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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fusing Interfacing

I have two hard-and-fast rules for fusible interfacing:
1. Use high quality interfacing.
2. Make double-sure every bit of the interfacing is fused onto the fashion fabric.

As long as I abide by these two rules, I've had great success. No bubbles, no regrets.

High quality interfacing isn't easy to find. Usually I have to mail order it from Pam Earny at Fashion Sewing Supply (this link takes you to the American site, I have to click on the Canadian/International section) or Palmer/Pletsch or Sawyer Brook. When I'm in Ottawa, I pick up some at Daryl Thomas Textiles.

High quality interfacing costs $$. The base fabric is often pre-shrunk. The adhesive is distributed evenly in a fine coating instead of thick beads. Inferior interfacing can make expensive fabric look cheap. High quality interfacing can make inexpensive fabric look lux. To me, it's worth every nickel.

Fusing interfacing takes time. Lots and lots of time. At least the way I fuse does.

A few years ago, Daryl from Daryl Thomas told me not to use steam when fusing interfacing to fashion fabric. I was flabbergasted - everyone knows you need plenty of steam and heat to make that sucker stick!  He said you don't want moisture forming a barrier between the fabric and the interfacing when fusing. Use all the steam you want after the initial bonding, but use a dry iron first. Even though the idea was radical, Daryl's explanation made sense, so that's what I do.

I hate the gooey residue that sticks to irons and ironing board covers when interfacing overhangs/peeks out beyond the edge of the fashion fabric. Marta Alto, in the Palmer/Pletsch Jackets for Everybody dvd, shows how to cut interfacing so it is marginally smaller than the garment piece it will be attached to. She cuts part way around the pattern, then "scoots" it over the cut section to reduce the size and finishes cutting. Marta makes it look easy, but so far I haven't tried it. I like pins, and grainlines, and knowing exactly what the finished size will be, and how much interfacing I'm using. Her way would stress me out. (Yes, I'm a control freak.)

To keep any overhanging interfacing from adhering where I don't want it, I layer the piece being fused between two pieces of paper, like a ham and cheese sandwich. 

My fuse sandwich:

interfacing, glue side facing down
fabric, wrong side facing up

The paper underneath protects the ironing board cover, and the paper on top protects the iron. When fusing, I never ever leave the iron unattended. Too risky! Scorch marks would be the least of possible problems. If left long enough, you could actually burn the paper.  (Note: This is the way I fuse. I'm not saying it's the right way and that you should do it. Try it at your own risk. And if you do, for heaven's sake, pay attention! Hot irons require due diligence!)

Before you start fusing, it makes sense to assemble test samples from scraps. Once your samples have cooled, check how well the interfacing and the fabric have bonded. Can you peel off the interfacing? Try fusing it again. Some interfacings work better with some fabrics. Once your sample has passed the fuse-ability test, check to see if the interfaced scrap has the suppleness or body you require. There are tons of different types of interfacing and another one may do the job better. 

Onto fusing the actual garment. The first pass is with a dry iron. No steam. Depending on the interfacing and the fashion fabric, it usually takes between 5-15 seconds to activate the adhesive. (Establish how long it takes when making the sample.)  Use a watch to time it - fusing is boring and it's too easy for your brain to imagine 10 seconds have passed when in reality, only 3 seconds have.

Interfacing sandwich dampened with spray
from water bottle. Iron leaves a map of
where it's pressed.

Once the entire piece has been fused, I spritz the paper with water from my spray bottle (that never gets used for anything else). The paper is visibly wet. With the iron set on steam, I go over the entire piece a second time. Clouds of steam float up. It's easy to see where you've been because the paper starts to dry.

If I'm at all concerned that I might have missed a spot, I go over it again. I really, really want the interface to bond with every fiber of the fashion fabric.

Fusing Tips
1. Lift the iron when moving it to a new location, don't slide it. Sliding may shift the fabric and/or interfacing, causing distortion.
2. Once fused, let the fabric cool completely before moving. The bond is not complete until the fabric is cold. 
3. Or use the time while the fabric is cooling to add shape. For example, while the interfaced fabric is still warm, wrap a collar around a pressing ham. As it cools, the interfacing will "set" with this shape.
4. Test scraps can be sewn together (creating a seamed edge and double layer) and used to practice making buttonholes.

Once upon a time, I avoided fusible interfacing. I hated both the end results (bubbles) and the mess (gooey bits). Now that I've figured out solutions to both those problems, I love the finished product and ease of using quality fusible interfacing. What about you? Are you a sew-in interfacing type of person? Or do you use fusible? Or do you forsake interfacing all together?

Till next time,
Lady T

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