Interfacingmain_large

Readers, you know that saying that goes “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know”?

A while back, I was interfacing the collar and cuffs of a cotton shirt I was making, using a hot iron at a medium-low setting, no steam, and pressing for 10 seconds. (The way I’d always done it, which I’d learned…I can’t remember where!) The results were not encouraging.

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I was using a weft-weight (i.e., lightweight) woven interfacing I had bought where I buy all my interfacing – at Fashion Design Books, a bookstore serving Fashion Institute of Technology students, near where I live. It’s a wonderful independent bookstore and they sell a wide selection of sewing notions there.

The problem with the fusible interfacing they sell however — and they sell many types — is that it is all pre-cut and unlabeled. It comes with no instructions, although some fusible interfacing is best fused dry, others need steam, etc. Or so I learned.

Slightly panicked with the results of my efforts at the ironing board, I immediately shot an email to a much more experienced sewing buddy, who confirmed my worst fears: Many types of interfacing require pre-shrinking, otherwise they will shrink on their own time when they are already fused to your fashion fabric, leaving bubbles, ripples, and various lumps and bumps resembling nothing so much as a bad case of prickly heat.

In all the sewing projects I’ve undertaken, I have only had this problem once before. In fact, I had been avoiding fusibles because I lacked confidence in my ability to fuse them effectively.

Thankfully I hadn’t begun the actual construction of my shirt yet. After a whole lot more steam pressing, I decided that I would take all my fused pieces, soak them in warm water, let them dry (to allow them to shrink) and evaluate the results.

The inner and outer collar stands and collar pieces, which I had fused with the weft weight woven, looked OK: no lumps or bumps.

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The cuffs, on which I had used a stiffer, more tightly woven fusible, looked like a stormy sea viewed from an airplane. This was interfacing I should have pre-shrunk. They had to be redone.

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The finished shirt. See more photos here.

Readers, some questions regarding interfacing:

1. Do you use fusible interfacing and if so, what kind? Are you generally happy with the results?

2. Do you pre-shrink it and if so, how?

3. What advice would you give to a new sewer who has never used interfacing before? Should they skip fusibles altogether and use sew-in interfacing?

4. Would it be helpful to have a few tutorials specifically regarding different kinds of interfacing and how to use them?

Let us know!

~Peter

When native New Yorker Peter Lappin bought his first sewing machine two years ago to hem a pair of thrift store jeans, little did he know he was initiating a journey that would bring him fame and fortune. While awaiting his fortune he stays busy writing “the world’s most popular men’s sewing blog,” Male Pattern Boldness, and now contributing to BurdaStyle.

“For more than twenty years I’d lived on the edge of the Garment District without even knowing what a seam ripper was. Now I rip daily!”

41 Comments

  • Nationalanthemmaxtwitter_large

    Aug 5, 2012, 05.28 AMby Max Hernandez

    I never really thought about pre shrinking interfacing, i suppose it would also apply to the woven ones as well. My fear though is that the resin or sticky part of fusibles will fade by getting soaked in water, but i don’t think thats the case…

  • Patti_12-28-2011_large

    Oct 5, 2011, 06.25 PMby patti-r

    Great Information, personally always preshrink zippers, fabrics that are washable, fusible and sew in interfacing still prefer sew in fabric type it holds up better for dry cleaning and laundering. Do not use fusible on silks or wools. Use steamer on Hair Canvas, dry clean & wool fabrics. Wish this could be added to my favorites or toolkit.

  • Image_large

    Aug 1, 2011, 06.37 AMby luxihere

    hmm interfacings, they can be such a trouble or at times such darlings! they are so finicky in nature, and now i understood why, would heart a tutorial on this though. I have never tried pre-shrinking my interfacing, will try to do. here in India, i do not get much brand / type choices in interfacing and have to make do with what i get by trying to match it with fabric i am working on.

  • Missing

    Aug 1, 2011, 12.33 AMby jenniahart

    Great topic! I have always shied away from fusible interfacing except for crafting projects because I wasn’t sure how it would survive the laundering process. I would also like to see a tutorial on this as it would be a GREAT reference piece to refer back to in the future.

  • Bendigo_large

    Aug 1, 2011, 12.17 AMby emilybib

    Oh wow – thank you! I’ve had some very inconsistent results with interfacing, and I always thought it was something I was doing wrong (iron too hot, iron too dry, bodgy cutting, gremlins). My aunt (a professional dressmaker and fashion designer) showed me how to use iron-on interfacing many, many years ago, and she never had a problem with it, but on reflection, I now realise two things: she used it in small, subtle doses with me (early teen-sewing projects!), and the quality of the interfacing she used was much higher than what’s available in Australia now. I found some scraps of this quality (very soft, supple but not dense and chemical-smelling) iron-on interfacing in my grandma’s fabric stash when she died a few years ago, and it really does handle very differently. I might try getting some of your recommended brands by mail order. Thanks!

