Holding Costumes Together: Sewing, Fabric Glue and Hot Glue

I am always suspicious of glue.  It’s failed me in a wide variety of projects.  When working with hard materials, I tend to default to superglue to side-step the almost inevitable failure of lesser glues.

I can’t do that with my steampunk Loki coat project.  I have to actually choose glue like a grown-up.

As an Aside: Two other items of note in the above image are wax paper and Sharpies.  Glue does not stick well to wax, so its helps keep projects from sticking to places you don’t want stuck.

Sharpies can correct a whole bundle of problems.  I have used the black one repeatedly to hide problematic places.  I have used the metallic ones to mark where I’m going to apply black gimp.  Ideally, the marker will be hidden by the gimp, but just in case things slip, a non-black mark will be far less obvious.

When to Glue

Sewing is generally going to be the most secure methods of fastening fabrics to one another.  This is particularly the case when the material flexes a lot, which tends to break glue bonds.  The drawback is material is sometimes too thick (multiple layers of leather or thick braid, for example), or the area in question is not accessible to a sewing machine (such as the inside of a sleeve).

That is when I turn to fabric glue or hot glue, which were successful and not so successful in a variety of uses.

Fabric Glue works best on thinner fabrics.  I also use it on the tips of gimp braid to keep it from unraveling.  It dries clear on the leather and braid, but it leaves dark spots on the silky fabrics, meaning I have to be really careful not to splatter it anywhere visible.

Hot Glue: While it is overkill for thin fabrics and braids (greatly increasing the chance of splattering it in visible areas), it’s great for leather and thicker trims like the heavy gold braid used along the bottom hems of the coat.  To keep it from unraveling, I liberally apply hot glue to the section I want to cut, let it dry, then cut through the glue.  The drawback is that I tend to end up with gluey strings trailing off the glue gun, and they get everywhere.

Fabric and craft stores carry small glue guns, which will be far more easy to handle than a large one bought at a hardware store.

General Methods of Fastening Various Areas

  • Fabric glue was always used for black gimp braid.
  • Inserting the green fabric into the sleeves was also fabric glue, although I probably should have used hot glue, as it was difficult getting the fabric to stick.
  • The green shoulder pieces were glued in place by fabric glue and hot glue.  It should have all been hot glued.
  • The wide black trim on the shoulders was a combination of sewing and fabric glue.  It should have all been sewn before the pieces were attached to the jacket, but I needed adjustments after the fact.
  • All heavy gold braid was hot glue; fabric glue flat out didn’t work.
  • Green and gold braid was a combination of sewing, fabric glue and hot glue.
  • Hemming the leather was primarily sewing, with problematic points hot glued.
  • Darts were all sewn; they are submitted to too much strain for me to trust them with glue.

1 Comment

  1. I work at a nice family-owned arts & craft store, and we almost always recommend E-6000 glue to clients. It’s pretty much fool-proof. It’s a thick, gel-like (perfect for uneven surfaces) industrial-strength glue, transparent, flexible (so it’s great for projects with flexible material such as fabric). Once dry, it can be sanded, painted, cut… it sticks to pretty much anything, from glass to fabric to wood to rubber (my boyfriend uses it to glue his old shoe soles!) to metal to kryptonite! 😉 You might want to try it.

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