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Putting Fusible Adhesive to the Test

Putting Fusible Adhesive to the Test

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. . .

Woodland Critters quilt pattern from Shiny Happy World

. . . 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.

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.

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.

fusible adhesive test after 2 wash and dry
After two trips through the washer and dryer.

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. . .

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 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. 🙂

Happy stitching!


25 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.

  10. Evelyn SAYS...

    Can you use it to piece batting?

  11. Kim Beckner SAYS...

    I have made several quilts using the permanent labelled products on quilts and found them to be nasty with stiffness and, in fact, I worry about quilting them on a long arm, they are that stiff with several layers of appliquéd pieces. I can handle a bit of fraying of items that won’t be washed often. Softer is better! Thanks for sharing this! <3

  12. Marcia RC SAYS...

    Good thing I have the printable featherweight coming in my next order! It was great to see your results so I know what to expect. Looking forward to making my FIRST quilt pieces with your class.

  13. Jenni-Hope Kelland SAYS...

    Oh my heck, thank you Wendi! I bought your “Fusible Applique Made Easy” class on Craftsy/Bluprint a few years ago. Watched it, got excited and started collecting fabrics. When I got started working on it, I would watch the parts of the class that fit what I was working on but then when I started stitching on the pieces, after the blocks were quilted and everything fused, I watched the whole class again. I panicked! 100% cotton batting… how did I miss that? It had been months so I’d forgotten and had the bright idea of using batting scraps up! Luckily I’m a cotton lover so the worst I had was 80% cotton 20% poly. Everything was ok when I had fused but now I had to press the seams open! Dodged that bullet, it worked just fine. Then I heard about using batiks because of the tighter weave… HEART ATTACK!!!! I had already planned on blanket stitching just because I love it but wondered if I’d better switch to satin stitching… I was dreading the hours and cost as I had bought expensive topstitching thread on a huge sale. I wondered about Freycheck, is it toxic for my grandson? I researched like crazy, toxic in liquid form but like a plastic when dry, PHEW! But I had to apply it after stitching in case I couldn’t sew through it. This was also good as I had used some unidentified fusables I had stashed so had no idea if they would frey and I’m one who hates ANY freying at all.
    If you think I am ridiculous oh wait, I’m not done!
    I wanted a minky on the back and though it already had a thin batting from the quilt as you go blocks, I thought it needed another thin one behind all the huge knots I had tied the thick topstitching thread in which, OF COURSE, I then Frey checked to DEATH! I also wanted to quilt around the animals to poof them a little in addition to quilting around the blocks so I thought I had gotten a thin batt but got home and found it was pretty thick! I figured it would simply end up being a nursery rug… sigh. I got a midarm machine and frame recently by a miracle which is good since there was literally NO WAY this heavy rug would EVER fit in my domestic machine! The animals poofed pretty huge but adding just a few more lines of quilting has made it adorable. For example, on the bunny I just quilted at the bottom of the ears and under his chin, the fox the same but also just above his white cheeks. The squirrel, mushrooms and trees are fine. I’m hoping to have it off the frame today. I had a problem with my frame and took the quilt off between stitching around the blocks and animals and adding the stitching in the animals so I showed it to my daughter explaining all my mess ups but she loves it and says he’ll still probably drag it around, he’ll just build some good muscle mass doing it!
    I’ll post my adventures with pictures after I have it bound on your Facebook page.
    Boy, have I learned a ton!

  14. Sabrina Shaw-Smith SAYS...

    can you use the fusible tape for binding and then sewing it on after

  15. Annette Dombrowski SAYS...

    Hello,
    I am BRAND NEW to appliques. I have poured over your tutorials, videos and blogs.
    I purchased “steam a seam 2” in regular and light.
    Thoughts on this brand? In The video I watched by Amy Gibson on utube, she recommends this brand. It is printer friendly.
    Thanks!

    • I’ve never tried it. I love my Heat & Bond Lite. 🙂

  16. Judy Howard SAYS...

    I made your sloth quilt and am having anxieties that the appliques will be stiff when all is said and done. There are several layers involved in that quilt and I had to put some backing on the lighter fabrics so the darker didn’t show through. I’m hoping the majority of the webbing will melt away in the wash after I get it bound.

    • It doesn’t melt away – but it does soften up a lot in that first wash/dry.