First – I need to share something.
I don’t trust glue.
To me, glue is something that holds two things in place while you attach them more securely with something else – like screws or stitches.
I’ve just had too many glue fails in my lifetime. I have a big crate of all different kinds of glues and I really try to make sure I’m using the right glue for the right situation. But still – glue fails.
That’s one reason I’ve always been pretty hesitant about using fusible adhesive. Sure – it’s fast and easy and I’m happy to use it on something that doesn’t need to be held together forever. It’s great for Halloween costumes. It’s fabulous for banners and wall hangings. But I’ve never used it on a clothing or a bed quilt.
Besides the fail factor – there’s the stiffness. I don’t like it.
And the stitching that you usually add around the edge to secure it can look awfully clunky.
Plus – I hate tracing. (I know. I know. I’m a broken record on this. But I really hate tracing.)
When I went to Spring Quilt Market one of the things I was looking for was a fusible adhesive I could fall in love with.
I would love to be able to share a product with you that would allow you to make quilts like this. . .
I found two products I was interested in. The samples they had at market looked (and felt) pretty good, but I wanted to try them myself. One of them has been out of stock for a few months – but it finally came in, my order arrived, and I was able to put them to a test side by side.
Here’s what I tried.
Update: Since I wrote this post, Heat-n-Bond has released a printable fusible adhesive in two weights. I tested them and the Featherlite perfoms just like the SoftFuse and the Lite performs just like the June Tailor brand I originally tested here. Since the Heat-n-Bond is less expensive, printable in the lighter weight, and easier for people to also find on the bolt, I’ve replaced my links here with those new products.
SoftFuse Premium is exactly that. Soft. It doesn’t have any of that fusible adhesive stiffness.
Ink Jet Printable Fusible Web is printable. No Tracing! You know I had to give that a try.
I set up two identical applique blocks, following the instructions on the packaging exactly. I never use fabric softener or dryer sheets on fabric I’m going to sew with because it can interfere with any adhesives I might use. I used exactly the same fabric in the two blocks.
I sewed around the head with a basic straight stitch. I sewed both sides of the neck with a fairly open zigzag stitch. I didn’t do any extra stitching on the ears, the eye spot, the eyes, or the nose.
Then I threw them in the wash with a load of laundry, and ran them through the dryer too.
The SoftFuse is the one on the left. Everything not sewn on fell off – but that was to be expected. The instructions DID say to sew it after fusing so it was kind of an unfair test. I just wanted to see what would happen.
So you have to sew this stuff in addition to fusing. On the plus side – it was so soft that you could easily hand stitch through it – and there was no gumming of the hand or machine needle. And after one washing the applique was crazy soft. So soft that I never would have guessed there was adhesive in there.
The printable product is the one on the right. The package said you didn’t need to reinforce with sewing, but I found that wasn’t the case. One eyeball came off, the eye spot came loose, and the top ear came loose. With this product too, there was no gumming of the needle when I did sew it. You can feel a little stiffness from the adhesive, but it’s not bad at all.
So I found out that both products needed stitching on top of the glue (as I suspected all along). Now I wanted to find out how things held up after repeated washing and drying. This time we’ll look closer at the edges of the sewn applique pieces.
The SoftFuse (on the left) is showing a little fraying on the edges – but I kind of like that so I don’t consider it a problem – just something worth noting because I know some people don’t like it. There’s more fraying on the head piece with the straight stitching than on the neck with the zigzag – even though it’s a pretty open zigzag.
The printable product had no fraying at all.
I had more laundry, so. . .
No noticeable change. Looking good!
I had one more load of laundry. Towels. Towels are rough so this would really put those edges to the test.
Hmmmm. . . maybe a tiny bit more fraying on the SoftFuse? Maybe? All in all I was really impressed with how they held up.
Update – I’ve used the lighter weight on some other projects since then and it DOES continue to fray over time. I tend to use it now only on things like baby onesies where it will only fit for a short period of time and so the number of trips through the wash is limited. For toddler T-shirts I use the Lite weight for better durability – and it’s still awfully soft after that first washing.
The final verdict. . .
They both win!
No. It’s not a cop out. I’d just use them for different purposes!
If I were adding applique to clothing I would use the SoftFuse. It adds no extra stiffness. None. If you don’t want a big stiff patch where the applique is – this is the stuff to use. I’m thinking soft onesies for baby, cute T-shirts for kids (and me). Fun appliques on skirts – where the applique part drapes as well as the rest of the skirt.
For just about anything else I’d choose the printable adhesive. First – it’s printable! No tracing! Second – it held up really well in the wash – far better than I anticipated. I cannot believe that tiny eyeball hung on through that final load of towels – with no stitching! And there was NO fraying on the sewn pieces – even when sewn with a straight stitch (which I prefer over the zigzag). Third – it’s pretty dang soft. Not as soft as the SoftFuse, but not bad at all. In fact – I don’t think it would even be noticeable in a finished quilt. I was bending it and draping it over my fingers to really see what it would do, but I think when layered and quilted you would not be able to tell there was any extra stiffness under the applique.
So there you have it! I can recommend both of these fusible adhesives. And I have them in my shop! Get them here.
But wait! There’s more!
My next pattern (the puppy quilt coming Friday) will be optimized for use with printable products. What does that mean? Each applique block pattern (there are twelve) will be in the pattern three ways. Once just like normal – for reference. Once reversed – for use with printable freezer paper for those who want to use my usual machine applique technique. And one exploded with extra space between the pieces for use with the printable fusible adhesive.
But that’s not all! My next pattern after the puppies will be a kitty quilt (with blocks the same size as the puppy quilt so you can mix and match) and I’m going to make the whole thing using the applique with fusible adhesive technique. AND I’m going to try a quilt as you go technique because I was thinking that it would be really cool if the straight stitching used to stitch the pieces down did double duty as quilting – but NO WAY am I going to muscle all those little curves on a big quilt through my standard machine. Then I can wash that puppy (er. . . kitty) and report back on the final results. But I’m pretty sure it will be awesome. I can’t wait to get started on it!
Yes! I found a fusible adhesive that I’m excited to use! Not just excited – giddy! I was awake most of the night thinking about my next project. 🙂
Happy fast and easy appliqueing!