How to Use Interfacing (Stabilizer) Basics


Interfacings are used to enhance the look of a garment, adding firmness and stability to specific areas such as collars, cuffs, and front facings. Stabilizers are used to back fabric, holding it taut while stitching, particularly when doing machine embroidery. 

Types of Interfacing

There are many different types of interfacing, ranging from soft, pliable ones to heavier, stiff canvas types for soft furnishings. Which to use depends on personal preference, the fabric being interfaced, and the desired finish. 

Generally, lightweight interfacings are used with lightweight fabrics. For very lightweight, transparent fabrics, an extra layer of the main fabric is sometimes used. 

There are three main categories of interfacing, all of which come in fusible (iron-on) and sew-in varieties, in white, black, and nude colors, and in different weights. 


Made from pressed fibers with a felt-like appearance. Because there is no grain, they can be cut in any direction and pattern pieces placed any way up. Weights range from super light to extra heavy. Used for traditional home dressmaking and crafts.


These have a grain and are cut on the grain or bias in the same way as fabrics are. The super lightweights are ideal for silks, georgettes, sheers, and satins. Medium- to heavyweight interfacings are used for jackets, dresses, and blouses. 


These are made with a two-way stretch so they handle like knitted fabrics. Used for sportswear, knitted, stretch, and pile fabrics.


In addition to interfacings for general use, there are specialty versions for different sewing techniques including waistbanding, hemming, stay tape, craft, and soft furnishing interfacings. 


Designed to be used in waistbands, front bands, and pleats, they are nonwoven and are usually fusible. Some have slotted lines to help fold and sew easily. Others have stiffened bands attached to the interfacing to provide roll-resistance in waistbands. 

Hem tapes

Again, usually fusible, these are used to turn up hems without stitching. Hem web is a double-sided, very fine adhesive strip that melts, bonding the fabric when pressed. It is placed between the hem allowance and the main fabric. Bondahem is similar but has a paper backing so it can be applied in two stages or used to attach pockets, etc. Blind hem tape is folded to mimic a sewn blind hem. Usually fusible, it is applied in the same way as hem webbing.

Selection of hem tapes

Selection of hem tapes

Bias tape 

This is used to prevent unwanted stretch at necklines, armhole edges, or any curve that needs stabilizing. It is a bias-cut fusible tape and is used within the seam allowance. 

Bias tape fused onto a curved area

Bias tape fused onto a curved area

Stay tape

As with the bias tape, stay tape is used to add stability in areas that you don’t want to stretch too much. It is a straight cut, narrow strip with reinforced stitching for added hold. It is very useful for adding firmness to areas which have been cut on the bias, such as shoulder seams and skirt slits.

Stay tape applied to a shoulder edge

Stay tape applied to a shoulder edge

Fleece, wadding, or batting 

This describes the soft interfacings that are used to add padding, bulk, and warmth to quilts and other soft furnishings. Specialty versions include those made of compressed fleece which provides some heat resistance or those with preprinted guidelines for quilting. Waddings and battings are described as having extra loft – otherwise known as bulk density. 

Batting comes in a variety of different weights, from lightweight (2 oz), to more heavyweight (12 oz). If you are making an item for a baby, such as a crib bumper, make sure that the batting you are using conforms to safety standards.

How to Apply Fusible Interfacing


Use sew-in on textured fabrics, those with pile, beading, and sequins. Stitch the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric piece just within the seam allowance and then trim close to the stitching so that there is none in the seam allowance. Trim the corners at an angle.
Sew-in interfacing

Sew-in interfacing

Iron-on (fusible) interfacing 

Although very quick and easy to apply, iron-on interfacings and tapes must be fused properly to ensure they remain fixed, even when laundered. To apply, cut fusible interfacing to the size of the pattern piece then trim so it fits within the seam allowance. Fuse to the wrong side of the fabric, using a press cloth and dry iron. Press for approximately 10–15 seconds before lifting the iron and repositioning (do not slide the iron along as it might push the interfacing out of position). The actual time taken to fuse completely will differ between fabric and interfacing weights. Always test on a sample first. Allow to cool completely before continuing to work with the fabric.

Iron-on (fusible) interfacing

Iron-on (fusible) interfacing

What is Stabilizer?

A stabilizer is used to back areas that are to be densely stitched, such as machine embroidery, buttonholes, and appliqué. Varieties include tearaway, water-soluble, heat-off, self-adhesive, and permanent stabilizers. Stabilizers help prevent fine fabrics being pulled down into the throat plate and the fabric puckering when stitched.

Selection of stabilizers

Selection of stabilizers

Tearaway – Crisp to handle with a flat, felt-like finish, tearaway stabilizers are positioned on the reverse of the fabric, under the area to be stitched. After stitching, simply tear away the excess.

Take care when pulling away a tearaway stabilizer because you do not want to spoil your work.


There are many types of water-soluble stabilizer, ranging from very fine, fabric-like qualities to heavy-duty films. They are used in areas that need stabilizing while being stitched, but which need to be removed afterward. They can also be used on the front of work to prevent stitches disappearing into pile fabrics such as velvet and towelling. Use them in single or multiple layers, depending on the thickness of the pile. Very fine fabrics should be sandwiched between two layers of stabilizer.

Once the area has been stitched, wash away the stabilizer by soaking the work in cold water. The stabilizer will just dissolve away. Rinse well. Heat-off versions are removed by ironing the area–the stabilizer turns brown then crumbles away.

Water-soluble stabilizer

Water-soluble stabilizer

Self-adhesive embroidery backer 

This is used to back small areas such as cap peaks, cuffs, and collars. It has a layer of paper covering the adhesive side. Once hooped, the garment section can be adhered to the embroidery backer by removing the paper from the appropriate area.

Paper-backed fusible web

This is a double-sided fusible web, backed on one side with paper. It is ideal for applying appliqué. The designs to be appliquéd are drawn on the paper backing (in reverse) then cut out roughly. Position this on the wrong side of the fabric, web side to fabric, and fuse in place. Cut out accurately and then place in position, peeling the paper backing away. Again, press in place. Finish with satin stitch or zigzag stitch to seal the edges. Alternatively, use fabric paint.

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