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Thread: How and when do you Starch?

  1. #1
    Junior Member TAMARATJO's Avatar
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    How and when do you Starch?

    I am a confident beginner, and trying to improve my skills. I still struggle with pressing vs. ironing my pieces, and I read a lot about people starching their fabric. I would like to try this, but don't know how, or when to starch. Do you starch after washing the fabric (before cutting)? Do you starch the cut pieces? Do you starch a finished block? Do you spray before ironing a block? Etc.....
    Please share the details, including starch used. I have a spray bottle of Mary Ellen's Best. Thanks everyone!

  2. #2
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    Hi & Welcome to the wonderful world of quilting!

    I don't pre-wash but do use starch for most all fabrics and piecing. I feel it helps me with better seams and especially HSTs.

    For larger pieces of fabrics, I spray with starch and then hang in shower till damp. Sometimes I pop it in the dryer if I'm in a hurry. All fabrics for any ac-cuquilt cutting is always starched too. My preference varies but Best Press, Niagra Starch Plus (blue, white, yellow can) and Stay-flo. I'm not a loyal starch brand. LOL!

    Good luck on your quilting journey!

  3. #3
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    never - seriously. When I started a bought a can of spray starch and 4 years later, it's still sitting on the shelf.

    I prewash everything, I hate fabric that feels like paper, I love the flexibility and being able to "work" with that.

    I come from a background of sewing clothing and learned how to deal with fabric that was difficult, so sewing on quilting cotton is easy. My feelings are to learn to work with fabric instead of trying to turn it into paper.
    My name is Cathy - and I'm addicted to old sewing machines and their attachments.

  4. #4
    Power Poster PaperPrincess's Avatar
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    I also came from a background of sewing clothing, but I love starch for some cuts. I pre wash everything, and if I am going to do a pattern with lots of bias cuts, I starch. I mix StaFlo half and half with water. I spray the yardage with water first to dampen a bit, then spray with the starch mixture. Wait a bit to let the starch penetrate, then because it's still uncut, iron.
    As everything in quilting, it's all personal preference. I would suggest trying it if you like it, continue. If not, give the unused starch away!
    Last edited by PaperPrincess; 03-03-2018 at 08:13 AM.
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  5. #5
    Super Member wesing's Avatar
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    If I use starch, I spray my yardage (or the amount I think I'll use) and press before I make the first cut. I like to give the fabric some substance, but not make it cardboard-stiff.

    Sorry you're getting such divergent answers. Maybe you should try making a few of the same blocks, and skip the starch on one, starch before cutting on one, before sewing on one, etc. Then you could decide what works for you.

    Regarding pressing vs. ironing, pressing only involves up and down motion of the iron. Ironing involves moving the iron around on the fabric, and can stretch or distort your fabric, creating problems later in the process. When you press, you only press one iron-shaped section of your fabric at a time, pick the iron up, and press another spot. It takes longer, but the accuracy is worth it.

    Hope that helps,

    Darren

  6. #6
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    I'm not a starcher or a prewasher, I do press and use water in a spray bottle now and then. I wouldn't mind if I could find an unscented spray starch that was cheap but all the grocery store and big box stuff is full of fragrance and I hate the smells of those so I just stick with water. When my project is quilted and bound I throw it in the washer with a few color catchers and then put it in the dryer, then wrap it for gifting. Try different things and see what you like and then go from there!

  7. #7
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    As you can see, you get a whole bunch of answers. I pre-wash everything, and dry, then fold my fabric. When I'm ready to use it, I press and starch what I need, then cut. I personally like the firmness of the pieces I'm using. I use Niagara starch. When item is finished, depending who/what is if for, I wash and dry it. As Darren said, try several different ways, and find what result you like, and what process works for you!

  8. #8
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    Starch can help improve accuracy. I usually do not prewash fabric, which means there are still stabilizers in the fabric when I cut. Recently I made a square-in-a-square pattern which meant sewing a lot of bias edges. It came out okay (mostly because I cut the pieces with my Accuquilt Go, so the cutting was very accurate), but if I make this pattern again I will definitely do a heavy pre-starch to help stabilize all those bias edges more. When I do prewash fabric, I starch it heavily before cutting because all the commercial stabilizers have been removed.

    Starching is a personal choice. Heavy starching before cutting stabilizes fabric so the cuts are more accurate and so the edges don't stretch or distort from sewing and handling. In addition to this (or instead of this), you can also spray starch as you go. I typically spray starch blocks as they are completed. Usually I press the blocks first, then spray starch and press again. It helps make the block lie flat and keep its shape when handling. I also spray starch the finished top once it is on my midarm frame. (At that point, I don't iron; just spray starch. Sharon Schamber does this and has a video on Youtube showing how she sprays and rolls.)

    Mary Ellen's is a nice product, but it does not provide the heavy starching I am talking about.

