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A case for Sew-in interfacing and the options you have

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I have a love-hate relationship with fusible interfacing and sometimes a little more hate than love – especially when it stiffens my fabric more than I need and leaves tiny bubbles or wrinkles on top of the fabric, not to say anything about when I have to deal with the glue residue it leaves on my iron and ironing table. When you use sew-in interfacing, these problems are not there. You get a softer, more flexible structure for the garment. Sew-in interfacing is interfacing that is sewn to the fabric rather than fused with heat. It’s used for adding strength, structure and body to the fabric. You can add this in places like collars, cuffs, waistbands, panels and buttonhole areas and sometimes on dress bodices to maintain shape and improve durability.
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Which fabrics should only use sew-in interfacing?

For some fabrics, there is no option but to use sew in interfacing – like leather and spandex -synthetics which will melt or distort if heat is applied ( and you do not have access to fusible interfacing with cool-fuse properties). I would also use sew-in interfacing with fabrics like Brocades, velvets, all kinds of laces and other open weave fabrics. I would also use this type on transparent and semi-transparent fabrics to keep the sheer quality intact.

First advantage of Sew in interfacing over the fusible kind that I love is that it will not alter the fabric’s natural drape and hand especially that of lightweight or delicate fabrics. Fusible is attached to the fabric and when another layer is so glued there will be a change to the fabric’s drape. Sew in is not attached, and there in lies the difference. Most of the time, fusible can make the fabric wrinkled on the surface, if you make a small mistake when you press with iron. And once this is done, so difficult to correct. You have to pry it out – have you tried it ? It is next to impossible without damaging the fabric. With sew-in interfacing the mistakes are easily corrected. It is just a matter of loosening the stitches with a seam ripper.

Sew-in interfacing – options

Once you have decided to use sew-in interfacing instead of the fusible, the options you have are – 1. Buy the different weights of commercial sew-in interfacing available in haberdashery shops. 2. Get your own from your sash – they are as good.

The commercial interfacings (available in different weights like light, medium, and heavy and materials like cotton, polyester, and blends), often fail to mimic the actual fabric and may even ruin it. They can add extra bulk to seams and edges, which might not be desirable in some garment constructions, particularly those requiring a smooth, flat finish. So many sewists prefer to use a substitute fabric for sew-in interfacing. There are several alternatives you can consider. The material you should choose will again depend on the desired stiffness, weight, and the type of fabric you are working with. Here are some options:

Self-fabric

This is the first option. Self-fabric means using the same fabric as your project (but perhaps a doubled layer). This can sometimes offer enough stability, particularly for garment facings. Using self-fabric is often preferred for the consistency it provides in both appearance and behavior after washing or dry-cleaning. And for sheer fabrics, there is a marked preference for self-fabric interfacing to avoid visible interfacing through the see through fabrics.

Muslin

Muslin is a lightweight cotton fabric. It is readily available and very inexpensive. Just prewash it and use just like interfacing.

Old Sheets or Linen

Firm cotton sheets or linen can be repurposed as interfacing in a pinch, particularly for light to medium-weight fabrics. Old cotton sheets are suggested as a budget-friendly option for sew-in interfacing. They can be an excellent way to recycle materials and are easy to sew.

Silk organza or other sheers

Sheer fabrics can be used to interface fabrics that have an open appearance, like lace fabrics and sheer fabrics themselves. You can choose one in the same color or flesh color. Many people also choose sheer fabrics with thin and semi-transparent fabrics like cotton lawn and voile because when you attach fusibles to them, there is a difference in the fabric.

I have read many sewists swearing by silk organza for their precious projects. Maybe because silk organza has a crispiness on top of the nice drape it already has. Silk organza is costly though. Cotton organdy can be used if you want a lot more stability and crispiness.

Flannel

Remnant pieces of flannel fabric can be used as sew-in interfacing when you need some kind of stability and structure inside that similar-weight fabric cannot give.

Canvas or Duck Cloth

These are heavy fabrics that can be used when a sturdier interfacing is needed, such as in bag making or for structural parts of garments.

Jersey knit or mesh knit

When you are sewing with spandex-based knit fabrics, you need to use an interfacing fabric that stretches too. Spandex is one fabric that you cannot use heat on – so there is no question of using fusible. Jersey knits can be used for this purpose.

Batiste cotton

Other than muslin, you can choose other varieties of cotton fabric like batiste, as interfacing to retain the fabric’s hand and add slight stability. Batiste is a lightweight fabric. You can safely use cotton batiste where you need such an interfacing.

Remember, the key is to consider the weight and drape of both your main fabric and the substitute interfacing. You’ll want to choose something that complements the properties of your fabric without altering its intended appearance or function too drastically. Always test your substitute on a scrap piece of fabric first to ensure it behaves as expected.

Tips for Sewing with sew-in interfacing

Sew-in interfacing is used just like any other interfacing. Just the application is different. It is kept close to the fabric with pins or basting stitches. Pre-wash the material just as you would the outer fabric. This is done to ensure that both the outer fabric and the interfacing undergo any shrinkage before the final garment is made. And generally cut on grain (aligning the pattern pieces so that they are parallel to the warp (the long threads). It is also sometimes advised to cut the self-fabric interfacing on the bias when a flowing drape is needed. In my experience, the sew-in interfacing requires more time and effort to apply compared to fusible interfacing. It needs to be carefully basted or pinned in place before sewing, which can be tedious and time-consuming, especially for large or complex pieces. Sew-in interfacing can shift or slip during sewing, potentially leading to uneven or wrinkled results. This can be particularly challenging for beginners or when working with slippery or lightweight fabrics. Pinning a lot is the obvious solution. You have to ensure that the stitches used to attach the interfacing to the fabric are not visible on the right side of the garment.

Related posts: Types of fusible interfacing; List of interfacing used in sewing

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Author: Sarina Tariq
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
1 thought on “A case for Sew-in interfacing and the options you have”
  1. Anonymous

    Could you re-state this? It took a while for me to interpret your meaning. Thanks.
    “Many people also choose sheer fabrics with thin and semi-transparent fabrics like cotton lawn and voile because when you attach fusibles to them, there is a difference in the fabric.”

    Reply
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