  • Picmonkey_collage_large

    Jul 31, 2011, 11.29 AMby designerroya

    I have to say that I’ve been sewing for just over a year and have never used interfacing. Though my sewing is getting a lot neater, I think that the next time I see it I’ll get some and find a tutorial. Seems interesting enough! Thanks for the article!

  • 1014094_10152652215983709_1627797358_n_large

    Jul 30, 2011, 09.04 PMby mitmit

    I use vlieseline too (the synth. kind) and have done so ever since I started sewing. I find it very easy to work with (and have no trouble cutting it what so ever.) It comes in a various types to use for everything from shirts to dresses to jackets/coats. I love the fact that it doesn’t shrink.

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Jul 30, 2011, 04.24 PMby loulourosa

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Jul 30, 2011, 04.19 PMby loulourosa

    I never had problems with interfacing, most of the times I use cotton iron-on. But since a few years I use a synthetic kind, it’s verry lightweight and perfect for dresses and blouses. This doesn’t shrink at all. But the difficulty is that it’s not easy to cut. I don’t know the excact name, but I know Burda magazine advises to use this. Looks a bit like silk jersey and the brand is vlieseline. http://www.vlieseline.de/ Maybe you find tutorials here?

  • 4694225849_ec4622fedc_b_large

    Jul 30, 2011, 01.37 AMby A. Nguyen

    There was another discussion on here re. pre-shrinking fusible interfacings. Prior to that, it did not even occurred to me that not pre-shrinking was responsible for the sometimes-sea-of-sorrow :) finish on some of my fused pieces.

    Re. sewn-in interfacings: I’d launder the interfacing beforehand as well, just like I would the fashion fabric, otherwise the interfacing may shrink more/differently than the fashion fabric. Depending on the fabric (the fiber, the tightness of the weave, etc.) I might launder the fabric and interfacing more than once, before cutting out.

  • Missing

    Jul 29, 2011, 08.38 PMby fabtester

    I test a 20×20 piece of fabric that has been fused. I dry clean or launder it 5 times, depending on how the fabric will be cared for. I note any change in measurement and if the fusible bubbles or unbonds. If it does not pass I try something else or adjust the fusible temperature and pressure. I also run an unfused sample to see if the fabric shrinks too much for the fusible—sometimes it is the fashion fabric that is the cause of the bubbling. You could probably use smaller pieces, I just happen to have templates that size. I leave the top edge fusible folded on itself so I have something to pull on so I can check the bond strength as well.

  • Missing

    Jul 29, 2011, 07.41 PMby isidore

    So glad that Pam chimed in, she really is the expert! I buy all of my interfacings from her.

    I think sometimes in writing geared toward home sewers, there can be too much emphasis on technique, at the expense of talking about the quality and performance of materials and tools. Often no amount of technique can turn shoddy materials into a great garment! And I don’t make $400 custom shirts like Pam, I make shirts out of $3/yard materials that I find good enough for me to wear. But I still don’t want to use interfacing that will bubble after 10 washes – who would want their hard work to be ruined like that? Even if you are just starting out and want to practice on something you won’t even wear, really cruddy materials will just frustrate you and make it harder for you to learn or to give up altogether. And, if you’re on a tight budget and want to spend your money where it has the most effect, interfacing can make or break a garment.

    I’m not looking down on anyone who buys Pellon from JoAnns because that is all they have available to them. My first shirt had the same papery stuff in the collar. I spend a lot of time on that shirt matching stripes, but I never wear it, because I hate that stiff ugly collar so much!

  • Photoge01_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 04.39 PMby gedwoods

    When I go to the fabric store and ask for interfacing, sometimes they sell me the non-fusible woven interfacing and sometimes they sell me the fusible stuff. It took me a while to figure out that that that stiff stuff stuck on one side of the interfacing was the part that melts and fuses with the fabric – I’d been using it as a non-fusible interfacing for some time. It doesn’t seem to have hurt my projects, however, fortunately. So I agree, interfacing is confusing. Thanks for the post – I’d already started to get “smarter” about interfacing, and this discussion will only help me do better still. These days, I’m working increasingly with professional sewers as part of my business, and I’m less prone to making these errors. I tend to work up prototypes and then get the professionals to make up the final product, but I realize this is a special situation.

