 3.0 cutaway for instance,  will be thicker and less flexible.   A lighter weight backing,  say a 1.8 oz. tearaway,  will be thinner and have more flexibility.

Obviously,  the weight of the backing will impact the functionality of the backing as well.  If,  for instance,  you’re sewing a sweatshirt, and the design is dense,  a heavier weight backing will pair with the fabric better and be more suited to holding a dense design.   Suppose,  however,  that you’re sewing on a lightweight polo shirt,  with a bit of a drape.  Then you’ll want a lighter weight stabilizer that is able to move with the drape of the fabric and not interfere with the lines of the garment.  Weight impacts drape and flexibility and the ability to hold a certain number of stitches or a dense design.   All these elements can impact the success or failure of your finished design.

The construction of the backing also has a little bit to do with the weight of the backing,  and a lot to do with the quality.  Machine embroidery stabilizer is typically made up of polyester fibers which are held together with viscose or wood pulp.  High quality backing will have more poly fibers and less viscose,  in lower quality backing the ratios will be the reverse.  What determines the quality of the stabilizer is the length of the poly fibers and the amount of polyester versus filler that is in the material.

A quick and easy test to determine quality is the light test.  Take the piece of stabilizer you want to examine and hold it up to a strong light source.   If the piece you’re examining is high quality,  the stabilizer will have even density and feel smooth when you run your hand over it. A lower quality backing will have thin spots and dense spots making for a more uneven sheet.   This uneven density can impact the quality of your sew-out significantly.

Keep in mind that the sheerness and weight of a backing does not always determine the number of stitches that can be stabilized. Take,  for instance,  the poly mesh backing that EnMart sells.  This backing is embossed,  which means if you hold it to a light source,  you’ll see a textured pattern in the material.   The texture allows the poly mesh to hold substantially more stitches than an unembossed piece of the same weight would be able to hold.

In the end,  weight is just one factor that impacts how a stabilizer will perform for a particular job.   The make-up of the fibers and the construction of the backing can also be critical.   And whether or not the stabilizer has any added features like embossing or texture can also make a difference in the density of the designs that can be used.  When deciding what stabilizer to use for your job,  make sure you take all these factors into account.

Stabilizer Secrets: Types of Stabilizer

Once upon a time,  some years ago and on another blog, we offered a series of posts about stabilizer.   The goal was to enumerate the types of stabilizer,  discuss why specialty stabilizer existed and why it was used,  and generally explain stabilizer to help our customers who purchased it use what they purchased more effectively.

Fast forward to 2019,  and we’ve added some new stabilizers to the mix, and definitely a number of new customers,  so it seemed worthwhile to revisit this series with updates as required.  As Mary Poppins (the original,  not the Emily Blunt version) advised, the best place to start is the very beginning,  so we’ll start with a brief overview of broad categories of stabilizer.  Subsequent posts will deal with specialty stabilizers,  why stabilizer weight matters,  how the materials used to create your stabilizer make a difference in the finished product and how stabilizer and fabric work together for successful embroidery.  The goal,  by the end of the series,  is to leave you with an understanding of the importance of stabilizer, and the ability to choose which stabilizer you need for which project.

At the most basic, stabilizers can be separated into two categories,  cutaway and tearaway.  As the names imply,  one type (tearaway) can be torn,  while the other type (cutaway) requires cutting with scissors to be removed. Every type of stabilizer falls into one of these two categories,  with the exception of water soluble,  which requires water to be removed.  Water solubles also tend to be toppings,  used to keep stitches from sinking into pile fabrics,  or used for standalone projects like freestanding lace.

A lot of embroiderers like tearaway backing because removal can happen fairly quickly,  since the excess stabilizer can simply be torn away.  A lot of the efficiency and quality of a tearaway can be shown by how quickly and cleanly it tears. A tearaway stabilizer that doesn’t tear cleanly will leave fuzzy edges that can fray or just make the embroidery look messy.   You also want a tearaway that stabilizes and holds stitches but which requires only a minimum amount of force to tear.  If you have to yank hard to tear away the excess,  you risk pulling out stitches or distorting the finished product.

