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Costume and Garment Structure: Guide To Interfacing

Whether an experienced dressmaker, or just getting started, it’s always wise to brush up on the basics. You know your needles, thread, and fabric, and you’ve gotten pattern reading sussed out. But what’s this about interfacing and stabilisers? And what (if any) is the difference? And why do we need them?

Interfacing and stabilisers are indeed two different things and both have their relevant uses across dressmaking and crafting.

Interfacing is a permanent layer, which can be sewn or heat-fused to your fabric, and gives it weight or structure. If fusible (heat fixed) then one side may appear slightly shiny.

In tailoring, the garment construction and shaping is dependable in part on the fabric used in the project. Silk, chiffon, crepe, cotton and linen all hang very differently when draped, and sometimes need a little persuasion to sit right. Here’s where interfacing comes in. It’s perfect for
building the weight of a fabric slightly, to aid the silhouette of the garment.

Consider waistbands, collars, cuffs – you’re probably checking your own clothes now! - but many garments will have some form of facings, especially around ‘high traffic’ areas.

There’s a few options all in varying weights, but the main few you’re likely to encounter are split into three types:

·Woven – ideal for cotton and light fabrics, added as a layer and attached in the seams

·Fleece – this is usually fusible and is soft but weighty and can also add warmth

·Knit – as it sounds, this interfacing is knit and has a degree of flexibility for knit/ jersey fabrics

The word ‘web’ or ‘fusible web’ may also be grouped with interfacing and stabiliser, but the main difference here is that it is fusible both sides, and therefore used to fuse fabric together, not to add stability. You may use this as a hemming quick fix/ repair, or for applique projects, but it’s not meant for interfacing with.

In contrast, stabiliser is more useful when sewing slippery or lightweight floaty fabrics, and is a temporary measure to give more handling as you sew. It will also offer some reinforcement if stitching is likely to cause damage to the fabric.

As it’s temporary, there are two main kinds of stabiliser and choosing the right one will depend once again on the choice of fabric. Lightweight fabrics work well with sew-in/ tear-away stabiliser, which is quite papery; for a lot of localised stitch work, slightly heavier sew-in/ cut away stabiliser will hold better.

For embroidery or partial stabilising, fusible/wash-away stabiliser works well. As example, take a look at the wrong side of any machine embroidered garment, and you may notice the remnants of stabiliser around the motif.

If you use stabiliser for other more robust sewing and craft projects, then a more suitable product may be sew-in stiffness or foam stabiliser. This is perfect for hats, rigid structures such as fabric bowls and boxes, bags, wallets and more outlandish costumes which need exceptional
structure control but minimal extra weight. Theatrical tailoring – such as for pantomime costumes like the Ugly Sisters - are often structured like this so the performer doesn’t put their back out wearing it!

We always recommend testing any fusible stabilisers on a sample of the fabric you intend on using, and use a cloth or light towel as a buffer between the iron and the interfacing. It’s also wise to double check the fusible side is facing down before pressing. Trust us on this one. The iron was very unforgiving…

Now you’re in the know, choose the right product for your needs and check out our
range of interfacing and stabilisers at!

Have fun and let us know what you get up to!

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