Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fusible Web Mysteries Revealed!

Don't you love an intriguing headline?  Hehe.  But in reality I get a lot of questions about fusible web when I teach and lecture.  So here are a few thoughts on fusible web.  I thought I would share my preferences with you since I tend to publish a LOT of patterns with raw-edge applique applied with fusible web. 

Everyone has their preferences but here is some information about using fusibles to help you make the best choice for your projects.

1. To use fusible web your applique pattern needs to be reversed. This is because you trace the pattern on the fusible web paper backing then apply to the BACK of the fabric. This process reverses (creates a mirror image) of the original design. 

When you get ready to trace your applique templates check the pattern carefully to see if the templates are reversed. If not, you will have to reverse the templates FIRST, then trace them onto the fusible. If you have a light box or an easy-to-reach window, you can tape the originals up backwards and trace onto fusible in one step.

In the picture above I show a block design with the applique placement guide. The templates are traced off of a set of templates which are first reversed than separated into individual templates on the page.  This is more work for me, but less work for you when you get the pattern!

Now what kind of fusible web should you use.  There are a lot of them out there on the market, so let me talk about a few of the brands I have used and the ones I like the best.

  1. Light weight fusible webbing is best for most applique which will have overlapping layers. It is thin and keeps your pieces from being stiff. But lightweight fusible MUST be stitched down as the edges can become loose in handling or washing. The optimum stitches to use are a machine blanket stitch, and small zig zag stitch with matching thread, a blind hem stitch or a satin stitch.  Some use a straight stitch close to the edge, but I don't think that looks as well.  Satin stitch is the hardest to get looking good and takes the most skill.  The zig zag and blanket stitch are pretty forgiving and can look good with a little practice.
    Machine blanket stitch using a variegated thread.
  2. Heavy weight fusibles are great for mending and securing heavier fabrics to your background. They do not need to be stitched down unless they will receive a lot of handling, washing or wear - think denim patches your mom used to put on the knees of your jeans. I prefer to use these on craft-type projects and resist using them on quilts. 
  3. When deciding which brand of fusible webbing to use it helps to know what the characteristics of each brand are. Here is a great review of various brands of fusible web.  
  4. My favorite brand of fusible web is Shades "SoftFuse." It is a thin and light weight fusible with paper backing. It can be used with a hot dry iron, and holds extremely well when fused. It is my brand of choice when I am doing overlapping layers as it does not add any stiffness to the applique. On the down side it is also one of the most expensive brands on the market and you have to look for it, since it is not commonly carried everywhere. You can buy it online and it does come in a variety of sizes and shapes.
  5. Next on my list of favorites is Steam A Seam which is made by the Warm Co (they also make batting). They make a light and a regular product and they also make a product called Steam A Seam 2. The 2 means that it is sticky on both sides and will stick to both the applique and background fabric. It is movable or positionable until you fuse it. I love this characteristic since I often move pieces around a lot until I am satisfied with their placement. They won't slide around or move while I am working with a lot of pieces at a time. I typically use "Steam A Seam 2 lite" because it is light and flexible, sticky on both sides, easy to work with, available everywhere in lots of sizes and shapes, and can stand a very hot iron.
  6. Heat N Bond and Heat N Bond lite are also widely available and good for applications where a hot iron would damage the fabric. They require a medium iron -- too much heat will dissolve the bond between applique and background. Since I tend to use a hot iron I have to be careful when using this brand, and remember to turn down the temp on my iron before fusing.
  7. Wonder Under is a common fusible web available in the chain stores like Joann's and Hancocks. It is very inexpensive, comes on a bolt so you can get big pieces if you need it, and is easy to use. Watch your iron temperature with this and follow the instructions carefully. I have had mixed results with Wonder Under, and find that it adds a bit of stiffness to my work. I have had some difficulty removing the paper after fusing.
  8. Pellon made a knock off for Steam A Seam. It came out to replace Steam A Seam during the last two years when the Warm Co had suspended manufacture of their product while experiencing a shortage of parchment paper. It was a complete disaster. You cannot remove the paper backing. Pellon is a highly respected brand but they scored a miss with this product.

In my next post I will share some of my favorite tips for using fusible web, including great machine stitches and hints for making them look professionally done.


  1. Great article Reeze, I can relate to reversing the pattern, as I usually forget the first try, mumble a few choice words about my pea brain and then remember......Ah! Reverse!! Reverse!! this would be a great article to save and pull out for a reference before starting a raw edge project. Is there any chance you could create a PDF for it, then we can save it easily....

  2. Thank you for the article Reeze! I am getting closer and closer to attempting the "A" word, especially since I love your new pattern! I have considered taking a class to have somebody show me step by step how to do this. I think I may try to follow your words of wisdom and see how well I do!



I'd love to know what you think! Thanks for sharing your ideas.