When you're quilting, you need super-straight seams for accurate piecing . In other words: You need starch or pressing spray. But what if you run out of the stuff? Or what if the chemicals in store-bought fabric starch skeeve you out? Should your sewing come to a screeching halt?
No. You've got options. Mainly, one option: Make your own.
Don't worry, it's much simpler than it sounds. DIY fabric starch is catching on because it's cheap and easy to make, and the ingredients you need to mix it up are probably already in your kitchen.
So, What is Fabric Starch, Anyway?
Long before manufacturers began bottling and selling starch, people made their own out of, well, starch. Starch is a sticky, sugary carbohydrate found mostly in grains. It's the stuff that makes rice stick to the bottom of the pan or that turns leftover mashed potatoes into cement right on your plate.
Starch is also the main ingredient in many kinds of glue, which is what makes glue basting such a fabulous technique. Ironing starch takes away its moisture, making it stiff and adding structure to whatever you apply it to.
How to Make Your Own Fabric Starch
1. Raid Your Kitchen for Supplies
To mix up your own fabric starch, you need:
- An empty spray bottle
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch *
- ¼ cup lukewarm tap water
- 2 cups boiling water
- Essential oil for fragrance, such as lemongrass, lavender or thyme (optional)
* Some fabric-starch recipes call for vodka instead of cornstarch. Each approach has pros and cons. Cornstarch is cheaper and easier to use. But if you're not planning to wash your quilt, you're better off with vodka — cornstarch can attract bugs that may chew holes in your fabric.
2. Combine the Ingredients
Whisk the cornstarch into the tap water, doing your best to avoid any lumps. Add the 2 cups boiling water and 1 or 2 drops of essential oil, if you're using it.
3. Pour and Shake
Pour the mixture into the bottle carefully, then reattach the nozzle. Shake it up, making sure that all the starch has completely dissolved. (If it hasn't, all is not lost: Just filter it out with a strainer or coffee filter.) Once your starch is cool enough to handle, spray it generously onto your fabric and press as needed. If you want more or less stiffness in your fabric, you can tweak the amount of starch in the recipe.
Tips on Using Homemade Fabric Starch
- If you have your iron set on high (as most quilters do), take care not to scorch your fabric or your iron. Starch burns easily since it's a carbohydrate, and it can ruin your project or leave burn marks on your iron plate.
- Store any excess starch in the fridge so it doesn't ferment or get moldy.
- When piecing, make sure you're just pressing the pieces — don't move the iron, or the damp fabric might get distorted.
- Clean your iron regularly with iron cleaner or a vinegar-water solution. Starch tends to build up over time and homemade or not, you definitely don't want that stuff clogging your iron.