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Understanding Interfacings

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Click to EnlargeIt’s tempting to skip it, but it’s a lot like the difference between a nicely toned body and one that isn’t. Just like you can skip exercising, you can skip interfacing. But, it won’t be a secret. Which reminds me... I need to go for a jog!

Interfacing is a textile that is either sewn in or fused on using a steam iron, between layers of fabric, to give it structure and body. Interfacing in itself is not very exciting, but it is one of the keys to achieving a professional look to your project. If you are new to sewing, you may never have run across interfacing because it’s not something that shows when your project is done. Most familiar to people is the way a dress shirt has a more substantial collar, placket and cuff. That smooth crispness comes from the interfacing hidden inside. Without interfacing, collars and cuffs would be limp and buttons and buttonholes would rip.

Types of Interfacing

There are many interfacing options on the market, and they are available in a number of weights. A good rule of thumb is to select an interfacing that is a little bit lighter in weight than your fabric:

Knit Interfacing

Usually made of nylon tricot, it’s made to use with knit fabrics because it’s stretchy like knits. While knits are used more in garment sewing than in home décor, when you do have the need, be sure to lay the stretch of the fabric and the interfacing the same direction.

Woven Interfacing

Treat woven interfacing like you would any woven fabric. Cut along the grainline in the same way you grain.

Non-Woven Interfacing

Because there is no grainline, you can lay out and cut non-woven interfacing however you like. You can also choose between between fusible and sew-in interfacing.

Fusible Interfacing

Also called iron-on interfacing, this interfacing is fused to your fabric using a steam iron. When using pressing cloth between surfaces. This will prevent any sticky residue from welding itself to your iron or damaging your ironing board cover. Fusible interfacing is often what is used to give dress shirts those crisp collars and cuffs. When done properly, the results are beautiful. Fusibles are also good for fabrics that fray. They are less compatible with fabrics like lace or other openwork fabrics, do not adhere well to beaded or heavily embroidered fabric, and iffy with highly textured fabrics. I always test fusible interfacing on a scrap to determine the proper heat setting of my iron and amount of steam. Let it cool and check the final result. Another consideration is the level of heat your fabric can take must be high enough to fuse the interfacing, or look for Cool Fuse interfacing. Manufacturer’s instructions have specific instructions for each type of interfacing.

Sew-In Interfacing

Sew-in interfacing provides body but somewhat less crispness than fusibles. Sometimes that exactly what you want, like when you want some body, but still want to retain drape.

How is Interfacing Used?

In home décor, interfacing is often used in items like place mats and table runners where you want a more body. You might add interfacing to curtain tie-backs, for example, so they are taut and crisp looking. When you want crispness or “bones” in your project, you'll probably want to add interfacing. Most fabric store sales staff are familiar with the pros and cons of their products, so don’t hesitate to ask if you are unsure.

Where Can I Buy Interfacing?

Interfacing is available at most fabric stores of any size; and like everything else -- online. Interfacing is generally grouped together in one section of the fabric store, so it’s easy to compare options. Read pattern instructions to understand how much and what kind to buy.

Before You Cut!

Interfacing should be prewashed in the same way as your fabric. This is important so I’m going to say it again. Prewash your interfacing as you do your fabric. If you don’t, when you do launder your completed project, you will find that your fabric and your interfacing shrink different amounts leading to bubbles and warping that can't be ironed out.

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Comments (21)

dsantil71 said:
dsantil71's picture

pellon.com has a lot of useful info on their brand of interfacings. I always do a test sample whenever I am using any interfacing too!

Samlong said:
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I recently used fusable interfacing on a lining handbag I crocheted, and it had a slightly crispy sound when it moved it. Is this normal? I've never used interfacing before then and I'm not sure if I did something wrong?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Samlong - without knowing what type of fusible interfacing you used, it's hard to tell if you did anything "wrong" -- but I'm guessing not as the process is pretty straight forward. If the interfacing was too heavy for the bag it could possibly make the sound you describe -- again - hard to tell. You could take a look at Pellon's Shape Flex interfacing, which is a woven fusilble. We use that when we want something softer and more flexible than traditional non-woven fusibles. Here's a link to it at Amazon if you want to read more: http://amzn.to/2wjCzXX

Genesis said:
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If I use fusible interfacing for placemats, could it also be washed afterwards like you would any other placemat?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Genesis - Yes, you should be able to wash your placemats. It does depend on the fabric you choose. Before cutting out pattern pieces, pre-wash/pre-shrink all washable fabrics. Then steam-shrink any fusible interfacing pieces just prior to application. To do this, hold the iron 2” - 3” above the interfacing piece, press the power-steam button for a few seconds, then continue steaming until the interfacing no longer shrinks. When done, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fusing to the fabric. 

