Thursday, August 12, 2010

Troubleshooting Interfacing...

Interfacing is one of the things that can transform your fabric and make the difference between a home-made "soft bag" and a fabulous "I can't believe I made it" fashion accessory.

It's also something that people find intimidating. A few hiccups and people think it's too hard.

Believe me - it's NOT too hard. There are a few simple rules of thumb and a lot of suck-it-and-see experimentation. There is lots of help available if you need it.

Once you see the effects of quality interfacing applied properly, you'll be thinking "interfacing" as soon as you think the words "make" and "bag" in the same sentence.

The most common problems people have are that the interfacing doesn't stick...
...or that it bubbles in areas where it hasn't stuck to the fabric.

This mostly happens with heavier interfacings, and is usually a result of one of the following -

1. The iron was not hot enough. Most heavier interfacings are designed to be applied with industrial fusing presses so you need to be pretty brutal with the fusing process if you have a domestic iron. Interfacings such as our medium-heavy interfacing need a LINEN setting. I've owned lots of irons and I've observed that some are better than others at fusing. Some are simply not able to get hot enough to fuse some interfacings, even on a linen setting. TIP: INVEST IN A GOOD IRON (and/or an ironing press) and always test a scrap of interfacing on your fabric first.

2. There was not enough pressure on the iron when applying the interfacing or the iron was not pressed down on the interfacing for long enough. Unless you have a fusing press (any domestic ironing press), you will have to press down HARD with your iron to fuse heavier woven interfacings (for 10-20 seconds sometimes.... although start with about 5 seconds and check for scorching. Use a RAJAH CLOTH if necessary) . Press down on the back of the interfacing bit by bit until it's all fused. Don't move the iron over the top as you do when you press clothing.

3. There is a finish on the fabric that repels the interfacing glue. Some fabrics just don't like the adhesive on the interfacing.
This is just annoying. Pre-washing fabric reduces the likelihood of this issue, although sometimes there is an incompatability between the dyes or fibre in the fabric and the adhesive. You just have to choose a different interfacing or fabric in that case. Thankfully, this is rare.

4. Too much steam is used before pressure is put on the interfacing. I know, I know.... I've mentioned before that steam works for interfacing..... I should qualfy that this is only AFTER you've pressed the bejaysus out of it and WHILE you're pressing the bejaysus out of it again. Moisture can occasionally stop fabrics and interfacings from fusing together properly. My rule of thumb: Dry iron first. Steam if the dry iron fails.

5. The fused fabric was moved while it was still hot. Leave the fabric to cool (and the adhesive to set) before you wriggle it around or sew it. The manufacturer's directions often say to leave it for up to 30 minutes.....
so at least let it cool!

6. The wrinkles were not pressed out of the fabric before the interfacing was applied. Simply fixed. Press the fabric first.

The other reason for bubbling interfacing is an issue with light weight interfacing (such as our medium-light woven interfacing, light non-woven interfacing and wadding).

It happens when the iron is too hot. The interfacing shrinks and takes the fabric with it.

There are several ways to deal with this -

1. Some people pre-shrink the interfacing before fusing it to the fabric.

(Personally, I don't bother with this. I prefer to quote Jane Austen - "Why not seize the pleasure at once, how often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparations..."). Pre-shrinking is more important when you're making a garment (which will be laundered) than if you're making a bag or hat. It's easier with sew-in interfacing than with fusibles.

2. Test a scrap of interfacing on a scrap of fabric first, and set your iron accordingly. Most light interfacings will fuse with a wool-cotton setting.

3. If your interfacing has shrunk and bubbled, you're best to rip it off, press the fabric again (using an applique mat to protect your iron or board from adhesive residue) and fuse a new piece of interfacing. If it shrinks after it's been sewn (and ripping it off is impossible), you can minimise the damage but never completely "cure" it. See the demonstration here.

4. Try a different interfacing. For example, Vilene S320 fuses beautifully (no bubbles) if it's stiff, thin structure you're after. Try fusing wadding on the back of it for extra oomph. It's GREAT! (Oops - I'm gushing again....).


