Using Water-Soluble Stabilizers in Embroidery

Water-soluble stabilizers (WSS) are extremely useful in machine embroidery and necessary in certain projects. Here are the most common types and uses.

Fabric-type Water-Soluble

I use fabric-type WSS often with in-the-hoop (ITH) projects, like mug rugs and zip bags. I also use it with most, if not all, of my freestanding applique designs. You may be familiar with some of the projects like the Santa Buddies Ornament and the Ginger Buddies Ornament.

This opaque type of WSS holds up well during stitching, trims away easily, and any that is left can be easily erased with a wet rag or cotton swab. You can also stitch freestanding lace and cutwork designs on fabric-type WSS. It rinses away somewhat easier than the thicker WSS films.

Some of these fibrous stabilizers also contain a pressure-sensitive adhesive side, making it especially helpful for holding hard-to-hoop items. See how adhesive WSS scraps make great bandaids here.

A Google search, or trip to your dealer, will be helpful. Here are some of the brand names for fabric-type WSS:

  • OESD Aqua Mesh
  • OESD Aqua Mesh Plush
  • Floriani Wet N Gone
  • Floriani Wet N Gone Tacky
  • Pellon 541 Wash N Gone
  • Sulky Fabri-Solvy
  • Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy

Film-type Water Soluble Stabilizers

Film-type WSS are typically used as either a base or as a topper. Bases are generally thicker and have more of a milky appearance while toppers are lighter and clear.

Films are used to stitch freestanding lace (thicker type) or when embroidering on sheer fabrics (thinner type). They can be completely rinsed away if desired.

For lace, it is desirable for some WSS to remain in the piece for a bit of shape. You can always add crispness to limp lace with a stiffener made from WSS scraps.

Picture of machine embroidered lettering on top of napped fabric with water soluble stabilizer

are essential when embroidering on napped fabrics like blankets


Embossed machine embroidered monogram on towel at Sew Inspired by Bonnie


and towels.

Film-type WSS are known as these brand names:

  • Floriani Topper
  • OESD Badgemaster
  • Pellon 551 Sol-U-Film
  • Sulky Solvy
  • Sulky Super Solvy
Crosshairs marked on stuffy ready for machine embroidery at Sew Inspired by Bonnie

Marking crosshairs on toppers, rather than the item you are embroidering, can also help with design positioning.

How do you use water-solubles in your embroidery?

Debbie Henry
Sew Inspired by Bonnie

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