Books: New Ideas in Fusing Fabric

Margaret Beal’s New Ideas in Fusing Fabric explores ideas for using a soldering iron on synthetic fabric and is based on three key techniques; cutting, fusing and mark-making). Margaret Beal suggests the following basic tools and equipment:

  • soldering iron – very fine tip works best
  • fine wire wool – grade 0000 to keep tip clean (clean when hot as harder to remove when cool)
  • metal rulers – ensures good contact between layers and a mirror plate (to hang a mirror on a wall) is recommended as a good short tool
  • Glass – base to work on
  • soldering iron stand – suggests an upturned terracotta flowerpot
  • protective face mask – melting synthetic fabrics gives off toxic fumes!

Using natural threads for stitching will mean they won’t melt if they come in contact with the soldering iron. Best fabric to work with as a beginner are nylon organza but as you become more confident the following are suitable (I have added some sources to purchase the more unusual products from as they include description but it will be worth shopping around as these may not be the best prices):

  • nylon or polyester organza
  • polyester taffeta and brocade ribbons
  • habotai polyester
  • polyester satin
  • Vilene (Pellon) – various weights (Beal uses S80/239) Lightweight Craft Vilene
  • Lutrador – non-woven white polyester fabric (Beal uses 130) Lutrador
  • Evolon – non-woven white fabric made from polyester and nylon (feels like chamois leather and Beal uses lighter weight) Evolon Soft & Evolon Standard
  • Sizoflor – semi-transparent, thin, stiff made from long strands of enmeshed fibres available in various colours. Sizoflor
  • Bondaweb – can be painted and fused to other fabrics Bondaweb
  • Acrylic felt
  • Polyester metallic fabric (polyester metallic gauze)

Techniques

Fusing with running stitches – create layers and fuse together using the soldering iron and metal ruler using a running stitch type mark.

Using templates to cut motifs and shapes – build a few layers of fabric and fuse with a running stitch. Running the soldering iron upright around a shape will cut it out. Holding a shape in the air and running the tip along the edges will encourage them to crinkle.

Fusing shapes – cut out shapes can be fused to a backing fabric like acrylic felt with running stitch marks.

Fusing cardboard shapes – needs many layers of fabric beneath (5 or 6 for depth plus nylon organza and finally colourful fabric) and place cardboard shape on top. Rest the tip of the soldering iron against the base of the shape hugging the side and slowly trace the shape to bond to the fabric. Final product must be kept flat.

Using an image on paper as a template – trace a printed image like you would with a pencil and once complete the fabric layer can be gently removed from the paper and used elsewhere.

Make a seam – layer two strips and run the tip along the edge of a ruler to join the two together. Press seam open. This technique can be expanded to include other items within the seam (similar to piping in sewing etc)

Making batons – six or seven layers of medium-weight fabric can be fused to create rigid batons.

Beal has a work called Altered Book which combines using a scalpel to cut pages in a book and combines this letters cut from tea stained Vilene (Pellon) covered with light brown nylon organza.

Making marks raised and stiffened with a heat tool – Beal uses black polyester fabric and Evolon layered to draw on with the soldering iron making sure she cuts right through to the glass. Once the work is removed from the glass it is pinned to a wooden frame and heats the back with a heat tool (making sure there is nothing on the other side that could get damaged). The black will melt and the Evolon becomes stiffened by the heat created distorted shapes.

Vilene sampler 1 & 2: Mark-making – these samplers are very reminiscent of the sketches I made with a soldering iron on cardboard in Exercise 1.8. It would be a logical step to move onto Vilene to create a more flexible textile. The Vilene can also be cut and reformed into shapes such as cones.

Margaret Beal made a book cover by soaking an ivory coloured piece of acrylic felt for several hours in 250ml PVA with 1l water to stiffen it. After it was rolled in an old towel to soak up the excess liquid and left to dry flat, brushed with 2 layers of lesson and left tot dry again. At this point the soldering iron can be used to make marks on it or bond other pieces to it. It would be interesting to see whether this can be stitched into as well as it may be an option for reworking the middle piece of Assignment 2. This technique may also allow me to create three-dimensional shapes which is something that my tutor commented on as lacking from my pieces in her feedback.

[All links accessed on 23/4/19]

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