Monday, September 24, 2007

Fused Plastic bags tutorial

This is copied from a blog I wrote on myspace on May 7, 2007.
I was all set to write a plastic fusing tutorial because lots of people were asking me for one, but then Etsylabs published a tutorial on May 6! LOL
So I wrote mine anyway, but more as a complement or addition to theirs.

Here are some good tutorials for fusing plastic bags:

Read these first for a general understanding of how it works.
My own tips and tricks I will add to the above:

This is all you need to start fusing:

1. an iron
2. a hard heat-resistant surface like a wooden cutting board
3. baking parchment paper. This works better than typing paper because it's silicon coated and nothing sticks to it. It's also larger, and semi-transparent so you can see appliqués have the correct placement, etc.
4. Some plastic bags! There's no shortage of those in the world, unfortunately.

DO's and DONT'S

DO set the iron between polyester and rayon. One of the tutes says to set it at cotton, that is too hot in my opinion but perhaps irons vary.
DON'T use steam.

DO fuse both HDPE (recycle code 2) and LDPE (recycle code 4) bags

HDPE is the crinkly plastic grocery bags, LDPE is the glossy stretchy bags like Target bags, also clear bags like dry cleaner bags.
They will both fuse, to themselves and to eachother. You may need to lower the heat just a bit for LDPE.
There are some tutorials which say you cannot use LDPE, but I have successfully fused it.
The sides of this bag are Target bags (LDPE) and the inside layers are HDPE

and this entire bag is LDPE, I used the clear bags my newspaper is delivered in on rainy days

DO use all kinds of plastic, not just grocery bags. Use the bags from frozen veggies, use the bag from dried pasta, bread wrappers, etc. You can use potato chip bags inside out to get a silver metallic color. This works better for small appliqués than for a large piece, because foil-lined plastic will not shrink at the same rate as normal plastic, so if you try to fuse large areas of foil lined plastic you will get bubbles and puckers..

DO apply the heat a little longer for thicker plastic. You also don't need to use as many layers when you use a thicker plastic.

DO put a clear plastic layer over any vivid colored design you want to show on the outside of the bag. Red ink especially seems to melt and bleed. If you don't use the clear layer on top, the ink will transfer to your paper like this

DO use a layer of clear plastic on top of appliqués too, to seal them in.

DO reuse the parchament paper over and over, unless it gets an ink transfer from a bag. Then you will need a clean piece, because it will transfer that ink back to your next fused piece.
DON'T use waxed paper instead of parchament paper! The wax will melt and make a stinky mess. Waxed paper cannot take the heat, freezer paper is also not ideal because it's made for use with cold not with heat. Baking parchament paper is the best because it's made to withstand heat up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit.

DO use a hard ironing surface such as a wooden cutting board. A hard, smooth surface will help you get even adhesion.
DO use firm pressure when ironing, but keep the iron moving. This isn't like fusible interfacing where you have to keep the iron in place for 10 or 15 seconds- f you do that the plastic will probably burn.

DO fuse one or two new layers at a time.
DON'T try to fuse all 8 layers at once, or the middle layers will have incomplete adhesion.

If you find your fused plastic curling up too much, flip it over and fuse the next layer onto the back. This will equalize the shrinkage and flatten it out.

DO sew the finished material in the sewing machine or serger.
DO use a longer stitch length, so you won't have too many holes forming a perforated line.(prone to tearing)
DO sew small items wrong sides together.
You DON'T need to turn the seams to the inside like you do with fabric items, because the plastic does not fray. Also, it may be difficult to turn smaller items like cosmetic pouches inside out.

To see some of my fused plastic finished projects, check out this Flickr set.

To see my fused plastic items for sale, check out my Etsy store. (more items coming soon)