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 spray starch my fabric and use a pressing when I iron. I like to keep everything neat.

Bernadette Hodges

Thanks for the info. I find I starch when I iron before cutting. Helps get rid of any wrinkles or hard creases.


I usually use starch when I’m pressing my fabric after I have washed it. I think it handles better. I enjoy reading other’s thoughts.


Thanks for all this wonderful information about fabric.

Mary R

I don’t immerse my fabric in the starch because it makes me feel like my fabric has turned into poster board——-but I do use the spray starch like i was using water. I removes the wrinkles and gives the fabric a nice finish.

Julie Lee

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