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What a sewist should know about interfacing?

Interfacings are crucial to achieving good results but the sewing patterns rarely talk much about them. Choosing a wrong kind of interfacing may ruin your project and I have surely managed to make every possible mistake from using an interfacing too stiff to having my interfacing shrink in the wash. So, here are some tips for you. (This post contains a few affiliate links.)

Where to use interfacing?

Hair canvas interfacing on my old tailor-made coat offers support to the coat fronts.
Hair canvas interfacing on my old tailor-made coat offers support to the coat fronts.

Interfacing is a fabric that is added between fabric layers to offer support, weight and structure. Most commonly interfacing is used in collars, cuffs and facings. Interfacing stiffens the fabric and helps the garment maintain its shape. In tailored garments the whole coat fronts can be interfaced.

Types of interfacing

There are three basic types of interfacing: woven, non-woven and knit interfacing.

White woven interfacing.
White woven interfacing.

Woven is, just as the name suggests, woven fabric that can come in several different weights and colours.

Non-woven is generally made by bonding or felting fibres together without any specific direction or grainline. These interfacings do not unravel and can be cut into any direction but they may be a bit stiffer than woven ones.

Knit interfacing.
Knit interfacing.

Knit interfacings are made out of knit fabric and stretch in one direction. These are therefore particularly well suited for knit or stretchy fabrics.

Most of the interfacings in fabric stores are fusible. The fusible interfacings have a grid of glue dots coating on the wrong side. The heat of your iron is then used to fuse the interfacing to the fabric.

The sew-in interfacings are a bit less common among home sewers but they aren’t particularly difficult to use. Basically you just machine baste the interfacing to the piece of fabric and then continue sewing as usual. In couture and tailoring, the interfacings are often fastened by hand and there may be several layers of interfacing to create just the right shape for a garment.

Felt interfacing.
Felt interfacing.

There are also thicker felt-like interfacings for non-garment projects such as bags.

The interfacing fabric doesn’t need to be labelled as “interfacing” for you to be able to use it as such. I have successfully used cotton lawn, silk organza and gabardine as sew-in interfacing.

How to choose the right kind?

The interfacing should match the fabric. Use lightweight interfacing for lightweight fabrics and thicker interfacing for thicker ones. Woven goes with woven fabrics and stretchy knit with stretchy fabrics. If you ask me, it’s better err to the lighter side than have your interfacing overwhelm your fabric. Your interfacing can be crisper than your fabric but it shouldn’t be heavier. If you are unsure, you can always interface a small piece of fabric and see how the finished fabric behaves.

Heavier woven interfacing.
Heavier interfacing that is suitable for heavier fabrics such as tweed.

Check that your interfacing can be washed and cared the same way as your fabric and that your fabric will be able to withstand the fusing process if you are using the fusible interfacing. For those delicate fabrics, the sew-in interfacing is the safest option.

Pre-treating your interfacings

You wash your fabric before sewing because it may shrink? Yes? However, do you also wash your interfacing? I have learned the hard way that you should. Especially the interfacings containing natural fibres can shrink in the wash. If you haven’t pre-shrunk the interfacing you will have bubbling or rippled effect after you wash the garment. This is even more annoying because the interfacing is generally used in the collars and cuffs that are often a focal point of your garment. And believe me, you can’t get rid of those bubbles no matter what you try!

So the best way to pre-shrink your interfacing is to soak it in a warm water and lay it flat to dry or run it through washer and dryer. If you don’t have time to wash the interfacing you can at least steam it hovering the iron over it.

When your interfacing doesn't work...
The interfacing of the shirt cuff has shrunk in the wash. Also the dots of the adhesive show through. With this Liberty tana lawn I should have chosen another kind of interfacing.

Interfacing colours

Similar weight woven intefacing in black and white.

