What is fusible interfacing? Fusible interfacing has glue on one (or sometimes both) sides that is activated with a hot iron and allows to adhere directly to the fabric. The glue side is either shiny or bumpy. It will usually come with instructions about how hot the iron should be, how long you should press and whether or not you should use steam. Always read the directions the first time, but I’m also going to tell you that it’s OK to ignore them once you learn what technique works best for you!
How do I fuse it? Fusing technique is something you should practice. When fusing SF101, I press right on the back of the interfacing (glue down, obviously) so that I can line it up and then press right down on top of the interfacing. I’ve been doing this forever and I promise it’s OK to do but ONLY with the SF101. If I’m using a non-woven, I line everything up and then cover with a press cloth before fusing. I press down and then lift it up and press down in a different spot. Once the whole piece is gently fused, I steam it like crazy, especially from the right side of the fabric. You can buy a fancy press cloth or fat quarter sized piece of scrap fabric. Using a press cloth helps make sure you don’t get the glue on your iron, but it also makes it harder to see your fabric. You’ll find your own favorite technique with a bit of experience.
Why use fusible interfacing? Fusible interfacing adds stiffness and thickness to your fabric. It also makes it easier to sew. Fused fabric glides under the presser foot more evenly and doesn’t stretch as much. It helps stabilize the fabric so that stitches don’t pull through, especially on stress points like pockets. It is important to make sure that your bags and wallets have the proper structure, especially when using quilting cotton as your main fabric. Interfacing is what helps your bag will stand up on it’s own. It allows you to take popular cotton prints and make something you could otherwise only make out of canvas or a heavier material.
I use fusible interfacing on almost every project, usually inside and out. My favorite is Pellon SF101 (a fusible woven).
If I need more thickness than just two layers of fusible (outside and lining) I will typically add batting, fleece or sew-in interfacing.
Which interfacing should I choose? Fusible woven like Pellon SF-101. Beyond that, the best way to get familiar with interfacing is to use it, so I highly recommend everyone take a handful of coupons to the Big Box Craft Store and buy a half yard of everything, and label it so you remember which is which when deciding what you like and don’t like. Having a big stash means you can just pick one and try it! Sometimes patterns will specifically ask for certain types of interfacing, but it’s often helpful to know what a good alternative would be for those suggestions, especially if different products are available in your area or you want a different look for your project.
Common Types of Fusible interfacing
Non-woven fusible interfacing – This is the paper kind of interfacing, rather than the fabric (woven) kind. While it’s used in clothing construction, it’s not my preference for quilting cotton. This is what can happen:
Woven Fusible Interfacing, like Pellon SF101 – This is my favorite, and ends up backing nearly every piece of quilting cotton in my bags! The SF stands for Shape Flex. SF101 is woven, which means it will drape and move in a similar way to the fabric. SF101 does have a grain and cross-grain, so the same rules that apply to fabric apply to this interfacing (unless you are using scraps on tiny pieces and pockets, then it’s fine to go against the grain – just make sure you cut along the grain for straps and main panels.) What I normally do is cut it a bit smaller than the fabric, so that it reduces the bulk in the seams. It fuses nicely and in my experience, does not wrinkle. To pre-shrink, I suggest you fold up 2-3 yards, place in a sink of warm but not hot water for 15 minutes, gently squeeze or press out the water and hang over a shower curtain rod to drip dry.
Fusible Tricot – This is a fusible for knits. It’s very popular for T-Shirt quilts!
Craft weight non-woven fusibles like Pellon Decor Bond, Craft Fuse and the fusible versions of Peltex – These products are intended to give a very stiff look to your fabric. They are great in placemats and projects that lay flat and can be ironed flat after turning. I find that turning right side out tends to wrinkle them, and curves make it difficult to press those wrinkles out. Thankfully, these products have non-fusible, sew-in sisters! (Peltex 70 and Pellon 50 are two that I use all the time!)
Fusible Fleece – I am possibly the only person I know who doesn’t reach for the fusible fleece first. Perhaps I don’t fuse right, but I do this all day and if I can’t get it, then I don’t want to recommend it and have you end up with something like this:
Like the craft weight fusibles, FF is great for flat items, but for bags I prefer a layer of woven fusible, then a layer of cotton or poly batting, and even possibly a layer of sew-in interfacing to add structure. I think a lot of us used FF before the newer products became available, but now we have Soft and Stable and Pellon 926, among others, that give a more professional look. Since those are not fusible, you have the added step of pinning or basting, but I think it’s worth the results.
Sewable Fusible Web (Heat & Bond Lite, Steam a Seam Lite, Wonder Under) – These are applique products. They are basically *just the glue* part of fusible interfacing. You draw your design on the paper and cut out a piece larger than your design, press it onto the fabric to apply the glue, cut out the shape, peel back the paper and then press your shape onto the main fabric. The glue adheres to both fabrics and seals the edges and then you go back and sew around the outside with a zig-zag, satin or blanket stitch to secure it. Applique is tons of fun, so definitely try it! Just be sure to get the SEWABLE versions of these products. They also make no-sew versions that would not be very nice to your machine or needle should you try to sew through them.
That’s it for now! Next time I’ll talk about sew-in products.