Posted in sewing

Cheap Interfacing

I meant to have photos for this post…. but lost momentum after inhaling the fumes on top of my soapbox.

I’ve noted in the past that I no longer use ‘cheap’ interfacing. I’ve been asked how to tell the difference between the two. I haven’t answered before as I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. And, I feel like there is too much snobbery on the interwebs about what fabric, notions, machines and interfacing people use.ย  Snobbery in that I honestly believe sew with the best you can afford. Sewing is about decisions and it’s up to you to decide what you want to use. You cannot talk me into extrememly expensive fabric. I have too much material sitting in boxes to pay loads of money for a yardage. And, what I consider expensive is entirely different than what someone else thinks is expensive. And people shouldn’t feel bad about shopping at Joanns or any other store. I don’t like it, but I have means (well, not so much means but responsible just to me) and options. So buy what you like / want / can afford.

Recently, there is a thread on PR about interfacing. I and several others noted the brands we liked. A comment was made that one could go broke sewing with our expensive interfacing.

Here’s the thing. I’ve had garments ruined from bad interfacing. The collars of shirts and waistbands of pants bubble after washing. The fuse never adheres correctly. The glue of the interfacing has turned my white garment yellow. The interfacing separates from my garment after a few washes. You name it, it’s happened. But interfacing is no longer a problem for me as I’ve started buying a higher quality interfacing.

So, how do you tell if your interacing is cheap? My ways are this:

  • Does the glue flake off ? I purchased a sample last week for $2 a yard. The glue flaked off on the roll. And, when shaken, glue flakes off.
  • The glue is applied in dots. Good intefacing, IMHO, is almost sprayed on.
  • After pre-treating, is there glue left on the intefacing? This one, what was left of the glue came off and continued to flake. Like dandruff.

Also, I read this by LindsayT:

Pellon interfacing is the worst stuff you can use. I had a couple of instructors go on and on about how awful it is. One told a story about meeting the CEO of a major men’s pants manufacturer; this particular brand has a lower price point. She asked him what interfacing he used and was surprised when he said Pellon. Turns out Pellon was a strategic choice for this company because, according to the executive, it only lasts for 60 washings and then their customers have to buy new pants.

she gives some great alternatives.

So, yes. I spend $4 to $6 a yard on interfacing. But, I see a remarkable difference in my sewing. I’m not saying you have to spend that. ย At the end of the day, I’ve added less than $5 to the cost of an average garment and gained many more years of wear.

I do have two preferred brands that I order 10 yards of at a time when I buy. But,ย  I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned them here. They are Fashion Sewing Supply and Perfect Fuse Interfacing by Palmer and Pletsch.

What about you guys? How do you tell the quality of your interfacing?

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61 thoughts on “Cheap Interfacing

  1. If my interfacing doesn’t make the garment bubble and pucker it’s worth using. I like Fashion Sewing Supply and B Black & Sons for interfacing. It’s expensive but worth it. BTW I still haven’t figured out how I’m supposed to preshrink interfacing.

    1. I agree with all you said – after 30 years of sewing I just got my first order of the “good stuff” from Pam at FSS (nayy). I am in love with the pro-weft stuff. A year or two ago I realized I knew next to nothing about the subject of interfacings and felt the ignorance was harming my projects (and it was!) so I took the PR on-line class with Sarah Veblan on interfacing. I learned so much!! It was one of the best classes I ever took – and the sample packet was worth its weight in gold. I have some nice fabrics – but I have a lot of cheap fabrics too – I have seen a good interfacing make a so-so fabric perk up and look very nice.

