You might associate fabric starch with the pleats on your grandpa’s jeans… but he’s not the only one who uses starch. Quilters use fabric starch, too! Fabric starch is a magical spray-on formula that stiffens fabric, making it easier for you to work with while quilting… especially when you’re sewing intricate, complex patterns.
Some quilters swear by fabric starch, but others forget the stuff entirely. So should you follow in your grandpa’s fabric-starchy footsteps? Let’s dive in a little deeper into the fabric starch scene, and let you decide for yourself if fabric starch is a good tool for you.
The Why and How of Fabric Starch
There are two kinds of quilters. First, there are the dive-in-head-firsters. These quilters get home from the fabric store, whip out their new fabrics, and hit the table sewing.
Then, there are the preppers. This second group takes their time planning, pre-washing, and you guessed it, fabric starching. This makes sense, since pre-washing your fabric causes it to lose some stability, and if you’re working with bias edges or narrow strips, you’re going to have to add some of that rigidity back in with fabric starch. If you use your fabric straight out of the bag, fabric starch may not be necessary.
That said… if you go the fabric starch route, keep these three tips in mind:
- If you do choose to use fabric starch, STARCH ALL THE THINGS. Starch and no starch don’t mix. Fabrics work differently with each other based on how you have treated them beforehand, so make sure they’re all getting equal treatment.
- Fabric starch spray is not the only way. Canned fabric starch is common because it’s pretty darn convenient, but you can also make your own fabric starch! That’s right. DIY starch can come in handy if you’re picky about concentration level. (See below for a DIY recipe)
- Don’t starch & store. If you’re going to use fabric starch, you should be ready to use your fabric soon after. If you fabric starch your beautiful fabrics and fold them up… those folds won’t be easy to get out (think again of the creases in your grandpa’s jeans…)
All My Favorite Brands…
It’s time for a round of Fabric Starch Superlatives! Here are the top award-winning fabric starch options… according to me!
Most Popular: Best Press
People loooove this fabric starch. Quilters order it by the gallon! Mary Ellen’s Best Press is a clear, crisp spray starch with a built in stain shield. (And like all the other popular kids you know, it comes in various, pleasant scents.)
I recently discovered the Caribbean scent and was pleasantly surprised! I will say that if you're ironing a lot of fabric, the smell can become a little overwhelming. To combat this, I use a 50/50 starch to water ratio in my spray bottle.
Best Attendance: Quilter's Starch Savvy
If you’re looking for a consistent fabric starch, June Tailor’s shows up every time. This fabric starch is FQBQ (that’s for quilters, by quilters), and works great time after time.
Because of its popularity, you can find this starch almost any place that sells sewing supplies.
Most Natural: Plant-Powered ECOS Starch
ECOS is the leading brand of 100% natural, plant-based, non-toxic, biodegradable household cleaners, made with renewable and cruelty-free ingredients. This product was never tested on animals and is also packaged in recyclable containers.
If you are sensitive to smells and prefer to work with chlorine-free, phosphate-free, enzyme-free materials, this still is as pure as it gets.
Honorable Mention: Vodka and Water
I haven’t yet tried this myself, but the logic behind this fabric starch is pretty sound: Starch is in potatoes. Vodka is made from potatoes. Pour 3 oz. vodka and 24 oz. distilled water into a spray bottle, then shake. Now let that distilled potato starch do its work. Try it and let me know if it works!
To Starch or Not to Starch?
Let’s all be real for a second: quilting can be an expensive hobby. If you’re good to go with a spray bottle of water (and maybe some vodka?), springing for fabric starch might not be worth it to you. Here’s my take: I use fabric starch only when I really, really need it so my bottle of starch lasts longer, and I don’t have to buy it as often.
If you're completely new to quilting, I made a quick video about ironing...
Check out more of my favorite quilting tools!
What about you? Is fabric starch something you can do without? Or has starch become one of your quilting must-haves? I’d love to hear your comments!