Ask Kat: On Making Substitutions


I got this email today and because of its similarity to SO many others I’ve been receiving of late, I thought I’d share it here, especially since I find this type of email puzzling and yes… a bit frustrating.

“I’ve begun cutting out my first Packlets bag. I have a question. When you say foam, do you mean actual foam? Can I use fusible fleece? I’ve made many, many bags and that is what I use. ( I’ve been sewing for many, many years). If I need to use foam, I’m ok with that, just wondering.”

Now to be clear, the exact wording on the back of the pattern envelope states this:

Foam Stabilizer, we recommend By Annie’s Soft & Stable, and fusible fleece is not recommended for use in the Packlets pattern in any way, shape or form.

So here’s what gets under my skin about queries such as these…
1) we go out of our way to include the exact products we have used and thoroughly tested during the process of creating each of our patterns.
2) the products we use and recommend are easily accessible to the overwhelming majority of our customers. Unless you live in the Outback of Australia, above the Arctic Circle of Canada or in a similarly remote or sparsely populated area, these products can be sourced locally or on the Internet.

3) there are (for example) several types of foam stabilizers on the market today. Even though I prefer using By Annie’s Soft & Stable, one can easily use Bosal’s In-R-Form, or  Pellon’s Flex Foam as a substitute since all of these products are by definition, foam stabilizers. I may have my preference for one brand of foam stabilizer over another, but there’s really not an appreciable difference that one can detect in the final outcome of a project.

Fusible fleece however is not similar in any way to foam stabilizer and one would think that someone with the experience this writer says she has would understand that using the correct foundation materials is CRITICAL to a successful outcome!

So…am I missing something here?

Because I’m honestly at a loss to explain why anyone would buy the rest of the materials one needs to make one of our bags (fabric, hardware, zips, etc.) and then deliberately take exception to the foundation material recommendations that are clearly outlined on the pattern back.  So… with that in mind, my answer to this question was and always will be simply this…. Not if you want it to come out right!

So… how would YOU have answered this email?

And remember, we love reading your comments and answering your questions too, so please feel free to leave either or both in the space provided below.


Check out the best sewing pins with me on Pinterest, join in on discussions or show off your work in our FaceBook Group, or get your daily sewing fix on our Facebook Business Page or get behind the scenes scoops on Instagram, and be the 1st to know about new patterns, discount codes and sample sales by signing up for our monthly newsletter.

Posted in , ,



  1. Dawn King on January 6, 2020 at 7:29 am

    Thanks for posting stuff like this. I would say something like, “As stated on the pattern envelope, foam is a must for this pattern. If you choose to use fusible fleece, you may get less than ideal results.”

    • Kat on January 6, 2020 at 12:48 pm

      Thanks Dawn. It ALWAYS baffles me when folks choose to use the wrong materials. Sewing isnt cheap, so why take a chance on a poor result because of a poor choice of materials!

  2. Deborah on January 6, 2020 at 10:14 am

    I am an experienced sewist as well but not above learning new techniques. I actually embrace learning new things. I don’t think you, or any designer, will hunt me down of I don’t use EXACTLY what is recommended. If I do exactly as printed then I can expect to get the same great looking bag as your pattern depicts. If I choose to veer away, say experiment with something else and my bag is not coming out properly, then that is on me. So many times, whether it be sewing or crocheting, etc. people use what they have or can gain access to and when the result isn’t the same they go after the designer. This is wrong on so many levels. Experiment if you must then take responsibility for the out come. Just my little ole opinion.

    • Kat on January 6, 2020 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks Deb! I wish more folks had your attitude. We’ve been blamed for an untold number of poor results which I can generally tell by a glance are as a result of using the wrong materials!

  3. Carolina on January 6, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    For the person to ask if they can use fusible fleece when it explicitly states “not recommended…in any way, shape or form” says to me they think they know better than the person that created the item! I would definitely use Dawn’s wording “As stated…”.
    My co-workers and I get this type of thing a lot in our jobs and we so want to ask if they know how to read because by the emails with questions back to us they clearly did not read what we painstakingly put together to answer all their questions [sigh]. Sometimes, it’s good we work via email and not in-person so they don’t see our eye-rolls and hear our sarcasm 🙂

    • Kat on January 6, 2020 at 3:22 pm

      I thought the same many times! I’m glad they can hear the sigh (or the growl) over the phone either! 🙂

  4. Mary L on January 7, 2020 at 6:21 am

    A good foundation is important!

    • Kat on January 7, 2020 at 6:28 am

      SO true! 🙂

  5. Karol on January 7, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Some people’s patterns (not yours) can be a bit ambiguous, but how much more straight forward can ‘not recommended etc’ be? They must think they know better than you and/or they have no idea what ‘not recommended’ really means.

