Supply Spotlight: Specialty Stabilizer

We just came back from the DAX Show in Minneapolis.   While we were at the show,  as usual,  we fielded quite a few questions about stabilizer.  It seems that stabilizer is one of the things about embroidery that can be confusing for those who are just starting out,  or for those who haven’t had much exposure to the variety of specialized stabilizers that are available.  Since everyone who reads this blog wasn’t able to be at the show and hear our explanations there,  I figured I’d share the information here as well.

First,  let’s define what a specialty stabilizer is.   In general,  a specialty stabilizer is one that is developed for a particular type of embroidery,  to perform a particular function or to work with a particular type of fabric or embroiderable good.  A specialty stabilizer is often used because it will increase the quality of the finished embroidery in some way.

There are a variety of specialty stabilizers available,  and covering each one in depth would result in a blog post that was miles long,  so I’m just going to try and give you an overview of the common options and the reasons why they are used.

Poly Mesh  Poly mesh stabilizer is a light weight, textured stabilizer that is great for t-shirts and light weight fabrics.  The texture allows for the support of a large number of stitches,  but the light weight ensures that the garment or the embroidered design won’t be distorted by a large wad of backing.

Fusible Poly MeshFusible poly mesh is the same material as regular poly mesh,  with the same light weight feel and the same texture.   The difference is that fusible,  as the name implies,  can be fused,  with heat,  to the back of a garment.  Fusible is useful for infant or children’s clothing, covering embroidery that might otherwise scratch delicate skin.   It can also be used with performance wear,  to stabilize and help eliminate the stretch in these types of fabrics.

AdhesiveAdhesive backing is coated with an adhesive which is covered with a release paper.  This type of backing can be hooped,  after which the release paper is scored,  exposing the adhesive,  and allowing for the securing of small items which couldn’t otherwise be hooped,  like patches or socks.  Adhesive backing can also be another option for performance wear,  functioning as a barrier against the stretchiness of the material being embroidered.

Water SolubleWater soluble stabilizer can be a backing or a topping.  As a topping,  water soluble is used on top of fabrics that have a pile.  It is commonly used on fleece or towels and works to keep the stitches from sinking into the pile and disappearing.   Another type of water soluble,  called Badgemaster, is thicker and used for making free standing lace.

Cutaway/Washaway – Another option for free standing lace is a cutaway/washaway backing.  This type of stabilizer can be used to create free standing lace ornaments,  as it can be embroidered and then the excess can be dissolved away.   Cutaway/washaway can also be a good option for when the back of an embroidered item, like a monogrammed towel, for instance,  might be seen.  The excess stabilizer will wash away over time,  leaving the back of the embroidery tidy.

Cap Backing – Hats are a popular item with many embroiderers,  and cap backing makes embroidering a hat easier.  This type of backing is usually 2.5 to 3.0 ounces,  and is often offered in smaller sizes like 4 x 7.  Cap backing is a stiff, paperlike tearaway,  which tears cleanly, and is stiff enough to support stitch heavy logos.

Some embroiderers will tell you that specialty stabilizers aren’t necessary,  that a simple cutaway or tearaway will get the job done in almost any situation,  and they wouldn’t be wrong.  What specialty stabilizers offer is the ability not just to get the job done,  but to get it done in a way that works with the fabric and creates a finished design that is really a work of art.

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New Ways to Use Embroiderable Stuffed Animals

medium_qf4KrRRQeKKCHueje3tA_CowOne of the fun things about the Cubbies embroiderable stuffed animals is that there are new designs coming out on a regular basis.   We have the most fun deciding which animals to bring in,  and figuring out unique ideas for how they can be used.  Embroidery and sublimation are,  of course,  two ways these cuddly little friends can be decorated,  but the type of decoration that is put on them can change based on the use to which the animal will be put.

Take school mascots for instance.   Schools use lions (we have one),  mustangs ( we have an adorable harlequin horse), bears (in white or brown),  or ducks as mascots.   We also have owls which could be gifted to an especially wise graduate.   Simply add the graduation date,  the school name and the graduate’s name,  or use any of these graduation themed designs to make a memento of graduation any graduate would be proud to own.

If you live in the country or have your business in an area where a lot of people farm or ranch,  the harlequin horse would be a great souvenir for a horse farm or riding stable.   A dairy farm, especially one that sells milk or cheese,  would probably love their very own embroidered cow souvenir.  Ducks,  lambs and pigs would also fit into this category.    These cute farm themed designs from Embroidery Library would be adorable on any of these animals.

Speaking of pigs,  what could make a more perfect mascot for a BBQ restaurant?   Yes,  I know it sounds a bit weird,  but think of how many BBQ restaurants use a pig in their logo.  A cow could also work in this situation, depending on the types of meats served.   Creative Connections has some cute BBQ and restaurant themed embroidery designs that could be used to turn a Cubbie into a fun restaurant souvenir.

