You can measure twice, cut and stitch with flawless accuracy, and yet, there are times when your quilt blocks still won't turn out just right. Author and designer Anita Grossman
Solomon specializes in creating Make It Simpler® techniques for faster, easier quilting, so we asked for her advice on the
very first step of quilt making - correct preparation of the fabric. You probably recognize Anita from her books, or from her appearances on HGTV's Simply Quilts. Now, she shares her
valuable fabric prep tips, centered on the use of fabric starch, her secret weapon!
Q. Why starch?
A. I piece and quilt by machine and I starch ALL of my fabric. Starched fabric cuts easily, even when stacked together, and sews together beautifully. It will hold
sharp creases, including those made by finger pressing. A block made of starched fabric when pressed during construction will not shrink or become otherwise distorted. I am convinced
that most quilters' accuracy problems stem from virgin fabric shrinking when first ironed during block construction rather than from a flawed 1/4" seam. Starched fabric is already
'pre-distorted' before the first stitch is sewn. I wouldn't starch if I didn't get tremendous results for my efforts.
Q. What type of starch do you use?
A. I mix a solution of 50% water and 50% bottled starch for yardage. I 'cheat' at times by spray starching small pieces of fabric without prior laundering. These
pieces shrink on contact with a hot iron, which serves the purpose.
Q. How do you launder your fabrics?
A. Prior to starching and pressing the fabric, I machine wash (warm) and machine dry (hot). I join cut edges of the folded yardage, adjacent to selvedges, with a
machine zigzag or serger stitch into manageable fabric loops that won't tangle or fray in the washer or dryer. There are no loose ends to knot together. Afterwards I trim off the sewn
edges and both selvedges.
To starch the yardage: Separate light from dark fabrics to avoid possible color transfer and bleeding. Stuff the fabric into small plastic bags and pour starch solution into the
bags. The amount of solution varies with the quantity and type of the fabric. Squeeze any excess air out of the bag and close it. The goal is to lightly dampen the fabric but not to
soak it. Set the bags in the refrigerator where, through osmosis, the starch solution will be distributed throughout the fabric.
After a few hours, remove the fabric from the bag. Roll each piece individually, return all to the bag and refrigerate again. The plan is to have any excessively damp fabric come
into contact with dry fabric so that all the fabric will become lightly and evenly damp but not soaking wet. If the fabric is too dry, add more starch solution; if the fabric is too
wet - add some dry fabric. You'll soon get the hang of it. The damp fabric will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. If you don't iron it within a week move the bags to the
freezer to avoid mildew. Defrost in the refrigerator when the mood hits you. Chilled damp fabric irons very easily.
Before starching a dried fabric length of one yard or more, tear it lengthwise down the middle, so each piece is no wider than 22". It will easily fit it on the ironing board and
later on the shelf. I have never run out of fabric from splitting up the yardage. I've only made my life easier by not having to deal with a large piece of fabric. It's comparable to
pressing a pillowcase instead of a sheet.
Did you know?
Because starched and pressed fabric is flatter than fabric on the bolt, you're able to store more of it on your shelves. Hooray!