The type of backing used on an embroidered piece can have a big impact on the quality of the finished item, but knowing which backing to use and when to use it can be difficult. Add to that fact the problem of beginning embroiderers who may not even be aware there is more than one type of cutaway or tearaway available, or even that cutaway and tearaway exist, and the confusion only deepens. Choosing a backing can be confusing and intimidating, but it can also make a real difference in the speed, ease and quality of your embroidery, so it is important. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a backing.
Backing comes in different types – Cutaway and tearaway are the two main types of backing, and are basically what their names imply they would be. Cutaway stabilizers must be cut with scissors. Tearaway stabilizers are designed to allow for any excess to be torn away after the embroidery is finished. There are also a variety of specialty backings and toppings which also fit under the wider categories of cutaway or tearaway, but have unique uses. Poly mesh, adhesive backing and water soluble would be in this category.
Backing comes in different weights – Lighter weight backings are generally best for light weight fabrics. Heavier weight tearaways can be very useful when embroidering caps. Generally, backing weight ranges from 1 oz to 3+ ounces. Backing weight is determined by weighing a square yard of the backing in question. Heavier weight backings, 3 ounces for instance, will generally be sturdier and stiffer. Lighter weight backings, a 1.5 ounce perhaps, will be more flexible, may be softer, and generally are more sheer. To learn more about backing weight and why it matters you can read this post I wrote in 2010.
Backing comes in different colors – We’re not talking a wide variety of colors here, backing is generally available in white, black and beige. Even a small variety of colors does matter however, particularly when there is some possibility of the backing being visible through the garment.
Specialty backing can make a huge difference – Specialty backings were all designed to meet a need in the machine embroidery marketplace. Poly mesh backing was designed for use with lightweight and sheer fabrics. Adhesive backing is perfect for use with hard to hoop items, allowing embroidery on patches and socks and things that would be too small to hoop on their own. Water soluble topping allows the embroidering of names and monograms on towels and fleece, keeping the lettering from sinking into the material. For many jobs, using a simple cutaway or tearaway will serve you well, but specialty backings are always a good thing to have in your arsenal.
That’s a quick overview of how to choose a backing. To learn more, you can also read these additional posts I’ve written on the subject.