Tearaway stabilizers are generally offered in light-weight,  medium-weight and heavy-weight options.  The medium and heavy weight options may also often be called “hat” or “cap” backing.  These are the weights that will most often be used when adding embroidery to a hat.   The cap backings are generally heavier, stiffer and more paper-like,  so they tear cleanly and easily.

Unlike tearaway stabilizers cutaway stabilizers require a little more work to remove. Cutting away the excess stabilizer is the most common method of removal,  and cuts can be as close to the stitches or as far away as desired.  Some embroiderers will cut their stabilizer to slightly larger than their design before they embroider,  which lessens the need for cutting after the stitch-out is finished.

Cutaway stabilizer is often used with lighter or stretchy fabrics as it is sturdy and provides the fabric with increased stability.   This type of stabilizer is also a popular choice for heavy weight fabrics like sweatshirts.   A 2.5 oz. weight is considered to be a universal or multipurpose cutaway and,  for some embroiderers,  is the only stabilizer they use.

While it is tempting to continue this discussion with an in depth look at the types of specialty stabilizers available,  each of which fall into one of these two main categories,  I think we’ll leave that for another post.  Stay tuned for the next entry in this series,  which will discuss specialty backings,  why they’re used, and how they help you create better embroidery.

For Gifts or Souvenirs Remember the Remembears

What’s cuddly and cute,  easily personalized and a great gift or souvenir?   If you answered a Remembear,  you’ve obviously already seen the adorable new embroiderable stuffed animals that EnMart now carries.

Like the popular Cubbies line,  which has been a staple at EnMart for the past several years,  Remembears have a zipper in their bottom and a stuffing pod which can easily be removed for decoration.  The material of the animals is suitable for embroidery,  as well as sublimation and vinyl.  The tags on Remembears say they are hand wash only,  but we tested one in washing machine on the delicate cycle and it came through without an issue,  so the Remembears can be washed,  albeit gently.

One characteristic of the Remembears worth noting is their large size.   These animals are 16 inches tall and offer a larger sewing field.   As the picture with this post shows,  the size difference can be quite striking.   Remembears are definitely a good option for any sort of display or memento,  as the size of the animals makes them stand out noticeably.  Theyre also a good option for larger size fonts or more wordy quotes,  as there is more space on which to work.

You should also keep in mind that Remembears offer some specialty items like the angel bears, which are bears with wings and gold or silver noses.   The angel bears are an ideal option for a memorial,   as they contain a small pocket which could be used to hold a portion of a loved one’s ashes,  or a small memento of that person.   An angel bear could be a lasting memorial to someone who’s gone,  that not only can be displayed,  but also hugged.

The variety of Remembears available means there are a lot of options for sales to different groups and organizations.   The cow could work for a dairy or ice cream shop. The moose or the wolf could work as school mascots or to commemorate a graduation.  The giraffe and the zebra would be great offerings for a zoo.  A natural history museum would love the green triceratops.   The possibilities for these animals are limited only by your imagination.

Since Remembears can also be decorated via methods other than embroidery,  they offer a flexible personalization option.   Buy some sublimation supplies and sublimate a photo or complicated design.  Get a heat press and try some rhinestones.   And,  for those that work with embroidery,  Remembears are a great blank canvas just waiting to be decorated with your favorite thread.  The possibilities are endless,  and the Remembears are here,  at EnMart,  waiting for their furever homes.

There’s No Substitute for Stabilizer

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 meshfusible,  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.

Why Having a Consistent Thread Matters

I’d guess everyone who works with thread in any fashion has their likes and dislikes when it comes to thread brands.   When you’re just starting out,  it’s hard to know which brand will serve you well and meet your needs the best. Some people buy thread based on what came with their machine.  Other embroiderers work more with colors they need to match rather than thread brands they like.  Certainly there are those who buy based on price, and the cheaper price always seems to win.  One thing that isn’t often considered,  but should be,  is how consistent the thread is.

A consistent thread is one that retains the same properties over time.  The hues of the dyes used to color the thread don’t change.  The tensile strength of the thread remains constant.  The cost of the thread stays reasonably steady.  The quality of the thread doesn’t vary from lot to lot.   What you got when you used the thread for the first time should,  if the thread is consistent,  be the same as what you get when you use the thread for the thirty-first time.  Being consistent is important for thread for several reasons.

