Backing and topping serve to stabilize and support the product being embroidered so the stitches can be sewn with the least amount of interference or instability. They serve as stabilizers for your embroidery work. Without the proper type of stabilizer, the fabric may move too much within the embroidery frame causing poor alignment of the embroidery. At times, topping will be required in order to manage fabrics with a pile-like surface, such as towels, corduroy and pique knit. There are many types of backing and toppings with various weights for the various fabrics that you may be sewing.
There are four types of stabilizers (backing) that can be used in embroidery: cut-away, tear-away, water soluble and self-adhesive. In these four types, various weights, sizes and textures are available. When selecting the stabilizer type for a particular fabric, consider the design size in addition to the stitch count and stitch type used in the design.
Finally, make sure that the stabilizer is not stretched. Some backings may not stretch vertically or horizontally but may stretch diagonally. DO NOT USE THESE TYPES. This type of backing will stretch during sewing and may cause the design to shift.
Polyester mesh cut-away stabilizer works extremely well with light-colored fabrics since it prevents a shadow from showing through on the front after you have trimmed away the excess.
This type of backing is ideal whenever you need stability with a light and soft touch in your finished product, for example, with baby garments.
Cut-away stabilizer is excellent for medium- to heavyweight knits, however it can also be used on woven material.
It will hold a large number of stitches and with two or three layers can hold a tremendous amount of stitches. This type of backing is also available in black for those who want the inside of their garments to look as good as the outside. Black stabilizer is very useful on similarly colored garments of lightweight fabrics.
The black backing is less likely to show through as compared to white backing.
Self-adhesive (peel-and-stick) backing is used on those difficult-to-hoop fabrics.
This backing is applied (with sticky side up) to the underside of the frame, enabling your fabric to "stick on" the exposed surface in the sewing areas.
When the embroidery is finished, the fabric can be removed, the excess backing can be disposed of and the process repeated.
Tear-away stabilizer can be used on mediumweight woven fabrics and sturdy fabrics such as canvas, poplin and denim.
This stabilizer will hold many stitches especially when used in two or more layers.
This type of stabilizer is made of a non-woven material that enables it to easily be torn away from the edges of your embroidery design when it is completed.
This stabilizer is also available in black.
Water-soluble stabilizer is useful when you need to keep the nap or pile, for example, on towels, from interfering with the placement of stitches.
Fabrics such as terry cloth, corduroy, velvet and faux fur are examples of materials that have a nap or pile that can actually penetrate embroidery stitches as your machine sews.
The result is an unfinished and often sloppy appearance when fibers of the fabric poke out between the finished stitches of an embroidery design.
In these situations, water-soluble stabilizer is used as a topping to hold the fibers of the fabric flat so the stitches can be placed on top neatly and accurately.
Water-soluble stabilizer is also used as a backing when stitching lace or other motifs where the desired result is only the stitching.
This is accomplished with water-soluble stabilizer, which can easily be pulled off of the fabric after embroidering is completed and any remnants can be easily be dissolved with water.
Water-soluble stabilizer is also used as a backing on towels, where you often need some stabilization, but any remnants of a formal backing must not be visible in the finished product.