Thoughts on Fusible Applique

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Fusible web is a man-made fiber that melts when it is heated. Many quilters – especially art quilters – have used a fusible product when creating quilts that require appliqué. When placed between two pieces of fabric, the melting action of the web when in contact with a hot iron causes it to fuse the fabrics together. As a result of this process, it is a wonderful way to avoid turning under fabric to appliqué by hand or machine, and is very secure.

There is a wonderful chart that I found at Stitch em Up that lists a number of fusible products with information about each.
Please check it out!

Over the past year or two, I have frequently used fusible products for appliqué on items that will see little to no washing. I view fusible as tool and option for items such as wallhangings, purses, accessories, journals, and anything that will not be tossed in a washing machine. I have made my grandchildren a quilted calendar wallhanging that hangs in their kitchen. These 18 inch square blocks are a perfect use for fusible appliqué.

November Calendar Block in Progress:
               A fused turkeyiron

I have a concern about the use of fusible appliqué on quilts that are meant to be  saved and used by the owner on a daily basis. As I have attended quilt shows recently and viewed newly-made quilts online, I am noticing more and more appliqué quilts being made using fusible as the method of appliqué. It worries me for several reasons, but here are the two I worry about the most:

Worry 1: On the historical timeline of quilting, fusible products are babies. This is a brand new product, and we have no guarantee what it will do over the long-term in a quilt. It is an ADHESIVE. The edges are raw and exposed. It is basically glue holding two layers (or more) of fabric together. What will years of regular washing do to a fused quilt? Even without a lot of washing, will these quilts be around 50-100 years from now? And if they are still around, how frayed will those raw edges be?

I thought about this a few weeks ago as I was cleaning the basement. I came across my scrapbook from when I was a teenager. You know the kind… where we kept pictures, newspaper articles and programs from shows we attended. We held them in place with tape. I was a teenager in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. (Yes, I’m that old.) Now, a few decades later when I open my scrapbook, most of the adhesive tape has turned brownish in color and no longer adheres to the paper. My precious memories fall out of the scrapbook, and I have to tuck them back into place and close the book quickly so I don’t lose them. Will this happen to our quilts?

Worry 2: As a quilting instructor, I worry about newer quilters who learn how to do fusible appliqué and view it as THE way to appliqué. Please note that this is a two-fold issue for me.

Example: Amy takes a quilting class and learns how to do fusible appliqué. It’s an easier method than what she has seen other more experienced quilters do when they appliqué, so she makes it her method of choice. She sees a beautiful Baltimore quilt pattern and creates a lovely quilt top that is heavily appliquéd (as they all are), only hers is done using fusible products. She delivers or ships her quilt top to a long arm quilter, and a few months later has produced a stunning quilt.  (She meaning Amy.)

Here’s question number one:


What if this is how we teach young ladies how to quilt from now on? Will the techniques of quilting from the last 150-200 years eventually be lost? Will they ever learn how to do a fine needle-turn or invisible appliqué stitch? Or will they stick to fusing? Will they ever learn how to do a rocking (quilting) stitch, or will all quilts be machine quilted by someone else? (I said it was a two-fold issue).


Before my readers chime in with comments, let me assure you that I treasure modern technologies. I am a computer addict. Just ask my husband.  Give me a gadget and I go ga ga. Seriously!
In 1987 I wrote a book called
 “Contemporary Quilts
From Traditional Designs.”  

I like contemporary quilts, and I like traditional quilts. And remember in the beginning of this post I said I use fusible?      I fully understand that not everyone will want to be a full-fledged quilter and make quilt after quilt. Fusing and paying someone to do the quilting for you may be the only way some people get a quilt done. I get that.

Here’s question number two:

How do we perpetuate the tradition of quilting that our great grandmothers taught us?

Ok, one, two, three DISCUSS!
There is plenty of comment space here for everybody.

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on Fusible Applique

  1. I am very much with you—I am an “do like do nor like” fusible products!!! I am a needle turn “freak”—and I hate that every pattern I buy is only set up for fusible and therefore my quilt designs done by these are facing in backwards too!! You would like I would learn to “read” first–but???
    Hugs, Di


  2. Great post, Caron! I use fusible all the time – I'm a lazy quilter, always have been. I've never been one to piece with precision, it's more about the graphic appeal for me.
    I love traditional quilts, and I know the work that goes into them. But I'm not going to produce heirlooms – my quilts are meant to be used til they're just rags. For a baby, I want it loved to death.