Reason 1: Colors don’t change –  Anyone who’s matched a color for a customer knows the importance of color consistency.  Once you find the perfect color to match their logo or graphic,  you need that color to match every time you do an order.  Customers,  as we all know,  can be very picky about color matching.  The last thing you need is a thread color that changes a bit with every dye lot.  A consistent thread will maintain color integrity across dye lots.  The dye recipe will be precise and will be precisely followed.

Reason 2: Strength and durability – An inconsistent thread will have weak spots,  areas where the fibers are uneven or aren’t as thick.  It won’t hold tension as well and may be more prone to thread breaks.   A consistent thread, on the other hand,  will be even, without weak spots.   It will sew smoothly and thread breaks will be limited, and more likely due to design issues than the quality of the thread.  Consistent thread also generally causes far fewer thread breaks,  which results in much less downtime for production.

Reason 3:  Price – Consistent thread is unlikely to be the least expensive thread on the block,  but the quality will be worth paying a slightly higher price.  It’s also unlikely that the prices for a consistent thread will fluctuate much,  since the manufacturer will have sourced quality supplies and ensured their supply chain is secure.  While the price may be adjusted to reflect inflation or changes in the economy,  overall the price should stay pretty steady.

Reason 4:  Sew-out –  A consistent thread will sew out the same every time you sew a design.   It won’t sew perfectly one time and become a knotted mess the next. A thread you can rely on is one that can be predicted,  one that you know will create embroidery that will satisfy your customers.   If you constantly have to adjust tensions or mess with the machine to get the same results as a prior sew-out,  you’re losing time and certainly adding to your stress level.

In the end,  a consistent thread is one that performs the job for you best over the long term.   Yes,  a thread that stays consistent probably won’t be the cheapest option,  but a higher price will be more than justified by the faster production,  stable color and pain free sew-outs.

New Products

Every once in a while I like to go through and showcase some of the new products that have been added to the website,  just in case anyone has missed something.   We have some fun and exciting new things to show you;  some great products that could be either great ways to get new business for your company,  or just things that would be a fun way to pass the time on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

The first category of new items,  as our graphic shows,  is the Pretty Twisted Craft Kits that were added in 2018.   We added three fabulous new string art kits,  Dancing DragonflySenorita Sugar Skull and No Drama Llama.  We also added Color Your Own Mug kits,  giving you the opportunity to decorate a mug that has been sublimated with an abstract design.   If fashion is your thing,  you might find our Decorate Your Own Patch Kits interesting.  These kits combine pre-made patches and pins with patches you can decorate yourself,  and also give you supplies to do the decorating.  All the Pretty Twisted Kits are designed to be fast and fun,  most can be done in a few hours,  even if you’ve never done a craft kit before.

Another fun crafting product we’ve developed is the Felting Fun Needle Felting Starter Kit.  If you’re familiar with needle felting,  this kit should be perfect for you.   It comes with everything you need to create a needle felted project,  including 10 colors of wool,  but leaves the design to your own imagination.  Felt a purse,  felt an animal,  felt whatever you like,  it’s up to you.

For those who machine embroider,  the new blankets and scarves we’re stocking would be the perfect addition.  From fleece (perfect for tailgating before the big game)  to minky (soft as a kiss,  and in baby and throw size) to scarves to keep you warm on a cold winter day,  our blanket blanks are just waiting for monograms and team logos.   The fleece blankets would be great for team booster sales.  The minky blankets, especially the baby blankets,  would be adorable when paired with a Cubbie for a lovely new baby gift.

Speaking of Cubbies,  if you’re a quilter,  you might find our Quilt-A-Cubbies intriguing.   Each Cubbie comes with a specially designed quilt pattern that is suited to the theme of the Cubbie.  Perfect for using up scraps that you’ve never been sure what to do with,  or for shops that need ideas for how to package and sell remnants and bolt ends,  the Quilt-A-Cubbies are both adorable and useful.

