Embroidery Backing: An Overview

Embroidery Backing, which is also known as Embroidery stabilizer, is one of the most important components to producing a high quality finished product. In this writing I will provide a background for working with Backing. I will outline what Backing is, tips, how it is used, various applications for Backing, and the types of Backing available.

Embroidery backing is a non-woven product that is applied to the back of a garment before a design is sewn onto the other side of the article. It may be made of 100% cotton or a mix of Cotton and Polyester. The basic process to a non-woven is to press the materials together under immense pressure and then force them through rollers until they become a cohesive solid. They will continue to be rolled until they resemble large rolls of paper.

Backing is something that anyone doing embroidery for more than a day is probably using. Backing, being a stabilizer, helps fuse or hold the thread/stitches to the fabric. It is sometimes sold in large rolls to commercial embroidery shops. Backing is also sold as cut squares in bundles.

The first thing that most people will consider when sewing an item is “How well will this fabric sew?” This is also the question you should be asking yourself. Not only should you ask which type of fabric is being sewn, but also thread type, size of the embroidery, stitch density, stitch length, and stitch speed. All of these things are factors to consider when choosing a backing.

The age of your embroidery machine may also play into the stitch speed and would influence your choice of backing. Try different backings until you find what suites your setup. You need to also make sure that the fabric you are sewing on is stretched tight on your hoop and that you are hooping the entire piece of backing. This helps improve the stability of the sewing surface and again contributes to a cleaner and finished embroidery output.

There are more than 15 different types of backings available in rolls and sheets or bundles. Among the different types of backings are: tear away, cutaway, and wash away. Most embroidery backing will be made for industrial or commercial machines, but there are always great alternatives for personal embroidery machines.

Tearaway is the most popular choice of backing due to the fact that jobs can be finished faster and cheaper. With a cutaway you must cut the backing with scissors, which can be tedious at best. Tearaways must be able to withstand being punctured by the embroidery needles several times while the design is being sewn. They must also be able to be torn off the back of the garment without causing damage to the design.

Cutaways are usually considered the second most popular backing. This backing is most commonly used when working with a lightweight or stretchy fabric. Cutaway is sturdier than a traditional tearaway and therefore will provide more stability in your thin or stretchy fabric. This will also help achieve a better output of your design because it will help stabilize the sewing surface. One thing that you must always be aware of with a cutaway is the cutting. Once you are done with your garment and it comes time to cutaway the backing pay attention to what you are doing. It can be very easy to snag or accidentally cut your finished product with your scissors.

The next several backings fall under the Specialty Backings area. There are many different backings that will fall in this area I will discuss a few.

Cap backing are generally tearaways. With a backing like this is a preferable to have a clean tear due to the nature of the caps. The backing is needed to support the crispness and clarity of the design, sound familiar? There’s special consideration needed when working with low profile or unstructured caps. Some may think that a hat is fairly sturdy and therefore does not need backing, do make this mistake. Cap backing also helps keep the caps frames in place and prevents the registration or alignment from slipping.

Fusibles backing is the next one. This is backing that can be permanently applied to the garment with an iron or other heat source. Fusibles are used on items that are hard to hoop such as, fleece, leather, and some athletic wearables. Fusibles can be chemical sprays and are generally less preferred.

Puff backing is a specialized stabilizer that is lofty or puffy but still has some rigidity to it. It is used to create a raised, profiled, or three-dimensional look. It is most commonly found in caps. Many collegiate or professional sports team will employ a puff backing in order to achieve a higher looking and higher priced end product. Puff should be tested with your fabric/surface to ensure that it will hold up to the rigors of repeated thread puncture.

Black Backings are less common but do serve a specialized purpose. If you are applying a logo to a leather jacket, dark sweater, or black sweatshirt this backing is your choice. The black backing will have less show through than a garment with white backing.

Toppings are the last one I will cover. Toppings are a type of spray film that prevents stitching from sinking into the patterns of fabrics like pique knit, yarn knit, terry cloth and others. Topping is not necessarily a traditional backing. It is sprayed on the top of the garment to achieve its affect. One of the many product names given to Toppings is Solvy. Most toppings are water-soluble or polyethylene.

As you can tell by now there are many options for backing that can make your job easier and your product better. Using backing in your embroidery operations is a must. While this article is a very basic overview of backing it is a good idea to use the limitless resources available to gain a better understanding of backings. Attend trade shows, subscribe to the free magazines and online groups, and get in touch with your peers.

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