Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bag Interfacing & thread...is there a difference?

   
When I first started making bags, I exclusively used Pellon Interfacing products and Coats & Clark threads...mainly because that is about it as far as selection at my local craft/fabric stores. PLUS if I had a coupon (You ALL know "those" coupons if you are in the US), it was even better.
For years, I used Pellon's Craft or Deco Fuse and Fusible Thermolam for interfacing and Coats & Clark thread to sew-- grabbing them up with "those" coupons and advertised 50% off thread sales.  I always thought that these were my only options....until running across some products at Quilt Market a few years back.  Now you may be wondering..."Is there a difference? Aren't the other options just about the same?"
I am here to tell you guys, there are other options and they will make a huge difference.... please know that these are my opinions from my experience and I'm not being paid or sponsored by any of these companies, so this is just me honestly sharing with you my thoughts.
Let's start with thread...

THREAD
AURIFL, AURIFIL, AURFIL!  I cannot stress this enough.  This green spooled 40wt thread is SUPREME.  The colors are absolutely stunning and to me and it is much, much stronger for your construction.  Stitching with Aurfil makes for much cleaner, straighter, stronger stitching.  I can honestly say that I have not had a snapped or broken thread since I began using Aurifil...no joke!
Stronger stitching is of the highest importance when making bags!  Aurifil is made from Long Staple Egyptian Cotton as opposed to being Polyester as most craft store fabric bought threads.
I initially used the 50wt (which has a RED spool) and it is sublime for piecing and quilting.
  
But I found the 40wt (GREEN spool) to be perfect for bag making, but have also used the 28wt (GRAY spool) for topstitching and love it just as equally.  A lot of people balk at the price of Aurifil-- spools can run anywhere from $9.00-$15.00 per spool.  While this is higher than Coats thread, you must consider the quality and that you are getting a lot more thread on a spool.  Look at the picture above!
The "Regular" mid-sized Coats & Clark Spool from JoAnns= 250 yards
The "Regular" mid-sized GREEN spool of Aurifil  = 1,092 yards

Hello!!!

So, in truth, you'd have to buy 4+ spools of the regular sized Coats thread to get 1 spool of Aurifil.  Even if you choose to buy the "mega" Coats Spool which has 500 yards on it, you'd still need 2+ spools to equal 1 spool of 40 wt Aurifil.  Combine the quality & strength of Aurifil, the glossy colors, fantastic stitching and the yards of spool on a thread, this to me is a no-brainer.  
To give you an example, I have been making bags that I not only construct with 40 wt Aurifil, but they have top-stitching on the front, back, top and handles of the bags--all in white.  
I have made 14 of these bags on the same spool of Aurifil 40wt and the spool is nowhere NEAR close to being gone....it's not even half way gone!
Even before I discovered Aurifil I had started going to a local Sewing Machine Shop to buy Mettler thread because I was so disappointed in Coats thread.  While I liked Mettler thread better than Coats, it still doesn't compare to Aurifil.  What I quickly came to realize is that having a gazillion spools of thread that I was not happy with the quality, was not worth what I thought I was saving with those coupons!
"What will I do with all my Coats/Guterman Thread ?" you ask?  I know, I know, ...I had accumulated a million spools of Coats & Guterman threads too and didn't want to waste them.  I now use  them for prototypes, testing and bobbin thread occasionally...mystery solved.  But for all my major construction and topstitching, I only use Aurifil.



YOUR BAG FIRST LAYER
Let me start by saying "I am a fuser".
Meaning, I like my interfacing fused to the fabric when making bags.  Some people like and/or prefer sew-ins.  For certain bags, I will agree that sew-ins are a better option, but for the majority of mine, I am a "fuser".  I find most often in talking to people that like or prefer sew-in interfacing that it is mainly because they cannot get decent results with fusibles. 
I used to be in that boat.  Like I mentioned, for years I used Pellon Craft or Deco Fuse and Fusible Thermolam Fleece in bags.  No matter if I applied the Craft/Deco Fuse or the Fusible Fleece as the first layer...it just looked cruddy.  I couldn't get it to look right to save my life!

I followed the directions to a tee--even tried spraying with water, fusing on the top, fusing on the back, fusing through a pressing cloth...still...bubbles and not smooth.  Nearly every bag I made had to be "turned inside out" through the lining--which caused bubbles and serious separating, it looked a wrinkly mess!  Yes, you can press it again once it's turned and it will look nice for a hot minute.  But we USE these bags...we open them, we close them, throw them on our shoulders, off our shoulders, shove stuff in them...and the more you do this, the more separating and wrinkling you get. 

Here's the deal...
fusing a NON woven interfacing onto a woven fabric that will "move" a lot = no good.
  
The first layer you fuse onto your bag fabric should be a WOVEN interfacing.  Woven interfacings are woven just like your bag fabric and will therefore MOVE with/the same way your bag fabric from all that usage.  Woven interfacings are typically used as interfacings for clothes, since you need clothes to move with your body.  But they are a MUST in bags, in my opinion to eradicate that bubbling and separation.  Fusing works better for me giving my bags a layer of woven security.