Finally,  don’t miss the new backing we’ve added – R2000.   It’s a cutaway that’s perfect for performance wear.  If polymesh backing doesn’t work for your production schedule or your pocketbook,  R2000 is a less expensive option that can accomplish a lot of the same goals.  We brought the backing in after having embroiderers test it and tell us how great it was for performance wear.  Since we’ve been selling it,  we’ve had even more customers tell us the exact same thing.

Core Colors

Let’s face it,  most embroiderers do about 80% of their embroidery with a few core colors.   Black, white,  maybe a red and a blue,  maybe some colors specific to logos in their area,  but most embroidery is done with a fairly consistent palette.  The rest of the thread embroiderers buy is for one offs,  jobs that may only happen once,  which are special requests from a customer,  or which may be small jobs which won’t use an entire cone of thread.  That thread may never get used again,  and generally forms what we call the “thread museum”,  the colors that are always on display,  but rarely,  if ever, used.    With care and proper storage,  that thread can last forever,  which is nice,  but not vital.  What really matters is the thread that accounts for the most expenditure of budget and stitches per garment.

We know that, for many embroiderers,  converting from one thread manufacturer to another is like going to the dentist.  No one really likes doing it,  and you may not do it at all unless you’re in pain.  Our parent company has gone through a conversion process a few times,  so we understand it can be a big undertaking.  We also know it can be very worth the time and effort.  Because we understand what conversion involves,  we’ve also developed some tools to help make the process easier.

One tool is our online thread cross reference converter.  We’ve already done the conversions for a lot of the popular thread brands in both polyester and rayon.   All you have to do is access the converter and search for the brand and number you want to convert.   If we have an acceptable match,  you’ll find the number you need and can click it to see the Iris Thread match.

Another option for conversion is to contact us directly and ask for our help.  We have decades of experience in color matching and can easily help you convert your colors.  All you would need to do is get us a list of the core colors you currently use and want to convert, and we would do the rest.  We even understand digitizing and setting up colors for embroidery machines,  so we may be able to offer advice and support in that area too.

Remember,  too,  that converting your core colors is less work than converting your entire thread museum.  Since your core colors account for roughly 80% of your embroidery work,  those are the colors that will turn most frequently.  If you are interested in obtaining a sample of Iris Thread to try or in converting your current thread inventory to Iris,  talk to your account executive or our customer service staff about what programs may be available.

We’ve Got Your Back(ing)

Figuring out what stabilizer to use seems pretty simple.   If you don’t want to cut,  you use tearaway.   If you don’t mind cutting,  you use cutaway.  Rolls are more economical,  in most cases,  but pre-cut sheets can be faster and easier.  White can work on everything,  but black or beige may sometimes be the better option,  if those colors are available.  Choosing a backing seems simple,  but it may not be as simple as you think.   The more you know,  the better you understand how backing construction,  type and even color can play a role in the success or failure of your finished embroidery.  That’s where we come in.

Part of what we do here at EnMart is teach.   Our job,  besides finding and selling top quality embroidery and sublimation supplies,  is to teach you how to best use what we sell.   It’s kind of a circle of life thing,  we offer a backing for sale,  we educate you about why that backing is a good buy and necessary to your project’s success,  you buy it,  your projects turn out fabulous,  you come back and buy more backing.  The cycle, hopefully, repeats,  over and over again.

With that in mind,  I wanted to take a moment today to share some photos of backing we took with a new tool we recently purchased,  a microscope.  Now you may be wondering what a microscope can tell you about backing,  and the answer is quite a lot.  Here’s some of what we learned.

2.5 oz. cutaway

This is our 2.5 ounce cutaway backing. The first thing you notice when you look at this picture is the long unbroken strands.   That’s the sign of a cutaway,  long strands of fiber which can’t be torn.   The second thing you notice is how many strands there are.   Quality backing will always have a good ratio of fibers to filler.  Less fibers and more filler generally means a more uneven, less strong stabilizer.

1.8 ounce tearaway

Next is our 1.8 ounce tearaway stabilizer.  In this picture,  you can see the fibers are shorter and thinner,  which makes them easier to tear.   Again,  the ratio of filler to fiber is weighted on the side of the fibers,  indicating that this is a quality backing.  This is a backing which,  if you did the light test,  where you hold a piece up to a light source to see if it has uneven spots,  would pass the test.

