Types of Interfacing and Their Purposes (Plus Tips!)

types of interfacing fabric

Different Types of Interfacing and What They’re Used For

Since the first official “interfacing” product came on the market around 1950, it has become a vital component of many sewing projects, especially clothing. Even before the 50s, various methods were used to shape and stiffen different parts of garments. These included stiffeners made with various types of animal hair or muslin treated with starch or other stiffeners. 

This specialized support fabric gives shape, stabilizes, strengthens, and adds neatness to garment edges. Interfacing prevents garment openings from stretching out of shape over time. It can also add thickness and durability to bags and craft projects. 

Interfacing is used for necklines, sleeveless armholes, collars, waistbands, cuffs, button/buttonhole edges or plackets, embroidery backing, and support for bags and ornaments. And this is certainly not an exhaustive list. 

Interfacing is available in weights from extra-light to ultra-firm. If you’re using a pattern, the interface weight will be included in the notions section on the pattern envelope. Most interfacing is white, but some types of interfacing are available in gray or black.

Here is an in-depth look at the different types of interfacing fabrics, what they are used for and tips for using them in your next sewing project.

Types of Interfacing

Sew-In

Sew-in is one of the original types of interfacing. Sew-in interfacing is usually a non-woven, synthetic webbing cut as a replica pattern piece and sewn to the wrong side to add stiffness. It is encased between the facings and the main fabric, hence the name “interfacing.”

Fusible

Fusible interfacing has either small dots or a shiny layer of heat-activated adhesive on one side. Fusible interfacing is easy to apply and will not bunch between layers of fabric. However, don’t look at fusible interfacing as the ultimate “end-all, be-all” of interfacings. There are times when it is simply not the correct choice.

The most common fusible interfacing is single-sided, having adhesive on only one side. However, double-sided interfacings are also helpful for small embellishments or costumes. Do not use double-sided interfacing for regular garment facings.

Stretch/Knit

Knit fabrics require stretch interfacing to maintain flexibility while adding support and definition. 

Incorrectly combining stretch and non-stretch materials can result in wrinkles or creases along with decreased ease of movement.

Woven

Woven interfacing is more fabric-like, with a definite warp and woof. Its main drawback is that it may unravel over time. Woven interfacing also has a definitive grain, so pieces must be cut along the grainline as they are for the main fabric. 

Professional sewists often prefer woven interfacing for its responsiveness and durability. The product is standard in suits and other professional wear.

Non-Woven

Non-woven interfacing has no grain. It is more paper-like, and the lighter weights show a webbing effect. Non-woven interfacing doesn’t fray. Because it’s so easy to use, non-woven interfacing is the most commonly-used interfacing among home sewists, especially beginners.

Fabric

Matching or contrasting fabric can be used as interfacing. Some common fabric interfacing materials include:

  • Self-fabric: Self-fabric interfacing is the main fabric used as an extra reinforcing layer or an accent. Self-fabric provides unlimited color and pattern matching and can be used to create contrasting, visible inside facings on pieces of a set.
  • Organza: Organza is usually silk with a flat, even weave. The material is extremely lightweight for thin to sheer fabrics. Organza is popular as a sew-in interfacing in high fashion designs. 
  • Canvas: Canvas is used as interfacing for suede or lightweight leather garments. It is also popular interfacing for bags, defining and reinforcing without making the material too stiff.
  • Netting: Stretch netting is used to back specialty fabrics such as sequined, loosely woven knits or lace. Net allows these fabrics to hang and move unencumbered.

Felt

Felt is an easy, sturdy interfacing for craft projects or heavier fabrics to reinforce shape and add thickness.

Hair Canvas

Hair canvas is made from goat hair and canvas and is very stiff. It’s used for tailoring jackets and coats, as it holds its shape well. This is a more expensive interfacing found more often in professional tailor shops or high-end products.

Fusible Fleece

Fusible fleece is soft fleece backed with an iron-on adhesive. Fleece is ideal for areas where stiffness is not the goal. Fusible fleece adds thickness to shoulder pads or the sides of bags and purses. It also makes a stable batting for small quilted projects.

Water Soluble

Water soluble interfacing adds temporary stability and visibility to an area of fabric, then dissolves away in water. Place water soluble interfacing over a napped fabric before stitching or embroidering to keep the stitches from disappearing into the pile. Or use it under decorative stitching on lightweight fabric. 

