Stabilizer / Backing - Overview

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Appropriate backing is essential for embroidering most fabrics. Without backing, fabrics can slip even when they are hooped tightly. Using the proper backing is directly linked to the production of consistently high quality embroidery. It is important to understand that many different embroiderers with identical criteria may choose completely different backing and topping formulas and still achieve successful embroidery results. Experimentation and experience are essential in creating consistently high quality embroidery. New products are constantly being developed and introduced. Find the combinations that work best for you.

Backing is placed underneath a fabric before it is embroidered. Depending on the material, backing can stabilize the material as it is being sewn and provide support for the stitches after sewing is complete. Different backing types provide varying levels of support.



Cut Away backing must be cut from the fabric after the embroidery is complete, it’s best to leave ⅛ to ¼ of an inch edge. Cut-away is used to support the embroidery on the fabric during and after the embroidery process. It also prevents the fabric from stretching during embroidery. It is a great choice for knits or loosely woven materials, since these materials tend to move and stretch.

Cut-away backing also has a softer feel to it. If the embroidery is going to eventually be against skin directly, consider using cut-away for a more pleasant experience for the wearer.



Tear away backing is a non-woven material that tears easily in any direction and can be easily removed after embroidery. Tear away is extremely simple and fast to use, but the uses are limited because it offers little support to unstable fabrics. Some examples of fabrics that might be suitable for tear away are cotton sheeting, heavy woven dress shirts, denim, terry cloth, and hats.

Tear-away backing is a favorite among embroiderers because of its ease of removal. It is simply torn away from the garment after the embroidery is finished.

It often has a feel that is similar to paper, and leftovers can be rough against skin.


Specialty Backings Options: 

Poly mesh and nylon mesh are not as stable as traditional cut-aways, but they are much less visible through lighter weight garments. They also tend to be softer against skin.

Water soluble backing - Do not leave backing after the completion of the embroidery. Be aware that this would require a fairly stable garment as the backing will be dissolved completely and offer no support once the garment has been laundered.

No Show Mesh is best used to feel soft against skin, be light, and provide good stability.

Fusible Webbing can be used to cover the back of the embroidery with another fabric.

Patches can be applied to fabrics if you don’t want any backing showing on the inside of the fabric.


Backing Choice Example

The choice of backing impacts the quality of the embroidery greatly. The following examples were sewn on the same machine with all the same settings. The only difference was the choice of backing.


Above:  Cut-away

Below:  Tear-away backing does not hold up to the embroidery.



Backing Weights

Backing comes in different thicknesses. Backing weights can be labeled as gsm (G/M²) or oz (OZ/YD²). If you need to convert the unit of measurement, you can use Google's conversion. Many times, you can ask for sample packets from suppliers to find what will work best with your application.

Heavier backings tend to offer more support. Lighter backings are often less visible. Because finding the right backing for the application requires some experience or experimentation, having a medium weight backing is a good starting place for new embroiderers



Toppings are used to keep your stitches from falling into the nap of a lofty material like terry cloth or polar fleece. It can also be used to clean up small lettering and the overall appearance of your embroidery. Most toppings are water-soluble and can be easily removed after the embroidery is complete.


Madeira Recommendations

You can find more information in the Maderia E-Zee Backing Guide. Note that this guide does not replace application specific testing.

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