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Machine Embroidery – Science or Art

One of the most frustrating things I’ve found about getting started in machine embroidery is the lack of definitive knowledge and instructions on the Internet.  Sure, there are sites where people give anecdotal stories about how they did this or how they did that, but no one seems to really be an expert that can explain WHY this works and that doesn’t, or WHAT you should do to fix this problem or that.

Stabilizer is a perfect example.  The more I read about it on the Internet, the less scientific it seems and the more it becomes an art.  There are so many different thicknesses of stabilizer to start with.  Some are intended to be hooped with the fabric.  Others are intended to be ironed on and then hooped.  Others are hooped by themselves and are sticky so the fabric is just stuck down while being embroidered.  There are special heat-dissolving, water-dissolving, tear-away, cut-away…

So you combine all these different stabilizers with different types of fabric, and throw in 30-40 different people, and what you end up with is this: everyone does it their own way, partially based on what they were told to do, and partially based on what they’ve experienced.

So what’s a new person to do?  There’s no guidebook that says, “with pattern V, machine X, fabric Y, and thread Z, use this many layers of this stabilizer, hooped together.”  Instead you think about what you’ve done successfully in the past and go from there.  You experiment a lot with spare fabric, including your own clothes.  You keep trying different things until something works, and celebrate when it does!

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