Embroidery Adhesives 101: When and How to Use These Nifty Tools

Kris Daub
Published by Kris Daub | Senior Editor
Last updated: December 15, 2023
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Embroidery adhesives are specialty glues used to temporarily adhere fabrics and stabilizers when machine embroidering or sewing. These adhesives come as temporary sprays, sticky stabilizers, fusibles, or water-soluble films designed specifically for needlework. When properly applied, embroidery adhesives offer indispensable benefits like preventing fabric distortion, securing appliques, improving stitch quality, and simplifying hard-to-hoop projects. Every embroiderer should learn proper usage techniques for these indispensable tools that solve tricky stitching situations.

Types Of Embroidery Adhesives

Numerous adhesive products assist embroiderers. Understanding options aids selection for project needs.

Temporary Spray Adhesives

Temporary spray adhesives are likely the most widely used embroidery adhesive. These adhesives come in aerosol cans and provide a temporary, repositionable bond between fabrics and stabilizers. When sprayed lightly from 6-8 inches away, the fine mist coats materials evenly without over-gluing. The adhesive washes out easily after completing projects. Temporary sprays work on most fabric types without stiffness or residue. They’re perfect for securing tricky fabrics like silks or satins while embroidering without hooping.

Adhesive Backed Stabilizers

As the name implies, these stabilizers have a sticky adhesive coating on one side. This self-adhesive backing adheres securely to fabrics when ironed or pressed into place. Adhesive backed stabilizers eliminate the need for sprays or messy liquid glues under embroideries. They come in tear-away, cutaway, and washaway varieties to suit project needs. These stabilizers are versatile for handling knits, woven fabrics, tee shirts, sweatshirts, and other items requiring extra stabilization with a permanent adhesion.

Heat Activated Adhesives

Whether iron-on sheets or web tapes, heat activated adhesives stick when a heat source melts their coating. To fuse them, irons, heat presses, or steam are used. As the adhesive cools, it creates a strong permanent bond. The most common use is adhering applique fabrics or attaching embroidered patches. Heat actives ensure edges stay firmly in place without shifting or fraying while stitching. They also make fabric placement and alignment easier with repositionability before heating.

Other specialty adhesives like water soluble stabilizers or liquid applique glues provide temporary adhesion for embroidery. Testing products first is advised to evaluate adhesive qualities for intended projects.

When to Use Embroidery Adhesives

Myriad embroidery situations benefit from a bit of helpful adhesion. Understanding appropriate applications of various adhesives makes projects easier.

Hooping Tricky Fabrics

Delicate, slippery fabrics can be difficult to hoop without distortion or marks from inner/outer ring tension. Adhesives help tremendously for smoothly securing these fabrics to stabilizers before hooping. Lightly spray stabilizer backing with temporary adhesive or use an adhesive stabilizer when working with:

  • Silks, satins, chiffons
  • Fuzzy fabrics like velvets or corduroy
  • Stretchy knits and Lycras
  • Small fabric pieces
  • Towels, sequined fabrics, leather

This prevents fibers from getting caught in hoops and allows firmly adhering materials flat so the hoop can grip firmly without shifts, wrinkles, or hoop burns.

Securing Appliques

Whether fused, raw edge, or turn-under applique, adhesives assist with fabric placement before stitching. Temporary sprays lightly hold shapes in place for precise alignment. Fusible web tapes or stabilizers permanently adhere appliques. Water soluble stabilizers allow repositioning of intricate applique pieces during the process before washing away.

Quilting Projects

Basting quilt layers with adhesive spray or stabilizers is a no-pin option for temporarily adhering batting, backing, and tops. This helps prevent shifting while machine quilting or embroidering, making projects easier to maneuver. Adhesive basting sprays also secure fabrics to embroidery backing when quilting in-the-hoop.

Attaching Patches

Patches often utilize adhesive backed twills or stabilizers with release paper for placement alignment. Heat sealing a patch perimeter provides a uniform shape. Some embroiderers also use temporary spray or wash-away stabilizers under standard patches when stitching for security and hoopability.

