January 10, 2009

Today I’d like to pass along a few little tips about how to wrangle your fusible web… the kind that comes on a bolt.

My web of choice for raw-edge fusible machine appliqué is Pellon’s Wonder-Under, regular weight. Your mileage may vary. I’ve kind-of got it down now, but it was not always so. When it comes to paper-backed fusible web, I suffer from separation anxiety. As in, the web separates from the paper backing before I get a chance to use it. Arggh!

In the past, I’ve tried passing an iron over it on top of a teflon appliqué pressing sheet in an attempt to stick it back to the paper… what a mess. Now I just chuck it when I find that’s it separated.

Here’s what I do now to alleviate the separation issue.

First of all, don’t let the clerks in the store roll it up for you. You know what happens, say, if you place one towel on top of another and roll them up together? The top one ooches along and ends up sticking out farther than the bottom one by the time you get there. I don’t know which law of physics makes this so, but the same thing happens with fusible web and its paper backing. Rolling the product encourages separation. Just ask them to fold it loosely for you.

Then, as soon as you get home, cut it into squares. This is information that I got from my pal Pam Crooks, who got it from the estimable Sue Nickels, machine appliquér extraordinaire. I keep a separate rotary cutter for cutting paper and this purpose. The width of the product is 17″, so if you cut it into 8 1/2″ squares that’s just right, and the squares fit perfectly into a gallon-size zippy bag.

fusible1.gifNot only are they flat and happy and much easier to work with than a big floppy hunk, keeping the squares in a bag prevents them from drying out, another culprit in the separation issue.

I keep scraps in an old box lid that fits into the zippy bag when not in use.

As I work on a pattern I start with the smaller pieces and only start a new square when there’s a motif that’s bigger than my biggest scrap of fusible. It’s soooo nice to reach into that bag and pull out a nice fresh, flat sheet in such a manageable size.

Here’s another tip for working with paper-backed fusible web: trace the smaller pieces inside the larger pieces. I learned from Sue Nickels in her book Machine Applique: A Sampler of Techniques to cut out the center of the fusible-web templates. This strategy reduces stiffness in the quilt, and it can save product too if you use that cut-out area to make another template.

flower-basket.gifLet’s say we’re starting with a pattern like this.

The leaves will fit inside the basket with enough room to spare to cut everything out roughly.

While you’re at it, go ahead and trace the flower center inside the flower.


fusible4.gifUse a circle template tool to trace nice round circles. Use a size that is a little bit bigger than the circle. (When you trace, the circle shrinks.)

The arrow is my attempt at telestration in Photoshop.

Last tip for working with fusible web: the smallest, itty-bitty pieces like flower centers are too small to cut the center out of. Then it can be hard to get the paper backing started to peel it off when you’re ready to fuse. I tried the ‘scratch it with a pin’ technique but somehow was never skilled enough to do it without fraying a thread or two. My new favorite strategy is that, once the motif is rough-cut, I peel up one side of the paper, going into the motif area a little bit.

fusible6.gifThen I lay the paper back down and cut out the motif on the drawn line. When I’m ready to take the backing off, part of it has already been started. In this case, separation is good. :)

Okay, that is my most sage advice for fusible web management. I hope it proves to be of use to you.

Until next time,
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs


27 Responses to “Fusible web management”

  1. Rosemary on January 10th, 2009 12:09 pm

    I place a silicon pillow (the little pillows that come in tablet bottles) in the bag with the fussible webbing. One of the main reasons it separates is humidity and the silicon pillow absorbs any moisture.

    If the webbing has separated I have found that a slightly warm iron, rather than a hot one, is better for the glue back to the paper and use baking paper (Glad Bake is what I use)rather than the teflon applique mat. The glue just doesn’t stick at all to the baking paper and there is no mess.

  2. Kay on January 10th, 2009 12:16 pm

    Excellent! Great to know, Rosemary. Thanks for sharing your tips!


