Quilting 101: The Fabric Starch Debate

Quilting 101: The Fabric Starch Debate

Some quilters use starch to stiffen their fabric before cutting. Others argue it is an unnecessary extra step. It’s a debate you’ll likely encounter if you spend a lot of time around quilters…

We’re not going to tell you which way is best, but we are going to share the arguments for both sides in this post. Let us know if you’re a believer in starching fabric in the comments below!

The Argument For Starching

The quilters who use fabric starch are typically the ones who believe you should prewash your quilting fabric. That makes sense since washing removes a bit of the sizing (stability), and starch puts it back in.

To apply starch, you can use a spray bottle to saturate your fabric before ironing. Alternatively, you can dip your fabric in a starch solution and let it mostly dry before ironing. Both applications create a similar result — a stiff fabric that doesn’t move when you’re cutting or piecing.

A Note About Prewashing Fabric: Cotton fabric shrinks around 3-5% when it is washed. If you don’t prewash your fabric before making a quilt, your entire quilt will shrink when it is washed and give it that puffy look that some people adore. If you want to keep the clean, crisp lines in your quilt that show off your piecing, prewashing your fabric helps to prevent some of the shrinkage, although you’ll need a high-quality, polyester batting if you want no shrinkage at all. Also keep in mind that you should never prewash precut fabric because the fraying and distortion caused by prewashing defeats the purpose of buying precut!

Regardless of whether you prewash your fabric or not, starch makes your fabric stiff and easier to cut and manipulate. Starching leads to more precise piecing and better cutting accuracy. An added benefit to using starch is that your seams will stay flat better and stay in the direction you press them.

You can find several brands of fabric starch at your local quilt store or in the laundry aisle at your supermarket. You can also make your own at home.

The Argument Against Starching

Starching is an extra step when you’re quilting. Some quilters pretreat their fabric with starch and then spray extra when pressing each seam. It adds a lot of time to your quilting. It also adds to your costs. You’ll have to decide if the benefits are worth it or not.

Some starch can also gunk up your iron and leave a flaky residue on your fabric. It does wash out, but it’s a little annoying. Also, if you’re not careful, fabric starch can lead to scorching. You need to turn the heat setting on your iron down a little bit and don’t let your iron linger in one spot for too long.

Another thing you need to be aware of if you use fabric starch, especially homemade fabric starch, is that it can attract pests, such as silverfish. Therefore, you should never starch fabric and then store it for an extended period.

Fabric starch can make quilting easier, but it can also add time and hassle. Every quilter is different, and you’ll have to decide if fabric starch is something you want to use or not. However, if you do decide to use starch, make sure that you use it on all of your pieces. Starched fabric and unstarched fabric sometimes don’t play well together…

So, what do you think? Do you use fabric starch, or do you stay away from the stuff? Let us know in the comments below.

Also be sure to check out our beautiful collection of precut fabric!

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I like using starch, however I have found that it warps my fabric somewhat.

Darci Brueske

I used starch on my first quilting project and it shrunk the fabric significantly : /

Carol Shook

No starching for me. I found more negatives than positives using starch. I dislike the residue from it, staining on the ironing board cover and scorching on my fabric. I try to cut and piece carefully and use steam or water for stubborn creases or wrinkles and have been getting satisfactory results.


No starch or washing for me.
Maybe a little bit of water spray like on the ends of the bolt..l wash mine in my machine with 1 cup vinegar and small amount of laundry soup..
If you still have wrinkles you need to go to a fabric store to get better quality..I’ve quilted for 70 years I’m 82 and getting ready to start another one..fallow your dream…


I only spray on my fabric the wrinkles & seams that are hard to get out before cutting


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