Floating Embroidery Fabric: 6 Ways to Secure Your Project

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. I sometimes receive free products for review. Please read disclosure for more information.

While I’m a fan of hooping fabrics to be machine embroidered whenever possible, there are several circumstances when it’s just not feasible.

For instance, thick fabrics and bulky towels that are simply too thick for an embroidery hoop. Same with fabrics that are too delicate to be hooped without damage, blanks smaller than the hoop’s size, and many in-the-hoop projects.

Now, “floating” fabric refers to hoopless embroidery, which is when you place an embroidery blank on top of the embroidery hoop rather than placing it within the hoop frames. This is very easy to set up, but, because floated embroidery blanks can shift during embroidery, you can’t just place the blank on top of the hoop without a plan to secure it. 

Follow along to learn how to float fabric for machine embroidery and also how to float an extra piece of stabilizer underneath your hoop when needed.

tips for securing floated fabric for machine embroidery

6 Ways for Floating Fabric for Embroidery

To prepare to float fabric, first, hoop the stabilizer(s) tautly between the inside and outside frames of your hoop. (Refer to how to hoop fabric if you’re unsure how to get a good hooping.)

how to float fabric: hoop stabilizer first

Then, place your embroidered item on top of the stabilizer. I then use one of six methods to stabilize the floated fabric and keep it from moving during the active stitching period.

1. Temporary Fabric Adhesive Spray

attach a layer of cutaway stabilizer to the back of the sweatshirt with spray

This stuff is genius and my go-to for several embroidery projects. 

Temporary fabric adhesive (like Odif 505, my favorite) comes in a can and provides a temporarily sticky surface where sprayed. Spray the front of your stabilizer, and smooth the fabric in place on the stabilizer to adhere.

Three notes of caution: Be careful of spraying too much or you’ll gunk things up, use in a well-ventilated area (it can stink!), and protect your work surface from residual spray.

2. Painter’s Tape, Embroidery Tape, or Masking Tape

how to hoop and stabilize the paper

Painter’s tape also works to hold floated embroidery items in place. 

It’s great for holding down water-soluble topping, for example, or providing another layer of stability for items sprayed with temporary adhesive. Before using, make sure your tape will leave no adhesive residue on your project after removal.

Above, I’m using it to hold down cards when embroidering on cardstock paper.

3. Sticky Self-Adhesive Stabilizer

remove the adhesive backing

You can buy also buy sticky stabilizer with a sticker backing that pulls away, revealing a sticky surface on one side. (Sulky Sticky Tear-Away and Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy are my favorite tear-away and wash-away options, respectively.)

If you like the idea of stabilizer, check out dime’s Sticky Hoops, which are specially made to have only one bottom, flat-edged hoop. These are so helpful for embroidering blanks that run into the elevated sides of regular embroidery hoops. 

There’s also water-activated stabilizer that you can wet to make a temporary sticky surface. I’m too afraid to use this with my machine, though. 

I was against using a sticky stabilizer for the longest time because it’s more expensive than a regular stabilizer. However, there’s something SO easy about sticking an item directly to the stabilizer with no extra need for spray or tapes. 

adhere the sock to the hoop

I always use it when machine embroidering hats, embroidering socks, and monogramming ribbon bows. (It works great for holding my Sock Easy, as shown above.) Recently, I even used it when embroidering balsa wood

4. Pins

embroidery on a baseball cap - lining it up

To provide extra stability, you can also pin fabric or items to stabilizer. Above, I’m using T-pins, but I usually opt for smaller pins for my projects.

Tips: Make sure to pin carefully so the pins don’t pull through the stabilizer, ensure the pins are not within the stitching area, and check there won’t be permanent marks left before placing the first pin.

5. Basting Box

adding a basting box

A basting box is a simple rectangle of long-length straight stitches (basting stitches.) 

Your machine stitches the basting box to secure the fabric before stitching the embroidery design. After the project is complete, you can use a seam ripper to remove the basting stitches. 

If your machine doesn’t have this option built-in, grab 13 free basting boxes here at GG Designs Embroidery! And, if you want to learn more or desire to create your own basting stitches, I’ve written about what an embroidery basting box is and how to create one using software.

As a note, make sure the fabric you’re stitching the basting box onto will not be permanently damaged. For instance, when embroidering on leather or paper, a basting box is a bad idea because needle holes are permanent! Some digitizers may also include a basting box with design purchase, so keep an eye out for these.

6. Fusible Stabilizer

fusible stabilizer for ith quilt blocks

This one’s a bit of an extra effort, but I’d be remiss not to include it. Fusible stabilizer (comes in tear-away, no-show cut-away, etc.) has one side that fuses to your embroidery blank. 

If you first hoop your fusible stabilizer, you can then use a mini-iron (I love my Clover II mini-iron!) to press and fuse your blank to the stabilizer. While I don’t regularly use fusible stabilizer, I always use it when making in-the-hoop quilt projects.

It’s also nice when embroidering on baby onesies and hooped items that may move during embroidery, which causes puckering.

A Shout Out to Magnetic Hoops

floating quilt fabric

While this is a stretch for “floating” embroidered fabric, I also can’t help but mention magnetic embroidery hoops. 

There are several types of magnetic embroidery hoops I’ve recently written about, and it’s worth looking into if you regularly embroider quilt sandwiches, work with bulky fabrics, or have difficulty hooping with regular hoops. 

While dime Monster Snap Hoops are incredible and popular, machines that don’t have a compatible option (like my SE1900) may still have Embroidex options from Amazon. 

Floating an Extra Piece of Stabilizer

Sometimes, you may need to add a little extra stabilizer after a project has started stitching. Did you know you can just float the stabilizer? 

This means placing it underneath the hooped stabilizer but on top of the embroidery arm before embroidering. Then, once the machine does its first few stitches, the stabilizer is held in place.


I hope learning how to float your next embroidery project will help you think outside the box and discover even more fun things you can embroider. Anything less than 5-6mm in thickness that’s soft enough and just one layer could be fair game to embroider if you set it up correctly!’

Confused about other machine embroidery words? Check out my free printable embroidery terms glossary!


  1. Excellent! I just saw someone asking a question about floating fabric in a FB post and didn’t know the terminology of floating in embroidery. Thanks for clearing it all up for me. I’m following you now and very happy that I found you. 🙂

  2. I try to post this article whenever someone asks about floating. So easy to understand and follow. Thank you!!

    1. Thanks!! The concept of “floating” was one of the most difficult things for me to grasp as a beginner embroiderer, so I’m glad this article has been helpful to others 🙂

    1. If your stabilizer is a sticky tear away, you shouldn’t need to use an extra layer of regular tear-away under that. Hope that helps!

  3. I am new to embroidery itself but not to the language. Many family members embroidered for years. However, I came upon your site and have absolutely loved the info, new to me or not. As well as, the many ideas you have. Thank you so very much!

  4. I’m new at embroidery. Have done tests on scraps only. (ok) Your tutorials were very helpful and had great suggestions. I’m more encouraged to do a real project now. The floating embroidery technique appeals to me more.
    Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.