Poly Mesh

Our third picture is of the poly mesh backing.    It almost looks like a diamond,  which is fitting, as poly mesh is a unique stabilizer.  It is designed to hold a lot of stitches and has been textured to allow it to do so. Much like the name implies,  you can see the fibers do form a kind of mesh and that,  although the backing is thin,  the fibers that make it up are thicker,  allowing it to hold more stitches despite its thinness.

Waffle weave tearaway

Finally,  we have our waffle-weave tearaway,  which is designed to be extremely easy to tear.   You can see that reflected in the fibers that are used to make up the backing.   They’re extremely thin and very multi-directional. The fibers are also much shorter,  which makes them easier to tear.  This is a backing that could be torn apart quite easily.

Understanding how backing is made,  and how that method of creation impacts the finished product can help you make the best choices when choosing backing for your project.  Now,  we know that most of you will never put your backing under a microscope,  but we never expected you would.  That’s what we’re here for.  We’ve got you back and your backing and we’re happy to help you make the best choices possible when it comes to purchasing supplies.

Save

Save

Save

No Hint of Lint – Ultra Quilting Thread

Lint can be the bane of a quilter’s existence.  A cotton thread that produces too much lint causes build-up inside the machine.   From the outside all looks serene,  but take a look inside and you’ll find the lint monster lurking.   Lint gums up the thread path.   It lurks around the bobbin case,  the bobbin area and the tension disks.  Lint causes your thread to lose tension in the middle of quilting. It makes your machine stitch erratically,  causing flaws in your design.  This insidious fluff can also throw the timing of your machine off or stop it from working entirely.  Lint looks fluffy and harmless but,  if allowed to build up,  it can create a number of problems for you and your machine.

Now it should be said that lint doesn’t only come from cotton thread.  Batting and fabric can also create lint,  which contributes to the build-up inside your machine.   Cotton thread, however,  can often be a huge culprit when it comes to lint production.   Because of the nature of the beast,  and how it runs through a machine, cotton thread can create a ton of lint.

So,  given that we know lint is bad,  and cotton thread is one of the primary causes of lint in a machine,  how do you avoid this linty dilemma?   Some people will tell you the solution is not to use cotton thread at all,  and there are quilters who choose to do just that.   Instead of cotton,  they use a polyester,  like Iris UltraBrite Polyester,  to create their quilts.   As we know from experience,  the results when polyester thread is used can be quite stunning,  but that option isn’t for all quilters.   Some like cotton and want to use it without any annoying fluff balls of lint.

For those quilters,  Ultra Quilting Thread is the perfect option.  It is 100% long staple Egyptian cotton.  This thread is double mercerized,  which means it has been treated to allow the dye to better penetrate the fibers.  Mercerizing also increases the strength and luster of the thread.  Ultra cotton thread has also been gassed,  a process which exposes the thread to high heat and results in a dramatic reduction in lint production.  The end result is a thread that is smooth and lustrous, one which is strong enough to run well during the most complicated quilting sessions,  and which produces little to no lint.

Now,  we understand that “little to no lint” is a subjective description,  so we have provided you with a visual aid,  the picture that accompanies this post.  That picture is of the bobbin case from the owner of EnMart’s sewing machine.  She is a beginning quilter and has now made two quilts with that machine,  and what you see in the bobbin case is the lint the Ultra Thread produced during the entire process of creating those two quilts. The small picture to the right of this paragraph is a close-up version of the bobbin case in the picture at the top of the post.   As you can see,  there’s little,  if any, lint to be seen.

We’re confident that Iris Ultra Quilting Thread is one of the lowest lint,  if not the lowest lint cotton thread in the quilting industry,  but we’re not going to ask you to take our pictures as proof.  We know that seeing is believing,  but trying cements that belief.  If you’d like to try a sample of Ultra thread for yourself,  just comment on this blog post or contact us with your name and address and we’ll get a sample out to you.

Banish the lint monster once and for all.  Get your sample of Ultra Quilting Thread today!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save