Hooping the stabilizer to be taunt in the hoop is the beginning of a successful project. I found some wonderful work gloves that have saved my fingers from the hoop screw heads (I was developing callouses!) and also from paper cuts from the stabilizer. The gloves are helping the hooping process to be faster and easier on the hands.
For the bath mat (which is 1/2″ thick 100% cotton) I am using heavy duty sticky back stabilizer in the hoop. The fusible tearaway stabilizer is pressed onto the back of the bath mat so that none of the mat in the hoop area will come in contact with the sticky paper. This will keep the loops from pulling later. Then on top of the bath mat, I have heavy duty water soluble topper, which is pinned to the mat to keep it from catching under the needle bar when the carriage moves any distance.
Lessons Learned: Cover the entire mat that is in the hooping area with the the topper. This is no time to be thrifty and covering the entire mat will allow it to slide easily under the needle bar without the needles getting caught in the loops when the carriage moves long distances. Fortunately, I caught my error in time and added more topper!!