Interfacing in Garment Construction: Types and Uses

What is Interfacing?
Interfacing is an interior construction fabric that is positioned between plies of fashion fabric. Though it is also called interlining but there are few differences between interfacing and interlining. Interfacing is a supportive fabric placed between the facing and garment fabric. Although hidden from view, it is a critical part of garment construction. The necessity for interfacing is dependent on garment detail, fabric type and desired effects. It can make the difference between a professional looking garment and a disappointment.

interfacing fabric
Figure 1: Interfacing fabric

Interfacing gives strength, shape and body to the garment. Interfacing is an extra layer secured to the inside of garments, to add shape, firmness, structure, and support to areas such as collars, cuffs, waistbands and pockets; and to stabilize areas like shoulder seams or necklines.

A suitable interfacing should:

  • Be suitable to the fashion fabric with respect to fabric construction, fiber content, care and method of application (sew-in versus fusible).
  • Have the same grain line as the fashion fabric.
  • Harmonize in color as that of the fashion fabric.
  • Give necessary reinforcement required to enhance the contour of the garment.
  • Not alter the drape characteristic of the fashion fabric.

Purposes of Interfacing:
The objectives of interfacing are to

  • Stabilize the fabric by avoiding sagging and stretching
  • Strengthen the specific garment region
  • Support facings
  • Stabilize waistbands and neckline areas
  • Soften the edges and provide smooth as well as stability of base fabric
  • Maintain shape to garment areas like shoulders, hems, collars and cuffs

Types of Interfacing:
Interfacings are the most common stabilizers used in garments today. Interfacings are manufactured in three different structures: woven, nonwoven, and knit. Within each type, different weights, widths, hand, color, and weaves are available. They are produced in popular colours such as black, white, natural, red, and dark and light charcoal.

Interfacings are available in two main types (fusible or sew-in), in three weave construction (nonwoven, woven and knit) and in diverse weights (light, medium and heavy weight). It is vital to select the appropriate type of interfacing for the particular garment.

Interfacings can be grouped by type according to fabric, stretch and application. Almost every combination of these three types is available in an interfacing fabric.

Fabrics used for interfacing can be woven, non-woven or knit. Characteristics of fabric construction give different properties to fabrics. While many fabrics are produced exclusively for use as interfacing, others may also be suitable. Woven fabrics, such as batiste, muslin, broadcloth and some lining/interlining fabrics, may be very suitable as interfacing. The garment fabric can sometimes be used, especially if it is a solid color.

Woven interfacings: Woven interfacings are no different from fabric in the way they are formed. Woven interfacings have warp grain and weft grain similar to the base fabric to retain the drape of the garment. Woven interfacings may be cotton, rayon, wool, polyester or a blend of fibers. Lengthwise yarns are interwoven with crosswise yarns at right angles to make a woven fabric. Those containing wool can be shaped and moulded with steam. However, when cut on the bias they have more give and are more suitable for shaping.

Woven interfacings are very stable and don’t stretch in the length or the width. It is important, then, that they be cut following the pattern grainlines. Because woven interfacing is stable in both directions, patterns can be placed on the lengthwise or crosswise grain, as illustrated in Figure 2. Woven interfacings include cotton batiste, organza, broadcloth, and canvas, to name just a few.

Cutting woven interfacing
Figure 2: Cutting woven interfacing

Nonwoven interfacings: Nonwoven interfacings are considered bonded fabrics. Nonwoven inte1facings are usually made of polyester, rayon, nylon or a blend of fibers. A nonwoven interfacing is created with synthetic fibres that have been chemically or thermally compressed together with the use of heat. Since they do not have a yarn direction or grain, they will not ravel and can be cut in any direction. The weight and amount of stretch can vary significantly among nonwoven interfacings. Give careful consideration to selecting the most appropriate one.

Nonwoven interfacings don’t fray and are usually reasonably priced. They don’t have an actual grainline; however, it is advisable to cut garment parts that need the most stability, such as collars, waistband, or cuff, in the lengthwise direction, as it ensures the most stability.

There are several kinds of nonwoven interfacings:

  • Stable: It has little grain in any direction and is excellent for shoulder pads.
  • Stretch: It is a crosswise stretch but is stable lengthwise.
  • All-bias: It has stretch in all directions.

Knit interfacings: Knit interfacings are made with interlooping yarns that give them a stretch capacity. They are mostly made from synthetic fibers and are mostly fusible. Knit interfacings provide a softer hand than woven interfacings. Not all knit interfacings have the same stretch capacity; some have little stretch while others have greater stretch. It is important to sample first to check that the stretch capacity of the interfacing matches that of the fabric. The stretch is usually in the width, with firmness in the length. For garment parts (such as collar, cuffs, or waistband) that need firmness, position the pattern in the direction that gives stability rather than using the stretch capacity.