  3. Linda Ronne on February 21st, 2009 6:45 pm

    I wonder if you can answer this question for me. If you’re doing machine applique and you have a multitude of thread colours to match your appliqué, how do you avoid all those colours showing through onto the backing fabric, other than using an extremely busy fabric?
    Thanks in advance.

  4. Lisa Allbright on February 22nd, 2009 4:45 pm

    Thanks for all your tips! They are great for a newbie like me! I’m off to cut my wonder under now! I always wondered what I could do with it!!

  5. Kay on February 23rd, 2009 6:57 am

    Hi Linda! Hi Lisa! Thanks for stopping by!

    Linda, if I’m understanding your question, it seems as though you’re thinking of machine appliquéing all the way through all three layers of the quilt. Actually, the appliqué is done only on the quilt top. It isn’t until the appliqué is complete and the top is all sewn together that I start thinking about what’s going to show on the back during the quilting process. Then I decide what threads I’ll use for quilting, and, if I’m using a variety, how to disguise the different colors with a busy back.

    Does that help?

  6. barbara brandeburg on February 28th, 2009 5:55 pm

    I’ve used heat n bond lite for over a decade. I gave up on wonder under because of the separation problems. Heat n Bond can be rolled up too. I’ve never had needle gum up problems with this product.

  7. Kay on March 1st, 2009 9:09 am

    Barbara, thank you so much for this information. Your recommendation goes a long way with me… you do the best appliqué! (Readers, go check it out now if you missed my post on Barbara’s photo tutorial.) Next time I’m at the store I’ll get another hunk of this and give it another try.


  8. Debbie on March 6th, 2009 6:02 pm

    I use wonder under, but I have the problem of getting it off of the piece I’m working with. It either doesn’t want to come off, or it all comes off and no wonder under is on the fabric. I follow the directions…

  9. Kay on March 6th, 2009 6:11 pm

    Hi Debbie, sorry to hear you’re having trouble. Sounds like heat problems to me. Not being able to get the paper backing off can result from having your iron too high or pressing it too long, and the product all coming off happens when the heat is too low. Try experimenting with iron settings. If that’s not it, the product could be old or a bad batch.

    Let us know what happens!

  10. Joleen on June 21st, 2009 5:35 am

    Hi Kay,

    I LOVE your site!
    I am new to sewing and living in a non English speaking country. I have, due to much hard work and determination, found some sort of fusible web at the local fabric market. I have it in two forms…a small tape ( like scotch tape) and by the meter sheet. However, I am REALLY confused by how to use it. There is NO backing paper…..

    I would be so grateful for any tips of hints you can give me on how to use this stuff….

  11. Kay on June 21st, 2009 9:28 am

    Hi Joleen! So glad you’re enjoying the site. I’m going to bump your question to a new post so we can get other appliqué enthusiasts to chime in.


  12. Help wanted ~ fusible web : All About Applique on June 21st, 2009 9:43 am

    […] got this comment from Joleen on my Fusible web management post. I’m bumping her question to this new post. Hi […]

  13. Jeanine on August 1st, 2009 5:52 pm

    Kay–FANTASTIC page, just the kind of helpful tips I was looking for. A couple questions: Do you machine sew over your applique, and if so, does the Wonder Under give your needle a tough time? I saw the comment about Heat n Bond not gumming–any opinion which one is better?? Also, you recommend cutting the centers out of the large pieces of fusible–would you recommend that if people are NOT planning to sew over the applique (other than a little stippling during the regular quilting process)? In other words, if I’m not planning to embroider an edge around my applied piece, should I go ahead and fuse the whole thing down? I’m so worried that even though this is for a wall hanging, the ironed-on stuff will fall off or fray…

    Finally, I have a suggestion for those annoying backing-won’t-separate issues: I’ve never done this on fusible web, but on other peel-apart stuff, you can often get an ornery backing to come off if you grab both ends of the item and rub it, shoeshine-style, over a curved surface (like a pencil). I think it works on that same law of physics that you mentioned earlier, with the rolled-up towels. I’ve gotten many a kid’s tattoo to come off the backing that way–give it a try!

  14. Kay on August 1st, 2009 8:24 pm

    Hi Jeanine!

