My Underlining Saga:
I chose to use Textured Weft (an HTC brand lightweight fusible interfacing) to underline my jacket. The wool is a stretch-woven, and is very stretchy on the crosswise grain. I did not want it to stretch in the areas where the ribbon embellishment would be placed, in particular. For that reason, I needed a fusible interfacing that was stable in the crosswise direction as well as the lengthwise one.
I tried everything from silk organza to interfacing material, and nothing worked. I even used silk organza on a Textured-Weft-fused piece, and I didn't like the hand at all. Textured Weft, my original choice, was firm in the lengthwise direction, but had some give in the crosswise direction. I love using it because it's about the only fusible that I have found that does not change the hand of most suiting fabric much, if at all, depending, of course on the type of fabric.
I then contacted Louise Cutting (through www.fabriccollections.com , her website), and she recommended fusible cotton batiste. It is as light as a feather, and so fine a fusible fabric that you almost don't want to use it for interfacing! However, when I tested a swatch, it made the hand of the fabric too firm--that is, the wool did not drape as it did with no underlining. What I was looking for a product like Textured Weft, which did not change the hand of the wool, but was stable in the crosswise direction
Then, a SewingWorld friend, Fran, suggested that I rotate the Textured Weft 90 degrees, placing the grainline of the pattern pieces on the crosswise grain of the Textured Weft. That way, the Textured Weft's more stable lengthwise grain would "tame" crosswise stretch of the wool stretch woven. The wool's stable lengthwise grain would tame the Textured Weft's slight give in the crosswise direction. It was a brilliant solution. I tested it, and the test sample was perfect--exactly what I had been looking for. I remember the famous couture sewist, Roberta Carr, mentioning that when two fabrics are layered or seamed together, the stronger grain prevails. In my final sample, the lengthwise grain of each piece did the job that I wanted it to do...it kept the other fabric "in line".
Some basic thoughts on fusing:
I have to stop here and make a point about making good test samples when deciding on underlinings or interfacings for projects. It is one of the more (hopefully) intelligent things I do when planning my project, because if I make a wrong choice here, the look of the entire garment is affected. For this reason, I don't skimp on this step.
I try to use as large a sample as my scrap fabric allows. I like pieces about 6 by 9 inches, if possible. I am careful to align the grain of the fashion fabric with the grain of the fusible on these sample pieces. I compare each tested piece to the original fabric to see if it achieves the look I want. For an interfacing, I generally want the fabric to be firm and supportive. For an underlining, I generally want the fabric to have as close to the original hand as possible. Of course these "goals" change, depending on the type of fabric used and the look that I am trying to achieve with the garment.
Once the decision is made, I can happily fuse away, without worry.
I buy my Textured Weft from many sources, depending on who has a good sale going. www.thesewingplace.com and www.fabriccollections.com are twoplaces that I have used. The Sewing Place is very fast in filling orders. I usually buy 15 yards at a time, since I use it a great deal for underlining suiting fabrics, and can sometimes get a "deal" by buying it in bulk like that.
I always pre-treat my fusibles as outlined in Step 6 of this web log.
Now, the nitty gritty on fusing:
About the Textured Weft, or any fusible...two things are absolutely essential when it comes to getting a good fuse--steam and pressure. Without either, it is often difficult to get a good fuse that doesn't bubble with wear, or, as sometimes happens, the underlining or interfacing doesn't fuse at all. I learned this from Mary Roehr, who is, in my opinion, one of the best pressing experts around. Her website is http://www.maryroehr.com/ .
Textured Weft does not like a lot of moisture. Too much or too little moisture, and it won't fuse at all. I use a spritz from my spray water bottle and a shot of steam, and it fuses perfectly to everything that I have tried it with, but more on that in a bit.
With almost any fusible, you will get some bleed-through of the glue...not through the front of the fabric, usually, especially with a fusible like Textured Weft, but often onto the presscloth. That's just the nature of the beast. I dedicate one silk organza presscloth for use only with fusibles, and always use the same side of that presscloth against the fusible. I usually mark the silk organza presscloth with a permanent black magic marker in the corner "For fusibles, this side up", so I know how to place it each time it is used. Because the fusible's glue eventually stiffens the organza, I toss it out after several uses, when it starts to yellow and get stiff. I also always use the same side of the flannelette facing up (see below for use of the flannelette).
Here's my method:
1. Place a piece of flannelette pajama fabric on the ironing board on the board of the steam press. This is great to use because of the nappy surface of the flannelette--it allows me to brush the "crumbs" of any fusible glue away (from any part where I've inadvertently placed the fusible over the edge of the fashion fabric) and protects the ironing board surface at the same time.
2. Place preshrunk/pretreated fashion fabric on the ironing board, wrong side up.
3. Place the preshrunk Textured Weft or other fusible on top of the fashion fabric, glue side down.
4. Place the silk organza presscloth on top of the fusible. Silk organza is wonderful to use because it allows you to see that the pieces are aligned as you press, and because it does not reflect or absorb the heat or steam. It also protects the fabrics from scorching.
