Many years ago, when I was just starting with embroidery I read some information about embroidery and running a successful business, and the thing I remember most was this:


That made a lot of sense to me at the time, but I didn’t realize the vast importance of this statement.  For example, you can have a beautiful design that looks amazing on the computer, and when you stitch it out, it looks terrible.  Why? It all comes down to your hooping skills! Hooping skills do not mean just hooping things straight or hooping difficult items, hooping skills also means knowing the proper stabilization for your items that you are embroidering.   Hooping skills makes the difference between OK embroidery and WOW embroidery.  Which brings us to the topic of today’s blog:  FLOATING STABILIZER.

The message I would like to get across is “floating is for boats, not for stabilizer”.  This is what I hear often in many, many groups “ I hooped 1 layer of cutaway and floated tearaway, and it still looks awful”.  Yes, yes it will because that piece of tearaway is doing zero good.  ZERO.   Other than making your embroidery thicker, and possibly pulling down the stitches on the top to compensate for the thickness, floating is not doing any good.

Let’s look at this logically.  What is stabilizer? Why do we even use stabilizer?  Stablizer is a type of material that makes the pretty material more stable for you to embroider on.  That is the key there, STABLE – meaning strong and sturdy.  If you are floating something and not hooping it, how is it helping to make your fabric more stable?  That floated piece is not holding your fabric still – it’s floating around under your hoop…floating free, like the wind, not providing stability to anything!   If you hoop two layers of tearaway or hoop 1 layer of tearaway and float a second, which one do you think will be better?  Guaranteed it is the 2 hooped layers because they are helping to make the embroidery more stable and strong, which translates into clear and perfectly placed embroidery.

Some designs that you may have will have a small black outline to them.  And most of the time when you stitch this out, that small black outline will be out of registration.  Why?  Because the material wasn’t stable enough for the embroidery, that’s why!  When things go out of registration it is because the fabric has MOVED because it isn’t stable enough.  Having the material move 2mm to the left is going to be an issue for that small black line!  And, if that line is out of registration, it will make your whole embroidery design look awful.  The solution is not to blame the digitizer as most do, the solution is to provide more stability to your fabric in the hoop!

One of my personal goals with Hatch Facts and Digitizing Made Easy is to teach people the proper way of embroidery so that especially on your own designs, you get amazing results.  People float all of the time, and some digitizers are putting floating in their instructions…and you are setting your customers up for a fail, and they will complain, and you are not doing your digitizing any justice by instructing people to float stabilizer to try and make your work look better.  For best results, HOOP IT.

You can take your cues from things that are right in front of you.  For example, Hatch has this cool feature where you can pick a fabric type (cotton, leather, polyester) and Hatch will actually tell you what that fabric requires for stabilizers!!  It is all right in front of you!!  And please take note, not one of the stabilizer recommendations say to float anything – not a single one.

Hatch showing the right stabilizer

Ahhhh, the answer is right there!!

So what does that tell you?  That tells you that the professional embroiderers that have been the top of the embroidery business for 25 years are not recommending floating any stabilizer!!!  Why would you not follow their recommendations?  (I mean that jokingly, of course, don’t take me too seriously here, but it is a good question!!) Wilcom knows their stuff, they have been doing it, and doing it well for 25 years, and they are the top of the “embroidery food chain” for a reason.  So listen to them, and stop floating anything.  You can float a boat, or a duck can float, but please don’t float your stabilizer!!

Hooping skills include being able to hoop properly, with the right tension, having the hoop tight enough, placement of the hoop so that the embroidery is straight AND USING THE RIGHT STABILIZER.   And all of these things make a big difference to your embroidery.

Let’s say it one more time together “YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR HOOPING SKILLS “…. And say that to yourself each and every time you embroider a design – are my hooping skills correct?  Do I need to do some research on what kind of stabilizer is correct?  And when you have a design that has stitched and doesn’t look quite right, it may be the digitizer, but more often than not, it’s user error for lack of the correct stabilizer.

Let’s do this right – do not float stabilizer and let’s have some awesome embroidery stitching out!

Hooping skills:  your embroidery will thank you!

Happy Digitizing!








  1. DigiWhat says:

    Thanks, this was a great read :)

  2. sbloom5083@gmail.com says:

    Thank you! I just attended an embroidery seminar where we were encouraged to hoop one layer and float the second. I tried it, and now I know why some of the elements of my design did not line up properly!