    2. marilyn asked about pretreating. Since the interfacing from FSS doesn’t shrink there is no need to pretreat – but if you felt you wanted to pretreat, the way Sarah V. said to pretreat fusible interfacing is to wet it with water only and hang to drip dry. One other comment – you don’t have to use these special interfacings – some times the best interfacing is another piece of fabric. You can just use another layer of the same fabric or some pretreated muslin – or other appropriate fabric. If you make a “sandwich” sample of your fabric and interfacing layers and hang it over your hand, you can tell if it has the drape or feel that you are wanting in the finished project. When I made a nightgown last year, I did not want anything with any stiffness in it no matter how slight – I used muslin scraps that had been washed and dried (pretreated) for the interfacing the gown needed. Just a little body – no hint of stiffness.

    3. Geez, I think maybe the Pellon people are getting a raw deal here! One thing I know, many people use the name Pellon to mean any nonwoven product. There are so many different types of products that Pellon sells and I have been fortunate to use many of them such as Sof-Shape, ShirTailor, Fusible for Featherweight to Midweight Fabrics and their Fusible Fleece is AWESOME! They also have a whole line of specialty products (go on thier website) from wefts to wovens and even hair canvas. I guess the important thing is choosing the right interfacing for your project. I asked about pre-shrinking and they told me that only two of their products need to be pre-shrunk – their two 100% cotton products. I had a problem a few years ago with one of their products and they could not have been nicer and they replaced it right away. Don’t give up on Pellon.

  2. Actually naming names and explaining why you use what you use is soooooo much better than the blanket “don’t use cheap supplies” refrain. This post gives me knowledge and that is good when it comes time for me to shop for supplies (it ain’t cheap if I only wear it once). Thank you.

  3. Thank you so much for talking about snobbery. I do firmly believe you should use the best stuff you can afford. Sometimes the best product you can afford isn’t the most expensive or even the best quality but you work with it anyway. On that note, I sewed with Pellon for YEARS. I just switched to Fashion Sewing Supply and PerfectFuse last year. At first, I hated the idea of spending so much money on interfacing. I very quickly came around though. No more yellowed whites, bubbles, or stiff collars. Good interfacing can turn a good garment into a great one and one that will last a long time. I prefer to wear things until it shrinks too small or forms holes. In the end, the better quality interfacing is actually cheaper because I get so much wear out of the garment.

  4. YOu know I never checked the brand of the stuff I’m using. I bought about 10m of expensive woven interfacing and it has never been right. Perhaps it is Pellon. I’m going to try the kind you mention and see what I think.

  5. “Inhaled the fumes from my soapbox,” so funny! I laughed out loud! Thanks for posting your sources for good interfacing.

  6. Unfortunately, the best way to tell cheap interfacing is by how it misbehaves in the finished product :-(. To your exhaustive list I’d add that most cheap rtw is so, and self-destructs, mostly because of cheap interfacing. Why they even manufacture the stuff I don’t know.

    I agree with you, it’s important to sew with what you can afford, sewing should not be just another reason to add to crushing debt. I won’t say I don’t have fabric lying around, but the point is to end up with clothes, not to have to move into a bigger place just to accommodate a ‘stash’. I’m not a museum conservator, fabric is not a drug.

    Just like finished products stay better and get together better with good interfacing, I’ve found it important to routinely use good thread and good needles. I think Gale Grigg Hazen, daughter of a sewing-machine repairman, impressed this upon me. Indeed, is it worth days of struggle with the serger when $5 more in thread investment would have made it run as smoothly as ever before? Is there a point in ripping your hair out over skipped stitches or fabric damage when you should just have changed the needle? Not in my book..

  7. Thanks for this! Unfortunately, my stash is full of the cheap stuff, but I think my sewing skills warrant it. As they improve, I’ll step up my fabric and my interfacing. And I always have the option of buying better interfacing for those special garments.

  8. I have said for years that Pellon is for buying and selling, not actually using. I haven’t used the cheap stuff since I was a beginner and didn’t know any better. Good quality fabric deserves good quality interfacing so I use the same ones you do. I put a lot of time and effort into my sewing projects and buy the best quality I can afford all around. I enjoy the process and working with good ingredients really adds a lot to my sewing enjoyment.

