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Starch & Sizing Use?

Quilters give tips for use in
quilt piecing, cutting, applique

Well, I certainly hit a hot topic when I asked in my Nuggets Newsletter mailing for quilters to send me comments and tips about how and why they use starch &  sizing for easier quilt piecing, cutting and applique work. I got a wonderful range of hints and ideas to share with you.

Thanks ever so much to all those who shared ideas.

Here are some Starch Links to explore:

Preventing Mildew on fabrics (with starch warning)
Make fabric starch from plain corn starch
Will Corn Revolutionize the Fabric Business?

LINIT - Starch Crafts ideas

And Now the comments and tips from Quilters:

From: Ruth Spangler, Brighton, Michigan
I used to starch my backing so that when machine quilting, it would slide easier on my sewing table. Since using Sullivan's Basting Spray, I no longer do this because the backing won't adhere to the batting if it has been starched.

From: Crumbhaven
Susan--just some feedback on starch. Ever since reading Robbie Fanning's book on machine quilting, I starch the living daylights out of my fabric, to whit: I iron the prewashed stuff with heavy starch just before cutting (don't leave it folded after starching or you will get a very difficult to remove wrinkle or crease) Then I starch each time I press any seam. It gives a really fine, crisp line and by halfway through the texture of the quilt top is like card stock. If you're doing any embroidery or applique, it is much easier--almost a built in stabilizer. However, something Robbie does not caution but is essential for anyone hoping to preserve their quilts--when you're done making the quilt, you MUST wash out the starch--silver fish just love starch (and I'll bet it's tasty for other creepy crawlies too) Don't leave starch in anything stored--also includes heirloom-sewn kids clothes which often are starched heavily as part of the lace attaching process. Hope this helps a bit. Really enjoy your newsletter.

From: Marilyn Weiner
I starch everything that I quilt. After taking a workshop with Debra Wagner, you starch everything multiple times. Basically, she starches 3 times before cutting...I don't take it that far but usually starch at least twice. I use Niagara Original/Professional Finish Spray Starch. Price varies where you buy it. It is definitely worth the time to secure your fabric, as it does prevent slippage/shifting while sewing. Use the spray according to directions, so that it doesn't get "clumpy".

Thanks for the Costco info [I had said I buy starch in 3-pack at Costco - SD] ...don't laugh, never realized that they had it. I get a ton of my stuff for my dyeing there, but usually go to the supermarket to buy three anyway.  The price does vary from time to time. Started at around $1.00 and is now closer to $ 1.20 a can. It does work well... The starch does leave a residue on the iron, especially if it's not done "at the right time". Deb Wagner is full of info on this for all of her techs. She gives it in all her workshops, maybe she'll get word that you're doing an article on STARCHING! Best of luck with it and your website is wonderfully chock full of info.   Thanks, Marilyn

From: Judy Smith 
Susan, I always starch, albeit usually with sizing instead of starch, because it leaves less gook on the iron.. --Judy

From: Judy in Ringoes, in Ringoes, NJ
Susan, I love to use starch on my fabrics. It seems to cut down on fraying edges -- you know those long threads that have to be snipped off before making the sandwich. I started with spray starch in a can, but found that I have much more control with liquid that I mix to my preferred strength and use in a spray bottle. I use Linit, but that's because it is what my local supermarket sells. And it is much more cost efficient than the spray cans. If you are using starch on already cut pieces you have to be very careful when pressing that you PRESS and not iron. The pieces will be pulled out of shape, and stay that way if you iron back and forth. I especially like to use it on antique quilt tops that have to be repaired before I hand quilt them. It gives those soft old fabrics much more body. I often have to take whole blocks apart and restitch them, and just recently, an entire quilt. I had to redraft the 8" blocks to 7", and still had almost no seam allowance. The only way I could do it was using the starch.

From: Karen Combs Karen Combs' Studio: Hi Susan, I have tried starching and bought the heavy duty starch. I was very unhappy with it. I'm gong to try the light sizing or lighter starch. I believe it will be a better choice. Karen