  • Missing

    Jul 29, 2011, 01.31 PMby taitai60

    You have to make a difference between woven and non-woven (fibers are all fused together rather like a very thin felt) interfacings as well as fusible (iron-on) and non-fusible (sew-in) I would hazard a guess that woven interfacings are much more likely to shrink than the non-woven ones. I worked in the garment industry in the Philippines for many years and we always used Vilene (brand name of interfacing produced by Freudenberg in Germany) non-woven fusible interfacing as this was the best quality. It should not shrink and if it does than I suggest you call them up and complain! There is a whole list of their offices all over the world on this website. http://www.vilene.com/content/e135/e712/e714/index_eng.html However from the Vilene company reps, I learnt that there are 3 things which affect adherence of the interfacing to your fabric: heat, time and pressure. In factories, we use presses where the garment pieces roll through on a conveyer belt These can be adjusted for all 3 of the variables and if we had problems with bubbling or glue dots coming through, we would experiment with one of the above until we got it right. This is of course not so much an option when applying interfacing at home but Vilene does print general instructions on the edges of their rolls. Start by following these and move on from there. That said, for home sewing I can’t even get Vilene here in the Philippines and just use whatever I can buy in the local stores and these certainly don’t include any instructions! Even though they sometimes don’t stick well and come loose after washing, I have never had any shrink. But I have often seen washed garments (even ready-to-wear) with bubbles on the collars and cuffs. There is not much you can do about it once the garment is finished, but it is the main reason whenever I use cheaper interfacings, I don’t fuse the top or outer pieces. I apply all my interfacings to the surface, which will be the least visible, so that if I get bubbles after washing, they will be on the inside. Sewing interfacing rather than fusing, does not really solve the shrinkage issue anyway, as if the interfacing is going to shrink it will shrink regardless of whether it is sewn in or not. You can however test your interfacng before you use it. Draw a 10 cm (4 inch) square with a permanent marker on your interfacing and press it and wash it as you would the finished garment. Measure it afterwards to see if it shrinks. If it does, you may want to wash it ahead ( and you should probably never by that brand again!) and if it doesn’t, go ahead and use it.

    1 Reply
    • Mh900113316_large

      Jul 29, 2011, 01.54 PMby Pam Erny

      Perhaps…unless the high-quality woven substrate fabric has been steam-shrunk before the fusible resin is applied. An interfacing manufacturer should test their products with many different fabrics and washing/drying methods..so that their customers do not have any “OMG Surprises”. It takes us at least 6 months to bring a new interfacing from “idea” to “ready-to-sell”.

      …and on a personal note, I would never put ’bonded fiber"(non-woven or non-knitted) yucky paper-like interfacing in any of my carefully made garments…especially the $400+ shirts I make for my clients. Just my opinion ;)

  • Mh900113316_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 12.17 PMby Pam Erny

    “Professional Grade” Interfacings do not need to be pre-shrunk. Select manufacturers (myself included) have the substrate fabric steam-shrunk, BEFORE a highly flexible special fusible resin is carefully applied.

    Dipping fusible interfacing into water of any temperature is likely to distort the fabric substrate and produce bad results.

    Peter, if you decide to do an Interfacing tutorial and want some input from a Professional ShirtMaker and Tailor who also is a bonafide Interfacing Manufacturer, whose company supplies home-sewists along with many clothing designers and better RTW manufacturers with state-of-the-art Fusible and other Interfacing…well…just let me know :)

    More information about me can be found via my Sewing Studio Blog, Off The Cuff Sewing Style

    ( And Peter, you know how to reach me personally ;)

    Respectfully, ~Pam

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Jul 29, 2011, 04.59 PMby Peter Lappin

      So glad you chimed in, Pam!

      I think there’s a strong need for a truly authoritative voice on this topic. As you can see, many people are confused (myself included) about fusible interfacing!

  • 958f82a55d1f911aea11daf7f2e4e6295bbe805d_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 11.01 AMby bohemiannow

    I’ve read about preshrinking the interfacing before, but to be honest I never bothered doing it! I’ve had some bubbles once, but I thought it was the combination of fabric and interfacing that created the problem, since I always use the same type of woven interfacing and I never had problems before. I like the idea of sew in. I used it in a jacket of mine, but I wonder if it can be used in every single project and part of a project that has to be intefaced. The sleeves of a jacket for example, how do you add sew in interfacing, when there is no seam, just hem?

  • 1_copy_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 10.39 AMby dottty

    Yes, always more tutorials (on anything), all knowledge is useful, cant say i have ever had a problem with interfacing, maybe its different for Brits lmao, I love ya stuff Peter jj:)x

  • Dscf6507_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 08.40 AMby urbandon

    Dang! I was wondering why I had mixed results attaching the stuff (cap visors mainly) the more heat or steam I used the worse the look. I have heard the sew-in is far superior. Could you imagine a tailor using iron on? Never. Lesson learnt. Thanks Peter.

