Paper Backed Fusibles – A Side by Side Comparison

If you’re a quilter, at some point you will probably find a need for a paper backed fusible. At one time I was a traditional quilter who thought using fusibles on my quilts was in some way “cheating”. I still prefer my Repliqué method for machine appliqué because it requires no fusibles and avoids the stiffness that heat activated glue yields. But, there are times when I do succumb to fusing.

For my comparison I used the four commercial paper backed fusibles that are readily available in my area: Wonder Under™, Heat n Bond Lite™, Steam a Seam II™, and EZ Steam™. The first two have tracing/release paper on only one side of the web, and the glue isn’t activated until heat is applied. The remaining two have tracing/release paper on one or both sides of the web, and have a pressure sensitive adhesive on at least one side, in addition to the heat activated glue.

There are two advantages to the pressure sensitive adhesive: they can be used to fuse sheers (tulle, organza, etc.), and any appliqué pieces made with them are re-positionable, which is helpful when arranging a design on a background fabric.

The one obvious note that I’d like to make at this point is that the products containing only a heat activated glue will not cause a “glue ball” to build up on your needle when sewing through the appliqués. The ones with the pressure sensitive adhesive will form that “glue ball” on the needle. I used to clean off the needle with an alcohol soaked cotton ball when needed, but I’ve learned a new trick: if you wipe your needle with Sewer’s Aid on a cotton ball prior to sewing through the appliqué the “glue ball” will not form.

My method for comparison – I chose a shape and created three appliqué hearts from each product according to packaging directions. I made the shapes from muslin and wrote which product it was made with on the appliqué.

I then cut three strips of a background fabric and fused one of each of my hearts onto each strip. On one set I top-stitched the edges down, on another I satin stitched (using scrap paper as my stabilizer on the back), and on the third I did a blind hem stitch, to mimic a blanket stitch because I didn’t have that stitch on the machine I was using.

Here are my findings:

* All four products fused the appliqués well.

* The release paper came off easily, with a gentle separating pressure along an edge, from all but the Wonder Under™. For that I had to score the release paper in an “X” with a needle in the center back of the appliqué, and pull it off from the created corners.

* The Heat n Bond Lite™ was the only one with a pattern in the glue. I found it does show through on light color appliqués.

* From what I could tell, they all added about the same amount of stiffness, no matter what the stitch.

One last hint: fusibles may age poorly, especially in very humid areas. They will last longer if stored in an air-tight container or bag.

7 Opinions

  • Bernadette Martin said:

    Thanks! I didn’t know about their aging poorly. Never thought of that.

  • Kim T said:

    I use Heat and Bond light most of the time…but usually only use it around the edge of my shape instead of behind the whole shape. That keeps the applique looking a bit “softer” and not so stiff.

  • Beth Morton said:

    Very helpful! Thanks 😊

  • Thank you, Carolyn said:

    Thank you for the fusible reviews, Chris! I use only Steam a Seam 2 Lite, as it is quite thin and the bond is permanent, so stitching the edges is optional.

  • Margit said:

    Thank you for the review. Did you fuse cotton fabric only? I fused necktie fabrics once. I think it was with Heat&Bond. It was impossible to free motion quilt over the fused areas. On the way up the needle would lift the fabric. I could not get good stitches.The stitches worked only with the feed dogs engaged and a walking foot. I guess different materials need different products.As always: try it out first.

    • clkquilt admin

      Fascinating. I have only fused cottons and sheer fabrics, and I’ve had good results. I guess I’ll need to do another test with other non-traditional fabrics.

  • Amy said:

    I love this review. I recently did the splendid sampler project and I was using all scraps of everything I had. I noticed one of my appliqué piece had small pattern of dots behind and have never seen that before. It must have been the scrap of fusible I used. You helped me solve the puzzle. Thank you so much for doing this.


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