From: Corinne Appleton
Do you Starch? yes, I starch --- and will do so more frequently when I move from this hot & humid climate! you want quotes? ummm, --well, in my book, starch is the great equalizer. a floppy/soft Roberta Horton plaid can stand up to a crisp Hoffman with no discernable difference after an application or two of sizing or starch. I'm not fussy as to which I use -- just have to make sure the scent is tolerable. and I learned *not* to spray and iron in the bathroom -where there is an overhead fan- after I nearly took a header stepping out of the shower the next day! (now I lay a beach towel on the floor protecting the area prone to receive the overspray.) and why didn't anybody tell me that starching is like spritzing a wrinkled piece of fabric with water -- you're a fool of you don't wad it up and give it time to penetrate before ironing. (a watched iron never flattens? ) then there's the other minor miracle that starch brings about: bias pieces with edges that can be handled! -stumbled over that one and now swear by it, especially if seaming bias to bias. one other thing: I've begun putting away my pre-washed fabrics w/o starching first as I am concerned about adding the chemicals to them before they begin their rest in my cupboards. --and I have decided I most definitely have moths!! aaargh! (any relationship you might uncover? potential article -- what's bugging your stash? [appealing --NOT] ) looking forward to your article, Susan.

From: Jo and Jos Hindriks Hi Susan, Neat idea of you to prepare a starch/sizing page. Maybe you can share some of the experiences we had with the stuff. Below you will find the results, see what you can use of it. Once we were making a quilt with lots of small sixty-degree triangles and the stretching drove us to the point of throwing the whole thing into the fireplace. So we cut out some more triangles and sprayed starch on them. Whew, that worked all right. But then the trouble began. Under the hot iron it left brownish stains and the hand-dyed colors (DEKA hot dyes) faded visibly. When we tried to wash the starch out in lukewarm water and a little detergent, the stains wouldn't go, but the colors did. Even an overdose of Retayne wouldn't resuscitate them. Then a quilting friend suggested sizing. It is available in most grocery stores and pharmacies and comes in spray cans. This time we came prepared: first spray the stuff on your fabric, then cut and sew. The machine needle goes through the layers with the same ease as if it weren't there. Ironing leaves no stains, whether you use steam or not. Rinse the quilt top gently in lukewarm water and a little detergent. Colors don't fade, at least not due to the sizing. Jos Jo & Jos Hindriks

CindyC  in Medfield, MA
Hi Susan, In answer to your query about starch, I use it all the time in my applique. I think I first saw the suggestion in one of Bonnie Kaster's patterns. What a difference. I spray starch a piece of fabric large enough for the piece to be appliqued on the wrong side of the fabric, and press until dry. It's amazing the number of people who have never used starch at all and don't know to iron it in. The edges when needleturning are crisp and stay put, it makes turning easier. This is especially true when using some of the very soft fabrics that tend to slip around when you're trying to work with them. I now also starch all fabric. It rotary cuts and sews like a dream, doesn't shift or wobble. I found out how good this is when sewing a small 1/2" border and it came out nice and straight.This concept was also concurred in the October 97(I think) issue of Quilter's Newsletter magazine by Debra Wagner. She guaranteed a 100% improvement in your sewing if the fabric was starched.

Now, as much as I love using it, I do have a concern you may consider when researching. It was brought up in a class, that as starch is a protein it could attract bugs. Also that washing may not totally remove the starch as it is deep into the fibers after pressing. I checked with a textile curator whose opinion was that this could definitely be true, that it could attract bugs and also, that over time, the starch could turn the fabric yellow. Now, I do not wash my applique pieces after the quilt is finished. The oldest piece is only three years old and I haven't seen any problems yet, but I would be interested in anything you find out on the topic. I have seen such an improvement in my work and my students work with the ease of appliquéing with starched fabric that I am very reluctant to give it up. Please email my personally if you can with your results.
Thank-you. Cindy Cimo, On the Road Quilt Designs

From: Sandi McMillian  I use starch on any thing I use the famous blue wash-out pen or any marker of that kind. It sticks to the starch and doesn't soak in as on the prewashed fabrics which makes it harder to get out of the quilt top. I have found out using starch that the marks come right out most generally with just rinsing but always wash in Orvis as a precaution. Sandi

From: Leslie Schauer
Yes, I use starch! First, I always wash all my fabric before use. When ironing each piece I always use starch. It keeps the fabric from getting too terribly wrinkled if it is going to be awhile before I will be using it. Starch helps keep fabric lined up when using my rotary cutter through several layers. I never use pins when lining up fabric edges to sew. The starch keeps the fabric from moving on me. When cutting out complicated pieces with templates, they sometimes will distort. Starching beforehand seems to minimize this problem. I have also noticed that when checking seams, that there is less puckering if I have used starch. Of course when doing appliques, I can't imagine not using starch to hold the edges in place! I just spray starch into a small bowl and use Q-tips to apply the starch to the folded over edges. Hope some of this helps!  Leslie Schauer

Click here:
Starch Tips Continued on Page Two

(including a specific recipe for mixing starch)

Susan Druding

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