    • Kat on January 7, 2020 at 10:06 am

      I tend to agree. I could better understand if the product wasnt available in her area and she was lookiing for a recommendation for an equivalent.

  6. Claudina Q on January 7, 2020 at 10:04 am

    I think you feelings are valid but I would suggest that you provide the three alternatives in the script of the pattered. Sometimes it feels like a plug for the product. The other reasons would be because some products are not available in ones neighborhood.
    I love detailed pattern instructions. It really helps to make a good item for the sewer.

    • Kat on January 7, 2020 at 10:05 am

      I appreciate your suggestion, however its not really practical for us. There are constantly new products being released by the many foundations companies. And quite frankly we do not have the time to check out everything that comes on the market to see if it will work as we wish it to or to keep older pattern updated with all of these new products.

      Our materials list merely states that we recommend a particular product or the equivalent. Most reputable quilt shops are only too happy to show customers what products they have that are the equivalent of the product we have recommended and I prefer to leave this judgement to those that know way more about it than I.

      Had this person asked me for advice on an equivalent product, I would’ve been glad to tell what I know about it, but at no time would I have recommended substituting interfacing for a foam stabilizer.

      Again, thanks for taking the time to make this suggestion, but I hope we’ve explained why its really not a practical solution for us concerning this issue.

  7. Sylvia Turner on February 14, 2020 at 12:58 am

    I have read and understood all the comments here about substitution. I have however used headliner (specifically for bag making), in the flaptastic bag with great results. This has cut down the cost of making the bag. It is still going strong years later. Some of the products are not available in the UK, I don’t like to compromise but in this instance it worked.

    • Kat on February 14, 2020 at 6:38 am

      Thanks for commenting Sylvia. In this instance, headliner is a reasonable substitute for the foam stabilizer made by Soft & Stable and other manufacturers like Bosal and Pellon. It’s not my favorite thing to use, but its universally considered to be a reasonable substitute. That’s not what I’m referencing here because as you know, it still produces very good and similar results.
      What i am referring to here is the impulse to substitute something like fusible fleece for foam stabilzer, or to substitute interfacing for fusible fleece when it is called for specifically in the materials list. Items that are not functionally similar will not produce good results.
      PS- I’m glad to hear you till enjoy using your Flaptastic bag. I have enjoyed mine and still do as well! 🙂

  8. Nancy Weinand on February 18, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Well, not in the way you have said it. Sounds to harsh. I probably would’ve just explained that “the stabilizer needs to be very rigid in order to use the packlet. The packlet is designed to be more like luggage than it is a bag. However, if you want to use fusible fleece, please just be aware that the final product will not be as sturdy as the pattern intended.”
    Your answer was really not too delicate. May insult some customers.

  9. s meyer on February 20, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    I agree with the person above, bold –cap letters– does not inspire me to want to make your products if I’m being chastised for asking a question.
    I think it’s ironic that underneath So… how would YOU have answered this email? you say that you love answering questions. It certainly doesn’t sound like you love answering questions.

    • Kat on February 20, 2020 at 6:19 pm

      Respectfully, I think you may have misunderstood the purpose of this post. If you have never used one of our patterns (and it seems likely that you may not have), then you probably dont know that we specifically list the materials we recommend for making each of our products. We also go into even MORE detail within the pattern explaining WHY we recommend the products that we do. The cases we were referencing in this post were those who use want to substitute products that are totally incomparable to those recommended within the pattern.

  10. Cory on February 22, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    I’d recommend pulling the emotion out of the response. Yes it irks you, but they are also (presumably) a paying customer. A polite reply takes no additional effort even if it’s less satisfying in the moment. I look at it this way – everyone who asks a question is my mom. Irritating af at times but well intentioned in the whole.
    Passive aggressive “as stated” or “as mentioned” is unnecessary. A simple, we cannot recommend any substitutions and expect the same result. Thank you for your inquiry, would suffice. My 2 cents. 🙂

  11. Nikki on June 28, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    I tend to ask about substitutions when it comes to foam because I HATE it. It leaves permanent wrinkles and creases in my bags after having to wad them up and cram them through a small opening to turn them right side out. I’ve just gotten to the point I stay away from bag patterns that require it. Bums me out:(

    • Kat on June 28, 2021 at 7:11 pm

      Hmmmm… I’ve gotta say I’ve never encountered this problem with Soft n’ Stable. I’m sorry to hear this. 🙁

      • Sheila Harris on June 30, 2021 at 10:17 am

        I live in a country where you can not get fusible foam,. I can’t order over internet as when it gets here the duty on it is about 10 times the value of the item and sometimes never gets here. It would be nice to know if there is a substitute for fusible foam. I enjoy making bags by recycling old clothes and denims. I live in Zimbabwe

        • Kat on June 30, 2021 at 10:25 am

          Hmmm. as I dont use fusible foam, I really can’t say. So sorry to hear this. 🙂