    Fumes from your soapbox? You slay me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Ditto to anotheryarn, very helpful post. (and the occasional impression I pick up that one shouldn’t even step foot in Joann’s has been annoying me).

    But, you know, 60 washes sounds more than sufficient for many of my garments. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I grew up with Pellon, and for that reason when I started sewing for myself I just did without interfacing, since we’re dedicated thrift-shoppers and so I’d never owned a RTW garment that was stiff and crackley like Pellon gets, and therefore reasoned that interfacing must be one of those weird home-sewing things that no one else does. I have a lot of saggy projects to prove I did this. So last year I bucked up and went to the incredibly chichi silk shop (the only sewing store around here where you can talk to someone and get recommendations) and they sold me half a yard of Pro-Woven for $10, which is a pretty standard markup there. I am so grateful to learn what it’s called so that I don’t have to pay that every time!

    I just cut open the cuffs on a Brooks Brothers shirt, incidentally, and the interfacing they use is slightly fluffy and gray. I would love to know what it is.

    1. An even cheaper alternative for interfacing patterns is the 3yd packages of interfacing found in JoAnn’s and Hancock’s. I wait until they go on sale for 70-80 cents. They aren’t wide pieces though so you have to piece it together for large pattern pieces.

  11. I agree 100%. I have a bolt of Pellon and I used it in the coat I sewed in January. Once I had committed, there was no going back. I could tell, as I worked through the project, that it was not as good as the stuff I get from Fashion Sewing Supply. It did not bubble, but it did not adhere well with the recommended amount of heat and steam and time.
    I had to keep pressing each piece again and it made the project take a lot longer.

    So! I hope it holds up OK! If not, well, I just learned an expensive lesson. The Pellon is going in the trash now. There is no point in even “use it up because I already own it”.
    I am not going to worry about it now, the water is under the bridge. Moving on!

  12. I loved the interfacing that I washed and lost all the glue! I’ve also had it bubble immediately after ironing it on. I also spend a little more so that I can be sure it will last a while.

  13. I stopped using Pellon when I read Lindsey T’s post. I’ve used and loved FSS, but I have the option of buying woven interfacing on Philadelphia Fabric Row. I can run down and get it when I haven’t planned ahead enough to order from FSS. To me, almost any woven fusible is more satisfying the non-woven.

    1. Oh yes! Yesterday at Joann’s a woman picked up the non-woven, pulled it and said, ‘Good. It stretches’. I bolted over to her and was like, “Nooooooooooooooooo”. I asked them to pull the knit interfacing and explained that the woven doesn’t stretch. It’s just *tearing*.

  14. this post is so great there’s no need for photos!

    i’ve only used interfacing once (actually it was pelllon, i think from joann’s?) on a very sad, bubbly, misshapen diaper bag. i just recently bought some to tackle my first shirt for ruggy. luckily i haven’t started the (christmas gift) project yet, i’m going to do a little glue test first now! i have no idea what brand it is, i got it at my favorite supplies store in the NY garment district, daytona.

  15. LOL about the soapbox fumes! I agree that one should spend what they can afford but temper that with the thought of the possibility of it bubbling, etc. as you and the previous posters have described. Many many moons ago Pellon was the available interfacing and I am guilty of using it then. Of course, having gotten back into sewing after a major haitus, I am grateful for blogs such as yours, LindsayT, Gigi (to name a few) that have given me suggestions and tips on many things that are available. At this stage of my sewing, I choose to use something that is going to last me longer and in the long run turns out to be cheaper (given the time the garment is worn/laundered, etc.) Great post!

  16. Hmmm, I gave up on fusible interfacings some years ago for all the reasons you explained and became a sew-in-snob. However, I will check out these sources and perhaps give them a try.

    As someone else mentioned, that you for giving specific information rather than general!

