Interfacing: 10 tips

For a change of pace, last week I lurked in one of those online chat sessions with an expert from the home sewing side of things. The questions and comments from participants weren’t what I expected; nobody asked any of the kinds of questions I would have. No matter but I did notice that home sewers seem to have a perseveration with interfacing and it just boggles my mind. What’s the deal with interfacing? I counted the questions, fully half of them were about interfacing. Good thing I wasn’t the expert offering advice, I would have gone nuts.

Nobody’s asked but here’s my default advice about interfacing:

1. My default choice in interfacing is that knit fusible stuff. It works great anywhere and on nearly everything.

2. Use more of it, home sewers don’t use enough. Put it this way, manufacturers are cheap-skates so if we’re using a lot more of it, there’s a reason for it.

3. Skip the stay-stitching on necklines and use interfacing instead. Stay stitching only stabilizes a very thin line -that which contains the stitching itself and fusible will stabilize the neckline area, greatly reducing creep when attaching collars and the like.

4. In jackets, you want to fuse the entire fronts. Yes, the entire fronts, no matter how heavy the material is. Also fuse the back neck shoulder neckline and armholes. Fuse all hems (sleeves included; that was in the bagging tutorials). If you doubt that professionally manufactured garments are made in this manner, you obviously have never disassembled a suit coat. Buy one at a thrift store and take it apart.

5. Fuse all outside edges. If you’re making a vest for example, you’d fuse all armholes, vest edges and center fronts. It makes a dramatic difference. All facings -always- should be fused as well.

6. When you’re fusing a line that will be folded -say a hem, or a vent- your fusible should cross the fold line. Do not -I repeat- do not have the interfacing end right at the fold line (which is what’s done in home sewing patterns). Extending the fusible one half inch beyond the fold line will extend the life of a garment. If you don’t extend the fusible and you fail to line up the fusible with the fold line exactly, it can throw off your fold line as I’m sure you’ve noticed. A fold in fabric is a stressed region, cushion it for longer life.

7. You should fuse the zipper inset areas (again, use that wonderful tricot-knit fusible).

8. You should fuse the areas where pockets are mounted on garments. Fusible should extend at least a half-inch beyond the finished boundaries of pockets.

9. Manufacturers fuse leather and you should too. We iron leather all the time and you can too. The leather police will not come and get you for this.

10. When making your fusible pattern pieces (required for production patterns), they should not be the exact dimensions of the pattern piece upon which they’re placed. Trace the shape exactly, then trim off 1/8 of an inch all the way around. This will help to stagger the seams allowing them to lie flatter. Plus, any off-set fusible pieces having become askew will not obscure the actual seam depth.

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  1. Gigi says:

    I’m happy to know that, by some miracle, I’ve been getting it right! I guess I’ve read, researched (those handy thriftstore garments!) and tested enough over the years. I think many home sewers 1) don’t know the difference between good and bad (i.e. boardy) interfacing, 2) don’t know how to properly fuse it and 3) trust the pattern as to where and how much to interface – I’m sure you’d agree that the (home sewing) pattern is nearly always wrong!

  2. Jand'Heurle says:

    Kathleen, I admire you to the point of adoration, but I have to say about this topic that I do not agree with you at all. I never use fusible interfacing; I despise what it does to fabric and I deplore what happens to it when a garment is washed. I believe firmly that all garments should be washable. I hate “dry cleaning” and, if you don’t know by now, you will soon that the “dry” cleaning industry is in for some big changes. And besides, the solvents used in the “cleaning” process do not get out dirt, but only “body soil.” This is a big issue for me; I have spent countless hours figuring out how to make a couture garment that is washable and fusible iterfacing is a no-no. I will concede that applying interfacing and keeping the fashion fabric happy and undistorted is a problem and even now after years of perfecting my method, I still slow down and work carefully and painstakingly to make certain that everything will be the way it should. To concede to you a little, I guess a fundamental part of this consideration should be how long the wearer intends the garment to last, but I always aim for the long haul and hope that all the clothes I have lavished so much time and consideration on will last forever and wind up in a museum. I hope that I haven’t offended anybody, but, at least for the kind of clothing that I make, fusible interfacing would be ruinous.

  3. sewanista says:

    Kathleen, what are the questions you would have asked?
    I have to agree that home sewing “experts” seem to have deliberately complicated things, but the interfacing manufacturers have put a lot of money into this I guess they want returns. The most recent Australian Stitches magazine has 8 pages of advertorial by Freudenberg, who make Vilene/Pellon, complete with lots of overdesigned garments, showcasing their range of interfacings. One tricky pair of pants uses two types in the waistband alone, but nowhere is there any sensible info such as “trim 1/8 from the edges”.

