Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tools of the Trade- Starch

I have decided to write a couple of posts about the tools we as sewers use most often and those that make our sewing lives much easier. Today we have more tools and gadgets to use during sewing than those of our parents or even when some us began in the 60's.

Starch. Do you use starch during your sewing or quilting? I have only just started using starch since I have started quilting. I rarely if ever used it while making clothing or other projects like stuffed animals or dolls. I am not a starch person. It's just one more step I like to avoid so I can keep on sewing.

I am most familiar with canned spray starch. My mother bought Faultless, Niagara, EasyOn what ever was on sale. I grew up using spray starch on clothing after they were washed and dried before permanent press and everyone had a dryer in their home. I even remember ironing my dad's undershirts for work, but I digress. I have found that with canned spray starch it leaves a glossy residue on my cotton fabric and eventually gums up the iron. It doesn't seem to matter as to which brand you use they all seem to gum up the nozzle so it doesn't always spray in a nice even spray but instead squirts out a big mess or foams up all over the can even if the nozzle has been cleaned with hot water. The cost varies from .97 to $1.50 per 20oz can depending on where you by it. While writing this I have also found out Niagara has a non aerosol bottle brand. Might look into it sometime. Next in line is powder starch.

I remembered my grandmother using starch from a bottle. You know the type it's in the coke bottle with an aluminum shaker and cork stopper. It sits in the frig until ready to use. After sprinkling the clothes, she would wrap up the clothes and put them in a plastic bag in the frig to be ironed at a later date. I believe she mixed the starch herself. I found out from a past pick up and delivery job I had several years ago that dry cleaners use 25 lb bags of powdered starch. I have no clue as to how it was mixed and used. I searched the local grocery stores and found Argo Starch a powdered starch that you could mix either by cooking it or mixing it with hot water. I tried the cooked method first figuring the starch would dissolve better in boiling water. I ended up with a rather thick paste that I diluted down and put in a spray bottle and the rest in the frig. It can be diluted to not be so heavy a starch.  I found that it spoils quicker than I was using it as I never returned the bottle to the frig after using it. I tried the hot water method and found that I had to shake it up really really well before using. This method still left shiny spots on my fabric. When looking at the box closer it actually says it's "glossy". I believe this is also the starch she used on her crochet to make the really pretty hats and baskets that sat on the dressers or tables. The cost of this box is about $1.80.

I found Mary Ellen's Best Press non-aerosol spray starch @ 7.95 for a 16 oz bottle. She has several scents to chose from. I chose the unscented brand as everything these days has some kind of fragrance added to it. Sometimes all those smells can be nose numbing and give those of us that are scent sensitive headaches. I like her starch. In fact I have bought it twice. I like it, but geesh it is expensive if you use it liberally and I like to use it liberally. The shiny spots are also minimal and my 15 y/o Rowenta didn't get gummed up as much. I did find that the fabric just wasn't has stiff as I would have liked it to be.

Last on the list of starches and my favorite I have used thus far is Sta-Flo liquid concentrate at $2.92 for a 64 oz bottle. I found this very easy to mix and pour into a non-aerosol bottle. If I want a really stiff piece of fabric I can add just a little more to the bottle. So far the only real problem I have found is the spray bottle I use does not have as fine a spray as I would like. So I end up having areas with no spray on it. Once I have sprayed the spots I missed I let it sit for about two or three minutes. This allows for the starch to soak in to the fabric. I iron my 100% pieces of cotton on high with no steam on the back. That way if I should get some shiny spots or flaking it won't be on the finished side of the fabric. I should mention that since I allow the fabric to sit and soak in the starch I have very little residue left on my fabric or my iron. Which is good because it saves me from having to clean my iron when I am really busy pressing and sewing.


  1. I'm very glad I read the results of your survey. I'm using a spray can of starch right now, and although I'm not unhappy with it, I am also not too happy either. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you very much. I hope this helps.