How To Use Stabilizer For Applique

No matter how you prepare your piece of machine applique, the key is always to learn the best method of stabilizing and stitching. Applique, being one of the popular fabric-embellishing methods, has acquired prominence in the fashion industry. For enthusiastic applique professionals, this is your guide to learning how to use stabilizer for machine appliques.

Who would’ve ever wondered that the secret to smooth pieces of applique is using a stabilizer? All you need is to place it under your foundation fabric before you begin the process of appliquéing. Using it would help you eliminate the pesky puckers that always pull at the foundation.

What it does is add support to your applique to deliver a perfect experience. In the versatile world of sewing, stabilizers are found in multiple ranges: tear-away, wash-away, and cut-away! Depending on your project and experience, you can experiment with these types accordingly. Read on to learn further.

Tips To Use Stabilizer For Applique

The choice of a stabilizer can either make or break the embroidery project, especially when it comes down to appliques. Within every group of stabilizer (tear-away, cut-away, and wash-away), there are different weights.

Thus, choosing the one that closely corresponds to the fabric’s weight is your starting point. Next, consider one with regard to the stitch count (the greater, the heavier!).

#1 Fabric

The first rule is to remember that the weight of both stabilizer and fabric should be compatible. You can use a cut-away stabilizer if you’re embroidering on stretchy fabrics or knits. Whatever you choose, remember that the chosen design and fabric should be compatible.

#2 The Back Appearance

Use a water-soluble stabilizer just in case you prefer a no-stabilizer look showing from the wrong side. Alternatively, a tear-away tool can help in removing it without any complications. For a cut-away one, remember to cut the excess leaving one circle on the project’s back.

#3 Design Of The Embroidery

The more complicated the design, the heavier the stabilizer is supposed to be. For this reason, you must use a digitized design that has adequate underlay to give base support for your stitches. When you have just a limited option of stabilizer, you have to opt for the design accordingly.

#4 The Feel Or Hand

Most embroidery experts would understand the fact that the stabilizer type and weight will influence the fabric’s drape. Choosing a heavier version means you’re adding weight to your garment or fabric. On the other hand, a cut-away stabilizer will remain on the project’s backside.

So, the heavier the stabilizer, the peskier it becomes on the edges. In this case, any garment having the same kind of edges will produce irritation when worn against an individual’s skin.

#5 Testing

The test result is always vital and recommendable. Even when you follow stabilizer guidelines, the test result is an inevitable consideration.

Multiple variables in the fabric quality are there within every fabric grouping and differences in design quality. And the most sought-after way of determining the proper tool is through testing.

Steps To Create Appliques Using A Sewing Machine & Stabilizer

Before anything else, you need to consider checking the machine set-up. So, here you go!

  • Ensure your machine is in the proper working order.
  • Install a new & sharp needle in the machine.
  • Wind the bobbin with 60-weight cotton thread, or you can use a bobbin-fill thread too.
  • Thread your needle with the right color embroidery thread.
  • Set the machine for the zigzag stitch (use width from 1 to 1.5mm or 1/8″)
  • Set the length stitch above the setting for satin-stitch, or from 0.5 to 1mm.
  • It would be better if you set the machine in “needle down” and put the motor speed half the usual speed.

Now, coming to the steps!

Step 1: Tracing Your Applique Design & Cut The Applique

For creating a beautiful applique design using a sewing machine, tracing the design becomes your beginning point. Onto the paper side of the fusible webbing, leave around ? inch between every piece. Cut the pieces and leave ? inches of webbing around your tracing line.

After you put the fusible webbing on the wrong side of the fabric, fuse for some time using an iron; Now, you need to cut the applique.

Here’s One Quick Note: While cutting small pieces, hold them with a tweezer instead of using your fingers.

Step 2: Position The Applique Pieces On The Fabric

After you peel the paper backing off, you will require positioning the applique pieces on the project. Layer the pieces accordingly. When you are finally happy with your arrangement, you can place the pressed fabric over your design. Fuse in place with the iron.

Step 3: Use A Stabilizer And Stitch Your Applique’s Edges

When crafting a beautiful garment design using applique, it is quintessential to stitch your applique’s edge on the fabric. This is where the role of the stabilizer comes into being.

Use your preferred stabilizer around 1 to 2 inches wider than the applique. And place it on the fabric’s wrong side beneath the applique.

Step 4: Preparing For The Machine Stitch

You can use a simple machine that can do a zigzag stitch. For this reason, you can even use an uncomplicated and un-computerized machine capable of a zigzag stitch! For stitching, follow these pointers:

  • Stitch around the applique’s parameter using a zigzag stitch (tight one)
  • Alternatively, you can even use blanket stitch
  • Change the thread color if you want to contrast with the applique pieces
  • While stitching corners or curves, you have to put your needle down right on the opposite; lift the foot & pivot your fabric accordingly

Some Quick Tweaks:

  • You can use a bobbin fill thread, somewhat shiny and lightweight. On this note, a strong polyester thread does the job pretty well.
  • You can use a tip needle as it helps prevent skipped stitches. However, a universal size of the needle around 70 or 80 is the right fit.
  • You can use a clear and open-toe foot so that you see what’s happening.
  • Set the zigzag stitch width around 3 (through the applique design has small pieces; you can reduce the width of the stitch).
  • If you have to loosen your machine’s upper thread tension, then be careful. The upper thread must always be visible on the fabric’s wrong side. However, it should be flat on its right side.
  • The chosen bobbin thread mustn’t be visible on the fabric’s right side.
  • Your aim should be having stitches 2/3rd on your applique fabric & 1/3rd on its background.

How To Remove Cut-Away Stabilizers?

To remove the cut-away stabilizer, follow these pointers:

  • From the design’s edge, trim with the scissors to around ?” or ?” away
  • You must not cut the open areas inside your design
  • Put the stabilizer side of the fabric down
  • Take the fabric in your hands to cut the stabilizer; it will help in keeping you away from accidents while cutting the stabilizer of the fabric

So, these are the pointers to note when it comes down to removing the cut-away stabilizer effortlessly.

What Stitches Should You Use For Appliques?

While using knit fabric, you can make the right use of straight stitches to the applique as fabrics wouldn’t fray in that case. For other fabrics, closely-done zigzag stitches are used.

Do you have the plastic satin or applique foot? Then, you must use it instead of the zigzag foot.

Change to zigzag stitch type. Shorten your stitch length to nearly zero. It’s going to an outstanding way of creating closely spaced zigzag stitches that mimic satin stitches.

You can use the narrow zigzag process for smaller designs. Wider zigzag stitches are appropriate for larger designs. While narrow zigzag stitches are for firmly-woven fabrics, wider zigzag stitches are well-fit for fabrics that are loosely woven.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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