  4. Gigi says:

    Jan, I use fusible interfacing in all of my washable garments. I use a commercial press to fuse it and have never had a problem with adhesion. Then again, I lead a pretty casual life – I’m not exactly creating couture here. :-) I wash everything but my structured jackets, which I dry clean. There’s a lot to be said for freshening DCO garments with a steamer and a brush.

  5. Carol says:

    Fusible interfacing is inappropriate for couture work. For everything else, and I mean everything, fusibles properly applied (I have an Elna press) will readily stand up to the years of the ordinary washing they’ll get.
    Early fusibles got to the home market before they should have. Now most are of excellent quality. If a fusible changes the hand of the fabric for the worse, it’s an inappropriate weight or type. I use mostly fusible tricot, with weft-stabilized in second place, and keep four or five less commonly used others on hand. There is a lovely (though expensive) Japanese silk-weight fusible that can be used for the airiest silk blouses with virtually no hint of its presence, other than that the buttons haven’t pulled their holes out of shape.
    Pretreating everything for “home” sewing for myself and clients (shell fabric, lining, interfacing – and tapes and zippers while you’re at it) eliminates the bubbling associated with bad fusing. Proper stabilization as Kathleen has just itemized for us, eliminates pulls.
    I agree that we are encouraged to overclean garments, washing or dry cleaning (ick) them when a good brushing and airing would suffice.

  6. Gigi says:

    Ana, if you’re just buying the occasional bolt for personal use then the 40% or 50% off coupons from JoAnn’s can’t be beat. You’ll have to sign up for the mailing list. It also pays to sign up to the online mailing list as they often email 50% off in-store coupons. They nearly always have some unopened bolts of fusible tricot in their stores – ask at the cutting counter. I never buy less than a whole bolt of anything because it’s so much more economical that way – not to mention very handy to have around when you’re sewing in the wee hours. :-)

  7. A question of collars

    I found this question on a message board and asked its author for permission to reprint it here. Z wishes to remain anonymous. As you read the question, you should know this question’s author was using a pattern that was…

  8. Kira says:

    I knew I was right to “start at the beginning.”

    How silly to assume that the information in the instruction sheet is accurate. How disappointing to realize that we “home-sewers” don’t know the right questions to ask.

    Thank you.

  9. Todd Hudson says:

    When is it appropriate to block fuse then recut as opposed to cutting the interfacing from a smaller pattern and then fusing it it to the cut piece? Is it related to the size of the piece? I’m working with fabric and no die cutting available.
    Thank you.

  10. Nancy K says:

    I read the comments on PR about this posting and came back to read it. Glad I did. I do some of what you suggest, but not all. So my next jacket, it is my next sewing project, will be interfaced a little bit more. I am also sewing a leather
    jacket and wondered what interfacing you
    recommend for leather.

  11. Amy says:

    Here I am years after this post with a question. Regarding the perseveration around interfacing, I have never understood interfacing and I’m guessing one of the reasons sewers get so overwhelmed with it is because there are so many options–I mean, just one sewing supply site I looked at last night had over 20 different types of fusible interfacing so now of course we need some teachers to help us navigate the maze. It definitely didn’t used to be that way when I first started sewing–there were 2 different kinds at the local store. It stunk but that’s what you used.

    Anyhow, my question–I’m working on a vintage 1948 men’s vest pattern, fixing up some of the pattern pieces (especially the facing and lining, as per your book). It calls for interfacing in the facing piece and on the buttonhole areas only and something in me says that’s not enough, especially since the goal is a structured, not loose, vest. I’ll go ahead and interface the entire front but I’m curious about the back. Since the back is a looser lining fabric than the front, would one fuse the back piece, and/or the back lining piece, or just the hem/armhole/neck only?

  12. Kathleen says:

    If you have a lining back (not shell), I’d add a layer of light fusible around the back neckline and back armhole, no more than an inch (finished, nett) wide.

  13. Aaron says:

    Hey – Sorry, but I have NO idea how to use Interfacing..
    but I made a jacket out of Pleather – Fake Leather – and I need to know how to use it to make the collar stand up straight!
    Please help!

