S is for Stabilizer

S is for StabilizerStabilizer is a BIG deal when it comes to successful machine embroidered appliqué. The success of your project can depend on choosing the right kind of stabilizer.

How do you know what kind of stabilizer to use?

For embroidered appliqué which is going to end up in a quilt or a quilted project:

  • I like to use 2 layers of OESD Ultra Clean and Tear, a medium weight tearaway stabilizer.
  • One layer goes in the hoop, nice and taught. Click here to review H is for Hoop and some great tips for successfully hooping your stabilizer, especially in the bigger hoops.
  • The second layer is basted to the back of the background fabric. This usually happens when I am marking the background for multiple hoopings, or if I want to get a single hooping design in a specific place on the background fabric. Click here to review M is for Marking for more details.

I have found that some people are challenged by the layer of Ultra Clean and Tear in the hoop tearing during hooping, especially when using pins to initially attach the background fabric to the stabilizer that is already in the hoop during the first stage of stitching the embroidered appliqué design. (If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, check out this video which shows how to stitch a block that will end up as a 12″ x 12″ square when finished – and is stitched in at least two hoopings.) If this is happening for you, replace the stabilizer that goes in the hoop with one layer of OESD Heavy Weight Tearaway. This stuff is a lot heavier – hence the name – and it’s pretty hard to poke your finger through it when it’s in the hoop. Don’t use 2 layers of OESD Heavy Weight Tearaway – your finished quilt may end up stiff as a board if you do.

For embroidered appliqué on lightweight clothing (woven fabric):

  • Apply one layer of OESD Aquamesh Plus to the back of the background fabric. This is a water soluble (fusible) stabilizer so it will disappear after the first time of washing the garment. It may be a good idea to wash the garment before doing any embroidery on it to eliminate the possibility of it shrinking after. You might also want to wash the appliqué fabric first too – especially if it’s red, to eliminate any possibility of the color bleeding onto the background fabric. A mist of spray starch (Mary Ellen’s Best Press) on the background fabric – pressed super well until dry – before applying the Aquamesh Plus will help to guarantee pucker free results.
  • Use one layer of OESD Ultra Clean and Tear in the hoop. While Ultra Clean and Tear is not a water soluble stabilizer in the same way that Aquamesh Plus is, I discovered that it will actually disintegrate in the wash after 2 or 3 washes.

For embroidered appliqué on heavier clothing (e.g. denim):

  • You can more than likely get away with one layer of OESD Aquamesh Plus in the hoop as the heavier fabric will accommodate the stitches.
  • If the fabric is at all stretchy, apply one layer of OESD Fusible Polymesh to the back. This will prevent the background fabric from getting distorted during stitching. Why not use this on lightweight clothing? You run the risk of having the shadow of the stabilizer showing through the fabric.

For embroidered appliqué on towels:

  • Use one layer of OESD Aquamesh Plus in the hoop.
  • Use a double layer of OESD AquaFilm on top of the towel. This is to prevent the stitches from sinking into the nap of the towel. When it comes time to fuse the appliqué shape in place, fuse it right onto the AquaFilm! You will need to make sure that your iron doesn’t come in contact with the AquaFilm as it will melt – and make a nasty mess on the bottom of your iron – so use a pressing cloth (any piece of fabric that is bigger than your applique shape and bigger than the base of your iron will work)

For quilting in the hoop with embroidered appliqué, options 1 and 2 described in Q is for Quilting:

  • Use one layer of OESD Ultra Clean and Tear in the hoop. The batting will act as a layer of stabilizer so you’ll have plenty of support for your embroidery stitches. On the subject of batting, my favorite batting to use for quilting in the hoop is Quilter’s Dream Orient. This is a super soft and low loft batting, a blend of bamboo, silk, Tencel and cotton. It turns out that a low loft batting gives the best results for quilting in the hoop.

For quilting in the hoop of a finished quilt top:

  • You don’t need any stabilizer!!! The whole quilt will go in the hoop. You’ll need to start with a layered quilt (top + batting + back) that has been basted super well. I pin baste first using extra long pins (not safety pins). Then I stitch in the ditch around all the areas to be quilted. Click here to see how I quilted the Happy Table Runner in the hoop using the Happy Quilting Collection. If you’re planning on quilting a large quilt in the hoop (the Happy Table Runner is long – 102″ – but it’s not too wide – about 21″; by large, I mean a quilt with the smallest dimension about 48″) I highly recommend having your quilt basted on a long arm machine. Be sure to ask for long stitches (2-3 stitches per inch) and no basting stitches on the embroidered appliqué shapes.

