Laurens Guide to interfacing and tapes for dressmaking

Discover new ways to make sewing your own garments much easier!

The great thing about sewing and dressmaking is that there is always something new to learn. It might be a technique, a tool or piece of equipment that makes a task a bit easier or it could be a product that helps with the sewing process.

Over the years of running the shop and stocking a wide range of different notions and haberdashery items, I’ve come across lots of different ‘tapes’ that can do all sorts of different things.In this post I’ll share the ones I’ve used most frequently, what they are suitable for and how to use them.

To hear me chat about them and demonstrate how to use them, check out my latest Youtube video, or read on for notes and links to the products that I cover.

All the products I mention are available online here

Forming Tape Interfacing

What is forming tape interfacing?

It is a narrow tape, 12mm wide, that is made from 100% polyester woven interfacing (rather than non-woven) and is cut on the bias, so it has diagonal fiber orientation. This means that it’s really pliable and easy to manipulate around curves.

It is really light weight and floaty, so great to use it on lighter weight fabrics and it won’t stiffen or change the appearance of the fabric from the right side.

It has a stabilisng stitch, which is a bit like a chain stitch, running through it. This stitch means that once it’s fixed and ironed onto the fabric, if you put tension on it, the fabric won’t be able to stretch.

When you feel it, you will notice that one side feels rough and one side smooth. The rough side has glue on it and when heated with the iron, this glue melts and bonds to your fabric permanently.

How to use I use forming tape interfacing

The form tape interfacing is great for replacing stay stitching step of stabilising a neckline. Quite often sewing instructions will recommend that you stay-stitch the neckline, and sometimes the arm holes, of your garments right after you cut out your fabric. The purpose of it is to stop that curved edge from stretching out as you construct the garment. If the neckline does stretch out, what you might notice is that the neckline becomes quite baggy and flops forward.

Stay stitching is typically done within the seam allowance, so pretty close to the raw edge of the fabric. On lightweight fabric like viscose or cotton lawn, this can be tricky and you might find sometimes the sewing machine has a tendency to eat up the fabric a bit.

So instead, with your iron on a cool to medium setting, simply press the form tape interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric, along the raw edge of the neckline right after you’ve cut out your fabric. Then continue constructing the garment as per your patterns instructions.

Edge Tape Interfacing

What is edge tape interfacing?

It is a tape, 20mm/2cm wide, that is reinforced by vertical threads. It has a heat activated glue on one side so can be ironed onto the back/wrong side of fabric to stablise and support armholes, front edges, lapels, pocket openings and much more. It is made of 100% polyamide.

It feels light weight but it won’t mould around corners and curves like the forming tape will. You can still use it on curves, you would just need to snip into the edges of it to allow the tape to curve around.

How to use edge tape interfacing

One side of the tape will feel smooth, the other slight rough with a raised texture. It’s the rough side that has the glue on it, so when the glue is heated up with the iron it will melt and bond permanently to the fabric.

The glue side should be place on the back/reverse/wrong side of the fabric along the edge that needs stablised, and with a cool-medium setting on your iron, press it on, ideally with a pressing cloth for a few seconds or until the glue has melted. You can check if it has sufficiently bonded to the fabric by letting it cool down and then trying to pick it away. If it is properly boned down, it won’t come away easily.

Seam Tape Interfacing

What is seam tape interfacing?

This tape is 10mm wide and comes in packs of 10m and is made from 50% Viscose and 50% cellulose. It also has a heat activated glue that bonds to the back of your fabric to reinforce heavily stressed seams such as armholes, neck openings, zip openings and buttonholes. It prevents the fabric from warping when moved under the sewing machine's presser foot.

It can be used to stabilise shoulder seams on stretchy fabric to prevent them from stretching out over time. Some sewing patterns will suggest using a ribbon or other form of non-stretch tape to sew into the seam of the shoulder seam. Instead you can iron this tape on.

How to use seam tape interfacing

You would apply this tape onto the reverse/back/wrong side of your fabric as you would do with the edge tape interfacing, ensuring that the rough, glue side of the tape is facing down. Use a cool-medium setting on your iron and press it on, ideally with a pressing cloth for a few seconds or until the glue has melted. You can check if it has sufficiently bonded to the fabric by letting it cool down and then trying to pick it away. If it is properly boned down, it won’t come away easily.