  14. Kathleen says:

    There are many sewing sites and books that can teach you how to apply interfacing. A lot of interfacing sold at fabric stores have a strip of plastic interlaced with the goods that will also show you.

    Interfacing can be a wonderful thing but it can only emphasize or reinforce the shape that is already there. I can’t see your jacket but it would seem the best way to make your collar stand up is to correct the pattern, taking out some of the splay along the collar edge.

  15. Kathleen. I just wanted to let you know that all of your 10 tips are congruent to what we are being taught in school. We are making our first jacket right now having made a vest already. Even though we are making them on a 1/2 scale in order to save time and materials, we are using the same methods. I am always relieved to see when my teachers are on your wave length. And when I see that they are not, I am happy that you are sharing your knowledge here so that I may see both sides of the coin and decide for myself which is better.
    Also I am curious about Nancy K’s question about which fusing you would recommend for leather. I am making some leather corsets (wouldn’t be suprised if its tricot) And also if it is appropriate to fuse leather when making purses, like hip pouches. Would you want to fuse the whole thing?
    Thanks :)

  16. AmandaLeighOC says:

    I’m having a discussion with a PM at the moment who doesn’t agree with fusing leather – she likes to keep the natural fibre natural. What are the technical benefits of fusing leather not fusing leather? Why does one NEED to do it and what goes wrong when one doesn’t?

    (Mano & Milo)

  17. kathleen says:

    A couple of things. First, if she thinks fusing ruins the natural finish and wants to do it like that for her line then that is awesome so unless she’s part owner of your enterprise, all she can do is advise you but she can’t dictate to you. Of course she’s free to drop you too but don’t be bullied if you’re the boss. Test it for yourself.

    Second, she isn’t necessarily wrong. Leathers and their finishes can vary just as much as fabrics do. It depends on the look, hand, feel, texture, weight etc. It could also be the way she’s applying fusible. Maybe she’s fusing it the way they do in home sewing, that can dry the oils out of it for sure. She may also be using the wrong stuff. Who can say?

    You don’t *need* to fuse leather anymore than you *need* to fuse fabrics. You can tell if it’s done properly because you can’t tell it’s been fused, it should be seamless. However, it should not look like it wasn’t stabilized and that’s more often true of fabrics and leathers alike. Here is a lambskin shopping bag I made that was fused. It’s very soft and pliable, a 2 oz grain. There’s no way this thing would stand up to what I put it through without it.

    The only thing that will go wrong is that it will be more trouble to sew, it won’t feed as evenly or neatly. The points of greatest stress will wear out or become misshapen faster. The same things that happen with fabric.

  18. AmandaLeighOC says:

    That’s great feedback thanks! I always find it tricky to weigh in when I’m dealing with someone with years of experience. It’s a fine line between being stubborn and trusting your judgement.

    In my experience I’ve found that the leather seams look sturdier when they’re fused. Also, when it’s embroidered, fused interfacing + sew-in gives a much cleaner finish than one or the other or nothing. I’ve got a good sense now – thanks for that!

    Regarding the type of fusing, my manufacturers supply their own fusing as part of their service. I’ve looked into sourcing leather specific fusing from Freudenberg but they won’t bring it into SA unless you order 6000m2. 6000!

    Also I’ve got a pair of washable suede pants which used a sew-in interfacing as opposed to a fusible but it’s not a great finish.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    Hello, I’m reading this post years after it was posted, but have one question re: hems and interfacing, point 6… You said to apply the interfacing over the fold line by 1/2 inch. But what side of the of the fold line gets the larger share of the interfacing, the inside (i.e., facing) or outside? Thanks.

  20. Kathleen says:

    Good question Elizabeth. There is more info on this subject, here’s an excerpt:

    most of the pattern books get the interfacing of hems wrong. Either they show the interfacing ending right on the fold line (!) or they don’t interface the hem at all. Listen up folks, the inside hem of a jacket needs fusible. That hem will get a lot more wear because it’s rubbing against the body all day long. It needs to be fused.

  21. Maureen says:

    I am looking for a wholesaler of French fusible interfacing that is so fine, sheer and soft you can barely see the weave. I looked this week in Mood and other places in NYC but didn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Anyone know where I can find this?

  22. alina says:

    Thanks, Kathleen, for all the great knowledge you’re passing along.

    Regarding interfacing hems: I have a jacket shell very nearly complete on which I interfaced the hems up to the fold line only — I should have thought better while I was doing it, but I just didn’t. I really don’t like how it feels to turn up the hems with interfacing at the fold. I am considering applying a narrow strip of interfacing that would cover the fold extending some 1/2 ” beyond on each side; I am just concerned about the area which will end up with double layer of the interfacing. What would be your advice?

