Tutorial + How-to Burlap Box

Published on July 21st, 2011 | by Karen Lee

15

3 Natural Fabric Stiffeners to Make at Home

Spread the love:

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Tumblr Email

DIY: Natural Fabric Stiffeners

Check out these natural fabric stiffeners made with common household ingredients, along with the pros and cons for each one!

When I made this fabric box with burlap, I used fusible web to stiffen the sides. But I wanted to find out what natural fabric stiffeners would be like. So I tried three stiffening methods using common household ingredients.

The idea for natural fabric stiffeners came to me when I read Julie’s homemade spray starch and natural glue tutorials and I wondered if I could modify the formulas to use them as fabric stiffeners.

I tested three ingredients for stiffening: Elmer’s Glue, cornstarch, and flour. Here’s what I found out:

DIY: Natural Fabric Stiffeners

1. Elmer’s Glue All As a Natural Fabric Stiffener

Equal parts of glue and water.

Elmer’s glue is listed as being non-toxic and safe on its label and on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). But the ingredient is still a type of plastic – polyvinyl acetate, to be exact. So while it’s labeled as being safe, I don’t think I’d eat it. In order to mix the solution, I used a glass bowl that I wouldn’t use for eating and an old plastic spoon. The mixture is solid white and it dried as clear film. The residue comes off clean with warm water and soap.

DIY: Natural Fabric Stiffeners

2. Cornstarch Natural Fabric Stiffener

1 Tbsp, 1/4 C cold water, and 1/4 C boiling water.

Dissolve 1 Tbsp of cornstarch in 1/4 C cold water. Meanwhile, boil 1/4 C of water. Slowly, add the cornstarch solution to boiling water and whisk and boil until the solution bubbles. Take the solution off the heat and cool to room temperature before using.

The consistency is thick, like Tapioca pudding. It is translucent and dries clear. Since it’s cornstarch, there is no concern whether it’s toxic or not. I didn’t have to use separate pots or bowls to make this solution. After I was done, I washed them with warm soapy water and they were safe to cook with afterwards.

DIY: Natural Fabric Stiffeners

3. Flour Starch Natural Fabric Stiffener

1 Tbsp, 1/2 C Cold Water, and 1/2 C Boiling Water

Mix 1 Tbsp flour with 1/2 C Cold water. Boil 1/2 C of water in a small pot. Briskly whisk the flour mixture into the boiling water. When the consistency become thick, like gravy, take the pot off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. If you need to stiffen a larger fabric piece, make a bigger batch using this ratio and dunk the whole piece.

As time goes by, the mixture becomes more goopey. You can add more water if you need a thinner solution. The color is “linen white” and not “ceiling white.” If you are stiffening white fabric or lace, it may not be bright white after it dries.

DIY: Natural Fabric Stiffeners

These are the three different types of natural fabric stiffeners, from the left: Elmer’s Glue/Water, cornstarch, and flour starch.

As you can see they resulted in three different colors. If you need to stiffen white fabric or lace, the Elmer’s Glue or Cornstarch methods might be the best to maintain the whiteness.

Want to make your project more vintage-y looking? The flour method will be fine. Since Elmer’s Glue is not exactly “natural”, you may need separate equipment to use this method. However, the Elmer’s Glue method would make the stiffness last longer. It takes repeated washings before it gets soft. Cornstarch and flour method wash off easier, making stiffness not as long lasting.

I could have tried the rice method as my grandmother used to use rice water as starch spray when I was growing up. But as we no longer eat white rice, I didn’t have any on hand to experiment with. But it works great as starch spray so I presume it works well as a stiffening solution like cornstarch and flour. But the only drawback is that you have to boil white rice for a long time with a copious amount of water until you get a thick consistency.

Check out Crochet Memories for more stiffening methods.

Which method are you going to try?

Keep up with the latest in the world of green crafts by signing up for our free newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign up!


Spread the love:

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Tumblr Email

Tags: , , ,


About the Author

Karen lives a simple, frugal, green life and shares her eco tips and news on ecokaren and is a co-founder of Green Sisterhood, a network of community of green women bloggers, making change. When she's not managing Green Sisterhood or blogging on ecokaren, she is a chauffeur to two greenagers, wife to an accidental recycler, master chef to hungry locavores, seamstress, knitter, and dumpster diver, not necessarily in that order.



  • Patricia Devine

    Have you heard of Dip and Drape ? About 25 years ago I used this product to make several characters such as a nativity set, santas, angels and carolers. I’m really trying to locate the patterns for these because I think I would be able to use some of these other methods of fabric stiffiners. Please let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks

  • rose lloyd

    i am also looking for dip and drape
    any info would be helpfull

    • Twyla Armstrong

      We replaced the Dip and Drape with watered down school glue (which dries clear) for our group projects to save the expense and it worked perfectly.

  • Ramin Mazhari

    Can any of this stiffening procedures be used on dark fabrics (polyester) without leaving white marks?
    How long can it be stored and is there a way to preserve a large volume for later use at room temperature?

  • Pingback: How to make burlap ornaments {Guest Post} | A green living, green parenting blog

  • http://dipanddrape linda

    Please help me find patterns for Santas and Mrs. Claus, etc.

  • Sarah

    I’m wondering about the durability of the 3 stiffeners. How did they hold up? Which would you recommend for areas with high humidity in summer? Thanks for the info.

  • http://tuesday63.livejournal.com/ tuesday

    for a more natural stiffener, mix a paste of rice flour/potato flour/corn flour. ..all natural, non-toxic and works a treat!

  • http://www.mode-plus.com/ Nefferth (@Mode_Plus)

    For my final runway project I was looking for natural ways to stiffen fabric, so your post was really helpful. I’m probably going to use the second option due to the clearness after drying.

  • http://Yahoo Elaine

    Thanks, Gennie, I’ll try this ! You see how often I check my mail !

  • Aakash

    If you wash any fabric that has been stiffened using the above solution – does it wash off? or does the stiffness remain? I’m looking for something permanent.
    Thanks!

  • Denise Z. G.

    Thanks for the comparison of the three major methods. Very helpful!

  • Marta

    I use potato flour. It’s completely white. My mother used it too. It’s natural and I don’t think I even considered using anything else to stiffen fabric, especially embroidered pieces.

  • JoAnn Anderson

    I need to freshen or smarten up the kids’ school uniforms. I have about 30 knit shirts to bring back to life. Can I throw a large batch of this solution into the washing machine and do the whole lot at once? Would the Elmer’s glue method work best for this?

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      I’m not sure any of these would work for that, since they wash out. Are you trying to get stains and whatnot out?

Back to Top ↑