Let’s Talk Stabilizers


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As many of you know, I learn by PLAYING and experimenting. The types of stabilizer I use to reinforce the textile illustration varies from project to project.


#1 Fusible: Shape-Flex.

I am a huge fan of lightweight, soft stabilizers that slip under my needle and add strength. I use this in most of my projects to keep the work in place yet remain flexible.

#2 Double sided fusible: MistyFuse.

The tissue paper thinness of this product is what I prefer when adhering my pattern or illustrations onto backgrounds. No, I will NEVER use Steam-a-Seam, it is too thick for me and I actually despise the stuff. Yes, you can buy special needles to avoid the gunk and build up on your needles, but honestly, if I have to buy extra hardware to use a product…I’ll pass.

Note: MistyFuse is never adhered to scraps in my fabric collage, only as a way to adhere the illustration onto my background fabrics. In other words, I do not fuse my scraps to build my collage. I use pins only, see my blog on fabric collage part 6.

#3 Tear Away. Bosal Medium weight #318.

Excellent choice for heavy thread-painting work. Look for it in your local quilt shop. Only use if you don’t intend to machine wash your art.

#4 Water Soluble. SulkySolvy.

I use this to create wonderful custom laces and intricate flora and fauna. Be sure to allow it to soak a bit extra than package instructions to remove the gooey slippery adhesive that clings to the work.


Before adding stabilizer there are a few things to consider. Knowing which one to choose will save you time and added stress. As someone who has traveled this journey of “what if, I try this,” there are a few questions that I always ask myself.

• Is the art one big piece or will I build it in sections?
• Will I be doing any hand embroidery or beading?
• Is this wall art or will it be machine washed and used as home décor?
• Will I be hand felting or using a machine felting embellisher?
• How large is the final art?

Once I have narrowed it down, I proceed. Here are some examples of each stabilizer.


For art that is created in multiple sections using a variety of techniques I will use several stabilizers. Each technique may require a different feel or stiffness.

Felting. I will need to add #1 a thin flexible stabilizer AFTER I have either hand or machine felted the piece on crafting felt. The felting will stretch out of place without it.

Hand embroidery and beading.

When building a textile illustration, it is important to keep in mind how much “man handling,” it will receive. In other words, the more you touch it, the more out of shape it will become.  In this example I added the hand embroidered grass on top of the felted background. It is a large piece and I didn’t want it to lose it’s structure rumpling it under a machine needle. This was done using a layer of tulle over a layer of #4 within an embroidery hoop. I then hand stitched the grass. It was rinsed, dried and added to the top of the illustration by machine using clear monofilament threads to stich into place.



This requires a very thin layer to stitch. I use #1 on the background to keep its shape in order to add the hand beading without it becoming distorted.

Home Décor. If you are planning on being able to machine wash the art, you will choose a stabilizer that can be washed away such as #4. You may feel inclined to use #3 as it is very firm and is excellent for thread painting and machine embroidery work, but keep in mind it will leave PAPER in the fabric you have stitched over and may not be suitable.

Small art quilts.

I use #1 for all thread-painting projects with an embroidery hoop. Many of my students are uncomfortable with using a hoop and so they use #3. Keep in mind that you can get some puckering with #3 if you are not careful. To avoid puckering, try adding some light meandering stitches to the background first. For example, I have added some Aurifil 12 wt. swirls to the background of the kittens.

Building the art.

If you will be adding it in sections, you may want to use #3 on the areas you will be creating work that has a lot of thread painting. As seen in this example the teacup was stitched over #3, cut out and I then applied #2 to the back of it. It was fused into place and then I continued to thread paint it onto the background. As you can see it is like building a puzzle. The tiny free-motion stitched flowers in the background were stitched using several colors of Aurifil 50 and 12 wt cotton threads over a layer of tulle and #4.


I hope this allows you more freedom as you continue to create. Remember, there are NO RULES, only life lessons. Take your time, have FUN and continue to explore.

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