Water-soluble stabilizer is either used as a topping or a backing when embroidering a garment. If used as a topping, the garment still requires the use of a stabilizer on the back or bottom.
Using water-soluble stabilizer as a topping prevents stitches from getting lost in textured fabrics. The stabilizer is placed on top of the garment and the embroidery machine stitches over it. The excess stabilizer washes away with water, and it gives the embroidery a nice, raised layer so that stitches don’t disappear into the garment. Water-soluble stabilizer is also suitable when embroidering small lettering for the same reasons.
If used as a backing, it works well with projects where you can see from both sides of the garment. One example of this is embroidering on mesh caps where you don’t want any stabilizer visible or poking out of the design.
As far as different types, it’s best to use a thinner water-soluble stabilizer as a topping and a thicker option for any backing needs.