Edited to add: I've just updated the TIPS AND TUTORIALS page on my website to include this and other recent blog tutorials. If you're not a regular follower, take a peek to see lots more of my freebie patterns, tips and tutorials.


Anita said...

Thank you! Do you ever use a teflon sheet for pressing?

Annie said...

What a lot of lovely helpful advice - thank you!

A Peppermint Penguin said...

Timely, most timely - thanks.

I have a (not yours, sadly) medium woven cotton interfacing and was attempting to fuse it to quilt cotton. It's peeling off in places.

I'm not certain the fabric was washed first (I cut the bag lining, decided only to fuse where the pockets were inserted, duh, yes. Made the pockets and *then* decided to fuse round them. and this is a long term UFO). The pieces are quite big, so maybe I got tired and didn't 10-20 hard enough all over.

Steam... oh. Well that's not how I've been doing it. I fuse baste it in place (light pressure few seconds all over to hold it) then 3 quick shots of steam before pressing hard for maybe a count of 10, then moving on.

Heat... if I put it right up to full on cotton it yellows and made me think I was scorching it.

To paraphrase Orange Juice... I suppose next sewing session I should rip it off and start again.

they were from Glasgow you know!?

Miss Milla's said...

Thanks so much for this very useful advice.

meli B said...

Great info. I never realised there were so many pitfalls to interfacing. I bought some interfacing but I have no idea what it is. Seems like its almost a science. Time to play!

Jennie said...

I had no idea interfacing could or should be preshrunk! Now it's a question of whether I can be bothered doing it when I'm buying 5m at a time.

Copper Patch said...

Great info Nikki - thanks.

Katherine said...

You sure know you're stuff and how lucky we are that you're sharing all that knowledge and experience with us!
Much appreciated, Nikki.

Fer said...

Thanks Nikki! Very helpful. :-)

Janine said...

Thank you Nikki, as someone who has been scared of interfacing from the getgo you have quietened my fears, thank you!!

blandina said...

Thank you very much, I was disappointed because I couldn't satisfactorily apply interfusing. I will try your method, I needed some good advise.

Yvette said...

Thanks for the much needed advice - now, and in response to my panic-y email a couple of weeks back :) I'm confident of getting better.

baukje said...

Thanks a lot for sharing this,.

Anne said...

Great information!!! I linked to your troubleshooting tips over on Craft Gossip Sewing.

--Anne said...

Ooh! Such great advice! Thanks so much, I'll be linking to this.

Heather Johnson-Family Volley said...

So glad to have found your site. I am your newest follower. I tagged this post so I can refer to it next week when I start sewing a bag I have been waiting to get to. Now that two of the three kids are in school I will have time. Woo HOo.

Mary Beth said...

Seize the moment is good. If you're really into sewing with a bolt. And pre-shrink that! I personally wouldn't want to mess with *not* pre-shrinking. What if someone else is doing the laundry the day you're off?

I app-solutely ♥
my ✄ Fabric U ✄
iPhone app!

Ashley said...

Can you give a recommendation for a good iron? Mine is not hot enough and I'd hate to buy another that is just as bad.

Anonymous said...

This is great, thank you! It's nice to read such encouraging words ;-)

Breakfast Jo said...

I LOVE interfacing. That's all :-)

Bunny said...

IMO, the biggest reason for bubbles is a failure to pre shrink both the interfacing AND the fabric. You hit the layers with steam and either shrinks and pulls the other along with it. Going with the moment and not preshrinking may be great fun but getting nice results from a lot of effort is better. Don't we want things to look their best? Highly recommend pre shrinking all fabrics and interfacings as soon as they enter the house. That way, when the moment hits, you are ready. Pre shrinking interfacing is as easy as layering it in a sink of warm water. When the water cools, take it out and lay flat on a towel. Roll the towel and press to remove moisture. Hang on a shower rod or line outside to dry and you are done. Minutes to do, forever on a great looking bag!