    I do sew the edges of my machine appliqué, with a small machine blanket stitch, and Wonder Under does not gum up the needle. As to which fusible is better, it’s a matter of choice so try each one and see which you prefer.

    The reason for removing the centers of the templates is to reduce stiffness, which I prefer. For a decorative wall piece, if you don’t mind it being stiff, you can leave the centers in if you feel it might make the pieces stay better when not finishing the edges. I really feel it’s better to either finish the edges or quilt over the motifs (or both). In either of those cases you don’t need the motif fused in the middle.

    There are certain fusing techiques where the fabric is pre-fused, and then the shapes are cut out. In that case, you can’t remove the center of the fusible. That’s the way Laura Wasilowski works… see my post of August 1, 2009.


  15. Bernice on January 17th, 2011 1:10 pm

    Hi can anyone help why is my needles sticking and breaking the thread when I try to applique and it gums up and breaks can anyone help. what can I do to save my quilt that I have all 12 blocks finished

  16. Kay on January 17th, 2011 1:14 pm

    Bernice, it sounds like you may have used a fusible web that is not sewable. What brand and type did you use?


  17. Winner, new on the website, fusible web : All About Applique on June 5th, 2011 8:29 am

    […] I finally zeroed in on Wonder Under #805, regular weight. It became my go-to fusible web. Back in 2009 I wrote a blog post giving my tips for fusible web management. […]

  18. jennifer on July 5th, 2011 7:19 pm

    Great website & so helpful,thanks! My problem is that I have to trace the design onto the fusible web then cut it all out in piece and the inticate design is 29″ square, so any tips re which product wuld best serve or technique tips would be greatly appreciated, cheers Jennifer

  19. Marilyn on November 15th, 2011 12:58 pm

    I believe I followed the directions correctly but my applique does not stick.
    What aren’t I DOING CORRECTLY?

  20. Kay on November 15th, 2011 1:32 pm

    Marilyn, I have no way of knowing. What product are you using, and what exactly ARE you doing?

  21. Deb on June 2nd, 2012 6:59 am

    How do I remove the fused glue from my ironing board?

  22. admin on June 6th, 2012 8:59 am

    Oh noes! Deb, first of all, it’s a good idea to use a nonstick appliqué pressing sheet to protect your ironing board from fusing incidents. That’s for the future.

    I found this post on the subject:


    Or, alas, get a new cover and that aforementioned pressing sheet. Good luck!!

  23. laura field on November 4th, 2012 9:10 am

    How to i avoid gum from heat and bond sticking to my needle. Thank uou.

  24. admin on November 5th, 2012 7:20 am

    Laura, it sounds like you are using Heat ‘n Bond Heavy Duty. That product is not sewable and will gum up your needle something fierce. Try using Heat ‘n Bond Lite or another lightweight product. Shameless plug here… my current favorite brand is SoftFuse and I carry it on my website. :)


  25. Elly D on December 23rd, 2012 3:40 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this! Separation of the fusible web seems to plague me and is the main reason which I try to avoid it. I will throw away what I have and try again doing as you suggest. Thank you for your help.

  26. Angela Burger on July 19th, 2013 1:05 pm

    The applique pattern said the drawing was reversed, so I used a light board and copied it to Wonder Under (rough side), bonded it to fabric, cut it out–and OUCH–the wonder under is on the “wrong” side–(not reversed). So I separated the paper, but all the glue is there. Since it is a batik, if I could remove the glue, I could use it. Anyway to do that? Tried soaking with water and rolling glue off but it left me with frayed edges. HELP

  27. admin on July 23rd, 2013 9:47 am

    Hi Angela! So sorry to hear about your fusing situation. I think I know where you went wrong. You are supposed to trace the pattern on the SMOOTH side of the product (the paper side), not the rough side, which is the glue side. You ended up re-reversing the pattern. I don’t think you’re going to be able to remove the glue at this point. What I would suggest is to trim the fraying from the edges, go ahead and complete the project in reverse from the way it appears on the cover, and chalk it up to a learning experience.