  23. Kathleen says:

    Hi Alina. You know, sometimes you can pull that fusible off so if you could do that, you could start over.

    Another option is to add the additional bit of fusible to the fold line and adjust the hem (either longer or shorter) to hit the mid point of the added fusible. If you will be making the jacket slightly shorter, be sure to make the fusible a bit wider so you still have .5″ on the body side of the fold line.

  24. Angela Griffiths says:

    Hmmm. I think interfacing may always be a hot topic if I’m reading this thread seven years after it started and it all feels just as relevant now! I’m going to a wedding in July and want to make a 1950s style jacket (with peplum) in a medium weight cotton damask furnishing fabric and have now decided to use a medium weight fusible on the whole jacket outer layer to get the “neat and tidy” look I want! Thanks to you all for helping!

  25. Geraline says:

    Wow, this column has had a long life – and thank goodness for that! As you can see, I’m reading this in June 2013 – thanks for this useful website, Kathleen, and all the other comments which are also useful.

    I’m making the hubby a jacket in a soft leather and have little knowledge about making leather garments – I didn’t even know you should interface leather, or that you could iron it, although I did try ironing a piece of leather yesterday to test it and it was fine (I was wondering how I’d iron the lining flat against the leather when doing the finishing touches).

    These days, there are so many ‘looks’ out there, as if the rule books have been thrown out (e.g. people showing the tops of their bra or their bra straps – ugh!), leather garments that do not appear to be lined (e.g. I saw one where the smooth side of the leather is on the inside, with the suede side on the outside – but it might be partially lined and interfaced – the model had lifted one of her arms in a semi-side shot and I could see the smooth side of the leather on the inside of the Front that had no interfacing or lining, and the ‘waterfall’ lapels are a single-layer leather with the suede underneath and the smooth side on top – the edge of the lapel is simply smooth-cut and has no hems etc – ie ‘raw’ may be a good expression). I will be interfacing my hubby’s jacket, as the leather is very soft and I wouldn’t like it to last 2 minutes after going to all that trouble!

  26. Geraline says:

    Sorry, bra straps are ok, but the tops of bra cups showing are ‘ugh’ in my view. My “ugh” was in the wrong place in my last post. ;-)

  27. Kimby says:

    Thanks for the useful tips, Katheleen.

    I have a question on the last point, trace the shape and trim off 1/8″ all around the shape, so that means 1/4″ beyond the stitch line since I have 3/8″ seam allowance.

  28. Sheila says:

    I was researching what type of interfacing to use in a wool coat when I came across this column.

    I am shortening a RTW wool blend coat and noticed that it has a fusible interfacing at the hemline that will get cut off. I need to add another strip of interfacing at the new hemline but am unsure if I should use a fusible again. My concerns are that it will not adhere correctly or will shrink the wool blend fabric. I only have a regular steam iron to apply the fusible interfacing with. I could use a sew-in but then the edges would have to be hand stitched and would have chances of the stitching showing. What is your suggestion of the type of interfacing and the best way to apply it? I would like to finish these alterations asap as the weather has turned very cold now. Thanks.

  29. Sandy Peterson says:

    Kathleen, this might be a more specific question based on fabric type and not a general question but………should I be fusing the stitching line of the darts?

    I’m working on a light to medium weight linen with a tricot interfacing. Before I interfaced the bodice on my sample muslin, my darts laid down perfect. But when I applied the interfacing on my sample linen bodice, the darts finished with more of a “point” at the end of them. And the point doesn’t press down really either. Any suggestions?

  30. Sandy Peterson says:

    Kathleen, this might be a more specific question based on fabric type and not a general question but………should I be fusing the stitching line of the darts?

    I’m working on a light to medium weight linen with a tricot interfacing. Before I interfaced the bodice on my sample muslin, my darts laid down perfect. But when I applied the interfacing on my sample linen bodice, the darts finished with more of a “point” at the end of them. And the point doesn’t press down really either. Any suggestions?

  31. Amy says:

    I have been asked to make a suit coat of seersucker. My thought is that fusible interfacing on the front would ruin the puckers or at least make the front texture look too different from the back of the jacket (which would be uninterfaced except for neckline and armholes). What is the best way to handle the seersucker in terms of the jacket front, pockets, and lapels?

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