Daily Deal

From 12:01am on July 11, 2017 until 11:59pm on July 13, 2017 prepare for the holidays and enjoy 25% off the Sparkle Collection

Use promo code “A2Z-S” at the checkout

Add to CartSparkle Collection $60.00
(Delivered as a digital download. Optional CD available at the checkout)


What I love about this collection… The Sparkle Collection has lots of happy memories associated with it!

Sparkle Tree Quilt by Sarah Vedeler Designs

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread
and the Sparkle Tree Silk Collection

The Sparkle Collection is the first of my design collections that had a set of AccuQuilt GO! dies to go with it. In May of 2010, 2 conversations took place.

  • One conversation was between me and the project manager for AccuQuilt. It was along the lines of “This would make a great collection of dies, but there’s only 6 weeks between now and BU in July. That’s not nearly enough time to get the dies into production, so let’s wait.”
  • The other conversation was between the merchandising manager for my distributor at the time and the owner of AccuQuilt. This conversation was along the lines of “This would make a great collection of dies. There are 6 weeks between now and BU in July. Plenty of time! Let’s do it!”

You can probably guess which conversation won!

My daughter Heather came to BU with me in 2010, at the grand old age of 8! She had so much fun modelling the Sparkle Tree Skirt – as a skirt to be worn, and as a cape!

Heather isn’t the only quilting celebrity to model the Sparkle Tree Skirt as a cape. When I filmed an episode of The Quilt Show in Boulder, CO in 2012, Ricky Tims did a twirl on set, wearing the Sparkle Tree Skirt! One thing I have realized while creating the A to Z is that my photos are in complete disarray – and I can’t find the photo I see very clearly in my mind of Ricky wearing the Sparkle Tree Skirt 🙁

If you love traditional Christmas colors, my friend Jean made a beautiful version of the Sparkle Tree Quilt (and she still has it hanging up in her home, even at the beginning of July!!!)

Jean's Sparkle Tree QuiltSparkle by Sarah Vedeler Designs


  1. Absolutely loved all the alphabet tips.
    R I think will be for ‘right’.
    Get it right the first time and there should be no problems.

  2. I gain so much information from your daily posts. I have already purchased Sparkle. Looking forward to starting the project. Thanks again so much for the information.

  3. I love how you are able to include your beautiful daughters in your business. Heather must have had so much fun at BU modeling.
    I realize that I’m going to miss the A-Z when it is complete as I’ve starting opening my computer every morning first thing to see what the new letter holds! I’m learning so much! Thank you Sarah!

  4. Thanks for the stabilizer tips. I would have never thought of putting a topper on before the appliqué. Great idea s

  5. I just love all the great information. Thank you.

  6. I too will miss your tips, I hope they will be on your website so I can refer back to them!

  7. Nice to see all this info in one spot. Missing embroidery on tees or jerseys. They say if you wear it, tear it. I don’t always do this. And I have started using a topper. Your thoughts?

  8. Every day since letter A has been informative and inspirational! Thank you Sarah!

  9. Absolutely love, love, love your designs! I stitched a mini tuffet last night for one of my nieces and will stitch another one tonight. Beautiful! Thank you so much for your thoughtful alphabet information and offerings of your design sets.

  10. I am a beginner. Your information had been invaluable to me. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I enjoy following you.

  11. Such excellent tips about stabilizer. I hope you will have these on your website after this is over so we can go back and review them when our old minds slip and we can’t quite remember what you advised. 🙂

  12. Absolutely excellent discussion on stabilizers, how to and hooping. Heather is adorable and turning into a lovely young woman. This quilt and tree skirt are beautiful icutres do not do them justice. I so look forward to my morning mail. Thank you Sarah !

  13. Every day gets more exciting and love your model to cute.
    It is amazing how you learn daily and now jotting all the tips down.

    Thank you so much for all you do for us

  14. Thank you again for doing this for us! I look forward to reading these every day!

  15. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

  16. Thank you so much for all the information that you are imparting. We can always learn.

  17. Patricia (Patty) Ann Swatzell

    I really enjoyed reading your embroidery information. It’s always good to refresh my brain!

  18. More great information! Thank you!

  19. Yes, stabilizer is a Big Deal with all machine embroidery. Love your method and all of your great information about stabilizing our projects. Thanks so much.
    Heather is an adorable model!!

  20. Thanks again for all this great information.

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