    For heavy starching, it's easiest for me to use Sta-Flo liquid laundry starch diluted in water. A 1:1 starch:water solution is the dilution that I use on yardage, although a 1:2 dilution would probably work well too. My method is a little different from some of those above, as I have found the repetitive use of a spray bottle is hard on my hand. I prepare the starch and water, place my yardage on my kitchen island, and use a large polyester wall painting brush (about $4 at Walmart) to apply the starch. I saturate both sides of the fabric, wait a few minutes to make sure the fibers have had a chance to absorb the starch (it has a tendency to lay on top of the fabric for awhile, especially if the fabric has not been prewashed), then toss in the dryer. You could take it out while damp, but I usually let it dry completely in the dryer. It's easiest to iron with steam, as steam re-activates the starch where you are ironing. I have given up trying to use steam because our water seems to destroy irons, so this is where I use a spray bottle to slightly dampen the fabric as I go. Fabrics vary in how stiff they get, but I aim for almost cardstock stiffness. (Many fabrics do not get that stiff.) I actually iron the yardage, as it is considerably faster and more satisfying than pressing. I can get away with ironing because the starch stabilizes the fabric and makes it much harder to distort while ironing. I do try to use a reasonable touch and a nice smooth iron surface. The yardage comes out fine for me this way.

    After the above starching process, I am ready to cut and sew. Starching makes the cuts more accurate and also helps prevent edges from distorting as I sew. I should mention that using a good quality fine cotton thread also helps accuracy. When I switched from Mettler 50/3 to Aurifil 50/2, my piecing accuracy improved considerably.

    It is when pressing blocks that I pay a lot of attention to pressing instead of ironing. I press the seam before turning it, although again this is a totally personal thing. It does seem to make the thread sink into the fabric. I probably pay the most attention to pressing the seam fold carefully. After that is done, I am careful to only press, not iron the block. Once ironed, I usually will give the block a light spray starching and iron again.

    One thing to be aware of is that starch can scorch if it is lying on top of the fabric and has not been thoroughly absorbed into the fibers. That scorching comes out in the wash, but can be disconcerting. This is why I am careful when using spray starch. Sometimes I can mist the block with spray starch and press immediately, but often I will give it at least a few seconds to be absorbed into the fabric. If I spray starch heavily, I try to give it at least a minute. If I am in a hurry, sometimes I will spray starch the wrong side then turn the block over to press from the top.

    The variety of ways to starch shows that there is not necessarily a right or wrong way. The way that works for you is the right way for you!

    I will say that I never use Best Press. I tried it, but for me it does not provide enough stabilization to make it worthwhile. When using spray starch, I purchase the best quality I can find at Walmart (currently Faultless Premium professional), as my impression has been that the cheaper versions often don't absorb as fast into the fabric. As far as I know, Sta-Flo does not have any fragrance added to it. I have never tried to use it in a spray bottle because I try to minimize how much spraying my hand has to do (the commercial cans require only pressing a button). If you use Sta-Flo in a spray bottle, you must dilute it much more than 1:1 as that would be too heavy to spray I think.

    Hope this helps! Edit: Sorry to ramble on so long......
    Last edited by Prism99; 03-03-2018 at 10:55 AM.

  9. #9
    Super Member Snooze2978's Avatar
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    I don't pre-wash my fabrics but do starch them before cutting. I use what's we call Quilter's Moonshine which is made with Vodka. I like my starch even heavier so add Sta-Puff liquid starch to my mixture. I rigged up an old top half of a wringer washer that I can stand over my double sink. I pour my starch into a dishpan, soak the fabrics till saturated, then wring the excess thru the wringer. Saves on my hands having to twist and wring the fabric especially those larger pieces. I keep my excess starch in a gallon jug in my fridge I have downstairs. I rigged up a large dowl rod over my sink and hang the fabrics on a hanger to dry. Then once dried, I mist the fabric with plain water ( my steam iron no longer steams) and then press. I made myself one of those big boards...24 x 48 using batting and the silver fabric stapled to the board. Added brackets under neath and lay it over my regular ironing board. Works like a charm for me.

    If I feel I need to starch the block later down the road I'll spray it on the backside and press it dry before I attach it to another block and so on.
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  10. #10
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    i soak and wash almost all washable components before cutting them. thread is one of the exceptions.

    i think starching/sizing has its uses, but i feel that the fabrics i am willing to use should have enough stability to not need bolstering.

    i will starch/size the fabric (s) - before cutting them - if the pieces are very small, very skinny, or the piece is very biased on the edges.

    i will admit that a stiffly starched piece is less apt to fray and that the block looks a bit tidier when it is finished.

    sometimes i will starch/size a completed block - spray before pressing - allow time for starch/sizing to be absorbed - and then press the block - if i want the blocks to be nice and flat.

    i use the spray stuff from Walmart that is called "sizing"

    my guideline is - if washed fabric is too limp, flimsy, thin -to use as is - then i do not use it at all.

    starch/sizing does have its uses - it just can't permanently change a fabric. it the fabric is "not good enough" to use unstarched, i don' t see how starching will make the fabric "good enough"

    i thing of starch/sizing like bras - temporary support or enhancement .
    Last edited by bearisgray; 03-03-2018 at 11:52 AM.