  17. Your comment about soapbox fumes made me laugh!

    I’m glad you acknowledge that we are all doing the best we can with what we have (and can afford at the time). Sewing is a craft and an art, and snobbery has no place for people who are at any location on the learning curve, or on either side of a learning discussion (which is basically all of us).

  18. Thanks for yet another informative post. I didn’t realize that the cheap stuff was indeed that. I’m going to have make sure it stuff it in my next Goodwill bin & get my hands on the good stuff.

  19. Sadly Pellon is everywhere here in Jamaica and it’s the cheapesy. HYMO (sp) is great but costs sooooooooooo much and I love that it stretches with the fabric

  20. Interfacing is a make or break item, like good buttonholes and pockets. No matter what else you do right, including fitting, if the interfacing bubbles or doesn’t adhere correctly, etc., then you might be able to wear the item once, but then after you dry clean it or put it through the washer and dryer, the item won’t look good again. Good fusibles (like Pam’s!)save you money and time – it’s like that line from “Moonstruck” about copper plumbing, “It costs money because it SAVES money.” It also helps with achieving satisfaction in terms of sewing and that is huge.

  21. I live in Sweden, here Vlieseline is available and thatยดs what I use and cursed until recently…
    recently I bought an Elna press used for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Changed everything!!!!

  22. Wow what a useful post! I don’t know much about interfacing, but I’ve used my cheapo fusible interfacing (it has glue dots, now I know to avoid that!), have used Pellon and other fusibles but have always felt there must better quality out there, but didn’t know where to find it. Now I’ve checked out Pam’s website and I think I’ve found it! Thanks so much for your post!

  23. When i learned to sew, back in the day,there was no such thing as fusible interfacing. I have always used sew-in interfacing and will continue to use it. I don’t think it really takes any longer than fusing, and it *never* bubbles.

  24. Like many other sewers just starting out, I never knew there were better choices for interfacing. I used what I found at the fabric store and, being on a very tight budget, the price point was always the deciding factor. However, many a garment was ruined over time due to the lower quality interfacing. After using Palmer and Pletsch’s interfacing and noticing such a difference I’m willing to spend more. That being said, I agree that everyone should decide for themselves what fits into their budget.

  25. I *actually* don’t know the name of my interfacing! In school they called it “French knit” but I know it when I see it and feel it and it’s not the “Felty” stuff nor is the glue applied in dots. And I have never gone back. Pellon reminds me of pulling a garment out of the wash and realizing you forgot to remove a wad of Kleenex from the pocket.

    1. That is the best description! I think yours is a tricot knit. I say that because a French speaking friend of mine calls all my knit dresses ‘tricot’. It’s wonderful. Nice and light but gives a little structure and a better hand.

      1. I used to get sent out on errands to buy “tricot”! We used it to line knit garments. To tell you the truth, I think that is what it’s called in the fabric store. Next time I go I’m going to make sure to write it down.

  26. This is a great post, considering I’m mulling over fusible or sew-in interfacing for a cashmere jacket I’m making up. For years I purchased fusible wool interfacing from a great place in the Fashion District here in Toronto – it worked like an absolute dream. Unfortunately, I can’t find it anymore because the store was sold to someone who really doesn’t know anything about interfacing. I must agree with brocadegoddess: I’ve sort of become a sew-in snob, and use everything from silk organza (favourite!!!) to muslin to hair canvas. I’m curious about FSS and the Perfect Fuse. I may order some up just to try it out. Love the fumes comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yes, I need to get bk to sew in interfacing at least for my collars. I do love silk organza. I need to buy a big 10 yards of that and batiste soon.