    I have quilts, big quilts, that I've used fusible on. They've been washed many times over the years, and still look the same. I'm not quilting for posterity – I want my family to use them, love them, then say goodbye to them when they're used up. I'll be gone, I won't care, lol.

    I'm also not worried about new quilters – there are SO many folks out there who prefer needle-turn, who piece with precision, who do everything right. Needle arts are enjoying a huge comeback right now, but they did go out of favor for awhile – it will probably ebb and flow forever. People will find their niche, whether they're slap-dash quilters like me, or excellent needle-women like you. You're doing a great service to keep quilting alive and strong.


  3. Thought-provoking post, Caron. When I still could applique, I never even gave a moment's thought to using a fusible product. However, now that I no longer can do needle-turn applique and want to do a small quilt with some applique on it, I am contemplating trying it out. I will probably buttonhole stitch around the applique shapes, though.

    There are so many different types of quilters that I don't think the traditional ways of making quilts will ever disappear. There is much enjoyment to be had with the rhythm of hand stitching — be it piecing, applique or quilting — and I think as people discover that, they may be more drawn to it. For me, it's therapeutic and a great way to relax after a busy day.


  4. I use fusible for small pieces and dont use it for large. But I always stitch around the fused pieces with a little buttonhole stitch as if it were broderie perse. I cant imagine just leaving the fusible as is and expecting it to hold up to machine washing no matter what the label says.


  5. I agree with you. I like fusible for wall quilts and fooling around with art pieces, but I never use it in quilts that I make, to use. I find needle turn easier than cutting out extra pieces and gluing and…..



  6. Great post. These are issues we need to air out from time to time! I don't think needle turned applique will ever disappear as long as we keep teaching how to do it.


  7. I'm a hand appliquer(?)and a longarm quilter. There will always be those who want to have their creation be theirs from start to finish. Then there are those who, for whatever reason, can't or won't do the quilitng. But they love quilts and love the process up to a point.

    I don't think hand work will ever go out totally. I don't like fusing but I've done it if the teacher/project called for it.

    For what it's worth, it can be frustrating quilting over fusing on a quilt. If stitches need to be removed, the holes they leave behind can be difficult or impossible to remove. At least that's been my experience.


  8. I am a dyed in the wool fusible applique teacher, designer and author. I love fusible applique, but I teach my students that just because it is fused and seems permanent, it is not.

    I always recommend that they machine applique around each piece of applique. They can do this with decorative threads and stitches, plain satin stitching, or monofilament invisible stitches such as hem stitching, straight stitching close to the raw edge, or with a tiny zig zag using a small machine needle (so the stitches don't show).

    This way even if the glue disappears over time, the sewing will keep the pieces in place, even after many years of wear and many washings. Fear not!

    The quilting world is HUGE nowadays, and the tried and true methods of hand applique are appealing to many a quilter who want to make Balt. albums, Jacobean designs, Hawaiian style and others.

    I firmly believe we will NOT lose all those hints and tips we learned from our grandmothers and other relatives, the old fashioned quilts are still valuable and are sought out.

    There is room in the quilting world for all types of quilts, old fashioned, albums, hand applique, hand quilting, fusible applique, long arm quilting, other machine quilting, the list goes on.

    Lets learn about them all, and find out which methods each individual prefers, and encourage them to do it their way!

    Betty Alofs
    teacher, designer, author
    Lakeside, CA
    (near San Diego)


  9. I have used fusible for applique ever since I took a class from Sharon Schamber. But I do not stop with just the fusing. One more step makes my applique there for a long time as I use various stitches to make sure that the applique is there to stay. Another person who has written a book on this subject is Beth Ferrier. You can find Beth on Applewood Applications and her book, Hand Applique by Machine, is wonderful and excellent.
    Georgia Gal


  10. I love fusible products. I can hand applique, I choose not to. It is not fun for me and I make quilts for fun. Before my GD could talk, she laughed and danced on a quilt that I made her. That is the reason that I quilt, not for strangers to praise my quilts in 100 years.
    Having said that, If you want to hand applique, hand quilt, wrap in acid free tissue paper and put your quilt in an acid free box until the day you die, then do it. If we were all alike, it would be really boring.


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