Knit interfacings are available in tricot, weft insertion and warp insertion forms. Nylon tricot has crosswise stretch and lengthwise stability. It adds shape and body to practically any knit or woven fabric. Weft insertion has additional yarns inserted in the crosswise direction that enables the interfacing to provide stability in both the crosswise and lengthwise directions. It is used when you want more stability than a tricot, but less stability than a woven interfacing. Warp-insertions have additional yarns inserted in the lengthwise direction and provide stretch in all directions. They are used for soft shaping.

Knit interfacings are generally softer and more flexible due to their excellent stretch properties. Weft-insertions and warp-insertions are created on a knitting machine, and then either a warp or weft yarn is inserted. The inclusion of the additional yarns provides a more stable and secure knitted interfacing. The weft insertion has the higher stretch on the bias direction whereas the warp insertions have the higher stretch in the crosswise direction and they can be fused at a lower temperature compared to other fusibles.

Today’s interfacings have different amounts of stretch or give. Do not use stretch in areas where stability is desired.

No give or stretch: Nonwoven stabilized interfacings do not give or stretch in any direction. They are primarily used for purses, draperies and craft projects, although they may be desirable for waistbands.

One-way stretch: Interfacing stretches in the crosswise direction and is stable lengthwise. It can be used in areas that need to stretch or to stabilize areas such as waistbands. It can be non-woven or knit.

Modified one-way stretch: This type stretches mostly crosswise, but has some give in lengthwise and bias. The direction of stretch can be used to advantage by cutting the interfacing to use the stretch in the needed direction.

Bias: The most ‘give’ is on the true bias. Typical of woven fabrics, it will give like woven fabrics when sewn or fused in place.

All bias: This type stretches in lengthwise, crosswise and bias directions. It is a non-woven fabric.

Interfacing can be applied to garment sections by sewing or fusing. Both woven and non-woven interfacings can be purchased as sew-ins or fusibles. Knit interfacing is currently available only as a fusible.

Sew-in Interfacing:
A nonfusible stabilizer is referred to as a sew-in interfacing because it does not have a resin on the back, which glues to the fabric. A sew-in stabilizer needs to be hand or machine stitched to individual cut fabric pieces. Proceed with caution when machine stitching a sew-in interfacing as it can easily be pulled out of alignment in the stitching process. Some fabrics must have sew-in stabilizers. These fabrics are velvet, faux fur, synthetic leather, lace, some brocades, some sheers, some silks, sequined and beaded fabrics, open-weave fabrics, metallics, vinyls, and water-repellent fabrics.

Sew-in interfacings are basted into place and/or stacked so they are between layers of fabric in the finished garment. They are the best option for fine or heat-sensitive fabrics, or where softness is preferred over crispness. Thin fabrics such as organza and batiste may also be used as sew-in interfacing.

Use thread to attach these interfacings to the fashion fabric by hand or machine. When attached to a seam allowance they are often basted in place. A glue stick can be used to baste interfacings, but use it with caution and only in the seam allowance.

  • Advantages – Gives softer, more supple shaping, may used with both woven and knit fabrics, a variety of woven fabrics not specifically designed for interfacing can be used.
  • Disadvantages – May shrink, so preshrink before cutting, may need to be basted in place, a non-woven sew-in may buckle in an area (such as collar) where it is completely enclosed, may need machine or hand pad stitching for extra firm tailored shaping.

Fusible lnterfacing:
Fusible interfacings can be woven, nonwoven, or knit. What makes interfacing fusible is the shiny resin, like tiny dots on one side. When heat is applied, the resin bonds to the fabric. The size of the adhesive dots determines how the interfacing clings to the fabric. In general, interfacing with smaller dots work well on lightweight fabrics and those with larger dots combine well with heavyweight and textured fabrics. Fusibles are quick and easy to use; however, they may not be compatible with the fabric that will be used in a garment.

Fusible interfacings are ironed onto and become one with the fabric, making it easier to handle during the sewing process. It is important to choose a fusible interfacing that is compatible with the fabric and appropriate for the application—otherwise unsightly bubbles may appear on the right side of the item. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding iron temperature and pressing time.

Fusible interfacings are designed with an adhesive on one side of the fabric. When heat, moisture, pressure and time are applied, the adhesive melts, attaching the interfacing to a second surface. Because extra body is added to the garment as a result of fusing, select a lighter weight fusible. Always test a fusible interfacing on a sample of garment fabric to determine if it is the proper weight, adheres well and gives the desired results. Test by fusing a circle onto a fabric scrap. The form of the circle will definitely be noticeable if the weight is too heavy.

Wash the sample to see how the garment will look after it is laundered and to determine how well the interfacing remains bonded to the fashion fabric.

  • Advantages – Quick to use, no basting needed, shape can be built into garment with additional layers, adds firmness to an area.
  • Disadvantages – Gets firmer after fusing, may damage some fabrics that cannot be steam pressed, fusing adhesive may come through lightweight fabrics or sheers, fusing process flattens the fabric surface and may not be suitable for the following types of fabrics: pile, nap, rough or textured surfaces, heat sensitive fabrics, open work fabrics, silks and silicon treated or water repellent finishes.

