How and When to Use Interfacing
Interfacing can be your best friend and your worst enemy. It does its job really well (adding rigidity to fabric) but it can also be tricky to work with.
Here’s the lowdown on using interfacing for your next sewing project:
When to use interfacing:
Interfacing is used to add stiffness to fabric. The interfacing you’ll find in a craft store today is fusible, and it’s applied to the wrong side of the fabric with an iron. There’s also non-fusible interfacing, which needs to be sewn in, and works best on fabrics that do not tolerate heat or are too loosely woven (the glue from fusible interfacing would seep through to the right side of the garment).
On garments, patterns will typically call for areas needing extra body, like a shirt collar, or strength, like buttonholes, to be interfaced. If you are working with a knit fabric, you might use interfacing to keep the fabric from stretching out of shape. The pattern will usually tell you what type of interfacing to buy and how much.
Interfacing is also used frequently in home décor projects; typically, you’ll want to use decor bond interfacing for these projects.
How to choose interfacing:
There are a few important factors to consider when choosing interfacing.
The first is if you need woven, non-woven or knit interfacing. Non-woven interfacing does not have a grain and is suitable for most interfacing needs. Woven interfacing does have a grain, much like fabric, and the interfacing should be cut the same way the fabric was (on the bias, on the lengthwise grain, etc.). Knit interfacing has a bit of a stretch and is suitable for interfacing knit fabrics.
The next factor is the weight of the interfacing. Interfacing comes in three weights: light weight, medium weight and heavyweight. The weight of the interfacing should be equal to, or a bit lighter than, the fabric.
How to apply interfacing:
This is where things than can get ugly.
To apply the interfacing, lay your fabric right side down on your ironing board. Next, lay the interfacing fusible side down on top of the fabric. The fusible side will have a bumpiness to it, whereas the non-fusible side will be smooth. Then, lay a damp pressing cloth (I usually use an old dish towel) on top of the interfacing. Press the iron down for 15 seconds (10 for lightweight fabrics). If you need to move the iron to apply heat to another portion of the fabric, pick up the iron and set it down, don’t glide it. If you glide the iron, you run the risk of shifting the layers of fabric and interfacing, and you could end up with a mess on your ironing board cover.
If you skip the pressing cloth, you will end up with fusible interfacing stuck to your iron plate. This is not a fun situation to find yourself in, so double check that your pressing cloth is covering the entire piece of fabric and interfacing.
If you do get interfacing on your iron (something I’ve done more times than I’m willing to admit), unplug your iron and let it cool. You should be able to peel off most of the interfacing. This is time consuming and annoying. You can use a solution like Goo Gone to get rid of any sticky residue.
Some sewists recommend adding a second press cloth underneath the fabric, just in case. This protects your ironing board cover, in the event that the fabric and interfacing shifts.
Ready to dig into interfacing details? Then check out Craftys’s Guide to Interfacings, Linings & Facings!