peggie purchase said:
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Can I use interfacing instead of batting on a pieced tablecloth that is not going to be quilted, just to provide some stability?

dsantil71 said:
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There is also fusible batting if you were wanting to use a fusible.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@peggie - There are a lot of variables depedning on how you plan to finish the back of the tablecloth. Interfacing would provide stability, but if your tablecloth is very big at all, you'll need to piece together multiple sheets. A few fusible interfacings come in 45" widths, but most are just 20" wide. You would still need some type of lining or backing to cover your seams as well as the inerfacing. If the tablecloth is going to be laundered, you may want to consider adding at least a few lines of stitching through the layers or they are likely to pull apart and/or twist in the wash. Batting would add dimension and a bit of protection for the tabletop, but if you are planning little ot no quilting, it is not necessary.

Lady Bean said:
Lady Bean's picture

I'm making some curtain tie backs and need to use some fusible interfacing. My question is, what weight should I use? Any advice would be great. Many thanks.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ Lady Bean - The type of interfacing really has more to do with the fabric you're using than exactly what you're making. If you're using a heavier décor weight fabric, a lightweight fusible like Pellon ShirTailor might be fine. If you are using a lightweight fabric, you may need a mid-weight, like Pellon Décor Bond. I doubt you'd need anything much heavier than that. 

Lady Bean said:
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That's really useful. From what you say, I think the medium weight would be perfect. Many thanks. 

Millpond said:
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i'm working on an appliqué project that applies the non woven fusible interfacing smooth side to right side of fabric, turn inside out, this means fusible side is exposed on one side and right side of fabric on other side.  Next step is to press fusible side to base fabric.  My question is, do i need to top stitch this appliqué to prevent it from coming off the base fabric during laundry or dry cleaning?    Also, do you pre launder fusible interfacing?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Millpond - I'm afraid you lost me somewhere in that description. I'm guessing maybe you are applying a pre-made appliqué (like a patch). If that's the case, then yes, it probably is a good idea to add some stitching rather than relying only on the fusible to hold the patch in place. On the pre-wash question, there are SO many opinions out there. We don't usually choose to pre-wash our fusible interfacings and have never had a problem. That said, there are many professionals out there, especially in the garment world, who swear by pre-washing. If possible, test it first. If that's not possible, I would say you can probably do without a pre-wash if you're not dealing with any type of curving item, like a collar or cuff. 

LibbyWick said:
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Why oh why has it taken me so long to find S4H?!  I seem to have spent my entire Sunday reading through your hints and tips and looking at projects.  I've been sewing for a few years but have tended to work out solutions for myself, not realising what a great resourse I've been missing.  Thank you! 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
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@ LibbyWick - welcome aboard. Always glad to have a new fan.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture
@ blackno1handmade - usually fusible can be washed, but check the bolt or instructions to be sure. I use Pellon products a lot and have washed their lightweight and featherweight fusibles. The key here is to pre-launder in the manner your project will be laundered - if machine washable, machine wash it, if you are only going to dry clean the item, you can usually use the interfacing as is. I use the heavyweight fusibles a lot in structured baskets and the like, and since I don't plan on doing more than spot-clean these, I don't pre-wash the interfacing.
blackno1handmade said:
blackno1handmade's picture
ive been looking for this simple answer for hours. JUST to double check that i wash my fusible before i cut it. i bought two diff kinds, one is pretty stiff, and id hate to ruin them. only one of the package inserts says to wash it, and neither say to wash them BEFORE. nothing is straight forward. i went and bought pellon after researching that i shouldnt waste my money on anything less if i cared. so i hate to see it all get ruined in the washer. thank you for the simple post, because i do care.
alicia.thommas said:
Hi Tez: I recommend you check the manufacturer's instructions on your fusible interfacing, or before you purchase. They differ depending on how the fusible interfacing is made. I prefer the kinds that do not have small visible glue dots. Some people swear by soaking the fusible interfacing in warm water, blotting with a towel and then hanging to dry. Sounds like a lot of bother, but if what you're making is important to you, it's worth the extra time and trouble (assuming it's what is recommended by the manufacturer). Also, carefully follow the pressing instructions - hurrying this process can result in bubbling.
christy said:
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This is helpful. I didn't realize I had to wash the interfacing but of course it makes sense!