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Fusible web makes needle gummy

by Donna
(New Hampshire)


This is my first time appliqueing a quilt. I used Steam-A-Seam to attach my flowers to the blocks.

When I am sewing the needle gets sticky and the thread breaks.

Is there a solution to this problem as I have already ironed all the pieces on the blocks.

Thank you for your time.



Most of the fusibles out on the market today come in two weights.

The light (or 'lite' as it's sometimes marked) is meant to be stitched through.

Generally, the heavier weight fusible webs are meant as a no-sew product.

Steam-A-Seam 2
Lite Steam-A-Seam 2
Years ago (mid-1990's) Debbie Mumm used this for her pen stitching fusible applique technique—she literally drew a running stitching on her applique shapes with a pigma pen.

Fast and done is great, but many quilters still liked to sew around their applique shapes.

With so many stitches at our fingertips these days, we want a place to use them.

Fusible web meant for sewing

Lighter fusible webs were developed, specifically for sewing through. Some have paper backing, some don't, some have two layers of release paper and are reposition-able, like your Steam-A-Seam, and some even have no paper at all. For those you need a no-stick, applique pressing sheet.

Steam-A-Seam comes in two versions:
  • Steam-A-Seam 2 (heavier)
  • Lite Steam-A-Seam 2
And though the packaging on the heavier version says that it won't gum up your needle, if either will, I'd expect it to be the heavier version.

Since you're quilt is fused, now what?

To prevent the problem...

Now for your current project, to prevent the problem, try rubbing a little Sewer's Aid on your needle to prevent/minimize gumming as you stitch. Sewers Aid is a liquid silicon whose main use is to lubricate thread so that it slides through your machine with less friction. If it's safe for thread (and I've used it, it is), it should help make your needle more 'slippery'. It is found in the notions department of most big box stores. Your quilt store may carry it, too.

To remove the stickiness from your needle, use a bit of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball to remove the it.

You may be able to substitute a drop sewing machine oil using a cotton swab to apply it. (Remember that we'll use a bit of kitchen oil on a cloth to remove the gum left from a label we've tried to remove.) Use a light touch though. Oil can stain your quilt fabric.

As for the thread breaking, clean the needle first. If the thread is sticking to it and can't flow freely that is the source of the breakage.

If after you clean the needle and the thread keeps breaking, try a needle one size larger. The problem with a larger needles is that it will leave a hole in the fusible that won't readily close.

And finally...

After you are done with this project, take a bit of extra time to clean out your sewing machine. If the 'glue' is getting on your needle, it's possible that a tiny bit is transferring to your bobbin case.

I hope these tips are helpful to you in your project.

Readers, if you have suggestions and experience, please do tell use about it using the 'Comment' link below. Thank you.


Julie Baird

Comments for Fusible web makes needle gummy

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Sticky needle and thread breaking.
by: Terry

First time I have had trouble with this, I did use the heavier Steam a seam 2 but it said on the package OK for machines. Well it was a mess. I hand sewed the figures on finally. It helped to read another quilter had had the same trouble. Thanks.

Sewing Needle not going through my applique
by: Lynda

I have used the Steam a Seam 2 for making a McKenna Ryan quilt which has a lot of layering of the fabric.

I am not having so much trouble with the needle gumming up as I am with my sewing machine needle not being able to go through the applique.

I'm worried it is going to burn my motor out as a times it just spins as it tries to push through the fabric. I have tried using a universal needle, a jeans needle and a quilting needle.

Any suggestions on how to stop this happening?

From the Editor: Hi Lynda! If it was me, and the hand wheel was spinning regularly trying to go through the fusible, I'd take it in for a check at the dealer, or at least call the dealer and talk to the repairman.

The Jeans needle should be substantial enough to pierce the layers. I know that a sewing machine can stitch through metal sheets...not personal experience, but I've seen it stitching through the fusible should be just fine. If it's not, I'd want to protect my baby and have it looked at.

Be prepared, though, for a bit of scoffing. I was concerned because my sewing machine was getting unbelievably hot during free motion quilting...pretty much because I'd keep at it for so long. My repairman was convinced that I'd never burn out the motor free motioning. He actually laughed about it. But my machine was almost too hot to touch. I changed repairmen. My machine is just too costly to mess around.

My concern for you is that the hand wheel is spinning, and that eventually if that happens enough, it'll effect your machine in some way, perhaps the timing.

I wish I was able to be of more help.


Fusible Web makes needle gummy
by: Jo Goranson "The Thread Lady"

This is a common problem when quilters use any kind of fusible web or spray. You must use a lot of steam on Steam a Seam and you won't have any problems. I have used Steam a Seam 2 regular weight for years and I know that if I don't steam it enough it will gum up my needle. I prefer the regular to the light because it stays stuck, whereas the light sometimes doesn't.

If I have something where the fusible will show I use a different product that has no backing called "Misty Fuse". I often use it when I am applying a layer of see-through material over a part of my quilt. (I am a contemporary quilter and use all kinds of fabric in my quilts.)

I also baste my quilts with Sullivan's because I hate to pin. One spray bottle will last for many, many quilts. I have heard people say they don't use it because it gums us their needle. I had one woman who told me she used 1 1/2 bottles on a queen size quilt! No wonder it gummed up her needle. You only need a very little of the spray to get the layers together! I also wait 24 hours before I quilt my quilt and I never have trouble with my needle gumming up. Most people don't read the full instructions on the product they are using and that is why they get into trouble.

Treat the basting spray as if you want it to be like a post-it note. That means you put very, very little on the layers and they can be lifted easily to correct something like a crease. I use only 4 safety pins on my quilts---one in each corner. That is because I use so little spray that the corners always lift up.

I use Libby Lehmann's method of putting the quilt layers together. I do it on the wall.I have done this for years and it is the easiest way I know to get a quilt ready to quilt.

There are so many new products out on the market for quilters and we must read the directions and follow them to get the result we want. I taught quilting classes for years and was always amazed by the number of students who had never read the manual for their sewing machine that they paid a lot of money for. Every time I told a class that you could use two threads in one needle they laughed, but when I told them to check out their sewing machine manual, every one of them showed how to use two threads in one needle!

Read the directions for everything and you can't go wrong!

From the Editor: Jo, you're woman after my own heart. Thanks for sharing!

~ Julie

Fusible Web makes needle gummy
by: Dawn - Warm Company

The Steam-A-Seam products are different than the other fusible webs out there.

A common mistake is not ironing them long enough. Anytime you feel drag or experience gumming, you need to iron it longer. These products work best with steam as it allows the web to become viscous or flowing permeating both layers of fabric. You can iron it longer without worry of dissipating the web to the point it no longer works. If your using fabric that doesn't work well with steam - ultra suede for example a dry iron works just fine but you will have to fuse it longer. For a free sample –

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