  11. #11
    Super Member Irishrose2's Avatar
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    I rarely use starch until I prepare the backing. I starch that quite heavily. Because I can't see the back when I'm FMQ, I think starching cuts down on unwanted surprises like little tucks.
    If I get a stubborn wrinkle in a block, I will spray with starch, but only because it's sitting there. Water would work as well.

    Edit: I will be starching my fabric for my next quilt as each block will have a rather long diagonal seam.
    Last edited by Irishrose2; 03-03-2018 at 01:32 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Faintly Artistic's Avatar
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    I starch when prepping for cutting. I easily go through 2 cans per month of cheap Faultless starch from W-M. I like my fabric to not move around on me while cutting and sewing. I starch vintage sheets several times before cutting.

  13. #13
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    I starch and iron my fabrics before cutting. It helps my cuts be much more accurate and then while I’m creating blocks, using the pieces a little steam reactivates the starch just enough to make everything press flat, precise.
    Iron yardage- large/ uncut pieces; ( as in moving the iron around, smoothing wrinkles)
    Press cut pieces, pieced parts, blocks ; ( as in place the iron down flat, then lift- don’t move it around on the piece)
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  14. #14
    Power Poster Onebyone's Avatar
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    I starch fabric before cutting. I make it very stiff. I don't like cutting or sewing with soft fabric. I starch flannel too.
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    Super Member Krisb's Avatar
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    Sometimes I starch; sometimes I don’t. If the pattern had lots of tiny pieces or long bias edges, starch. And, like IrishRose2, I always starch the backing.
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  16. #16
    Power Poster Jingle's Avatar
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    I do pre-wash all fabrics,dry and fold over a ruler, stack on wire shelves in my sewing closet.

    I never starch anything.
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  17. #17
    Super Member cashs_mom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TAMARATJO View Post
    Do you starch after washing the fabric (before cutting)? Do you starch the cut pieces? Do you starch a finished block? Do you spray before ironing a block? Etc.....
    I do all of the above depending on what is needed. I use Best Press on all my fabrics before cutting. After that I starch as needed. Sometimes I starch each block sometimes I wait and just starch the whole top. I starch the back before sandwiching also. It just seems to make it easier to keep everything smooth.
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  18. #18
    Super Member Doggramma's Avatar
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    I rarely starch either. Once in a while I'll starch a finished block. Personally I think the starch makes my iron and ironing board icky and brown.
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  19. #19
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    I never starch. According to my allergist, I have chemical reactions . But it sure feels like allergies. Fragrances do the same thing.
    A quilt is like a good life. It's full of mistakes, but, in the end, it looks pretty good.

  20. #20
    Super Member SusieQOH's Avatar
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    I sometimes use Best Press lavender scent but as much as I love lavender I don't like this one. I have a huge container of it, I think a gallon. Yuck!
    I'm not much for starch either, but then again I rarely pre-wash fabrics.

  21. #21
    Super Member Teen's Avatar
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    I don't pre wash and only starch when block is complete. If you nail down the "pressing vs ironing" process, a lot of your problems disappear. (As long as your cuts and seam allowances are accurate, of course.). I do press my fabric before I cut if there are wrinkles or I'm opening a fold etc. These speaks to 100% cotton not to other type fabrics.
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  22. #22
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    I like to starch my scraps before I cut them.

  23. #23
    Super Member WMUTeach's Avatar
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    I starch using a spray starch that I pick up from the grocery store. I ALWAYS starch when I am working on the bias. I will often starch to get out stubborn folds or wrinkles or if I a quilt with lots of seams some of whom just do not want to stay in the direction needed.

    I guess I would call myself a "moderate" starcher...Not everything but more than never!

  24. #24
    Super Member Watson's Avatar
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    I always pre-wash (OK, almost always....I don't know with scrappies.) and I pretty much always starch. I find it gives more body and a sharper cut to the fabric.

    Thanks for asking this question. I've learned a lot!

    Watson

  25. #25
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    I prewash yardage but not the infrequent precuts. After washing/drying in the dryer, I use a 50/50 mixture of water & Sta-Flo liquid starch in a spray bottle. I only mix up a bit at a time. I spray what I think of as a 'moderate' amount of starch on the fabric, let it soak into the fabric for a bit and then iron. I don't worry about 'pressing'. I also use steam when ironing or pressing.

    I, too, come from a garment sewing background and can deal with whatever the fabric throws at me but also feel that moderately starched fabric does help with cutting accuracy, which, in turn helps with sewing accuracy.

    I don't necessarily starch pieces/blocks as I go but do certainly use steam. I press/iron after each seam is sewn and trim if needed so the next piece of my block is as accurate as I can make it. I also press my seams open which I feel improves my accuracy and makes for a flatter block/quilt top.

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