Let’s talk about fusible adhesive.
But 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. . .
. . . super fast and with no burned fingers.
I tested two weights of Heat & Bond fusible adhesive.
Heat & Bond Featherlite is very, very soft. It doesn’t have any of that fusible adhesive stiffness.
Heat & Bond Lite is a little bit heavier – but still very soft.
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.
Featherlite 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 do 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 Heat & Bond Lite is the one on the right. It’s also supposed to be sewn on, but it didn’t lose as many unsewn pieces. One eyeball came off, the eye spot came loose, and the top ear came loose. (Again – not a fair test because the package DOES say to sew it.) 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 and as the package said). 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 Featherlite (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 Heat & Bond Lite 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 Featherlite? Maybe? All in all I was really impressed with how they held up.
Update – I’ve used the Featherlite on some other projects since then and it DOES continue to fray over time. The Heat & Bond Lite really doesn’t. What you see after a few washes is pretty much what you’re going to get.
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 that would only be worn a few times I would use the Featherlite.
It’s super soft, making it especially awesome for 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’d use the Lite weight for better durability – and it’s still awfully soft after that first washing.
For just about anything else I use the Heat & Bond Lite.
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 almost NO fraying on the sewn pieces – even when sewn with a straight stitch (which I prefer over the zigzag).
It’s also pretty dang soft. Not as soft as the Featherlite, but not bad at all. In fact – I don’t think it’s really even noticeable in a finished quilt. When layered and quilted it’s really hard to tell that there’s 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.
One more thing – a lot of people ask how this holds up over a long period of time with just the straight stitching. I’ve got a post here that shows one of my daughter’s quilts after almost two years. You can see the results in this post.
What about Ultrahold?
Yes – there’s another fusible adhesive weight available. It’s called Ultrahold and it’s the strongest adhesive that heat & Bond makes.
You’re not supposed to stitch through it. I tried it and it gummed up my needle like crazy. I do not recommend trying it yourself. 🙁
It’s very stiff, so I only recommend it for small pieces like eyes and noses – pieces that are annoying to stitch around and small enough where you’ll never notice that extra stiffness.
This weight does hold very well – BUT ONLY IF YOU DRY IT AT LOW TEMPERATURES. The adhesive melts at high temperatures, right? That’s what gets it to stick. That’s also what gets it to unstick. If your dryer gets as hot as an iron on medium heat, no steam (mine does) that is hot enough to loosen the adhesive. So wash and dry on cold or cool!
You can get the Heat & Bond Ultrahold here. It’s not available in printable sheets – only larger sheets that you have to trace onto.
But wait! There’s more!
All of my patterns now are optimized for use with printable products. What does that mean? Each applique block in the pattern is formatted two ways. Once just like normal – for reference and for people who do needle-turn applique. Once reversed and exploded with extra space between the pieces for use with the printable fusible adhesive or this freezer paper method.
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. 🙂