Backing Fabrics




1.  What are backing fabrics used for?

Backing fabrics are often (but not always) non-woven interlinings.  Like many other products, you will find that there are different types, weights and qualities available and of course you will also find that the cheaper products may not be as good as other higher priced products.

In embroidery, backing fabrics are used as a stabiliser - to help hold the fabric securely in place so that it doesn't move during embroidery.   Why?  because if the fabric moves during embroidery then the embroidery design will be out of register.  Different parts of the design (especially borders) will not match up with the filled areas.

A good backing fabric should be very stable (non-stretch) in both Vert and Horiz directions.   It should also be stable enough to hold the embroidery during wash & wear so that it does not become distorted.


2.  What are the main types of backing?

Non tear or cut-away backingMany years ago, when I first started in the embroidery industry (and before you ask  - NO there were no dinosaurs then) it was extremely rare to find an embroiderer using anything other than a non-tear, cut-away backing.

The simple reason is that a good quality non-tear backing provides the best possible support for embroidery.

  • It doesn't stretch
  • It doesn't perforate around the edges during embroidery
  • It doesn't turn to mush in the wash
Non tear backings can be used with most fabrics but are highly recommended for normal stretch fabrics.

Tear-away backing - This type of backing has become popular sinmply because the excess backing can be removed quickly and easily from around the embroidery.

This might appear to be a cleaner / neater finish on the inside of the garment but it brings with it some problems that can make life much harder for the embroiderer and for the digitiser.

As mentioned earlier on this page, tear-away backing have a tendency to perforate around the edges of the embroidery whilst the machine is running.   Once this happens, the backing can no longer hold the fabric securely in place and if the fabric begins to move around during embroidery then the different parts of the design will not be in register.

Usually this kind of problem is thrown back on the digitiser to rectify and that is a 'very big ask' - after all the digitiser is very often not there to watch and work out exactly where and why the problems are happening.

Iron-on (fusible) backing - This is best suited to high stretch fabrics and/or large, complex designs that are likely to produce severe fabric push / pull.    The backing itself is usually very stable and once it has been fused to the top fabric then there is very little chance of movement.

3. How do I find out what is causing my sew-out problems?

If you are experiencing problems with designs that sew out-of-register then you need to go back to basics:
  • Are you sure that your machine is capable of stitching out high quality designs?  In other words have you stitched out similar designs before with good results?
  • If you have - then what has changed? The machine?  The fabric?  The backing?   The design?
Let's assume that the machine is known to be good and capable of high quality work.   You need to start with a best case scenario so use a stable, woven fabric and a good quality non-tear backing and make sure that they are hooped up well. That means that both the backing and the fabric must be tight in the hoop.

Now try stitching out the design on a knitted fabric with the same non-tear backing

Now experiment with either a thinner non tear backing or maybe even a medium weight tear away backing.

If the last change brings about problems with stitch-out quality then you know what to do to rectify it.