Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Choose to Fuse: Tips and Tools for Using Fusibles for Appliqué

Welcome to the Back-To-School Blog Hop! I chose to talk about fusible products for appliqué since that is predominately how I create these days, and I want to share with you some things I have learned that helped set me on my current fusible appliqué path. (If you’d like to see some of my work, head over to the My Quilts gallery page, where the first eight pieces you’ll see all use fusible appliqué.) Maybe you’ll be infused with a new-found enfusiasm for fusing!

Types of fusible webbing products
Part of what makes fusible products so confusing is that there are so many different ones and everybody has an opinion about which one is the best. In reality, there is no one best fusible product. They all have slight differences, and what works best for you will depend on your particular preferences. Since most of my appliqué pieces are meant to hang on a wall, I am not as concerned about the feel of the fabric after fusing as I am about the ease of transferring and cutting out my design. Others want the softest fusible possible for use in quilts that need to be comfy and not stiff. But how do you know what you are going to get when you see the profusion of fusible products out there?

It helps to know that there are three main types of fusible webbing (and here I am only talking about fusible webbing, which is meant to fuse two fabrics together, not fusible interfacings, which bump up the thickness and body of the fabric they are fused to). They are:

  • Single paper-backed
  • Double paper-backed
  • No paper at all just webbing floating free in the breeze (stop me if my terminology is getting too technical here.)

Single paper-backed fusibles include Wonder Under (regular and heavy duty) Heat-n-Bond (Lite and Ultrahold), and Soft Fuse Premium. With these, you trace or draw your design onto the paper backing, then iron it with the fusible side against the wrong side of your fabric. You can then cut out your design from the drawn lines, remove the paper, and iron your shape onto your background fabric. These are the ones I prefer and find the easiest to use. (The exception to this is Pellon EZ Steam. Though it is paper-backed, you only keep the paper on while you trace your design onto the fusible itself. You then remove the paper, revealing the sticky side of the fusible, which you press down onto the back of your fabric. You can then cut out your designs from the lines you drew and iron to you background as usual.)

Double paper-backed include the Steam-a-Seam 2 products (regular and Lite). With these, you draw or trace on the gridded paper, then remove the other paper, revealing fusible that has a sticky surface. Rather than ironing down at this point, you use pressure to stick the fusible and backing to the wrong side of the fabric. You then cut out your shape, remove the backing, and iron to the background fabric. Many people love these for the ability to make things stick together before the final ironing. Personally, I dislike it because it doesn’t stick well enough when cutting and two papers to trace through gets bulky.

Free-love (or non-paper-backed) fusibles are rarer and the most commonly used and known is Mistyfuse. With no backing, you have to have some other way of getting your design transferred and one way I have seen is by using parchment paper. (See below for a few details on how to use this.) Mistyfuse is by far the softest, both before and after washing, of every fusible product I have used, so if that is important to you this will give you the best results.

(I actually collected 10 fusible products because I wanted to know what all the different types were and how they worked, but in the process I ended up conducting an informal performance test of all of them. If you are interested in those results, I will be doing a follow-up post within the next couple of weeks.)

Tools and Tips
Whatever fusible you choose, here are some tools and tips for using them that can help make your fusing a little easier:

A light box 

Although you can often trace designs onto fusible backing without illuminating it from behind, light will help a lot and your poor tired eyes will eventually thank you. The cheapest and most easily obtainable light box is of course a nice big window. You can tape your design to the window, hold your fusible on top of it (fusible backings tend to not like tape very much) and trace your design. I can tell you from experience that unless you have very good upper body strength, this gets tiring and even painful after a while. The newest models of light boxes are actually thin tablets with an LED light inside and can be adjusted for brightness. You can use these at a table or even on your lap as they don't get hot.

A mechanical pencil

With the exception of Pellon EZ Steam and Mistyfuse, you will be tracing your designs onto the paper backing of a fusible and these papers are treated so that they will easily peel away after ironing. This means they don’t take ink very well—ink tends to just bead up and smear away. Pencil works beautifully, however a standard number two pencil will lose its sharpness pretty quickly and you’ll find your line getting thicker and thicker as you draw. A mechanical pencil keeps a nice thin line no matter how big your piece and you don’t have to stop to sharpen again and again.

Parchment paper 

In the case of a product like Mistyfuse, which has no paper backing, you may need to draw your design onto something that can be peeled away later, and parchment paper is perfect for this. Parchment paper is treated with silicone, which is why food doesn’t stick to it. If you place your Mistyfuse on the wrong side of your fabric, lay a piece of parchment over the Mistyfuse and iron, the Mistyfuse will adhere to the fabric and the parchment will stick to the Mistyfuse until (after cooling) you are ready to peel it off. Parchment paper is not the same as wax paper or butcher paper or freezer paper—only parchment paper will work in this application.

Appliqué pressing sheet

The Goddess Sheet (made by the same company that makes Mistyfuse) and the Appliqué Pressing Sheet by Bear Thread designs are two examples of this type of product. If you need to press appliqué pieces and there is a chance of some of the fusible web being exposed, a pressing sheet will allow heat to pass through but the fusible won’t stick to it and won't get on your iron. (Parchment paper works as well, but a pressing sheet can be reused indefinitely.)

Dryer sheets 

If you do get fusible web on your iron (and it happens to us all), run your hot iron over a dryer sheet. Should come right off.  I keep a handful near my ironing board

Comfortable scissors 

As with so many things, this is subjective, but it’s worth finding the one that works best for you. Appliqué shapes that are somewhat detailed may be easier to cut out with smaller scissors rather than your big ol’ fabric shears, but go too small and your hands will cramp. The small Fiskars on the right are what I use most often because the blades are thin, pointy, and sharp, but they do make my hands hurt after a while. The spring-loaded Fiskars on the left are much easier on my hands, but though the blades are relatively small, they are not as thin and pointy as the others. The Tim Holtz blades in the center have big handle grips, very pointy blades, and are slightly serrated, which some people like (I prefer a smooth blade).