  3. Carolyn says:

    This is something I’ve wondered about. Thanks for your information. What you said makes a lot of sense.

    Is floating the garment recommended?
    Can I hoop the stabilizer and float the garment.

    • Susan Brown says:

      I am glad it makes sense! If you can, hoop it. If necessary then you can float the garment, but you will get the best results hooping everything. Of course some materials can’t be hooped at all (leather, or pleather) and you can float those. I recommend in general hooping if you can, if you can’t hoop it at all then there are other solutions such as floating, sticky stabilizer, and a basting stitch, etc. I would not suggest pinning unless you are very very careful – i have seen many facebook posts that the pin slipped and etched the plastic on the embroidery machine’s bed. Ouch :)

  4. Disagree totally says:

    Totally disagree with you. I float items and have no issues. That’s all I do anymore is float items…all items. The problem with all of this is people who are learning….not the hooping or stabilizing techniques. If someone has no clue what they are doing…then you will have a poor finished product because of lack of knowledge. Not everything can be hopped.

    • Susan Brown says:

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, I feel strongly that everyone should learn the trade and the skills before deciding which works best for them. Hooping and stabilizing is the place to start for beginners, and yes, hooping certain items can be difficult, and difficult to learn, but it is worth the time taken. In any event, this blog is simply my opinion. You are welcome to yours, and you are welcome to do embroidery as you see fit. :)

  5. Kathy says:

    This is a great topic. How do you feel about using fast frames/snap hoop, and any embroidery frames that do not “hoop” the material?

    • Susan Brown says:

      I have not used the fast frames or snap hoop, but after checking them out it looks like they do the same thing as hooping – they hold the stabilizer and the fabric together, so they are stable. I think they are basically the same thing as a hoop – it holds both items nice and tight and solid, so the stabilizer can do its job properly.

  6. Marie says:

    I didn’t see anywhere in the article where you explained what “floating” is. It would help if you could define it?

    • Susan Brown says:

      Floating stabilizer is when you don’t hoop the stabilizer, you just add it underneath the hoop when stitching. Some instructions for designs read “hoop 1 layer of cutaway, and float tearaway”. There is also floating fabric or material on top – meaning that some fabrics are not able to be hooped (i.e. leather or vinyl), so you can’t hoop them, you can place them on top of what you are working on, however most fabrics you can hoop.

  7. Helen says:

    Hi Sue, that was a very interesting read. I have been using a product called Parlan, which is a thin wadding which irons to the back of the fabric, hooping this up and floating tearaway underneath, and using the basting stitch. Sometimes with vg results, others not so good. If I continued to use the parlan and hoop the tearaway would you put the whole lot together in the hoop or float the fabric on the top of the hooped tearaway and use the basting stitch to hold in place

    • Susan Brown says:

      Although I don’t exactly know what Parlan is, hooping the fabric, and the parlan together would be the best option, in my opinion. If you have to add an extra layer of stabilizer (if you need it), then hooping everything would also be the best option. Floating the fabric on top can be an option (with a basting stitch) but hooping the fabric with the stabilizer will give you the best results – the fabric needs to be held flat and tight so that the embroidery looks better.

  8. Stella says:

    I have tried to hoop towels, it appears that my hoop does not open enough to hoop them, or maybe the towels are too thick. Now I float them. I do try and hoop most items, but little baby items (shirts, etc) is difficult. I do prefer to hoop.

  9. Cathy says:

    Is basting the item to the hooped stabilizer a good option to hooping the item?

    • Susan Brown says:

      Hooping is always the best option. If you can’t hoop the fabric because it is very thick, or some other reason, then yes, basting will help. The only fabrics that I don’t hoop is leather, vinyl or fake leather – everything else gets hooped and stabilized.

  10. Linda says:

    Are you also talking about hooping the item? Here is how I’ve been doing tshirts hoop poly mesh, spraying adhesive floating shirt then floating tear away under hoop. Usually works well. Are you saying the float under is useless?

    • Susan Brown says:

      In my opinion the floated stabilizer is doing nothing to stabilize your item if it is just floating under your hoop. The stabilizer is meant to provide a strong foundation for the fabric – and if it is floating underneath it is just making it thicker, not more stable.

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