When you start making your own clothes, it won’t be long before you come across the term “interfacing” and with that the more complicated terms of woven, non-woven, fusible, sew-in etc. It can all seem a bit confusing (I know I was confused on my dressmaking course) but it isn’t as complicated as it first seems. Basically interfacing means adding an additional piece of fabric in order to give support, structure or stiffness to your main fabric. It is used in collars and cuffs, waistbands, and also to reinforce fabric whenever we are going to cut into it, buttonholes and welt pockets for example. Jackets and coats are highly interfaced to give them structure and shape so they don’t distort with wear. Below are two identical triangles of fabric, the one on the right has been interfaced and you can see how it holds its shape as it hangs compared to the non-interfaced fabric that just flops!
As with fabrics, interfacing can be woven, knitted or non-woven and it comes in two types (fusible or sew-in/non-fusible). Fusible interfacing means it can be bonded to the fabric by heat (ironing) whereas non-fusible interfacing needs to be sewn to the fabric. It generally comes in two colours, black or white, and it can be bought in different weights (light, medium or heavy weight). That’s a lot to take in but let’s just break it down…
Woven interfacing – just like woven fabric, we have a lengthwise and crosswise grain. When you cut your interfacing, you need to match the grain to your fabric pieces to ensure the pieces work together.
Knit interfacing – this is used with jersey and other stretch fabrics so both fabric and interfacing can stretch together. If you applied woven interfacing to a knit fabric then the stretch properties of your fabric will be reduced as the fabric and interface would not be stretching together.
Non-woven interfacing – this has no grain and is made by bonding fibres together. It is more economical to use than woven interfacing because you can cut it in any direction. Non-wovens are easy to use and come in a variety of weights to match your fabric.
This is my preferred choice and probably the easiest for beginners to use. It has a rough side which may have a shine, and this is the adhesive side which is activated by the heat and steam combination of your iron which bonds the interfacing to your fabric permanently. Fusible interfacing can be used on most fabrics but is not suitable for overly textured fabrics, napped fabrics, lace or sheer fabrics where the interfacing may show through. Fusible interfacing comes in woven, non-woven or knit.
Non-Fusible / Sew-in
These are sew-in interfacings and need to be tacked to the wrong side of the fabric around the seam allowances. They are more suitable to sheer or fine fabrics where the adhesive may show through. Different types include muslin, organza and collar canvas. They are more difficult to use for beginners as they involve dealing with multiple layers of fabric.
Weight of Interfacing
Interfacing comes in light, medium and heavy weight and you should generally match the interfacing to the weight of your fabric, or a bit lighter but never heavier. Using a heavyweight interfacing on a lightweight cotton will effect the drape and structure of the garment so it’s best to try to match interfacing to your fabric weight. Your pattern will usually indicate which interfacing is required so be guided by that.
How to apply a Fusible Interfacing
You will notice your interfacing has a smooth side and a rough side. The rough side is the adhesive side (it may have a shine to it too) and this side will be placed down on the wrong side of your fabric. Make sure your fabric is crease free before placing your interfacing onto it. I would recommend covering your ironing board with a cloth or piece of scrap fabric to ensure the sticky glue does not adhere to your ironing board cover.
Place a dry pressing cloth on top of the interfacing (spare fabric or a cotton tea-towel will do) and using the steam setting place your iron on top of the pressing cloth. Hold the iron for around 8 seconds before moving to the next area – do not be tempted to move the iron around as if ironing clothes as we don’t want to shift the interfacing once placed. Check to see if it has fused to your fabric, if not, repeat the pressing process. Leave the interfaced fabric to cool down and then you can transfer any pattern markings as required.
My interfaced samples above, both interfaced with fusible interfacing, non-woven on the left and woven on the right – always experiment on a sample of your fabric first to make sure you are happy with the drape and stiffness for your project.
A popular brand name is Visiliene (Link to Vilene Interfacings) but most haberdasheries will sell unbranded interfacing by the metre. You can buy interfacing pre-packaged but these tend to be more expensive. It’s probably a good idea to have a selection of different weights in non-woven fusibles to cover the majority of your sewing requirements as you start your dressmaking adventures!