As it is narrower, you might need to consider where it is positioned more to take account of the seam allowance in your pattern. So for example, if your seam allowance was 1.5cm, you would need to position the tape away from the raw edge so that when you stitched, the stitching would also be through the tape.

Wonder Tape

What is wonder tape?

This is a transparent tape, 9mm wide that is a double-sided adhesive tape suitable for use on fabrics and textiles. It provides a simple and practical alternative to the classic method of securing your project in place with pins or tacking stitches before finally sewing it and when it is washed it will dissolve without residue.

It's perfect for loads of things including…..

  • Basting in zips (my fav!)
  • Basting on pockets or appliques or waistbands
  • Stabilising and basting hems or seams across the stretch of a knit fabric.
  • Holding trim in place for stitching
  • Basting slippery fabric
  • Matching plaids or prints
  • Holding a button in place while you sew it
  • Keeping appliques in place while they're sewn (hand or machine)
  • To keep bulky fabrics together when pins won't get through all the layers.
  • Hold shoulder pads in place until they can be tacked in
  • Hemming napkins, dishtowels, placemats - it will give an exact 1/4 inch doubled hem
  • Can be used for paper crafty also.
  • Or for use where you cannot or do not want to use pins – such as slippery fine fabrics or fine jerseys when the edges tend to curl as you pin and sew seams

How to use wonder tape

It works in exactly the same way that regular doubled sided tape works, that you would use with paper crafts for example, but the difference with this tape is that it is not quite as sticky, it can be easily re-positioned a few times as needed and is temporary, so once you have used it, you need to then sew over it to secure your project together. As it is less sticky than regular paper craft doubled sided tape, it won’t gum up your needle or machine with stickiness.

The tape doesn't come with any instructions as such but it's really easy to use.

Just simply stick it on your fabric (or zip like in the picture) (it's really easy to reposition and it doesn't loose it's stickyness that quickly).

Peel back the white tape to leave the double sided sticky bit on the fabric, then place your zip or other bit of fabric on top and then stitch away pin free!

Framilastic

What is framilastic?

This is a clear elastic that comes in 2 width T6 (6mm) and T9 (9mm). It is ​​100% polyurethane elastic that is stretchy but has great recovery, meaning it bounces back into it’s original length easily and has a high tear resistance.

It can be used for securing elastic seams, for example at the shoulder seams and diagonal necklines on garments like a wrap dress. It can also be used for adding design details such as gathers, ripples or ruffles.

How to use framilastic

To use framilastic to stabilise a seam, you need to position it so that when you sew the seam, you will also be sewing through the elastic. Keep it as relaxed as possible as you sew so that gethers or tucks are not created accidentally. It may help to start off with an extra bit of elastic sticking out the back of the foot on the sewing machine, that can be trimmed down later. This can minimise the chance of the machine sort of eating up the elastic.

To use the framilastic to add a design detail like gathers, you would stretch the elastic as you sew while keeping the fabric relaxed underneath. Once it has been sewn on and you let the elastic relax back into shape it will naturally gather the fabric.

Stretch Fix

What is stretch fix?

This comes in two forms, as a tape 30m wide (T30) or on a roll which can be purchased by the 10cm. It is a light weight, double sided, heat activated bonding web that is stretchy. It feels like paper on one side and rough on the other. The paper get peeled away as you apply it to the fabric in stages, melting the glue with the iron.

It can be used to help make the construction of garments made from stretchy fabrics easier by bonding layers of fabric together before sewing, for example in hems and straps.

How to use stretch fix

Depending on what form your have the stretch fix in, the 30mm tape or the larger sheet section, you will need to cut it down to the desired width. This can easily be done by drawing a line on the paper side and cutting it with paper scissors. If you are using it for a hem, then cut the stretch fix to the width of your hem turning according to the pattern instructions.

You then place the rough, glue side down onto the back/reverse/wrong side of the fabric and using a cool-medium iron, press it on. Wait until it cools so that the glue can fully set and bond to the fabric. Then peel off the paper, leaving the glue residue on the fabric. If the glue is peeling away as well, it means you need a hotter iron to melt it onto the fabric more.

Once you peel the paper away, you can then place the glue residue onto the another side of fabric you want to bond it to, and then iron again, to activate the second stage and stick the fabrics together.

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