Here are the 3 that I use on a regular basis:

•Pellon Shape Flex (SF101)
•Bosal Fashion Fuse (#300)
•Heat n Bond Soft Woven (Q2400)

These are light-weight so they won't add bulk to your fabric.  Use any of these as the first layer on your bag fabric and I'm telling you, that separating will dramatically go down!  Pellon's SF101 is what you will find readily available at your local craft store, **but** it is thinner and more transparent than the other two.  For that reason, I prefer the Heat n Bond Soft and Bosal Fashion Fuse wovens.


FUSIBLE FLEECE
The "King" of Fusible Fleece's:

Heat n Bond's Extra High Loft Fusible Fleece -Q2425
They don't offer this at JoAnn's...not sure why not as they carry other Heat n Bond products???   
(Side note:  If you want to purchase some, I stockpile this for my bags so I have lots of yardage of this, so if you'd like to buy some--email me or visit my Etsy store "Hypernoodle2" when it re-opens where I will list some in the near future)

There really isn't a contest in this division.  If you've ever read the supplies on a bag pattern chances are high that fusible fleece is involved.  This stuff is AMAZE-BALLS...the quality and loft is superb.  It is just perfect for soft sided bags that need some loft.
Don't let the name fool you, "Extra High Loft" does not mean it's lofty to a point of being goofy and/or too thick to sew through...it's not.  It is a Goldilocks thing-- in that, it's juuuuuust right.  If I don't have any of this Heat n Bond fusible fleece, I use Bosal Fusible Fleece as a substitute because it is very similar.  

Both Heat n Bond and Bosal fleece's are "meaty" but with a very soft hand.  They are dense but don't add too much bulk...just the perfect amount of loft for bags that doesn't flatten or press thin. I can't think of any other way to describe it other than saying they are "just right".
I have made thousands of bags and I'm here to tell ya that for some reason, the Heat n Bond just bonds better to me.  The "fusible" layer isn't scratchy, it makes for a super smooth surface.  I've tried them all and this one is the very best.

The best thing I have found about the Heat n Bond High Loft Fleece is that through repeated use of your sewn object, they really, really keep shape and continue to provide that "loft" you desire when using a fusible fleece.  To me, it almost works like a woven the way it moves with the fabric, stays bonded, maintains loft and reduces that gnarly "wrinkling" effect.

I am sorry to say that I do not care for Pellon Thermolam Fusible Fleece...either in its regular form or the "Plus" version.  (These are they types of fusible fleece you will find in the US at JoAnns stores).  The only way I will use Pellon Fleece, is in a dire emergency if I have run out of both Heat n Bond and Bosal Fleece.
The reason I am not a fan of Pellon's Thermolam Fleece in any way, shape or form is because it is thin, sparse and flimsly.  The regular version is just not even an option and the "Plus" version you would think would be more lofty, but sadly it isn't.  The quality and longevity of your finished bag suffers with either of these because they lack density which causes major wrinkling and/or bubbles.  With it being so thin and sparse, they just don't provide enough loft/continued shape/support when you need a fusible fleece in a bag.  Plus, the more you use a bag made with Pellon Thermolams, the worse the bag begins to look because of the lack of support.
This is just my opinion~ but I always hear people complaining about having "Interfacing anxiety" and not being able to "make them work" and 99.9% of the time, it is because they are using these!  Pellon is what is available locally to most, and then we have those coupons!  So it is usually everyone's 1st experience with a fusible fleece...then thinking there are no other options, you continue to use/buy it because of the coupons...

Here's the truth...  Just because fusible Thermolam is all that's available at JoAnns and you can get it with a coupon does not mean it's your best or only option! That's what the lovely internet is for, so you can order and try other brands.
I can unequivocally say that my bag making experience is much more pleasant and the results are soooo much better using Heat n Bond or Bosal fleece.

I learned the same lesson here I did with thread...just because I can buy it with a coupon, does not make it the better product.  I had to come to terms with that old adage "you get what you pay for".  I had to decide if I wanted to go the cheap route, or if I wanted to make a quality product....there is no question that quality product won out.



NON-WOVENS
For the same reason I mentioned above:
            (non woven interfacing on woven fabric, to me = not good)
I don't use non-wovens directly on my bag fabrics.
There are a wide variety of non-woven weights: Light, heavy, stiff, craft, ect..

Of the "stiff" bunch, I do use Pellon's Peltex for a "stiffer" feel in craft projects, but not in bags.  I remember Peltex used to be soooo sturdy and thick and now it is just very flimsy ---this seems to be a trend with Pellon's products--not sure what happened to them all???

For bags, Bosal offers a "peltex"-like stabilizer product called "Craft-Tex", it comes in light and heavy weights. 
These are EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT products!
The "light" Bosal Craft-Tex is absolutely great for wallets~I use it in all my handmade wallets.  It also is not offered at local craft/fabric stores, but I have packs of it if anyone would like to buy some to try it!

