Often called the “buckram replacement”, this unique felt-like fabric (45″ wide or 114.3 cm) is heat activated to achieve rigidity, stiffness and surface enhancement without the use of water, messy or hazardous additives. Synthetic Fosshape can easily be cut with scissors, will not fray like conventional woven fabrics and can be readily sewn to itself or other fabrics as a hidden stiffener or shaped into stand alone structures. Mildew resistant and dye-able as well. Fabric steamers are the often preferred method for forming a desired amount of rigidity and stiffness, but conventional steam irons or an industrial hot air gun may oftentimes be helpful. The level of stiffness is achieved by adjusting heat, time and pressure. Applications include: costuming, lightweight crafted reinforcement, theater props and set design, craft-work, puppetry, millinery headpieces, masks, sculptures, museum mount making and more. Versatile Fosshape 300 is lighter in weight and thinner than Fosshape 400 and 600 for lighter weight needs and more intricate design efforts. With heat and pressure from a steam iron, two layers of the 300 grade can be combined or bonded to approximate one layer of Fosshape 600.
- What is Fosshape?
In its non-activated state, Fosshape looks like a white pliable felt, but it’s a whole lot more. Fosshape is a unique and proprietary nonwoven fabric. Fosshape is comprised of a specialty, low melt synthetic polyester fiber that when exposed to varying degrees of heat (200 degrees Fahrenheit range) and pressure, you can create a multitude of crafted items.
- What can Fosshape be used for?
For most anything…. from costuming use to making lightweight, three-dimensional structures and crafted items… great for cosplay, props, millinery, crowns, mascots, puppetry, skull caps or wig supports, helmets, light weight armor, fairy wings, artistic sculptures, wearable art, museum mount making etc. Use it for a hidden stiffening aid or by itself for a fully self-supported light weight structure. It’s truly “limited by your imagination” for producing those “one of a kind” items.
- How is Fosshape different from Wonderflex?
Both Wonderflex and Fosshape are thermoplastics and you heat activate them, but they’re completely different. Wonderflex starts off being stiff, but when exposed to heat softens up and becomes pliable. When it cools off after heating, Wonderflex becomes stiff again, but can re-reheated or re-worked. Fosshape as a felt-like fabric starts off being pliable, but when exposed to heat, stiffens up and cannot go back to its felt-like state following activation. Fosshape is easier to sew, but Wonderflex may be sewn as well. Both materials take a little time to master but, perhaps a bit more of a learning curve with the Fosshape. Wonderflex only available in-store.
- Which one should I use for my project? Wonderflex or Fosshape?
Sometimes either material may be suitable for your build and personal preference or skill set may prevail. Think about your project and what you are trying to achieve. What are the critical parameters involved? Is the surface characteristic of the heat activated material important? For a stronger, more sturdy need, then you might choose Wonderflex. If being light weight and or breathable are factors, you might choose Fosshape. And of course, the two materials compliment themselves well, so you might incorporate them both within the same project or creation.
- Who uses Fosshape and where has it been used?
Artists, milliners, costume makers, mask makers, stage crafters, prop masters, set designers, fiber artists, mascot makers, museum mount makers and the like from literally around the world… all use Fosshape. From Broadway theatres to theme parks, Las Vegas and even Cirque de Soleil have all found a multitude of uses for this most versatile, easy to use, thermoplastic fabric.
- What are some of the attributes of using Fosshape?
Fosshape is durable for indoor or outdoor use, extremely lightweight and even breathable. Saves valuable time and labor during the construction process, since no messy additives or drying/setup time required. If your finished figure, craft or project gets wet, no problem, as it’s all synthetic and not affected by water, so it’s OK if it “rains on your parade”. It’s even mold and mildew resistant.
- Is Fosshape the same as buckram?
No, it’s a vast improvement. Costume professionals and milliners often call it “the buckram alternative or replacement”. No long set up or drying time required, just heat activation. Unlike buckram, Fosshape does not fall apart with body sweat or in humid/rainy conditions.
- I heard that there are now 3 different Fosshape offerings. What is the difference?
Fosshape 300 is the lightest grade, which weighs 9.0 oz/yd2 (300 grams per sq/meter) with a thickness of about .125” (about 3.0 mm) in the non-activated state. Fosshape 600 is a heaviest grade, which weighs 18.0 oz/yd2 (600 grams per sq/meter) with a thickness of about .200” (about 5.0 mm) in the non-activated state. The new Fosshape Black 400 is solid jet-black in color and the medium grade weighing 12 oz./yd2 (400 grams per sq./meter) with a thickness of about .135” (about 3.5 mm).
- What tools do I need to heat activate Fosshape?
