The Great Debate: Choosing Cutaway or Tearaway Stabilizers

Cutaway or Tearaway Stabilizer with

How do you know when to use tearaway stabilizer versus cutaway? Like the foundation of your home, stabilizers support the stitches you place upon them. If the foundation is not good, the structure isn't either.

Tearaway Stabilizers

Basically, tearaway stabilizers can be used on stable, woven fabrics where tearing away the stabilizer will not damage the fabric or stitching. Use them on items like towels, when the back will be seen and you want to remove as much stabilizer as possible, as well as with low-stitch designs like Redwork or heirloom.

You may also find them useful when stitching multi-layered items like quilt blocks where a heavy stabilizer may make the block stiff.

Cutaway Stabilizers

If fabrics are stretchy, will be laundered frequently, or need to hold up to repeated wear and tear, cut-away stabilizers are the best choice. They also are quite useful with designs that have heavier stitch counts.

Cut-away stabilizers stay attached to the embroidered item and are trimmed away close to the embroidery. You see these used a lot with knits and when personalizing items with names or monograms.

Stabilizer Weights

Both cutaway and tearaway stabilizers come in varying weights. The weight you should use depends upon the amount of stitches in your design.

  • 5,000 – 7,000 stitches => Light Weight Stabilizer  => 1.2 to 1.8 ounces
  • 8,000 – 20,000 stitches => Medium Weight Stabilizer => 1.8 to 2.2 ounces
  • 20,000+ stitches => Heavy Weight Stabilizer => High 2s to 3.2 ounces

If the item you are stabilizing is purely decorative and the stabilizer won't show, it doesn't hurt to leave it in. Otherwise, it can be carefully torn away, or cut away, after stitching is complete.

A general rule of thumb is that the stabilizer isn't too heavy if it is undetectable from the front of the embroidery. If you can see lumps and bumps, it's too heavy. If you can see puckering, it isn't heavy enough. Also check your stabilizer. If you see needle perforations, it usually means you need to use a heavier stabilizer.

Debbie Henry
Sew Inspired by Bonnie

Share this post...
Previous post Next post


  • Debbie Henry - September 28, 2022

    Thanks, Veronica, and welcome! You will love it!

  • Veronica - September 27, 2022

    I am new to machine embroidery and this was extremely valuable information.

  • Debbie Henry - September 27, 2022

    So happy this was helpful, Diane!

  • Diane LeFevre - September 26, 2022

    Thank you for your tips on stabilizers. I’ve been doing machine embroidery for quite awhile, but have never really had it “sink in” which stabilizers to use in all instances.

Leave a comment