The heavy weight is what I use for purse bottoms.  It is extra- super stiff, much thicker than Peltex.  It is similar to Timtex if you've ever had experience with this product, but it is much more durable in my opinion.  It comes in fusible and non-fusible.
My former beloved Pellon Craft / Deco Fuse are pretty much distant memories as far as bags n'such are concerned.  Occasionally, I use a non-woven "crafty" fuse on bag pockets if I need them to have a bit more body.
I have tried Heat n Bonds Extra Firm Non-Woven and Bosal's Non-Woven-- which are really both exactly the same quality wise as Pellon's Deco Bond.  All are good..




FOAM
I've been using Soft and Stable for a few years now, but it seems like everyone is just now finding out about this lovely foam interfacing.  "ByAnnie" is the maker of Soft and Stable... she is an incredibly nice, wonderful lady who I have had the pleasure of meeting!

Soft and Stable is a foam interfacing that has tricot on both sides (helps with the smooth effect on your outer bag).  This type of interfacing would be used in any bag you want to have a definite shape or stability such as a very structured bag or an ipad/tablet/camera bag for the padding. It's not hard like Peltex (obviously as it is foam) but provides beautiful structure to a bag you'd prefer not to be floppy.

I love Soft and Stable...the only thing missing is that it is not fusible.  
Using it as a sew-in, you really need to trim it shorter than your bag piece seams or they will be incredibly bulky.  This can be troublesome because of it not being fusible, it needs to be basted to the main piece.  I'm impatient so I got into the habit of using Dritz's Heat Set Adhesive on my Soft and Stable to fuse it to my fabrics and was pleased with this...and then last Quilt Market, I discovered Bosal's In-R-Form Plus.
Bosal In-R-Foam Plus is a double sided fusible foam interfacing.  It is essentially the same thing as Soft and Stable, but it is fusible.  Gaaahhhhhhhhh! LOVE IT!  I don't have to use a heat setting spray on the Soft and Stable any longer, the Bosal fuses right onto the fabric (no woven 1st layer needed, the tricot -which is woven, provides a nice smooth fabric to interfacing surface).  Now, the In-R-Fuse is DOUBLE sided fusible...I rarely fuse 2 sides of something at once.  But this is easily remedied by removing the fusible tricot surface on one side of the In-R-Foam.

Side note:  I also have Bosal's In-R-Form paks that will be going into my Etsy store soon!  If you visit the store and they're not there yet, just email me for availability if you'd like to purchase some!
Now some people may try to substitute headliner foam for Soft and Stable or Bosal In-R Foam.  Mainly because this is essentially what both of these products are.. with one major difference...the tricot.  
I don't like to use headliner foam by itself.  I've tried.  Without the tricot, it is NOT fun to sew through and not very needle friendly.  Also, without the tricot, the surface never turns out as smooth...which is odd because it is foam!
You could buy tricot separately and make your own Soft and Stable or In-R-Foam ...but you'd still have to adhere the tricot to the foam...and why go through all that trouble? Even when using a woven as my 1st layer rather than tricot, it just becomes too much work when you can just use the Soft and Stable or Bosal straight out of the package to begin with!  I am all for saving a buck, but sometimes it is just better and more time saving to use a product that is already put together for our convenience that to add extra steps.

Whew!
That's it for now!  There are others that I use and we'll delve into those later.
Ultimately, it is really just a matter of preference.  But I always get asked what I use as interfacing, so hopefully my preferences will help someone out there in choosing for their next bag project!
Happy choosing!

Hypernoodle♥









7 comments:

  1. Thank you for your clear information!
    Esther

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    1. You are so welcome, Esther! Thank you for reading the post! :)

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  2. we should have someone have a linky party of who has the best prices on Aurfuil I would love to buy it but the price points are all over the board and I think some of the European countrys have good prices but who can tell , we could start out with white and the differnt wt. Someone tell whats his name to sponsor the giveaway.. LOl

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    1. You're right, the prices from one store to the next vary greatly! A spool lasts so long that I haven't bought any recently (my spools are still going strong!), but one of my fabric shop owner friends just told me that the price per spool was recently raised ??? Hmmmm, maybe I'll look into this!

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  3. This is such an informative post. I was contemplating using Aurifil thread for my normal sewing (bags and wallets) but then thought that the thread was only specifically for patchwork and quilting and as a result I just dropped it.

    Reading this post has given me the confidence now to purchase Aurifil thread for my sewing. Would you still recommend using the 40 wt for sewing up bags and wallets as well as topstitching?

    Looking forward to your new projects!

    Ann

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    1. Hi Ann :)
      The different weights of Aurifil lend it to be used in a variety of different ways! I absolutely love it and I do use it to sew up/construct bags as well as topstitch. It constructs better to me--the stitching holds better than Coats thread--so yes, I absolutely recommend using the 40wt to construct with! :)

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  4. Fantastic post! I am a fuser also, feel like I just joined fuser AA group, Love Aurifil, but have never tried either of the Heat N' Bond or Bosal products, so you have any of the In-R-Form available?

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