Finally,  let’s not forget the Dumbles and the fact that baby themed items are a fast growing market for Cubbies.   Subway art birth announcements can be used to commemorate a birth.   You can find examples of digitized subway art birth announcement designs here and here.  The Embroidery Library also has a wide array of baby and child themed designs,  many of which would suit a Cubbie admirably.

The main thing to remember,  when working with Cubbies,  is to think outside the box.   An embroidered or sublimated Cubbie can be used for many different purposes,  as a mascot,  a memento,  a souvenir,  a promotional item or a collectible.  Your job,  as the decorator,  is to help your customers see all the possibilities in this simple embroiderable stuffed animal.

Supply Spotlight: Pearl Cotton

FiveGroupWhen most people who vaguely know of pearl cotton think of it,  they probably think of tatting or making doilies.  While this is a common use of pearl (or perle) cotton thread,  it is by no means the only use.   Pearl cotton has a variety of applications when it comes to crafting,  needlework and crochet.  It is a versatile thread,  which should be a part of any embroidery, crafting, quilting or crocheting tool kit.

If you aren’t familiar with pearl cotton, we’ll start with the basics.   Pearl cotton is a non-divisible thread,  which means it cannot be separated into strands the way that embroidery floss can be separated.   This thread is sized like most threads,  with the lower numbers being thicker and the higher numbers being thinner.   Size 3 and 5 are heavier threads,  size 8 is a medium weight and size 12 is a fine thread.

Pearl cotton has a variety of uses.   The size 3 is perfect for cross stitch,  crewel embroidery and crochet.  Size 5 can be used for needlepoint, crochet,  smocking and applique.   Size 8 pearl cotton is ideal for quilting,  crochet,  lace making, and tatting.   It can also be used in bobbins.   Size 12 which is the thinnest thread,  works for embroidery and cross stitch, smocking and tatting.  pearl cotton also can,  depending on size,  be used in embroidery machines,  long arm quilting machines and sewing machines.   Pearl cotton is also ideal for quilters,  as it is very useful in stitching decorative lines.

One nice thing about pearl cotton is its sheen.   This type of thread is a mercerized thread,  which means the thread has undergone a process of submersion,  first in sodium hydroxide and then in an acid bath.   Mercerizing thread increases the thread’s luster, strength, ability to be dyed and resistance to mildew.

To learn more about pearl cotton and how it can be used,  take a few moments to watch the following helpful videos:

Hand Quilting With Perle Cotton Tutorial

How to Chain Stitch Crochet with Beads

Beginning Shuttle Tatting

Ideas for Selling Embroiderable Stuffed Animals

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Courtesy of Strikke Knits

Whenever you see a picture of an embroidered stuffed animal,  it is primarily shown in the arms of a delighted looking child,  or placed near the crib or seat of a cute as a button baby.  Since these are stuffed animals,  it isn’t all that odd that many people who sell them tend to think of babies and children, or the parents of the babies and children,  as a natural market. The problem starts when that market is thought of as the only market for these animals.  Embroiderable stuffed animals are far more versatile than most people realize.   Here are some other ways they can be used.

Like the adorable penguin in the picture above,  stuffed animals can be embroidered with the names and dates of local festivals.  There are enough different types of animals that one of them should be able to be made to fit the theme of the event for which they would be made. If a festival happens every year,  it could be a fun idea to have a new animal for every year,  so frequent festival goers can form their own collections.  Since almost every town or city has at least one festival of some kind during the year,  this could potentially be a very lucrative market.

Local attractions or businesses are another great market for these adorable embroiderables.  A lion or an elephant for a local zoo seems like a no brainer,  but what about an owl for a local college (an animal that’s supposed to be wise and learned) or a hedgehog for a local self defense class ( hedgehogs are supposed to be calm and collected and know how to protect themselves in a crisis).  The trick is to come up with a connection between the animals and the attraction or business in question.

Don’t underestimate the value of these using these animals as advertisements as well.  The body that surrounds the stuffing pod inside the animal is large enough to hold a variety of items,  or even to hold a hot or cold pack to soothe a child’s injury.   If you know of a snack mix or candy that uses a particular animal as a theme,  you might sell them animals embroidered with the company logo that also hold a sweet or savory surprise.  Pediatricians might love animals embroidered with the name of their practice and equipped with a reusable hot or cold pack to put on little sprained ankles or broken arms.  An embroiderable stuffed animal is also an advertisement that keeps on working,  since most people will keep the animal much after its initial use has expired.

Finally,  don’t forget these cuddly animals are perfect for holidays and life events.  Embroidered stockings will be hung by the chimney with even more care. An embroidered reindeer is an adorable memento of baby’s first Christmas.  A bear with “I love you” embroidered on his stomach is a great way to deliver an engagement ring or a Valentine’s gift.  An embroidered duck makes a perfect addition to an Easter basket.  An owl embroidered with a high school or college logo and graduation date could make a lovely keepsake for a new graduate.