  27. Excellent post on all accounts. Yes, there is a sort of snobbery slash condescending tone to some offerings of advice out there. I’m in agreement with you. You buy where you can buy and equally you purchase from what you’re knowledge base allows. JoAnn’s is perfectly fine especially for new sewers. Many a lovely garments have come from their selection of fabrics, even using Pellon. As we all learn more of what to buy and from where to buy, you broaden your selection of options. Over time, I learned to be more selective in the quality of my fabric, but the price doesn’t have to be excessive. Case in point, Metro Textiles. As for interfacing, I use a variety of options, depends on the project and and the intent. I shop for interfacing, underlining and muslin fabric as much as I do fashion fabric. My latest find has been from Sarah’s Fabrics. I don’t know what it’s called, but it wonderful, with a sprayed on adhesive. I’ll try and find out the name of it. Good information in your post for all.

  28. Great and informative post. I made two pairs of pants with construction methods from David Coffin’s EXCELLENT book and DVD. The pants looked great..until I washed them and the cheap a** interfacing I use curdled and bubbled like bad milk. It was not the business. Lesson learned.
    I’m contemplating making my first tailored jacket and this post helped me source the best interfacing for what will be a month long project (at least).

  29. Thanks for the great information, I too appreciate the specifics. Do you have an opinion on HTC brand interfacing? specifically Fusi-knit and Form Flex?

  30. That’s it in a nutshell. If you are going to spend the time to make something well, it certainly is worth a few extra dollars so that it will last. I buy from the same sources as you do and they both can be relied on to have consistently good quality. One should also remember that both of these brands are 60″ wide, not the 24 or 30″ of many other brands so is it more expensive? I don’t think so. It is certainly a lot easier to block fuse if your interfacing doesn’t have to be pieced! Use the best materials that you can afford because you know what? Your time is worth a lot.

  31. I second (or forty-second?!) that – excellent post! One of my sewing resolutions this year is to stock up on good interfacing so I don’t run out to Joann’s when I’m in the process of making something. I think interfacing is like the foundation of the garment – an outside observer doesn’t see it but when it goes awry, there’s not much you can do to salvage your garment! I think there’s a place for pellon interfacings – it’s like the h&m of sewing. I’m like you, in that I buy the best I can afford because I want a long lasting garment. But I’m a slow sewer and I like to wear things for years. I can understand using cheaper interfacings if you’re a speedy sewer making trendy pieces, a new sewer or on a budget (though the argument for quality v price holds). I think you just have to know your preferences and choose accordingly. An the snobbery bit plays a little more to the tone than the content I think – like if you’re judging others for not doing as you do. I don’t think you ever do that! So maybe it’s not a soapbox – just a platform wedge?! ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. Thanks for a great post that really gives information and alternatives. Funny but after all these years of sewing, I never made the connection that the stuff I was using wasn’t very goo. I always thought that it must have been old or that I applied it wrong – LOL! I guess that’s why when I bought some “expensive” interfacing for a project recently, I was surprised by how well it applied and how easy it was to use (and how great it looked).

  33. I buy from places I trust, like Steinlauf and Stoller in New York and the late Greenberg & Hammer, which was known for having a good selection of interfacing(What am I going to do now? What? What? What?).

    Having dots is not the acid test of whether interfacing is good. I took a sewing course taught by a tailor who DESPISED Pellon. During one of the early class projects we had to use sew-in interfacing.

    But for a skirt we did use a fusible interfacing product for the waistband, called “Perfect Waistband.” It was great in that all you had to was iron it on the fabric, cut it out and you had a straight waistband piece. The product had a fold line that you creased.

    It had dots on one side and was not that cheap. The teacher told us to press until the dots were no longer visible.

    I think that one person’s “snob” is another person’s “discerning sewer.” Garment construction is so time-consuming for the yield that it makes no sense to me to use cheap or questionable fabrics. I’ve had to redo work because “bargain” fabric failed me.

  34. One important thing to realize though is that while your interfacings may be more expensive they’re also MUCH WIDER than the Pellon that is sold in stores. Those are usually 18-22″ wide. When you consider that the websites are selling 60″ wide pieces it’s really not that much more expensive. (that being said, I should probably stop buying the cheap stuff to save a buck or two….)

