Foam Stabilisers Comparison 2.0


Hi everyone! I'm Reece and you may recognize me from such places as the carpet bag sewalong I guest posted here for Samantha a while back, or my website Happy Okapi (and if you're not a Simpsons fan, you may not get the reference and just think I'm super cheesy).

I really loved Samantha's Foam Stabilisers comparison and recommend it any time people ask for advice on foam. Recently, though, some new foams have hit the market, and I offered to post a comparison 2.0, to include some of the newer foam stabilisers in the mix.

I kept with the Noodlehead Divided Baskets and used the same brand of quilting cotton (all designed by Jackie McFee) for each basket to minimize any other variables.

I'll be comparing: By Annie's Soft and Stable, Bosal In-R-Form, Pellon Flex-Foam, and Vilene Style-Vil Smooth Foam. I used all sew-in this time as I thought it would be a more fair comparison. Many of the foams now come in fusible options; however, I've heard many people experience the same problem Samantha did with the fusible foam in her comparison: the creases don't come out. Each of these foams were designed to be used as sew-in stabilisers in bags or home decor projects.

The Cost

The cost for these will vary but here is what I paid, excluding shipping:
Vilene Style-Vil Smooth Foam: $11 for 28" x 20"
By Annie's Soft and Stable*: $18 for 18" x 58"
Pellon Flex Foam: $7 for 18" x 20"
Bosal In-R-Form: $11 for 18" x 58"

Because I'm a bit of a nerd, and I have a hard time comparing prices to different sized items, I've calculated the price per 100 square inches:
Vilene: $1.96
By Annie's: $1.72
Pellon: $1.94
Bosal: $1.05

One more thing to mention about price is that these are all in Canadian dollars and prices vary by region and available sales. *Denotes affiliate link

To keep things straight for you (and me) I took these pictures of each different foam with the fabric before I started:

Vilene comes on a bolt, so this arrived cut to my ordered amount and in the shop's packaging. I paired it with these mint and grey fabrics.

By Annie's comes in 2 different sizes, and the option of black or white. I've never used black foam before and heard it's good for making dark colours brighter, so figured I'd give it a go with these classic black and white designs.

Pellon, like the Vilene, also comes on a bolt. I used a fun mix of fabrics for this one.

Bosal comes in different sizes, along with multiple fusible options.  I chose the pink set of fabrics for it.

Initial Observations
They all seemed to have a strong smell when I pressed them, so I tried not to use too much heat with them. The Vilene in particular had a very strong chemical smell straight out of the package, but I don't notice an odour from any of the finished baskets. The Bosal has a papery-like look to it, and I was worried the creases would stay, but they pressed out beautifully. As you might be able to see in the picture above, the Pellon is beginning to yellow at the edges; it isn't very old and probably doesn't have an effect on the product, but it's not very attractive for now. I personally like working with narrower pieces rather than a large square shape because of the size of my work surface, so 20" wide bolts are easier for me. I know a lot of people prefer wider foam, so it's up to personal preference, but I thought I'd mention it because it may be something to consider.  Because I chose all non-fusible, they each need to be secured to my fabric with a basting stitch with about 1/8" seam allowance. I have noticed that the fabrics actually adhere quite well to the foam even without the basting stitch (similar to felt sticking to felt), and I probably could have gotten away with skipping that step.

How Stable Are They?

I must say, I'm glad I did this comparison, because it let me see past my own preconceptions. I was rather surprised by the results. In order of crispness and stand-up-ability, from most crisp, to least: Bosal, Vilene, By Annie's, and finally Pellon.

I think all the creases came out with pressing and I didn't notice a difference among any of the foams in that regard.

I loved Samantha's squish test, so I had to do my own. Here they are after I squished them (the Vilene wouldn't stay squished at all, even after several attempts). It looks like the Vilene (mint and grey) and Bosal (pink) switched spots for the squish test; I think the Bosal was crisp enough that it stays in whichever position it's put in.

Here they are after, they all bounced back quite nicely:

Overall Impression
I like that By Annie's has a choice of colours, although I'm still not too sure it made a difference; either way, my black fabric stayed a vibrant black. This was my first time using Bosal and Vilene, and I was pleasantly surprised with both of them.

One last consideration when choosing your foam is that you may be using the foam just to add depth to a quilted project, for example, and don't need it to stand up on its own.

Lastly, I'll take another page from Samantha's book and suggest that you try a swatch paired with fabric if you're in doubt which is best for your project and really want to make sure it's perfect. I hope my comparison gives you an idea of the options out there.

Here's one more look at them. You can find the pattern for the Noodlehead Divided Basket here. Jackie McFee sent me all these fabrics she designed to use however I chose; I thought they were perfect for this project.
Vilene Style-Vil Smooth Foam

By Annie's Soft and Stable
Bosal In-R-Form
Pellon Flex-Foam

Bye for now, come visit me on my blog Happy Okapi,


If you'd like to see the first foam stabilisers comparison, you can find it here.

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  1. No one does THE test, who is elemental for me: How does the bags are looking after you washed them? Is no one cleaning them or are they used only until they got dirty?

    1. Hey USI. That's a good question. Actually, I think you might have the answer right there in the question... I think most people who make bags don't plan for them to be thrown in the washing machine. Usually, we end up treating them with Scotch Guard or some other protectant once they're done. I little spot cleaning is all that's required if we spill our coffee once in a while. I guess that would be why the issue of washing doesn't come up too often. That said, if you are up to the challenge of doing a wash test, I'd love it if you share your results with us.

  2. Thanks for this, Reece. Especially for doing the price comparison math for me. I would surely have broken my head with that one and still not figured out which one was the cheapest. And having said that, it looks like the cheapest is the best one for my needs. Double Score!!
    You just saved me an awful lot of headaches. Off I go to cut, cut, cut...

    1. YES!!! I was very happy to see that too. Whooohoo, and thanks for the breakdown...

  3. I am happy to read this post Reece. I have never dome a "formal" test, but Bosal has been my foam of choice for ages... I just love it, and I have used all but the Vilene. I can never get people to comprehend that even though the package seems higher priced for 18", it's nearly 3 times as wide as the "seemingly" cheaper Flex Foam...and in the end, it's much less expensive. Plus, I find that the 20" wide Flex foam yields far too much waste.

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  5. Thank you for this great blog. I enjoyed reading your take on the different foams. I have used both Soft and Stable and Headliner and find them to be comparable with the headliner being a little softer. I have never had the headliner breakdown into a 'gritty mess' as someone said, but then I also make sure I buy the stuff that has a backing on it. I usually use wonder web to fuse my foam to the pieces, but always use an interfacing on each piece first. My preference however is the S&S. I have hand washed a purse made with it using a sponge and warm water to clean a messy chocolate handprint and had no issues. I don't think I would ever put a purse in the washing machine as it would be too harsh on the whole thing i.e. fabric, stabilizer, hardware etd.

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