Water soluble interfacing is used frequently for embroidery work on hats or other small surfaces. It can also hold scraps of fabric together for creating an applique or crazy quilting until the pieces are sewn permanently in place.

Tips For Matching Interfacing and Fabric

While medium-weight interfacing will be appropriate for most sewing needs, some considerations still exist before making a final decision. Should you use sew-in or fusible? Do you need a lighter or heavier than usual weight? 

The best source of information regarding the proper weight interfacing is your pattern. Beyond that, the lighter the material, the lighter the interfacing should be–the same for heavier weights. The preferred look is also a factor, whether flexible or formal-stiff.

Fusible vs Sew-In Interfacing

Fusible interfacing may seem much more convenient, but it’s not always the best choice, especially for lightweight, free-moving garments. 

Don’t use fusible interfacing for fabric with a nap, such as velvet or fur, or it may cause the nap to flatten in interfaced areas. Also, avoid fused interfacing on textured, uneven materials, as it will adhere unevenly or not at all.

Lacey or thin, silky fabrics lack enough substance for fusible interfacing. These fabrics will benefit from organza or self-fabric interfacing.

Fusible interfacing is excellent for attaching to edge and backing pieces. Once applied, it does not shift, and the fused pieces can be sewn without further consideration to interfacing. Fused interfacing adds more direct stiffness to backing pieces, producing a neat, professional finish.

Sew-in interfacing only touches the fabric at the seams, allowing movement while still providing support and definition. And sew-in interfacing can be trimmed in the seam allowance, lessening the bulk of multiple layers. 

Woven vs Non-Woven Interfacing

Unlike most other interfacings, woven interfacing should be pre-washed to prevent shrinkage. Read the interfacing packaging instructions to prepare it for use. It has a definite grain that must be followed when cutting out individual pieces. The edges also should be finished or hidden in a seam to prevent fraying.

One desirable advantage to using woven interfacing is that since the grain matches the main fabric grain, the drape of the fabric is maintained throughout the garment. Woven interfacing is also highly durable, outlasting non-woven products.

Non-woven interfacing has no grain and does not fray. It does not require pre-shrinking. There is no need to line up pattern pieces a particular way, so there’s less waste. Non-woven interfacing works well for both garments and non-clothing projects. 

However, non-woven interfacing is less durable, so woven is often preferred for professional outfits. It will lose its stiffness, breaking down and coming apart over extended periods.

Double vs Single-Sided Fusible Interfacing

Single-sided fusible interfacing is ideal for garments. To add support and definition, the interfacing is cut and adhered to the wrong side of front, back, and armhole facings. The main body of the garment will maintain its smooth lines and movement without indicating the presence of interfacing.

Double-sided fusible interfacing is often used for patches, hems, and appliques. It should be used very sparingly, only when two pieces can be stuck together without causing any puckers or pulling on the rest of the project.

Stretch/Knit Interfacing

Knit interfacing should always be used with 4-way stretch material. Non-stretch will cause puckering at the seams and edges. 

Some 2-way stretch fabric or knit with a minimal stretch factor (less than 25%) may have no problems with regular, non-woven interfacing. But if there’s any doubt, go with the stretchy choice.

Steps For Adding Interfacing

  1. Choose the appropriate interfacing for your garment or project. Ensure the interfacing will not show through the main fabric, causing subtle shading where you don’t want it.
  2. Pre-wash both the fabric and interfacing, as required.
  3. Test a piece of interfacing on scrap fabric to ensure you will get the desired support.
  4. Read pattern instructions and pattern pieces to find which require interfacing.
  5. Put aside pattern pieces requiring interfacing as you cut out the main fabric.
  6. Lay out the pattern pieces on interfacing. Follow the proper grain markings for woven or self-fabric backing. Trim interfacing to at least ⅛-inch smaller than the pattern piece–¼-inch for thin fabrics. Interfacing should not have any tabs or notches cut into it. However, some sewers prefer to make any needed pattern markings on the interfacing rather than the main fabric.
  7. Following pattern instructions, add the required interfacing. The edge seam allowance for sew-in interfacing should be narrower than garment seam allowances. 
  8. No regular interfacing should show once the garment is completed. This may not be true of some netting or self-fabric stabilizers. Interfacings that do show should be finished for a professional look.
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