  35. You are right. There is a lot of sewing snobbery out there and it is so irritating and discouraging to new sewers. But there is the issue of results, and I think people appreciate a kind word about what someone feels offers them a good result.
    I check my interfacing quality by price. If it hurts to pay for it I find that it usually gives the best results. But I also consider how long I will wear the garment. Some garments don’t even last 60 washes for me as I am prone to staining them. Short-term garment – cheaper interfacing. A long wearing garment – I grit my teeth and pay the extra.

  36. I have to agree with you. I view interfacing like the foundation of a house. If the foundation is not good the house/garment will not stand. I purchase my interfacing from B.Black&Sons, Fishmans, and Atlanta threads.

  37. I couldn’t agree more – good interfacing is worth every penny. In the finished results and your time. I can’t see what’s so snobby about that.

    I may get in trouble here, but I would further argue that the “big box” sewing stores do a huge disservice to beginning sewers by selling mostly cheap low-quality fabrics, interfacing, and notions. There are few things more satisfying than fabric that is easy to work with, interfacing that doesn’t bubble, and thread that behaves.

  38. Well, my generic answer is, “If it comes from you-know-where, that chain store that’s half fabric and half crafts, then it’s probably cheap.” You *know* what store I’m talking about.

    I agree – even if you have to save up and make one big order, Fashion Sewing Supply and the like are so much better!

  39. I am so over fusible interfacing, to the point where I will use almost anything, including self-remnants to avoid it. This means learning some new sew-in techniques, but what’s not to love about organza, batiste and hair canvas?

    But lately I discovered another application for nasty cheap fusibles. I used up my remaining stash on an experimental half-muslin for a tailored jacket, and it is *excellent* for this. It has no grain, it is very malleable, you can draw and trace on it, and if you make a mistake cutting it, you can easily fix it by fusing pieces together. Brilliant! I can’t believe I didn’t think of this years ago.

    1. Or if you had a big enough piece and didn’t feel like tracing a tissue-paper pattern, you could try ironing the fusible to the pattern to preserve it.

  40. “I meant to have photos for this postโ€ฆ. but lost momentum after inhaling the fumes on top of my soapbox.”

    Why are you apologizing for having opinions? I hate it when people (usually women) do that. How long have you been sewing? Writing this blog? I would expect you to have strong views about some aspects of this process.

    Thanks.

  41. A friend of a friend used to always say [my paraphrase], “Buy the best tools you can afford. A good tool makes a hard job easier and an easy job more fun.”

  42. Thank you! I have been trying to get info on quality interfacing for a while to no avail. I absolutely agree with your point about what one considers expensivive. Quality is the key here and I have had problems with the less expensive “Pellon” type of interfacing. I just recently started sewing again and I am willing to pay the extra help my work look its best. Thanks again for sharing this information with us, I will definitely use it! Love your Blog!

  43. Thank you for this. In the beginning, I knew Pellon was worse than useless, but I lived in denial. Eventually, I stopped using interfacing all together, and then I stopped making things that needed interfacing! Thanks for the wake-up, I needed it!!

  44. Thank you SO much for this post. I always heard the advice to “not use cheap interfacing,” but I never could find any useful information on what the GOOD interfacing was – brand name, how to find it, how to choose it if buying online. I’ve been using either Pellon or silk organza (sew-in) interfacing because it’s what I could find, but always knowing it wasn’t quite right. So I was thrilled to see your recommendations. Thanks a bunch! ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. Last year, I finally took apart one of my favorite skirts that I had purchased new 15 years ago for $100. I had been saving it hoping that I would one day squeeze back into it. Oh well. So, I decided to take the skirt apart and recreate it in a larger size. After carefully ripping out all the seems, I did some ironing only to discover that I had four rectangles, and there was not a bit of interfacing to be found. The rectangle that represents the waste band had been made large enough to fold over and then fold again to create the nessary stiffness. The same method was used for the kick pleat. The material used for this skirt was a light weight wool with polyester lining.

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