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Why add interfacing?

by Serena Smith

Interfacings are meant to do one of two things - add body or create structure.

To add body means to change the hand by adding thickness and/or stability to the fabric. You wish to make a lightweight, soft garment and need just enough body to hold the correct shape. You might find fabric in just the right color, pattern or design but it' too light to make the desired garment. When making embellished fabric, it's often necessary to interface it to make the garment stable.

Creating structure means encouraging the garment to hold a specific shape. A tailored jacket retains its shape even when it's on a hanger. A stand-up collar needs help to prevent drooping. A Hollywood waist on skirts and pants must hold its shape. The shoulder area on a coat or jacket supports the hang smoothes the pad shape.

Not only is interfacing necessary in garment sewing, but can be used in quilting and embroidery. I use HTC So Sheer interfacing on almost all of my projects that need more stability or body. It is a lightweight fusible interfacing that gives a little body without causing the fabric to be stiff.
With so many great fusible interfacing products out there, sew-in interfacings have become rather obsolete. The fusible interfacings are easier to use, faster to apply and hold up well when wearing the garment or using the project. They wash and dry very well, holding fast to the fabric.

With many fabrics, I will fuse so sheer interfacing on the back before machine embroidering. If I am stitching a dense design on a cotton fabric or any fabric that is lighter weight, I will often use interfacing. This does not by any means eliminate the use of stabilizer in the hoop; that is still a key factor to great looking embroidery!

The interfacing just adds body to the fabric before it is bogged down with stitches. Think about it a second - how many times does the needle penetrate through the fabric when stitching a design? If the design has 20,000 stitches, the needle has to go down and come back up 20,000 times. Every time the needle penetrates the fabric, it pulls up the woven threads ever so slightly. By the end of your design, it is easy to see why puckers or wrinkles tend to develop.

Fusible interfacing will help to decrease the pulling on the fabric when the design is being stitched. It won't eliminate it, but you will be amazed at the results. As always, carefully press your embroidery after its completed. Your design may not look great after stitching, but it is amazing what a little pressing with your iron can do!

In creating t-shirt quilts, fusible interfacing is a must! T-shirt knits are usually very lightweight and need some stability before you cut them down and stitch them together into blocks. So Sheer interfacing fuses well to the back of the knit and gives it the needed support. As you use the iron to fuse on the interfacing, keep in mind that many t-shirts have screen printed designs on the front that will melt if touched by the iron. Keep the iron on the back of the t-shirt with a low heat setting and you should be fine.

When quilting, the fusible interfacing has good and bad points. It stabilizes the fabric, which lets it lay smooth and flat when you machine quilt the layers together with the fabric laying flat, it is much easier to glide over the fabric with stitches. The disadvantage is that the interfacing adds more thickness for the needle to penetrate. It may be a little tougher to get the smooth flowing curves in feathers and curlicues that you want.

Think and plan your quilting to be less dense in the interfaced areas if necessary. Hand quilting would be very difficult, if not impossible with interfacing backing the quilt pieces.

I have found out with stippling, that the above good and bad points are true. It is so nice to have the fabric lying smooth and flat because of the interfacing, but there is a little drag as I move the fabric to form the curves of the stitches. However, I have discovered after stitching several interfaced quilts, I can adjust my stitching methods to fabric with or without interfacing. You will learn, as with any freehand quilting, the fabric movement and foot petal coordination with or without interfacing!



Serena Smith is an avid embroidery and quilting enthusiast living in Kansas. Creating new projects and sharing them with others through local classes and online lessons is one of her greatest joys. Visit her website, Embroidery Treasures, for fun projects, helpful tips, inspiration, notions, fabrics and embroidery supplies!

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2007 Serena Smith
Embroidery Treasures

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