Jas Purba, of ETC Supplies, examines the fibre composition of different types of embroidery backings
Before I look at the various types of embroidery backing that are currently available, I’d like to quickly discuss what I mean by embroidery backings and why you should use them.
Embroidery backing is a stabiliser. Many fabrics such as knitted fabrics have a gap between the yarns. When your embroidery needle goes in and out of this empty space it will pull the thread loop back out as there is nothing to hold it in place or prevent it coming out again. This can and does happen on all types of fabrics, even on woven materials. So, in effect, the backing acts as a retention material.
You will require different types of backing when you embroider different types and weights of fabric. The type of embroidery design will also determine what characteristics are required of the backing, as will your choice of embroidery needle and your thread tensions. However, one of the first decisions you need to make is the fibre composition of the backing you will be using…
Dry laid manufacture In most cases a customer wants an easy tear backing. This is most commonly manufactured from rayon viscose fibres that are on average 10-20mm long. These fibres are then chemically bonded on a dry lay production line to achieve the end product. This type of production results in a soft handle fabric with a directional tear as the fibres are laid in one direction during manufacture. The main type of binder used here is acrylic based. (See ETC’s Soft & Easy backings range.)
Wet laid manufacture Some embroidery backing manufacturers will use a wet lay manufacturing process. Here the types of fibres used are cellulose and they are only 5-10mm long. This manufacturing process gives you a paper-like product that has a crisper handle and an easier multi-directional tear. Here, the fibres are mixed with the binder before being laid wet on the production line. The binders used in the wet laid process tend to break down quicker than the binders used in the classic dry laid process. (See ETC’s Multi Tear backings range.)
Polyester fibres To achieve a stronger backing the above fibres are mixed with polyester fibres. The higher the percentage of polyester fibres the stronger the embroidery backing. This is most common in the dry laid manufacturing process. (See ETC’s Strong and Stiff backings range.)
Cut away backings For certain applications, such as badge designs on garments and lettering, you will need to use a cut away backing that does not perforate and move during the embroidery process. This is made from 100% polyester fibres and is available in different weights. (See ETC’s Soft & Strong backings range.)
Spun/heat bonding Polyester and a special type of polypropylene fibres are also used to manufacture very specialised embroidery backings. These are manufactured using a spun bond or heat bonded technique without the use of any binders. These are the hardest type of fabrics to break down in a natural process, but are the best to be recycled as waste PET material. These backings can be made to very low weights, yet retaining excellent stability and strength. (See ETC’s Super Spun backings range.)
Polyester/rayon The latest development is the use of a mixture of polyester and rayon fibres that have a light chemical binder but are also heat bonded together. This is a new process that has been developed by one manufacturer only. The result is that you can achieve a backing that is very stable and one that does not perforate and pull apart during the embroidery process. This backing has advantages of being: easy tear in all directions; very stable; lightweight; more resistant to burning than rayon fibres on their own; and less pieces are required per embroidery. (See ETC’s Super Easy Tear Backing.)
Polyefuline These are a man made synthetic fibre or compound that is dissolved in water. They are commonly known as water soluble clear films and non woven water soluble backing. The clear film is blown out onto a sheet that is then rolled onto a tube. These water soluble films are very easy to tear and remove. The polyefuline fibres resemble natural viscose fibres in appearance even though they are actually man made polymers. They are spun bound together and/or heat bonded. This process gives you a very strong fabric, but one that can be dissolved completely in water.
The main uses for Polyefuline materials are: embroidery topping; embroidery backing on towels and bath robes etc; and embroidered badges. (See ETC’s Water Soluble Backings.)
Jas Purbar is the managing director of ETC Supplies, specialist suppliers of consumables and clothing to the garment decoration market.