Liquid Starch: The Miracle Tool
Liquid Starch is my new best friend.
After a 20 year hiatus, I am quilting again, and right out of the gate I thought I could handle an intermediate quilt. I chose a square-in-a-square quilt with myriad greens and a mix of modern, retro and floral fabrics.
I'm happy with fabrics, but I've been struggling with piecing. No matter how carefully I cut, mark and piece, the units come out wonky. I kept at it for a couple of weeks, sewing a ton of units, but I'm only getting one in four usable. Finally I decided that maybe it's me. I mean, I'm an experienced seamstress, but like everyone, you have to walk before you can run. So I decided to put the square-in-a-square project aside and pull out the old rail fence project. This is a project I started in college and I'm finally finishing.
This didn't go well either. Finally I'm thinking, okay, I'm doing something wrong. I know I can sew a straight line, and I know I can sew an accurate 1/4" seam. But the units are still wonky. Not a lot wonky, mind you, it's a hard quilt to screw up. There's no points, no triangles and hardly any seam matching. But it should be more accurate than it is.
That's when I realized: I need to try starch. All of the quilting shows I watch, the quilters are always mentioning that they starch their pieces into oblivion. So I tried it. Guess what? It works!
This is how I do it: I mix one part liquid starch to two parts water in a standard spray bottle that I got at the hardware store. Then, I mist the fabric and press before I cut. The starch gives the fabric body and stability so it doesn't shift as much when cutting and sewing, making seams more accurate. It also makes the seam allowances press crisp and flat.
Once a unit is done, I mist and press again, being very careful not to stretch or push the unit out of square. The starch helps the unit hold its shape while pinned to the design wall and when sewing them together to make the quilt top.
The only caveat is that you have to finish your quilt within a reasonable timeframe. Apparently the starch will accelerate the deterioration of your fabric, so you have to get the project done and wash the starch out so the quilt fabric won't be compromised. All the more motivation to get it done!
I'm going to go ahead and finish the rail fence quilt, but next up is that square-in-a-square jobby. You'll be hearing about it.