  • Img_2053_629x454__large

    Jul 29, 2011, 07.56 AMby onehundredsocks

    I literally just cut some fusible interfacing. My iron is getting hot as we speak. But now I’m not sure anymore! I did not pre-shrink it (didn’t know you could), but I did have some bubble trouble with this stuff before. Hmm, maybe I’ll go with sew-in after all. +1 on the tutorial!

  • Pingujen3_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 07.44 AMby squishedbugg

    oh wow, i use fusible interfacing all the time and had no idea you should preshrink it at all… what?? how?? Why?? did no-one ever tell me that? Now I can’t figure out which type I am using, and I have mixed results with bubbling and what not… back to the drawing boards!!

  • Me_cell_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 07.08 AMby heather shernce

    The first time I ever used interfacing I was so confused and frustrated by all the different types there were and I had no clue what I needed… So I went to the store where I bought my sewing machine, which happens to be 45 min away, I also go there if I have a problem or don’t understand something in regards to fabric or sewing a garment… And they told me… 1. Stay away from the stiff thin fusible interface cuz it’s poo, and 2. Always presrink ur interface… Wash it by hand with a little dish detergent and hot water, rinse out the sope with hot water, ring it out really good, I use a sham wow to ring it out… Then throw it in the dryer on med with some other clothes for like 5 to 10 min… It will won’t stick to it’s self nor will u have a problem ironing it onto your fabric…. do this with all my interfacering and i have about 5 different types of light weight interfacings and they all are fusible and I’ve never had a problem.

  • Me_cell_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 07.08 AMby heather shernce

    The first time I ever used interfacing I was so confused and frustrated by all the different types there were and I had no clue what I needed… So I went to the store where I bought my sewing machine, which happens to be 45 min away, I also go there if I have a problem or don’t understand something in regards to fabric or sewing a garment… And they told me… 1. Stay away from the stiff thin fusible interface cuz it’s poo, and 2. Always presrink ur interface… Wash it by hand with a little dish detergent and hot water, rinse out the sope with hot water, ring it out really good, I use a sham wow to ring it out… Then throw it in the dryer on med with some other clothes for like 5 to 10 min… It will won’t stick to it’s self nor will u have a problem ironing it onto your fabric…. do this with all my interfacering and i have about 5 different types of light weight interfacings and they all are fusible and I’ve never had a problem.

  • Missing

    Jul 29, 2011, 06.45 AMby judypeg

    I have had some disasters with fusibles, for example on my husbands dress shirt. I had t completely replace the collar and cuffs. Now I have Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide; I realize there is so much choice of interfacing, you really need to know what you are doing. No-one so far has mentioned wovens versus no-wovens. We do need a tutorial!

  • 990745-073_large

    Jul 29, 2011, 06.26 AMby nehmah

    A tutorial is an excellent idea, as there are so many brands and kinds available. With non-fusibles, I pre-shrink, using a steam press. If they had been sitting I might rinse to remove dust. I have no problems with excessive shrinking. I had trouble with bubbles and pulling away from the fashion fabrics when I tried to use the generic fusible sold pre-packaged in 3-yard lengths. What a waste of time and cash. I read instructions, about two years ago, that explained how to shrink interfacing. It came wrapped around a very sheer tricot fusible. I cut it into 1 yard lengths. The interfacing gets a warm water bath and hangs to air dry-adhesive side up!- on a clothing rack. I never wring to remove excess water and lay the tricot over toweling set aside for the purpose. So far, no troubles.Nehmah

  • Missing

    Jul 29, 2011, 03.39 AMby MissMarlo

    My tailoring professor some years ago had a bucket of interfacing swatches that were all labeled – she pulled out each one and explained the quality, weight, use, etc – and I clearly remember her saying, DON’T USE PELLON … she advised against fusibles, so I think I will go with MissusCrime’s suggestion and get used to sew-in.

  • 12145df4177579baa27c93e2ce8e7c828ab270d8_large

    Jul 28, 2011, 11.21 PMby missuscrime

    The director at my school LOATHES fusible and says you should only ever use sew in. Sew in seems like an extra step, but so is pre-shrinking. Might as well practice sew-in to get comfortable with it, and switch over from fusible. It works WAY better!

  • Peru_4_large

    Jul 28, 2011, 10.23 PMby lasusie

    i do preshrink the interfacing. it is a messy process esp w/ light weight fusible, to me that is. use warm water and gentle dip the fusible interfacing in the water bath. make sure you are holding on to each corner (w/o tearing it) w/ the amount that you need for your project. i tend to hang my wet interfacing on a hanger to air dry; making sure they do not stick to each other while drying.

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