Freebies & Features

Confused by Fusibles?
by Lisa Shepard Stewart

Confused by Fusibles?Quilting might be your only creative passion, or just one of many fibers arts you enjoy. In either case, you've probably come across a project that would benefit from the ease and convenience of fusible products to add strength, stability, or shaping that lasts over time. Handbags, wall hangings, fabric bowls and vases, placemats and runners, small accessories and other projects will look and feel more professional when you know the basics of working with fusibles.

Interfacings are generally divided into two categories: sew-in and fusible (iron-on). Because fusibles are actually bonded to the fabric when the heat of a household iron is applied, they form a single layer that gives the fabric a firmer hand compared to the same fabric with a sew-in stabilizer.

Also, there are different types of interfacing construction: knit, woven and nonwoven. Knit interfacings give the softest, most flexible hand; wovens offer a firmer, more durable result. Both of these can do double-duty as a lining, providing a smooth surface on the inside of the project. Nonwovens are available in a variety of weights, from paper thin stabilizers to ╝"-thick fusible fleece to ultra firm double-sided fusibles, like Timtex«.

Stabilize your project according to its end use and your fabric choice. Will it be machine washable, hand washable or dry clean only? Should it be a softer, less structured style (great to pack inside
luggage for vacations), or be firm enough to stand up on its own? Should the surface be flat or plush?

Since fusible stabilizers are meant to bond permanently to the fabric, it's important to first TEST FUSE a sample of the interfacing and fabric according to the fusible instructions, to see whether the resulting effect is what you want.

  • Begin with the steam iron on the "wool" setting. Position the test interfacing over the test fabric and apply steam only for about five seconds to preshrink both layers. Then apply firm pressure in the iron to fuse the layers together, holding the iron in one position for about 7-10 seconds.
  • Lift and reposition the iron, repeating until the entire surface has been fused. Check for complete adhesion, and repeat if the layers are not fully bonded together. Also check the sample for any bubbling, puckers or other problems. (If these appear, lower the iron setting and test the interfacing again.) The face of the fabric should be smooth.
  • Handle the sample, checking for the right amount of firmness and support. In some cases, you can fuse a second layer of interfacing directly over the first for ultra support-again, test for results before working on the actual project.
  • On some thicker fabrics, it's also helpful to fuse from the fabric side (except for velvet and other raised pile fabrics). Cover the fabric with a press cloth to protect it from excessive heat, scorch marks, and stains from leftover fusible resins (glues)
Keep the fused samples for reference when making a similar bag style in the future. You'll save time in the end by keeping a selection of fusibles on hand for testing and general use.