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Machine Embroidery Basics


A photo of machine embroidery hoops and stabilizers.

Machine Embroidery Hoops & Stabilizers

Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com

Hoop Sizes:

Machine embroidery hoops are available in a variety of sizes. They are machine specific and must be designed for the machine you are using.

The size of the hoop you use will be determined by the design you are embroidering. The closer the hoop size is to the design, the less likely there will be any movement of the fabric. Movement of the fabric can result in the final stitches being poorly located on the design.

More about embroidery hoops and choices in embroidery hoops


Stabilizing is used to add rigidity to the fabric while it is being stitched. The fabric needs to be held stable so that all parts of the design will be in their proper position.

One of the most common tell-tale signs that the fabric was not properly stabilized is that the outline does not align with the rest of the design.

Stabilizing Stable Fabric :

Stable fabric is a fabric which does not stretch and has some rigidity on it's own. This type of fabric can be successfully machine embroidered with tear away stabilizer. More than one layer of stabilizer may be used, depending on the amount of stability the fabric has on it's own. If the design is very dense use cut away stabilizer of weight that will support the design and withstand laundering.

Stabilizing Unstable Fabric:

Unstable fabric is fabric that will stretch or is loosely woven. The conventional treatment for hooping unstable fabric is use cut away stabilizer and hoop all layers.

Hooping Alternative:

Hooping stretchy fabric may cause the fabric to stretch in the process of hooping. some items may become distorted in the process of hooping. <p>In these incidents, it is best to hoop the stabilizer and then adhere the fabric to be embroidered to the stabilizer. Sticky backed stabilizer is a perfect solution. Be sure to totally smooth the fabric that is going to be embroidered.

Placement :

Placement templates are available and often come with machine embroidery hoops. Often it is helpful to print the design and play with the placement before hopping the design.<p>Machine embroidery hoops include placement marks on the inner ring of the hoop to assist in placement.

Top Stabilizer:

Trying to embroider loop terry cloth is a perfect example of why you might need stabilizer on top of the fabric. Water soluble stabilizer or Heat Away stabilizer are perfect solutions. Both of these type of stabilizer do the job of holding nap or fabric loops allowing the embroidery to stitch without the fabric poking up throughout the design.


Embroidery designs on scraps that can later be made into a quilt or a center design on a pillow front. This will allow you to experiment on a variety of fabrics without ruining a garment and build your confidence.


Cutting away and tearing away stabilizer can end up being a disaster if you cut the fabric. Take your time and cut carefully. Cut way traveling threads first and then the stabilizer.

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