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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Glue it to it: My Favorite Fusible

One of the odd things about having quilted long enough is that you have a living history of the march of products. I've been at this since 1975 which means I've gotten to see them all come and go. The techniques change a little. What marches that change most is the available products. This was never so true as with fusibles.

I personally welcomed all the changes, and once the new one came out, promptly gave away the old product to someone who didn't care. The changes were that good.

 My first adventure in non-sewn applique was in 1975 and it involved scotch tape.  Which melted, but not in any way you would suspect or want. As you can imagine, I didn't try that again.

Somewhere in the early 1970s Stitch Witchery arrived. I started using it in the early 1980's. It was an unbacked glue web that spread everywhere and created a fabric surface just like cardboard. It was the only game in town for those of us hopeless in hand-applique. We used it, or tried to and pretended it looked fine.

Wonder Under was a big step up from that. It had a paper back. You ironed it onto your fabric and cut your shapes and then ironed them down. At least the glue stayed put. It created a fused surface that held it's edge as you stitched it by machine. It was functional. And it was paper backed, which meant the shapes matched your fabric shapes and you didnt' smear your iron.It also glued up fabric you might want to use in other ways and created a whole new stash category of pre-glued fabric.

A few years after that, Aileen's Fusible Web showed up. If you looked at it next to Wonder Under the difference was immediate. It had at least twice the amount of glue on the surface but was no more stiff. It was wonderful. And it was also paper backed. I used it until their factory burned down and then we were left with Wonder Under again.

Until the Steam-A-Seam came out. I often miss the beginnings of new products because I live in a studio and not at the store. Most of the studio supplies are ordered in from wholesalers so that's why I'm often on the end of  the wave instead of the vanguard. I don't get to see things until someone shows it to me.

So I missed Steam-A-Seam 1. It was tacky. And I don't just mean the fabric. You could tack it on to one side of the fabric and it would stick. You could also remove it so you didn't have a pre-glued fabric collection anymore. And it was paper backed. Ironing it made it permanent. 

That was good. The second version (Steam-A-Seam 2) tacked on both sides. Ca-Ching!!! You could tack it on to your fabric. Then peal the back and tack it on to your piece. And move it endlessly. Only when it ironed was it on forever. They made a light version of it which is functional for cottons and miserable for the brocades, laces, and sheers I like to fuse with. But I still buy Steam-A Seam 2 in 25 yard boxes and go through something like four of them a year.

There are new fusibles that have come out, but they aren't paper backed and I just won't go there. I know I'll make a mess.

Things to know:

  1. No glue holds things down indefinitely. You will need to stitch it in some way. I use mono-filament nylon for soft edges and either poly or metallic thread and a zig zag stitch to make it stay.
  2. I am doing wall hangings, so I prefer my work to be stiff. You may have other druthers. Honor those. Use a product that gives you the right results for you.
  3. Glues get old. Don't buy more than you can use in 3 months. If it does get old, you can use it old style by ironing it on to your fabric. But what a mess.
  4. Odd fabrics like brocade, lace cheesecloth, sheers, an angelina fiber can all be fused but you'll need a non-stick pressing cloth to catch the glue.
  5. In case you don't catch the glue, iron cleaner is your friend. I clean my irons around  every week.
Wrapping it up. The glues just get better and better.I'm an unabashed fan of Steam-A-Seam 2 for it's tack and it's fusing capabilities.

You'll find Steam-A-Seam 2 at any fabric store worth it's salt. It comes in bolts of 12" wide, and then in packages of sheets and in small strips in rolls for hemming. I use those for making rod pockets. See Quick and Easy Machine Binding Techniques for instructions.


Sherryl said...

A small correction to your time line.. Stitch Witchery was available in the early 70's and it came on a large 54" roll and was paper backed. It took me years to use this bolt up and by then, it was no longer paper backed.

Anonymous said...

I really love, love your work and how you step out of the box is amazing. You do you and do your thing well. I commend you for your talent and how it enbles you to create in other's eyes master pieces and the colors that you use to bring your pieces to life are brillant and vibrant to the palet of the soul. You kept at it and never gave up on yourself as a true artist for your craft. Congradulation on your accomplishments and please keep up the good work until you can't do any more.

Patricia A. Robertson
Purple Passion Art
Suitland, Maryland 20746

Art by Rhoda Forbes said...

Great commentary, I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I am so enjoying your mini lessons and posts. Love, love, love your work. I was able to visit with you in Wyoming when we roomed in the same dorm and your lecture was the best I have ever heard (and I have enjoyed many great ones). Thanks for sharing. Lyn Wolf Jackson

Gloria said...

Love this blog! Your work is amazing too. Thanks for taking time to share your knowledge and experience.

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