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Do I need a stabilizer for machine applique with fusible web?

by Ann Farthing
(Sydney, Australia)

I have already ironed on my pieces to my blocks with Visoflex and now want to machine applique around each one .. do I need to further stabilize?


My understanding is that Visoflex is the Australian version of a paper-backed fusible web, much like Wonder Under here in the States.

The short answer is...

...for appliques attached with a paper-backed fusible web a stabilizer usually isn't necessary. To know for sure, make a practice piece with scraps leftover from cutting out the applique shapes to test stitch, needle and thread combinations.

Whether or not you need a stabilizer is effected by the type of stitch used to stitch the fusible applique, the weight of the fusible, and type and weight of thread.

A wide and closely stitched zig zag may need a stabilizer to prevent "tunneling". Tunneling is when the background fabric is pulled and distorted. The fabric and fusible web, together, are not strong enough to hold the stitches flat.

However, on the same piece, using a narrower and more open zig zag may need no stabilizer at all. The same goes for an open decorative stitch.

Heavier, decorative threads create their own tension as they pass through your sewing machine. In certain instances, you may not be able to decrease your tension settings enough to neutralize this excess tension, and again a stabilizer may be the answer.

Because you're using a fusible web, I'm assuming that you don't want to have to wash the piece, so using starch or a water soluble stabilizer it out.

Stabilizers made from cellulose (paper) will be easier to tear-away than those made from polyester or cotton. If a light weight stabilizer is "too light" for the job, instead of finding a heavier stabilizer, use two layers of the light weight. The lighter weight version is easier to tear-away with less distortion to your stitches.

I hope this information has been helpful to you!


Julie Baird

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