Embroidery backings come in many different weights, colors, textures and special features like adhesive or heat sensitive. While all of these backings are different they all serve one purpose, to stabilize the material on which you will embroider your design.
Let me dispel with one myth right away. There is no one single backing that will solve all of your embroidery needs. Certainly you will find one to be a favorite (mine is product called AllStitch) in your shop but don’t fool yourself in to thinking your favorite backing will solve all of your issues because it won’t. Aside from the whole Tear-Away vs. Cut-Away issue there is also the weight , opacity and the “hand” of the backing to mention only a few.
A second myth (and I might get taken to task over this) is using two layers of backing is better than one. In my humble opinion using a second layer of backing rarely does anything to help. If you feel you need to use a second layer of backing than what you really need is one layer of a heavier product or more likely, a different product entirely.
Remember what the main mission of backing is: To stabilize and take the stretch out of your top fabric. Adding a second layer will do neither of these things as both are accomplished in the first layer of backing or they aren’t accomplished at all. I would suggest that instead of doubling up on backing (also doubling your backing cost) you keep a few different products in your shop.
Keep at least two weights of a good tear-away backing. While we would all love to use tear-away on everything the fact is it only works in limited situations with limited fabrics. Some of you might claim that you see high end product embroidered on very thin shirts where tear-away backing is used. This is true. But let me tell you a secret; the design has been digitized specific to that exact product and backing combination. The reality of the corporate logo world is that digitizing and fabric are typically not married to that level of specificity. Most of the time the digitizer is not aware of let alone in possession sample fabric.
So where it might be possible to use tear-away on a project, the demands of contract embroidery are such that it is often prohibitive to obtaining perfect marriage between backing, design and fabric substrate. Additionally, you will never find high stitch count designs embroidered on light weight fabrics with tear away backing. The use of appropriate backing is what removes the pucker from these types of designs.
When it comes to cut away backings there are countless products to choose from. I am going to avoid a highly technical discussion. Instead, I feel you would be better served if you understand there are different products out there to accomplish different missions.
Poly-Mesh is a backing designed to provide a very firm embroidery surface but also have a very light feel and somewhat transparent appearance. Poly-Mesh backing is an excellent product to use on lighter weight fabrics (especially white) where your customer does not want the “patchy” look that traditional cut away backings will display.
Heat Sensitive backings can be ironed on to a product to provide for incredible stabilization properties. The problem is once applied they can be very difficult to remove. These are best used on products where there is a great deal of stretch but the backing will not show through to the front side of the product.
As mentioned earlier I really like the AllStich (1 and 2) backing products. These backings have the feel of a product half their weight but provide for a stabilization of a backing twice their weight. Allstitch1 is the closest thing I have ever found to a “one size fits all” cut away backing solution. And between Allstitch1 and Allstitch2 (the heavier of the products) I was covered for almost all traditional embroidery applications.
Adhesive backings are a good solution for taking stretch out of performance materials but a great deal of care has to be taken so you don’t transfer the adhesive material to the garment when you press the hoop in. A better solution might be to use a fabric adhesive like KK110 and lightly mist the center of a hooping area leaving the backing that comes in contact with the hoop free of any adhesive.
There are also numerous specialty backings like backings that disappear when heated or washed. There are also different colors of backing. And Don’t forget good old fashioned ingenuity. A product not intended for a backing can sometimes be used. I have seen people use SOLVY for a backing, paper towels and even the cardboard insert from hats.
It all comes down to the same thing…Backing is used to stabilize the fabric on which you are embroidering your design. That is its only purpose. It is up to you to make the proper selection. The most important thing to understand is while you may find a favorite backing it cannot be your only solution. If you only have one flavor of backing in your arsenal you are sometimes putting out inferior embroidery.