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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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Generations & Jo Goranson, you saved my life
by: Quilt Like A Girl

I am making 2 matching quilts for little sisters whose older sister passed away. I wasn't given that much fabric (older sister's cloths and some bedding) and it was all different weights. I decided to use petals (orange peel) and Steam A Seam to adhere block then applique stitch around petals.

I finished the first quilt top already and it was nightmare because I had a broken thread every 3rd petal and skipped stitches. I didn't see how my machine could do another 120 petals for the 2nd quilt and there was no other fabric available to me to start over.

Then I decided to Google my problem and found this feed.


So I took remaining blocks and steamed them according to directions and now I am not having a single issue! Learned my lesson!

Thank you Generations and Jo Goranson!

This could have turned out very badly if I hadn't found your wonderful advise! I would post a pic if I could!!!

From the Editor: I'm so glad we could be of help! Quilters helping quilters is the best, isn't it?!!!


Julie Baird

Very frustrated!
by: Karen O

I am having a really difficult time with my needle (70/10) getting gummy. And, what's really bad, is that my sewing machine (Elna Experience 580) is making a "thunking" sound when the needle is going into the fabric when I'm free motion quilting decorative stitches on my blocks. UGH.

I did use Steam A Seam because it's what I had on hand, but next time I will definitely use the Light version. Also, I backed the blocks with a stabilizer so my FMQ wouldn't get puckered.

So, any suggestions would be great. I am going to try steaming the blocks longer to see if this solves the problem. I know it's not my sewing machine that's not functioning. I just cleaned the entire machine two days ago.

Thank you!

From the Editor: I wish I had better news. I suspect that the layering of both the heavier Steam-a-Seam and the stabilizer is making your machine act up.

In general, you wouldn't need a stabilizer for free motion quilting—the backing and batting would be enough.

Is it possible to try a block without the stabilizer? With the heavier Steam-a-Seam, you really don't need it. I recommend stitching your decorative stitches at an even moderate rate. A bit of testing will show you what works best for you.

Good luck with your project!


Julie Baird

New needle type
by: Laura G

SCHMETZ now makes a nonstick needle. You’ll have to buy online as Joann’s and local merchants don’t seem to carry. Comes in 80 and 90 sizes.

From the Editor: One of my quilting buddies was using them at our last retreat. They come in 70/10, 80/12, 90/14, and 100/16. has them here.

She really liked them.

Thank you for the share!


Julie Baird

Simple fix for gummy needles
by: Anonymous

When trying to zigzag on the fabric I had ironed in place with Wonder Under and having the horrible experience of gummy needle, broken thread, and skipping stitches.

I called on my thrifty mother for help. She suggested Ivory soap.

What a boon!

The gum could build up on the needle but just wiping it with the soap caused it to slip easily through the layers.

Reapplication is necessary but easy. Occasional cleaning of the needle with the alcohol swab is fine but the soap seems to be the best aid.

From the Editor: Terrific tip! Please give my best to your thrifty, smart cookie mother!


Julie Baird

Still sticky!
by: Terri

I purchased Steam-a-Seam Lite 2 to use for a project. I didn't do a test, but went headlong fusing pieces and cutting out.

Seam-a-Seam is so sticky it gummed up the needle making this project miserable. I kept trying and then gave up. I thought I cleaned my machine well enough, but alas I didn't and the sticky goo and lint combination ruined the insides of my machine. The costly total cleaning from my dealer and the expensive Steam-a-Seam, plus the project I am throwing away makes me sick!

DO NOT USE Steam-a-Seam... I'm going back to Heat and Bond Lite!

From the Editor: I feel so bad for you. It's gut-wrenching when a product doesn't perform for you as it should.


Julie Baird

Sticky steam a seam
by: Anonymous

My roll is old. I thought it was no good but steamed on using paper towels on both sides. Sewing was dragging so I used tissue paper both sides and tore it off...worked ok.

From the Editor: Great tip on using the tissue paper. It would be quite easy to tear off, too.

Thank you for sharing.


Julie Baird

Steam Seam gummy
by: Pamela Graham

Try using a titanium needle. It does not heat up like normal needles.

more problems with steam-a-seam 2
by: susan hilsenbeck

I too am having a problem with STEAM-a-SEAM 2 gumming up the needle after sewing only a few inches.

I think ironing on the cotton setting with copious steam for 30-60 seconds (timed by watch) should surely be long enough, but its not. Even after such extreme fusing, layers can be peeled apart and they are still sticky.

I am forced to conclude that the product is faulty and that is why I and others have been having problems. This is pretty much a disaster since the product was used by many people to make blocks for a gift quilt and they cannot be redone.

Any remediation suggestions would be welcome.

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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