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Materials Monday: Fabric Glues

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This week's Materials Monday is all about fabric glues. 

Eeeew, glue?  No nice quality clothing was ever made with GLUE!!!

I get that a lot.  And I understand--I wouldn't glue my own clothes.  I need to wash them, and wear them around with lots of leg and arm moving.  And most of all, I don't need to use glue because all the things I'd glue are big enough to easily sew by hand or machine.

But NONE of those things apply to doll clothes.

Doll clothes you may need to wash, in certain unusual situations.  If so, it's best to wash them by hand and for hand washing, fabric glue is fine.  It's waterproof after it dries, but soaked in water for 30 minutes and then shook around in a washing machine, bits would get ripped off more easily than if they were sewn on.

Everything else, not even a little bit.  Dolls don't even need to walk down a runway.  They might sit or be posed, but they don't move and it's the moving that puts the most strain on fabric.  

A lot of things that fabric glue works best on: round hemmed necklines, for example, are straight up impossible to sew as neatly in miniature.  Too small to use linings and have an invisible hem that way.  Have you ever tried to sew a visible hem on something the size and shape of a coin and stay a perfect, tiny distance from the edge?  

HAhahahahaha... oh boy, memories.  Memories of wanting to sew my sewing machine out the window. 

Here's a quick reference for the right way vs wrong way to use fabric glue.

1. Use a very small amount.  Dots work better than a line, because dots will remain flexible for a soft hold which is especially great with stretchy fabric.  If you use too little, you can always add more, which is a much easier problem to fix than too much.

2. Never apply your fabric glue directly to your fabric.  Clogs, air bubbles, etc.  You have much less control over your glue, and you're more likely to accidentally squirt a huge blob all over your outfit, which would ruin it.  Squirt the glue onto scrap paper and use a toothpick or pin to pick up dots of glue and apply to fabric instead.

3. Apply to the edge you're going to fold over.  This is because glue CAN stain, if you use too much.  If you apply it to the edge you're going to fold over and it seeps through, no big deal.  Remove some of the glue before you fold it over.  Problem solved.


Now let's run down different types of fabric glue:

Clear glue.  This stuff has the consistency of glue gun glue, except it's cold and takes a little longer to dry.  This stuff is not water based so it doesn't seep in to fabrics.  It is the best glue for synthetic fabrics and silky fabrics that stain the most easily.  My favorite brand is Fabri-Tac, but there are many others.

White glue.    This stuff is like a thicker version of craft glue that dries more quickly.  This IS water based, so it will seep into fabrics, but unless you're working with a silky fabric with a sheen, once it dries it won't leave an obvious stain.  It stains silky fabrics because it leaves areas that it is applied to matte.  This is best for natural fiber fabrics like cotton, muslin, etc.  My favorite brand is Liquid Stitch, but there are many others.

Glue Stick.  Not a fabric glue, but still useful in sewing.  Quilters, especially people who do applique quilts, use this stuff all the time.  It's great for holding something in place that you can't pin in place to sew.  It does not leave fabric stiff or stained, and you can completely remove it with a little hand wash if things go wrong.  Any brand should do.

Fray Block aka Fray Check aka Fray Stop, etc.  Also not technically fabric glue, more of a fusible.  You apply this to the edges of cut fabric to keep it from fraying.  It does not work as well as a serger, or even zigzagging the edge of fabric before you hem it, but serging and zigzagging edges is something that rarely works well in miniature.  When sewing with a 1/8" seam allowance, fray block can make the difference between clothes staying together and seams pulling apart.  Any brand should do.

 All 4 of these things have different uses and should be in your miniature sewing toolkit.


What to glue?

Back in the 1960s, Mattel came out with Barbie fashion packs for kids to put together themselves, but no needles or sewing skills were involved.  Instead, Mattel included glue strips for kids to use on everything. 

I don't quite recommend that.  When it comes to using glue in doll clothes, I ask myself a simple question: is the thing I want to sew functional (as in, holds things together) or ornamental (as in, makes things look nicer)

Seams are functional.  Hems are not.  Hems make things neater and keep edges from fraying, but it's an aesthetic choice.  Attached ribbons, buttons (ones that are not used with buttonholes), studs, and other decorations are also ornamental. 

The only exception to this is if the clothes I'm going to sew are going to be given to a kid.  In that case, I sew anything that can be pulled off by small yet surprisingly rough hands.  But even then, I'm only sewing on things like bows, but still using fabric glue for hems. 


That's all for this week's MM!  I hope you have been convinced that glue is a tool that will let you make nicer looking doll clothes.