September 4, 2010

Fusibles are not evil

On some blogs I read, there has been discussion recently on subject of tailoring. Mostly coming to the conclusion that you can only really ever hope to make a proper jacket by buying expensive fabric and putting in hours and hours of fastidious manual labour, padstitching layers upon layers of different kinds of heavy interfacing.

Hm, I have to admit, this was one of the issues which made me feel like I was underachieving... And I would like to try out this form of hard-core, couture-style tailoring somewhere in the (possibly quite near) future.
However, sewing is not an exact science and, in its history there has hardly been a golden rule which couldn't be broken.
In ready-to-wear, the kind of tailoring I refered to was practised on a large scale up to (about) the 1950's. Good tailored jackets would be able to stand to attention on their own. In the late 1960's and 70's, the youth culture and the decrease in formal dress codes allowed for an emphasis on comfort. Classic suits (for women) were no longer a fashion item. The power suit of the 1980's was a different beast. Heavily padded in the shoulders but a lot less fitted than its predecessors. It actually relied on flowing fabric for its appeal. So no more all-over interfacing... And, of course, many 50's suits were tailor made. Almost all 80's suits were factory products.
Now, I don't claim to know everything about sewing or fashion history. The story above was just intended as a general overview. I do not, for example, know when fusible interfacings were first introduced. Either in RTW or for the home seamstress. I do know, however, that nowadays fusible interfacings are available in a huge range of weights and styles (I actually have a bit of fusible horsehair canvas in my interfacing stash, for example). Finding the right one for your fabric and project and applying it properly will go a long way to help you make a professional looking garment.
Case in point? Well, doesn't the jacket in the picture look classic? And, if I dare say so myself, well-made?
I made it about one and a half year ago. I drafted the pattern myself and used a fairly solidly woven, mid-weight herringbone tweed, interfaced throughout with woven interfacing for wool fabrics. That stuff sticks to the fabric very well and, rather than adding a lot of weight, it acts like a thin web, slightly stiffening but mostly stabilizing the fabric and allowing you to shape it.
I'm posting it here as a reminder, also to myself.
I won't make any assumptions about menswear, because I lack experience in that area. However, when making a ladies' jacket, consider ALL your options. Fusibles are not evil.


  1. What a great post! I agree, using the correct quality fusible interfacing for your project is a glorious revelation, especially if you've chosen poorly in the past and gotten poor results. But when you're careful the results are SO pleasing and simple.

  2. I would be thrilled if I could make a jacket much like the one pictured - the cleanness of the lines are what I am looking for!

  3. thats some jacket! I remember my mum using fusible interfacing in the mid 70s I think.

  4. I love fusibles, they save a lot of time and you can give the professional looking result

  5. Missed the discussion, but to me you're sooo right. I do make two or three jackets a year and I use good quality fusibles without feeling that I'm underachieving. My clothes are not museum pieces, they are worn and I want them to last a few seasons. I mostly use fusibles (have some with horsehair too) and am very happy with the results and how they last in my garments.
    Your jacket is outstanding, beautifully made, who cares whether it's with a fusible interfacing or not.

  6. I totally agree with your perspective Lauriana!
    Fusible technology is a relatively recent phenomenon, and I think it may have been Armani with his 'soft suiting' in the early 80's that popularised it's use in tailoring.
    There is a belief in some circles that handsewn traditional techniques are 'superior', but it is important to realise that these techniques evolved without the technology we have today (eg, sewing machines, fusing, zips) and maybe tailors 150 years ago would have welcomed such options with open arms - if they had them!
    I'd like to try a hand tailored jacket one day just for the experience, but I am a fusible fan - my fused jackets and coats are still going strong!

  7. I agree with you. I have made hand tailored jackets and while the results were good, if you use the right fusible products you can achieve almost the same feel and effect and actually get to wear it the season you're sewing it in. I don't sew quickly so a hand pad stitched jacket is a major undertaking in time. The cheap interfacing used in cheap clothing has given fusibles a bad name. There are wonderful products available to the home sewer today. High end rtw that sells for major bucks uses fusibles as well.

  8. Thankyou for this post. I too have felt like a bit of an underachiever when I read about the lengths some other seamstresses go to, as another example, muslins. I've read about people making muslins for simple pencil skirts and shorts, well, life is just too short.....imo
    That is a beautiful jacket, well done. Immaculately finished and tailored!

  9. Thank you for sharing your opinion. I agree with you and in my opinion handsewn garments are extremely overrated. I think Sherry got it exactly right, back then they just did not have the resources we have today.

    I'm a traditionally trained dressmaker (3 years of training) and we never did this kind of handsewing when making jackets. We used fusibles and the result were beautiful tailored jackets, which were not cheap or cheap looking at all. Just like your jacket in the picture, perfectly done without all the handsewing!

  10. Couldn't agree more. Your jacket is testament that the stitching nazis are wrong. Beautiful work.

  11. I concur! It's ok to embrace the new fusible interfacing technology. It pays to be a well informed seamstress. Beautiful jacket by the way:)

  12. Thanks for standing up for fusibles. The purists were getting on my nerves!

    Your jacket is lovely!