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Why the Right Stabilizer is Like a Good Bra :-)

Why the right embroidery stabilizer is like a good bra - plus help choosing the right thing for your needs

When it comes to embroidery, the thread is like the gorgeous silk blouse hanging in your closet. It’s pretty. It’s colorful. It’s touchable. It’s lovely.

But try wearing that silk blouse without the right undergarment and – unless you’re a very lucky woman – the results will be. . . not so lovely. 🙂

Stabilizers are the undergarments of the embroidery world.

Different outfits require different undergarments. Sometimes a little chemise or a slip are all you want. Sometimes you need a supportive bra. Some outfits call for head-to-toe Spanx. 🙂 It all depends on what you’re wearing and the look you’re trying to achieve.

Same with stabilizers, so here’s a little overview of which stabilizers serve what purpose.

Let’s start with my favorite, shall we?

sulky sticky

It’s Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy – which is quite an unwieldy mouthful. Sulky also offers it as Stick & Stitch, so you’ll find both names in shops.

It’s my everyday bra – good for just about any situation. 🙂

It’s a pattern transfer and stabilizer all in one – and you can print directly on it, which is awesome for all of us who use a lot of digital patterns. I recorded a whole video showing it in action and what’s so great about it, but here’s how I use it. . .

  • To transfer a pattern to any fabric. That includes fleece, felt, and dark colors – all the tricky little buggers.
  • To stabilize stretchy fabric for stitching. That’s mostly T-shirts, but could be any stretchy fabric.

It’s my go-to stabilizer. I’ll tell you right now – I rarely use anything else. But I admit it’s a little pricey. It costs a little bit more than $1 a sheet. I’m totally ok with spending that – just like I’m happy to spend $40 on a bra that’s well made, won’t fall apart in the wash, fits right, doesn’t pinch, doesn’t itch, and will work under almost everything I wear. Heck – I’d happily pay $100 if I could find all that.

But maybe you want some less expensive (though also less all-purpose) alternatives?

Sulky Totally Stable

Sulky Totally Stable is great for stabilizing stretchy knits and only costs $5 for a pack. You can see it in use in this video.

This is the girdle of the bunch – all about control and not really meant to be seen.

You’ll need to transfer the pattern separately – this is a stabilizer only. It goes on the inside of the shirt. You stitch right through it and then tear away the excess after you’re done stitching. It works very well and I used it on lots of T-shirts before I fell hard for The Magical Embroidery Stuff.

Sulky Solvy

Sulky Solvy is technically a stabilizer, but I’ve always used it for pattern transfers. (It’s also a great deal at $5 a pack.) Like a slip under a sheer skirt, this can help you with tricky fabrics.

It’s a clear film – not sticky.

You can easily trace your design onto it, then hoop it right over the surface of your fabric.

You stitch through it, then rinse it away. I used it on all dark-colored T-shirts (in combination with the Sulky Totally Stable) and also on fleece and felt if I didn’t want to use iron-on transfer pens. You can see it in use in this video.

Printable Freezer Paper Sheets

Printable Freezer Paper does replace my Magical Embroidery Stuff sometimes.

It’s like a chemise or tank that you can wear under your most casual clothes instead of a bra. You’re not asking it for much – it just makes your day a little more comfortable. 🙂

I use this occasionally for freezer paper applique and all the time for cutting out felt pieces that don’t require any embroidery.

Easy. Fast. Accurate.

And no tracing! You can see it in a video here.

I’m also throwing hoops into the list.

I don’t think they’re what most people think of when they talk about stabilizers, but they certainly stabilize your work and improve the look of your stitching.

I can’t imagine stitching without them – does that make them the underpants of the embroidery world? 🙂

So there you have it! A rundown of all my favorite stabilizers – and probably too much information about my underwear. 🙂

Here are links to all my posts about embroidery tools and supplies.

For Beginners

Specialty Fabrics


Stabilizers and Pattern Transfer Tools

Return to the Learn to Embroider main Table of Contents.

Move on to the posts about working with patterns.


  1. Hi Wendy,
    I love the magical embroidery stuff too. I’ve used it several times with complete success. This last time when I was doing the little egg for my Oddball, the black ink faded onto my light colored embroidery work when I put it in cold water to remove it. Have you ever had that happen? Most of the ink soaked off but there is still slight discoloration. Was it an issue with my printer perhaps? It’s the same printer I’ve used before though.

    • Hmmmm. . . I’ve never had that happen before. But I don’t have a (functioning) inkjet printer so I always print my patterns on a copy machine which uses a different kind of ink. Have you changed the ink on your printer? That could account for the difference.

  2. This list gave me a giggle 🙂 It’s also great information, presented in a VERY relatable way. Thanks!

  3. MPaula SAYS...

    Underpants 😉 don’t leave home without them!