Choose the colour of your interfacing based on your fabric colour. The basic interfacing colours are white, black and grey. The interfacing colour shouldn’t show through your fabric. Also, you might see some fibres from the interfacing through the cuts of your buttonholes, so it is better to use dark interfacing with dark fabrics.

Tea treatment!

When I was making my trench coat I had to interface the back of the buttonhole and I noticed that my bright white interfacing was showing through my sand coloured gabardine. What I did was that I made a cup of tea and soaked my little piece of interfacing in it. After the tea treatment the interfacing was dyed more natural white.

Attaching interfacings

The fusible interfacings

The fusible interfacings have a grid of glue dots coating on the wrong side. The heat of your iron is then used to fuse the interfacing to the fabric. Here it is important to follow the directions. I have once managed to melt my interfacing with an iron that was too hot!

Lightweigth fusible interfacing.
Lightweight fusible interfacing.

It’s a good idea to cut the interfacing a few millimetres smaller than the piece of fabric so that the edges do not stick to the ironing board. Lay down your the fabric right side down and spread the interfacing on to of it. Do not use steam and protect your iron by placing a piece of greaseproof paper or an ironing cloth between your iron and the interfacing fabric. Hold the iron still and press for 10 to 15 seconds, depending on your chosen interfacing. Take your time and check that the interfacing has fused properly. You shouldn’t see any bubbling.

Shaping the collar on the tailor's ham.
Shaping the collar with the help of interfacing.

A tip: You can shape a collar with fusible interfacing. First, fuse the roll line of the collar with the tip of your iron. Then shape the collar on a tailor’s ham while fusing the rest. This helps your collar to maintain its shape! This blog post has more info of my trench coat collar construction, including the interfacing.

Sew-in interfacings

Sewing on the interfacing.

Basically, you just sew the interfacing to the piece of fabric and then continue sewing as usual. This can be often done by machine but in some cases of bulkier interfacing it is better to do it by hand to avoid having the extra bulk from the interfacing in the seams.

With pad stitching it is possible to shape fabric without making it stiff. Here is an example from my winter coat project:

Padstitched collar.
Padstitched collar.

Interfacing tapes

I have found it very useful to use interfacing tapes. Very often you have a need to enforce a zipper edge or a shoulder seam and these tapes offer a quick way to do it without any need to cut long strips of interfacing. Prym has different widths of this kind of tape interfacing that I use regularly:

For the knit top necklines, Prym has this Seam tape interfacing that is pretty new to me but after I tried it, I like it very much. It makes it easy to create smooth and very professional looking necklines for knit garments. Just iron it on and turn the edge! The chain stitched line in the tape adds strength while the tape itself has some stretch to it:

My interfacing stash

I usually buy at least 2 metres of interfacing while I’m shopping for it. This way I don’t have to go back buying more all the time and I can choose the best interfacing from my stash. Besides I can avoid having so many of those annoying little leftover pieces that are good for nothing. My basic storage has lightweight woven interfacing in white and black, white stretch interfacing and white non-woven interfacing. I also have a stash of tailoring interfacings such as hair canvas, wool canvas, linen holland and silk organza.

Tailoring interfacings.
Tailoring interfacings: wool canvas and hair canvas.

Some special interfacings

Fusible web for appliqué

Fusible web is a paper-backed web with double-sided adhesive. It is super handy when making cute appliqué designs. First, you fuse the web to the fabric by ironing from the paper side. Then you remove the paper and iron your design to the garment. If you make a lot of appliqué designs you can create adhesive fabric that can be just cut to shape when you need it.

Gissa Vem jersey dress from Ottobre design 1/2016 with my modifications.

Stablilizers

Stabilizers are not actually interfacings but I think they are worth a mention. Stabilizers are meant to be removed after sewing by tearing, cutting or washing. They help to prevent the fabric from stretching or damaging during stitching. I always use stabilizer when attaching appliqué designs such as the one on the picture above.

I hope you found this post useful! Thank you for reading and subscribe to follow me on my sewing adventures. Happy sewing!

Katja

I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.

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