Other Uses

  • Hemming or securing seam allowances
  • Adding ribbon or trims
  • Binding edges

In addition to the major examples above, clever embroiderers utilize specialty adhesives in innovative ways suitable for various materials involved in projects. Testing uniqueness applications first is wise. Reading manufacturer guidance for intended uses provides the best results. And asking experienced embroiderers for tips can unveil adhesive tricks that make projects easier.

Properly Applying Adhesives

Correct technique maximizes adhesion benefits while minimizing headaches. Methodical applications for various adhesives prevents problems.


Start embroidery adhesive application by ensuring your fabric, stabilizer, and working surface are clean, lint-free, and wrinkle-free for even adhesion. Keep water-soluble glues sealed when not in use. Shake spray cans vigorously before using. Gather application tools like mini irons or silicone sheets which protect from heat damage if using fusibles.

Temporary Spray Technique

When spraying temporary adhesive, maintain 6 to 8 inches of distance from the material’s surface to avoid over-soaking. Minimize side-to-side spray distance while using a steadily smooth, sweeping motion for uniform coverage. Mist backing first then position fabric. Adhere in a well-ventilated area away from machines. Allow adhesive to fully dry for 2 to 3 minutes until clear before touching, bubbling may occur if contact is premature.

Adhesive Stabilizers

Begin by trimming stabilizer backing slightly larger than the hoop size to allow even bonding distribution. Remove release paper before positioning adhesive-side against fabric’s wrong side. Use a roller to firmly adhere backing, especially at center and edges. For temporary bond stabilizers, peel away gently after embroidery process is complete for easy removal.

Heat Activations

With fusible webs or iron-on films, place adhesive side down against fabric or stabilizer background before activating adhesive with properly calibrated heat settings. Use manufacturer-recommended temperature, contact duration, and pressure for adhesive properties to activate without burning materials. Silicone pressing sheets aid in protecting fabric surfaces from direct iron contact.

Water Soluble Glues

For water-soluble liquid glues, use tiny dots for placement of detailed or narrow applique shapes. Allow to fully dry clear before beginning to stitch for stable adherence as moisture could distort fabrics. Reposition quickly because strength develops fast after 60 seconds of contact. One or two small dots of liquid is ample for tacking edges before stitching. Rinse after embroidery to completely dissolve temporary adhesion.

Adhesive Mistakes and Issues

It happens to all embroiderers – adhesive mishaps or issues. Being aware of potential problems and proper corrections saves headaches down the road. Here are solutions to common embroidery adhesive troubles.

Application Problems

Uneven spray distribution creates weak adhesion in some areas or globs in others. Maintain a fixed distance when spraying, using a sweeping arm motion for consistency. Target edges ensuring full coverage. Insufficient stabilizer tacking also allows puckering – use adequate spray for the fabric weight. And take care around embroidery machines – stray overspray gums mechanisms. Cover equipment when spraying nearby.

Removal Challenges

Improper adhesive removal damages materials by spreading glue reside deeper into fabric fibers. Harshly scrubbing only worsens staining or distortion issues. Consult product packaging and manufacturer guidance first. Gently dab water-soluble stabilizer remnants using cool water until dissolution completes.

For thicker buildup on needles or hoops use adhesive removal wipes instead of scraping to carefully lift adhesive without harm. If temporarily bonded sections didn’t separate easily, using the edge of a credit card can help gently lift and loosen contact cemented areas without snagging threads.

With patience and appropriate non-abrasive techniques, adhesive mistakes can often be remedied. But remember, testing on hidden seam allowances helps avoid problems marring visible finished embroidery, or you may consider purchasing an embroidery hooping station to avoid adhesive dilemmas.


Embroidery adhesives are invaluable tools when used properly. The key is selecting products appropriate for your fabrics, techniques, and project needs. Many types exist, each with optimal applications. Following precise manufacturer instructions for preparation, usage, and removal prevents many pitfalls newcomers encounter.

Test unfamiliar adhesives on scrap materials first. Initially, adhesion mishaps may happen – stitch work tears or permanent globs. But with experience comes mastery. So don’t abandon hope! Gentle non-abrasive removal methods, manufacturer guidance, and practice rescues most adhesive disasters.