I find that the paper backings on some fusibles peel away easier a day or two after ironing and cutting. If I need to peel it off sooner, or if I just have one that’s being stubborn, I score the paper with the point of a pin. I can then peel away from the scoring line rather than the edge of the appliqué piece (which also saves my edge from fraying). Straight pins are much better for this than the point of a pair of scissors or a seam ripper, which could tear your fabric.

My last piece of advice is for those who, like me, have refused fusibles and machine appliqué because the zig-zag, or satin stitch, or blanket stitch you tried to use just didn’t look as nice as you wanted. Many, many people love the look of the stitching on the outer edge of an appliqué piece, but I never have, at least not when I do it and that could be because I am nearsighted and can see very, very well up close (nearsighted people tend to be a little nitpickier). But then I noticed my friend Kimberly always used straight stitch. “What is this sorcery,” I cried, and she was like, “Dude, it’s so much easier and it works fine.” And she’s right. I have done all of my appliqué pieces since then with straight stitch as close to the edge as I can get and it made all the difference for me. If you cannot see well enough to get very close to the edge, you may have some fraying beyond your stitch line, more so if you wash your piece. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something to keep in mind. Some people like to do a double line of straight stitching just for security’s sake, but I never have. (This doesn't mean straight stitch is the best option for everyone, but it is for me and could be for you. Always - whatever works best for you is what is best. Period.)

I hope my effusiveness about fusibles has been illuminating. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or share your own tips. And please visit all the other fine folks on the hop for lots of great info and advice:

Day 1 – August 15 – Sam Hunter: How to spray baste a BIG quilt – www.huntersdesignstudio.com  
Day 2 – August 16 – Mandy Leins: Thread Dread: removing stray bits after quilting – www.mandalei.com
Day 3 – August 17 – Nancy Stovall: The Sweet Creamy Filling – www.justquiltingpdx.com
Day 4 – August 18 – Ebony Love: 7 Indispensible feet for your sewing machine – www.LoveBugStudios.com
Day 5 – August 19 – Michelle Freedman: Machine throat plates – www.designcamppdx.blogspot.com
Day 6 – August 20 – Teresa Coates: Edge/Under/Top stitching – www.crinkledreams.com
Day 7 – August 21 – Kelly Cole: Ten ways to regain your sew-jo – www.vintagefabricstudio.com
Day 8 – August 22 – Megan Dougherty: Choose to Fuse: tips for working with fusibles for appliqué – www.thebitchystitcher.com <—- you are here!
Day 9 – August 23 – Kim Lapacek: Tricks to being productive while hauling your kids around – www.persimondreams.blogspot.com
Day 10 – August 24 – Yvonne Fuchs: Circuitboard quilting on Domestic and Longarm Machines – www.quiltingjetgirl.com
Day 11 – August 25 – Sandi Hazlewood: Chain Piecing Quilt Blocks Tips – www.craftyplanner.com
Day 12 – August 26 – Juliet van der Heijden: Paper-piecing with children – www.thetartankiwi.com
Day 13 – August 27 – Maddie Kertay: Fabric folding for any storage solution – www.badassquilterssociety.com
Day 14 – August 28 – Cath Hall: Working with Lawn fabric – www.wombatquilts.com
Day 15 – August 29 – Tracy Mooney: Tips for the perfect seam – www.sewmuchcosplay.com
Day 16 – August 30 – Teri Lucas: How to bury thread – www.terificreations.com
Day 17 – August 31 – Debby Brown: Securing machine quilting knots – www. higheredhands.blogspot.com
Day 18 – September 1 – Flaun Cline: How to put some sparkle in your fabric pull (part 1) – www.ipleadquilty.com
Day 19 – September 2 – Jessica Darling: How to put some sparkle in your fabric pull (part 2) – www.jessicakdarling.com
Day 20 – September 3 – Trish Frankland: A bigger blade really IS better?! – www.persimondreams.blogspot.com
Day 21 – September 4 – Lynn Krawczyk: Build a simple design with hand stitching – www.smudgeddesignstudio.com
Day 22 – September 5 – Jane Davidson: How to make scrappy HSTs – www.quiltjane.com
Day 23 – September 6 – Linda Pearl: Low cost tips for organizing your sewing room – www.onequiltingcircle.com
Day 24 – September 7 – Christa Watson – Top 10 tips for quilting on a domestic machine – www.christaquilts.com
Day 25 – September 8 – Sarah Nunes: To Starch or Not to Starch – www.berrybarndesigns.com
Day 26 – September 9 – Suzy Webster: Testing fabric for bleeding – www.websterquilt.blogspot.com
Day 27 – September 10 – Sarah Goer: Machine bind your quilts like a pro – www.sarahgoerquilts.com
Day 28 – September 11 – Vanda Chittenden: Beginner paper-piecing tips – www.chittenden.co.za
Day 29 – September 12 – Cheryl Sleboda: Needle threading tips – www.muppin.com
Day 30 – September 13 – Kim Niedzwiecki – Different thread weights and when to use them – www.gogokim.com
Day 31 – September 14 – Sandra Healy: Conquer Your Fear of Machine Appliqué – www.sandrahealydesigns.com
Day 32 – September 15 – Sandra Starley: The Basics of Antique Quilt Collecting – www.utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com

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