How to Hoop Heavy Fabrics for Machine Embroidery

By Mercedes Valladares ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Stabilizer sheet
  • Topping sheet
  • Lightweight stabilizer sheet
  • Water-soluble topping sheet
  • Vinyl topping sheet (optional)
  • Hoop attachment frames
  • Embroidery machine
  • Cut-away stabilizer sheet
  • Fabric scissors
  • Tear-away stabilizer sheet
Stabilize heavy fabric prior to locking the embroidery machine's hoop frame attachment.

The type of fabric and weight are two key factors when choosing the right stabilizer sheet prior to hooping fabric for embroidery. Though the general rule dictates the heavier the fabric weight, the lighter the stabilizer sheet, certain heavy fabrics require heavy stabilizer sheets. Unstable heavy fabrics with substantial stretch require heavy-weight stabilizer sheets. The lightweight sheets avoid bulky-looking embroidery and also prevent the embroidery needles from working harder to pierce through the thick layers.

Hooping Heavy Fabric with Topping Stabilizer Sheets

Choose a stabilizer sheet for heavy weight fabrics by checking the type of textile surface such as pile or nap. Pile fabrics such as French terry or nap fabrics like Polar-fleece, velvet or velour have texture on the right side of the fabric. For instance, heavy weight French terry with thick pile spreads during embroidery. Using a topping sheet as the stabilizer prevents spreading and holds down the pile during the embroidery process.

Position the stabilizer sheet on the appropriate side of the heavy fabric, according to the type of sheet selected. For instance, water soluble topping sheets are positioned on the right side of the fabric for embroidery. Other heavy fabrics like denim require lightweight stabilizer sheets which are positioned on the wrong side of the fabric.

Flip the water soluble topping on your work surface, wrong side facing you. Spray adhesive carefully on the sheet. Certain adhesive nozzles have a wide spray range and can make contact with unwanted areas.

Place the adhesive side of the sheet on the right side of the fabric, only covering the embroidery area. This type of stabilizer sheet disappears after a few washes. Another option is to use a vinyl topping which is used to prevent fibers like thick nap from showing through the embroidery stitches.

Position the fabric onto the bottom hoop frame of the embroidery machine according to your brand’s instructions. The hoop is generally a two-part attachment with a top and bottom frame. Center the fabric to ensure the pattern design is directly under the embroidery heads. This process prevents the machine from stitching near the hoop frame which often causes warping, skipped stitches and unnecessary broken needles.

Position the top frame over the fabric and bottom frame. Lower the top hoop according to your embroidery machine’s instructions. The top frame fits over the bottom frame.

Lock the top frame onto the fabric and bottom frame. You will most likely hear a click when the two frames lock. Bear in mind the stabilized fabric must be taut prior to clicking the two frames together. If the hooped fabric sags or is loose during embroidery, stitches generally result in uneven, warped, broken or skipped stitch patterns.

Hooping Heavy Fabric with Stabilizer Sheets

Cut a piece of lightweight cut-away stabilizer sheet in the approximate size for the embroidery with fabric scissors. Read the stabilizer sheet chart for suggested fabric weights prior to cutting the sheet.

Position a lightweight cut-away stabilizer sheet on the wrong side of the heavy fabric. This stabilizer sheet prevents shrinkage after washing and also supports the embroidery after several washes. Another option is to use a tear-away sheet. This type of stabilizer is gently torn away around the embroidered design.

Cut away the sheet leaving a ¼-inch perimeter around the embroidered design.

Repeat Section 1, Steps 5, 6 and 7 to hoop the heavy fabric.

About the Author

Mercedes Valladares is the founder of M721Organics and has been an independent designer for over 15 years. Her work experience commenced during college with manufacturers based in New York and Hong Kong. Her education includes LIM College, International Fine Arts College and design certification from the Paris Fashion Institute. She produces eco-crafting videos and writes recycling articles online.