Note: I use real silk organza, not the poly organza that is available in many fabric chain stores. The real silk can handle the heat and the amount of time that it takes to effect a good fuse.
5. I spritz the surface of the presscloth lightly with water from a spray bottle. In the case of Textured Weft, which does not like too much water or steam, I still spritz, but very, very lightly.
6. I give the surface a short burst of steam from my iron or press, and then apply and hold firm pressure for 12 seconds. I watch the clock religiously while doing this, so that the whole surface is uniformly fused. If I'm using a hand iron, I lift the iron (never sliding it), and repeat the 12-second pressure step on the next portion to be fused.
Note: I almost always use 12 seconds because it seems to work. This is part of the sample testing phase, though, to determine the optimum amount of time to hold the iron down on the presscloth/fusible/fashion fabric sandwich. I always start with 12 seconds and adjust either way.
7. I never move the fabric until it is cool to the touch. This is because the fusible's glue can shift while it is still warm, which is another reason for a bubbling or unsatisfactory fuse. I have both a suction ironing board and a suction steam press, so for this step, I suction the piece until it is cool, which only takes a couple of seconds.
8. When the fusing process is complete, I remove the fused piece from the ironing board and brush any fusible crumbs off the surface of the flannelette before placing the next piece down to be fused.
I have fused many fabrics, from the softest cashmere to the densest suiting fabric. I don't usually like using fusibles with cashmere, because I feel it affects the hand too much for my taste, but for facings, it has worked fine (using an interfacing-weight fusible on the cashmere facing, that is). I would probably never use a fusible underlining for underlining all or part of the cashmere garment, though. I am speaking of pure cashmere here, and for cashmere/wool blends which are predominantly cashmere. The higher the wool content, the more likely I am to use a fusible for underlining as well (such as Textured Weft).
I have not had the experience of a fusible like Textured Weft's glue coming through on the right side of the fabric. I have had that experience, though, with some other fusible interfacing materials on silk doupioni. This is another really good reason for doing the test samples long before the garment fusing decision is made.
With a soft boucle suiting material, I turn the fabric over to the right side, after the fusing is complete and steam it lightly, brushing the surface with my hand to bring the nap back up. I also use a soft, soft baby brush to brush the surface of the fabric right after it's steamed and before I brush it up with my hand. That helps to get all of the small loops back up into position. I also use a soft baby brush on cashmere for the same reason, to get the soft surface fibers back into place. I learned this baby brush method from Sandra Betzina.
One final word about fusing:
Sometimes I have noticed that the front facing pulls up shorter than the other pieces when it is fused, even though I have thoroughly pretreated both the fashion fabric and the interfacing. I assume this has to do with additional shrinkage going on during the fusing process, coupled with the fact that I use a heavier fusible interfacing fabric for the facings, as opposed to a lighter weight fusible on the pieces that are underlined, and the two fusibles behave differently. I felt better after I read in Louise Cutting's and Sandra Betzina's publications that this is a common finding. They recommend cutting the front facing piece about half an inch longer at the hem edge to solve this problem, and then just trim it to size when the fusing is complete.
OK, this is my final word :-) on fusing:
Sometimes it's hard to decide which pieces to underline. It's pretty easy to decide about interfacing--those pieces are often labeled in the pattern. But underlining--that's really a judgement call, based on the fabric. Sometimes, for loosely woven suitings, I use Textured Weft on all of the pieces except the facings, which are fused with a heavier interfacing material such as Ultraweft or Armo Weft. For other suitings, I may just underline the fronts and back, but not the sleeves. Other times, I may just do the fronts only (not the side fronts) and a partial underlining over the shoulders, and then strips of underlining fabric or interfacing at the hems (both at the hip and the sleeve hems).
Things to consider when making the decision about what should be underlined, and whether to use a fusible underlining or a "natural fabric" underlining material such as silk organza or cotton batiste are:
1. The temperature--both the outside temperature and your internal temperature. Textured Weft is polyester, and does not breathe as well as natural fabrics do. Some people say it doesn't breathe at all, but I look at all those little holes and think that some air must be getting in and out. Who knows...
2. The fabric--some fabrics are firm enough that they really don't need to be underlined. This is really a judgement call, and if I am at all undecided, I often go into my closet and pull out a RTW jacket of the quality and fabric type that I am intending to make. I peek inside and see what the manufacturer used, and if I love wearing the jacket, I let that finding help with my decision.
3. All, some, or none--where to place the underlining is usually dictated by the type of fabric. In general, if I feel that the fabric is easily stretched out of shape, then I underline every piece. If it is a firmer fabric, then I may underline only selected areas. I am always very careful about partial underlinings, because I don't want the shadow of the underlining to be seen through my garment, and I certainly don't want the edge of the underlining fabric to leave a "show through" ridge--in the upper back, area, for example, for a shoulder area underlining. I always pink the edges to minimize show-through ridges, for any partial underlining.