Nearly every type of commercial embroidery has benefited by the explosion of different types of backings on the market. Backing, also known as stabilizers, support the material during the stress of sewing on embroidery machines.
Used in conjunction with Durkee Hoops, backings hold the fabric, keeping it smooth, flat and as firm as possible. A wide range of factors help you choose the right backing for your project: fabric stability and style; stitch density, length, speed and size of the embroidery; stability of the design and the commercial embroidery machine you are using.
Fabric stretch is perhaps the most significant factor in selecting the right embroidery backing. Regardless of the type of fabric, the backing must sufficiently stable to prevent movement while stitching.
With the number of different fabrics and qualities of each type, you will need to experiment, especially when changing suppliers of blanks. Identical garments from different supplies can behave differently in the commercial embroidery process.
The structure of the fabric, such as weave or knit pattern, could be a better indicator of stability than judging by weight alone. Golf shirts are a perfect example of how the knit of the fabric determines which backing to use.
Proper hooping is also essential in commercial embroidery. Poor registration usually occurs from loose hooping or insecurely hooped products. This is not the fault of the backing, and using a higher hoop can provide a better grip on heavy or “slippery” materials.
Backing comes in a variety of standard pre-cut sizes and is remarkably inexpensive. Pre-cut backings start at 6” X 6” and cost somewhere around $0.03 per unit. Backing by the roll and cut to fit makes backing even more economical. However, for some production runs, the extra labor in cutting the backing to fit offsets the prudence of buying in bulk. Slightly higher costs can be justified by the time saved.
There are no written-in-stone rules to the perfect backing for a particular purpose or material. Large designs with filled areas on an unstable knit could use heavier stabilizers than smaller patterns on stable woven fabrics.
Choosing the right backing for a commercial embroidery project, “rules” are broken every day.
Tearaway backing is the choice for many commercial embroidery shops. Designs are finished quicker, safer and less expensive with tearaway backings than cutaway. A misplaced cut in one expensive garment from the removal process should forever sell you on tearaway backings.
The things to look for in a tearaway backing are easy and clean tears, perforation resistance and hoop stability.
Tearaway backing should be sturdy enough for repeated perforations. It should also pull cleanly and easily, no matter what direction. Most tearaway backings are sold in weights between 1 ½ to 2 ounces per square yard.
To reduce chances of distortion, pull off the backing from as close to the design as possible. To eliminate distortion, some commercial embroidery shops use two layers of thin tearaway stabilizer. It may be a good idea, but it will increase both production time and expense.
Cutaway backings have stronger fibers as extra stability for stretchable and delicate fabrics during commercial embroidery. They are primarily for fabrics that tend to push themselves into the throat plate. Cutaways help maintain a crisp design during sewing, one that will withstand several washings.
Most cutaway backings come in a range or weights, from 2 ½ ounces to an Ultra-Thick at 3 ¾ oz. per square yard.
The obvious danger with working with cutaways is cutting too close to the design, damaging the design or the garment. This is why cutaway backings are better for designs not visible from the back of the garment.
Adhesive backings, called “peel and stick,” are primarily for hoopless embroidery or areas difficult to hoop. Collars, cuffs and highly stretchable fabrics all use adhesive backing before the commercial embroidery process.
Adhesive backings are also for materials that could leave hoop marks, like brushed denim and suede.
Mesh backing is for elegant design on ultra-sheer, thin, white or light colored fabrics. It has a soft hand and does not show through, unlike heavier stabilizers.
Cap backing is a heavy stabilizer that tears cleanly to maintain the crisp lettering and columns common in cap designs. This is particularly useful for low profile or unstructured caps.
Most cap backing is a heavy weight, at 3 oz. per square yard. Backing will maintain the proper tension on the bobbin thread. The permits the commercial embroidery machine to switch back and forth from flats to hats and back without changing the system settings.
As with cutaway backing, cap stabilizers can prevent the fabric and fiber of the cap from forcing down the throat of the machine. Folding the cap backing can help make a firm seating on rotating cap frames and prevent registration slips.
For the best results in commercial embroidery, you need to choose the right backing, as well as thread, supplies and more! Colman and Company—suppliers of all types of standard and specialty backing—is the perfect place to start. Visit ColmanAndCompany.com today or call 800-891-1094.
Do you have a tip on using the best backing for the job? We would love to hear it! Join the conversation in the comments below.
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