Quilters seem to divide into two camps regarding the behavior of their quilts in progress. One camp revels in serendipitous accidents as the quilt reveals what it wants to become. The other believes the quilt should submit to the plan.
One key ingredient to quilt discipline is starch used at several stages of quilt making. Paper piecers who like to work with those sliver sized pieces starch their fabric to cardboard consistency. Jacquie Gering starches her tops and backings before quilting to ensure all the seams and surfaces are flat. And Sharon Schamber, who must be out of room for all her Best of Show ribbons, surely owns stock in a starch manufacturing company. She uses it for applique, on bindings and for blocking quilts.
If you want to see how Sharon uses starch, check out her videos. Here’s what I’ll call her introduction to starching. She uses heavy starch, sprays one side, turns the fabric over, and presses the other side. Then she does this five more times to make sure the fabric won’t fray when appliqued.
The same starching technique gets a work out in Sharon’s quilt blocking video, though she doesn’t spray five times. After watching this video I felt like such a slapdash quilter and utterly lacking in quilt discipline. No quilt would dare retreat to its pre-blocked shape after Sharon gets done with it.
Sharon emphasizes the use of starch rather than sizing. She says Best Press is actually sizing and shouldn’t be used where starch is needed. Unlike many quilters I’m not a fan of Best Press. The perfume used makes me cough (I had bought the scented kind) and the price seems high. If you’re worried about starch flaking, try using a pressing cloth or flipping the fabric over before pressing.
Diane Gaudynski, free motion quilter extraordinaire, makes her own starch. Here’s her recipe and method. She starches to prevent fabric distortion.
I gather quilters have strong opinions about whether or not to starch. Here’s a link to a discussion of pros and cons on Craftsy. I wash all my fabrics shortly after purchase, mostly because I mix old and re-purposed fabric with quilting fabric. I have come to use starch more in quilting, especially in projects that involve bias edges.
My chief worry about using starch is that over time (and I mean years) starch left in a quilt will attract bugs and even rodents that will nibble holes. I wash my quilts after they’re done to prevent this. Besides, I like the crinkly feel washing imparts. But I’m at a loss for the quilts that can’t be washed. Any ideas?
Update: According to faultless.com here’s how to prevent that white stuff:
Q: Spray starch sometimes leaves a white residue on clothes and starch build-up on the iron. How can I prevent this?
A: Use two light applications rather than one heavy one. Use too much starch and it has no place to go, so it ends up on the bottom of the iron or on the fabric surface. You can also spray an entire garment before ironing, and roll it up for about 30 seconds before ironing, so the fabric has time to absorb the starch.