Although dependent on what your specific craft or project might be, most people use an industrial hot air gun, fabric/costume steamer and or conventional steam iron. Oftentimes the combined use of these tools is best. Fabric or costume steamers are usually preferred, since they are less radical heat source and provide a more gradual activation process. For a small area, a hair flat iron or specialty craft iron maybe most useful. Most regular home hair dryers do not usually generate enough heat to be effective for adequate activation.
- Can I cut and sew Fosshape?
Yes, no problem. Easily cuts with scissors and does not fray or ravel like woven fabrics. Cut out patterns, sew together then heat activate. Sews well on conventional sewing machines and even in the slightly heat activated form.
- How do I activate the Fosshape?
With a flowing motion use an industrial hot air gun about 6-8 inches away from the material surface. Work slowly and methodically. It is oftentimes helpful to anchor or pin the material in place prior to activation. The Fosshape will continue to become stiffer or denser and continue to shrink in with additional heat. Before starting your project, experimenting with a small piece is highly recommended to see what Fosshape can and can’t do. Practice and get to know and understand the material. If not careful, you can actually burn or melt through creating a void…. especially with the use of a hot air gun. Work carefully and slowly, as you cannot reverse the activation process. The use of steam heat from a fabric or costume steamer is a bit more forgiving and a gentler heating process, thus most often the tool of choice. Use a steam iron to obtain a denser or smoother surface. Increasing steam heat along with repetitive pressure will increase rigidity and surface smoothness. As with any heat sources use common sense, caution and prudence as to not burn yourself and keep away from flammable materials.
- Does Fosshape shrink when I heat activate it?
Yes. An increase of heat (time and temperature combination) will yield increased shrinkage. Depending on your heating technique, it will shrink in the range of 15% or more. The shrinkage factor is how Fosshape becomes stiff or rigid, so use this to your advantage. Learn to know and understand “the power of Fosshape”. To become a proficient and a skilled Fpsshaper…. you will want to play and practice.
- What about pre-shrinking Fosshape?
Considering the shrinkage factor and depending on your creation, you may want preshrink a little with a hot air gun or fabric steamer prior to cutting. You may want to pin, tack or staple a yard or two on a flat surface like a sheet of plywood etc. to use as a work surface. Fosshape will still be sewable, providing it does not see too much heat and pressure.
- What about working over a hat or head block?
Fosshape is great for making a “skull cap”, wig support base or even complete hats. Cut your pattern large enough to allow for shrinkage and finish trimming. You may want to tack or pin the edges of the Fosshape to better hold it in place during activation. Stretch and pull by hand while providing heat /pressure with a steamer or iron. With enough pressure applied using the iron, you can even add layers for more rigidity. Create a pattern, cut, sew and work over a conventional hat block. Remember to allow for shrinkage. You can trim with scissors upon completion. Millinery wire or edging may or may not be required.
- Can I use or form Fosshape over a wire support or armature?
Yes, a great application for large mascot heads and the like. Cut and sew panels, then place over your form, anchoring appropriately. Then apply heat and let it shrink over the form for a lightweight, breathable structure. Finish paint, coat and or decorate as desired.
- What about making a free standing or self-supporting structure with Fosshape?
Yes, especially when something lightweight is most desirable. As an example, if you were making a replica of a 4-foot oversize human hand. Cut out two patterns (make them larger to allow for the shrinkage) of the hand. Sew them together around the outside edges of the hand and fingers, leaving the bottom open, in a sock like configuration. Turn the sewn configuration completely inside out so the stitching is in the inside. Stuff the sock-like hand figure full, with loose polyester fiberfill or pillow stuffing. Finally, heat-activate the outside surface with a fabric steamer or hot air gun allowing the FOSSHAPE to shrink up against the stuffing, until it becomes stiff and rigid. You can remove the fiber stuffing and have a durable, lightweight, hollow structure now suitable for painting, decorating or cover with a fabric.
- Can I place Fosshape directly on the human body then heat for forming or mask making?
Absolutely not, the hot Fosshape and heat source will burn you.
- Is Fosshape fire retardant or have an FR rating?
No, it will eventually burn if exposed to an open flame long enough in its raw form or untreated state. Various flame-retardants available on the market can be used to cover or coat Fosshape. Check your local fire regulations and confer with your local fire marshal regarding your specific application and requirement.
- How do I decorate or finish the surface of Fosshape?
Fosshape readily accepts most artisan paints and coatings. Acrylics, latex etc. brush applied or spray-painted. Foam coats, sculpt coats, gessos or most any artisan coating can be applied depending on the desired effect. Fosshape can also be dyed using cold or warm water dyes. It’s most effective with light or pastel colors.