Putting Fusible Adhesive to the Test

Putting Fusible Adhesive to the Test

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. . .

Scary Squares quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World. . . super fast and with no burned fingers.

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.

fusible adhesive test

This is before any washing (except for pre-washing the fabrics).

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.

fusible adhesive test after 1 wash and dry

After one trip through the washer and dryer.

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.

fusible adhesive test after 2 wash and dry

After two trips through the washer and dryer.

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. . .

fusible adhesive test after 2 wash and dry

After 3 trips through the washer and dryer.

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.

fusible adhesive test after 4 wash and dry

After four trips through the washer and dryer – including in a big load of towels.

Hmmmm. . . maybe a tiny bit more fraying on the SoftFuse? Maybe? All in all I was really impressed with how they held up.

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!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your research! I’ve been looking for the same thing so I will probably try this out. You’ve saved me some hours. Thanks again!

  2. Sheila Perl SAYS...

    Thank you, Wendi, for all your research on the fusible adhesives!
    Now I’m ready for the “Kitty quilt”!!! The puppies are adorable but…….
    Meow!

  3. elyse SAYS...

    Hi Wendy,

    Great tutorial. I just want to be clear. These appliques were just cut, fused and stitched without turning under any edges? The one on the right is my go to now,if that’s correct.

    I love your work,colors and patterns. Just adorable. Thank you for sharing

  4. Jennie SAYS...

    Thank you for doing the hard part for us. I really hat that hard as a rock, or gummy adhesives. However I have found that when doing a handbag or tote the stiffer the better. I wish they had adhesive buckram for bags. If anyone knows of that let me know.

    • Betz White and Sara Lawson (Sew Sweetness) are bag MASTERS and they are on top of every kind of interfacing and structural help that’s available. If there’s a fusible buckram – they know about it. And if there isn’t, they probably know a good substitute. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the post! I always love it with other folks do the testing for me 🙂 I have used the Soft Fuse on several blocks that are waiting for stitching, and I have been a little worried about how they would turn out. After seeing this, I will probably try to stay away from a straight stitch with it.

  6. Gale SAYS...

    Hello Wendi,
    I have used the printable Heat n Bond Lite and I love it, too. But for some reason I have trouble feeding it through my printer. So I purchased Heat n Bond Lite off the bolt and am back to tracing for now. Is this the same product as the printable? Should I have the same results with my appliques on the quilts? Thanks for your help.

  7. KarenB27 SAYS...

    If you hate tracing, just use the Brother Scan n Cut. You just scan the pattern with the machine. It saves it then you can use it to cut that pattern out on your fabric. You can even make the shape larger or smaller. It can also add a 1/4 (or whatever size you want) edge around the shape, so you can do the turn under version, too. It’s really perfect for doing appliqué in all forms.

  8. Hello,

    Thank you for all this research!

    I am getting some puckering when sewing on my fused fabric patch (jt is fused to a cotton t-shirt). Any ideas why? I stretched it with an embroidery hoop because I thought that would prevent puckering.

    • If you put a stretchy fabric in an embroidery hoop without stabilizing it first, it will pucker when you take it out. For sewing on a fused patch you shouldn’t need to stabilize or hoop it because the adhesive under the patch does that for you – just make sure you’re only sewing on the fused/patched bit.

  9. Katie SAYS...

    I’m trying to add block letters to a finished quilt and am having difficulty getting the letters made, currently I’m just sewing the letters. I have never used appliques or fusible adhesives, I’m a real novice and only have basic sewing skills. I’m open to ideas.

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