Understanding Embroidery Stabilizers

When I started embroidery I hated it. I hated it to the point that any time I had to do it I would end up in tears from frustration.

I had set myself up for failure. I bought a machine; never took a lesson; spent maybe 30 mins Googling some stuff; bought the cheapest supplies I could find and started. No wonder I was frustrated! Although in theory machine embroidery is easy – pull up a design, load up some fabric and some thread and press Start – but there is so much more to it. 

If you have an embroidery machine at home and you aren’t using it because you’re scared/overwhelmed or angry at it, please don’t give up on it. The machine you have is jam-packed with potential, you just need to spend a little time unlocking its magic. Once I took time to learn my machine, learn about supplies I need, I have now fallen in love with Embroidery.

If you can, find a class to take in person or virtually. Many of our Janome dealers run fantastic embroidery classes and they would love to teach you. If a class isn’t available to you, we have a host of other resources for you, such as our Janome Life blog. Use the little Search bar in the top right of your screen and look for more embroidery info. We also have videos on Janome HQ and Janome Life YouTube just waiting for you to watch.

Today I want to discuss stabilizers with you. These are crucial to the outcome of your project. We at Janome Canada LOVE Madeira Stabilizers and I think you will fall in love with them too. They even have a sample pack so you can try all of them before committing to a whole roll! Once you get using them you will soon figure out why there are so many types and why Madeira stabilizers are so amazing!

This weekend I worked with my kids to make their teachers these cool in the hoop (ITH) pouches for their teachers. Yes, you can put a zipper in a pouch in the hoop! Pure magic! I was using the Teacher Survival Kit pattern from Nosy Pepper. They have some fun pattern, but be warned, some of them are more than a little cheeky. This pattern specifically calls for tear-away stabilizer. I like when a project tells me what I need and I can just do it. Sometimes though, you don’t have someone telling you what stabilizer to use and picking the right one can make the difference between a success and a flop. 

Let’s break down what your stabilizer options are and what stabilizer you may want to use when. Keep in mind that sometimes a project will require more than one type of stabilizer and you sometime will use more than one layer of stabilizer. So, if you are stitching something out and its not looking how you imagined, you may have to play around a bit. 

Madeira has 3 different categories of stabilizers; tear-away, wash-away and cut-away. Understanding how each of them works helps you pick the right type for each of your projects. Within those categories they have more options so you can get really specific and you even get some colour choices!


Tear-away is a temporary stabilizer. Once your project is finished stitching out you simply pull the stabilizer and it tears away from your project, easy-peasy. Not all tear away stabilizers are created the same. Madeira’s tear away stabilizers tear away so much cleaner than other brands, but also has the strength so your project is less likely to become so perforated that it detaches mid-project. This can happen with some sub-par stabilizers and it is heartbreaking. Here are the 4 tear-away stabilizers included in the Madeira Stabilizer Starter Set.

Cotton Soft comes in white and black. If your project calls for tear-away this is probably the one you want. Choose the colour to best suits your project and you’re ready to go

Cotton Stable is a non-woven and irons onto your fabric. This is great if you don’t want to use a hoop full of stabilizer. Cut a piece big enough for your project, iron onto the back of your fabric and you are ready to go! This one is ideal for knits and stretch fabrics. Once it is ironed on then your knit/stretch fabric acts more like a woven and won’t distort while stitching.

Cotton Fix is amazing if you have a project where you just can’t hoop the fabric. You hoop the stabilizer, score the top of the stabilizer to reveal a sticky surface and you can stick your fabric right to it! This is great for tiny items that are impossible to hoop.


Wash-away stabilizers are a ton of fun! These do exactly what you think they do. You use them to stitch out your project, then put them in water and they disappear like magic! These are great as embroidery backings or on the top of materials with a pile like towels, or velvet, so the stitches don’t sink-in to the fabric. They also work perfectly with delicate fabrics to allow you to stitch without distortion. I recently used wash away stabilizer to make some Logo badges. I wanted a crisp edge without any stabilizer showing when it was done. Worked like a charm! Madeira’s wash-away stabilizers disappear in lukewarm water like magic.

Avalon Film makes a great topper for any looped, napped or pile fabrics, but they can also be used under projects as well. If you are monogramming towels or robes you will want to make sure to use this stabilizer.

Avalon Ultra is the strongest of the wash-away stabilizers. If you are doing a very detailed design but need a wash-away, this is the stabilizer you will want. This is also what you will want to use for free standing lace. (FSL) Such a cool technique!

Avalon Plus is perfect for embroidering on delicate fabrics. When you are stitching on semi see-through fabrics you won’t want to see your stabilizer, so this one is perfect because once you have it stitched out, it will wash away, never to be seen again! This stabilizer also stands up to densely stitched embroidery so you don’t have to worry about it tearing away from your project. 

Avalon Fix is great for projects you don’t want to hoop or you can’t hoop. Once you hoop the stabilizer you score the top and peel away the paper to reveal a sticky layer. It is very similar to Cotton Fix but washes away instead of tearing away.


Cut-away stabilizer is the sturdiest of the stabilizers. These are going to be your best friends for dense embroideries or working with knit fabrics. They are designed to stay with your project forever. Once you finish your project you will carefully cut the stabilizer leaving 1-2cm around the stitched area. You won’t want to use these on the top of any project or on anything too sheer that you can see through it.  There is one exception, Super Film and you are going to love this!

Super-Film is an Iron-away stabilizer, which is used for specialty fabrics like satin or velvet; fabrics too delicate for tear-away, which also can’t be washed. Once you finish your project, you iron it (use a needle board if you’re ironing velvet) and this stabilizer disappears! Mind blowing!

Super-Strong comes in both white and black allowing you to pick the right colour for your project. This is especially important since the stabilizer will be with your project forever. This is probably going to be your “go to” Cut-Away stabilizer as it really stands up to densely stitch projects. 

Super-Stable is non-woven and perfect for thick stretch fabrics. One of the best parts about this stabilizer is you can iron it on to the back of your fabric. This really makes sure your project is super stable (hence the name) and will not distort while stitching.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match and experiment. In the end, the right stabilizer is the one that works with your project to give you the results you are looking for.

Inserting a zipper on an embroidery machine! Pure magic!

Happy Stitching!


This entry was posted in Janome Embroidery, JANOME EMBROIDERY MACHINES, JANOME PARTNER PRODUCTS, Janome Sewing Machine, Madeira stabilizers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Understanding Embroidery Stabilizers

  1. Heather says:

    Great post! Definitely keeping this one to refer to.


    • janomeman says:

      Yay! Thank you sew much for your feedback, Heather! We’re so glad you found this post helpful, which is always our goal at Janome Life. Happy Sewing!


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