Low-temperature fusibles: These interfacings have a special adhesive that applied with a cooler iron temperature. They are used on heat sensitive synthetics such as micro-fibers, ultra light polyesters, silks and faux suedes. These low-temperature fusibles help prevent fusing adhesive from coming through lightweight fabrics.

Selection of Interfacing for Garments Construction:
The appropriate interfacing to use in a specific garment should compliment and reinforce, not overwhelm the fabric. The best choice will depend on garment fabric, fabric care, fabric construction and desired effects. A lightweight interfacing might be used for a draped collar, for instance, while a tailored color would require a heavier interfacing. It may be necessary to use more than one type and weight of interfacing in a garment, depending on its purpose.

Consider the following factors when selecting interfacing:

Care: The fashion fabric and interfacing should have similar care requirements. Do not use a ‘dry clean only’ interfacing in a garment you intend to launder.

Color: Since colors do show through some fabrics, select an interfacing in a color compatible with fashion fabric. Beige coordinates with neutral shades and warm pastel tones, blue coordinates with cool tones, silver with neutral shades and cool pastels tones, red with warm, white with all tones and charcoal and black with dark tones.

Fabrication and application: Interfacing can be woven, nonwoven or knit fabrics. They can be applied by fusing (fusible) or sewing (sew-in). Select the fabric and application that will give the results you desire.

Give or stretch: Some interfacings are very stable or stiff, others have varying amounts of stretch or give. Select a stable interfacing for an area that you do not want to stretch (buttonholes, waistband). An interfacing with more stretch is used in areas that need shaping.

Weight: Interfacing weights vary from sheer to quite heavy. Interfacing should be, slightly lighter in weight than the fashion fabric. It should complement, not dominate the fashion fabric. An interfacing heavier than the fashion fabric might be desirable only if special shaping or effect is needed. If in doubt, choose the lighter interfacing, as one that is too heavy may give unprofessional results.

To determine if a sew-in interfacing is suitable, drape the fashion fabric over the interfacing. Shape and manipulate the combination to see if it gives desired results. The appropriateness of a fusible interfacing can be determined only by fusing a small piece of the interfacing to the fabric. In the fusing process, the fashion fabric gains extra body.

Build up a supply of interfacings so you will have the kind you need. Purchase 3 – 5 yards of any interfacing you use frequently. Having a supply of interfacings also makes it easier to test fusibles to see if they provide the desired results (including ease of fusing and quality of adhesion). The variety and quality of interfacings have increased in the past few years. The decision between fusible and sew-in is dependent on fashion fabric, degree of firmness and personal choice.

Uses of Interfacing in Garment:
Interfacings are the support materials used between the outer and lining fabrics. Interfacings are primarily utilized on knitted fabrics to stabilize and to prevent excessive stretching. The interfacing needs to suit the fabric weight and the part of the garment in which it is being used. Use interfacing wherever stability; shape or body is needed. While most patterns suggest where to use interfacing, you may want to use it in additional areas. Collars, except for cowl necks, turtlenecks and ribbing, benefit from the use of interfacing. Buttons and buttonholes have a nicer appearance when they are backed with interfacing. Cuffs and waistbands need the support that interfacing can provide.

Interfacing provides stability when applied to facings in collarless and sleeveless areas. Pockets and tie belts have more body when interfacing is used. Other detail areas may need interfacing to create a specific look. Interfacing is applied to the wrong side of the garment pieces in the upper collar, upper cuff and garment front. If it shows through, then the interfacing is applied to the facings.

Select interfacings that are compatible with the weight of the fabric, the crispness needed and the care you will give the garment. Check the label for care instructions.

Hair canvas is the traditional interfacing used for tailored wool garments, but other woven, nonwoven or knit interfacings in either sew-in or fusible styles can also be used. If a sew-in is selected, drape the wool over the different weight interfacings to see which one gives the effect you want. If a fusible is selected, test it to make sure it gives the right amount of crispness and doesn’t change the surface of the wool. If you see a ridge where the interfacing ends, either pink the edge to prevent it from showing through, interface the facing or do the entire piece.

Most fusible interfacings will last through laundering and dry cleaning if they are applied properly. Pre-shrink the interfacing by placing it in hot water for 10 minutes. Blot excess moisture and air dry.

Follow the fusing instructions given by the manufacturer. If instructions state to use a dry iron and dry press cloth or a steam iron on wool setting and a damp press cloth, do so. It may take anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds to fuse the interfacing in place.

Interfacing is used to:

  • Stabilize and prevent stretching where strain occurs, such as neckline, buttonholes, waistband, pocket edges.
  • Add shape to waistband, collar, cuffs, lapels, plackets and other detail areas.
  • Add body or crispness in cuffs, pocket flaps, pockets
  • Cushion bulky seams.
  • Reduce the frequency of pressing and
  • Increase life of garment.


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