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When I first started quilting, I remember being very drawn to triangle quilts. They are just so eye catching. I love all of the cool things you can do with a simple triangle shape. I thought to myself “someday I’m going to try quilting with triangles….someday!” About six months into my quilting journey, I finally got around to making my first triangle quilt (the Aztec Diamonds pattern from Lo and Behold Stitchery.) When I started working on that quilt, I realized that I could have been making triangle quilts much sooner; they are not hard at all!
There are a few things to keep in mind when working with triangles, however. I decided to write a short and sweet blog series all about triangles since my first quilt pattern, Ivy League, is a triangle quilt! This post is going to be all about the wonderful stuff known as starch; it will be your BFF. As Forrest says “triangles and starch go together like peas and carrots!” (Ok, he maybe didn’t say that, and peas and carrots are actually kinda ICK together, but you get the idea.)
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First, let’s talk a little bit about why using starch is so important when it comes to quilting with triangles. I’m going to keep this really basic: so, basically, fabric has crosswise grain, lengthwise grain, and bias. When you cut along the grain, fabric doesn’t stretch much and is more “stable.” When you but along the bias edge of the fabric as you do when you cut triangles, fabric has a tendency to get a lil’ crazy and can easily stretch and be manipulated. Which we don’t want to do. The graphic below gives a simple overview of grains and bias.
Fabric starch is a traditionally a derivative of rice, corn, or wheat. Because of this, it has been said that using fabric starch can cause our precious quilts to fall prey to pesky insects. Personally, I always wash my quilts upon completion as well as on a semi-regular basis since they are used in this household daily. Therefore, I have had no bad starch experiences. If you don’t wash your quilts, there are starch alternatives on the market that claim no insects will be attracted to your quilts from using their product. Starches and starch alternatives make fabric more stiff which makes it less pliable and stretchy. Starching fabric BEFORE any cuts are made is best. I always spray my fabric liberally with starch, press with a hot iron, and then set aside to dry completely.
Types of Starch
There are several kinds of starch to choose from and it does seem that it is a personal preference. I will run through a few of the types I’ve used and will share which is my favorite (note: there are more starches out there; I’m just listing the ones I’ve personally used.) If you’re new to starch, I encourage you to try different ones and see which works best for you personally.
1. Faultless starch
This starch is available from several big box stores as well as Amazon. If you’re wanting your fabric to be super stiff, this is your best bet. It does give a very strong starch to fabric. With that said, it does have a tendency to flake and leave a little bit of a “residue”, though that does wash out.
2. Flatter spray
The company that makes my all time favorite quilt detergent (it is hands down what I prefer to wash my quilts in as well as anything that needs hand washed/washed on delicate) also makes a starch alternative called Flatter. I love the smell and it really does give a nice press to things, I’ve found a better cost-effective starch that I prefer. (Keep reading to find out my go-to starch.)
3. Mary Ellen’s Best Press
Mary Ellen’s Best Press is similar to the Flatter spray in that it is a starch alternative, meaning it shouldn’t attract any pesky insects. This is the starch I used when I first started quilting and I still do use it on occasion. The lavender scent is so pleasant! I would say this is my second favorite starch only because I’ve found something that works just as well and is a fraction of the cost.
4. Homemade Starch
Homemade starch–whaaat?! I know, it’s a little strange. But hear me out. This stuff is awesome AND it’s super super inexpensive to make. All you need is a big ole’ plastic jug of the cheapest vodka you can find and some distilled water. I know, I know. Stay with me here. Most vodkas these days are distilled from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or wheat, though there are still some on the market that are distilled from potatoes. Since these are all starchy by nature, diluted vodka makes an excellent alternative to Best Press and Flatter if you wash your quilts upon completion to ensure all starchy bits that might attract insects are washed away.
The biggest question I had when I first heard of using homemade starch (I believe this tip came to me from my mom and the ladies at her quilt guild) was: “won’t it make my fabric smell all boozy??” I’m here to tell you that although you can detect a hint of vodka when spraying your fabric, it quickly dissipates and I notice no vodka smell from that point forward. I’ve heard you can add a few drops of essential oil to the mixture if using a glass or metal spray bottle (some essential oils can break down plastic), but I have yet to try this.
Homemade fabric starch recipe
- vodka (seriously just get the super cheap stuff in the plastic bottle)
- distilled water
- essential oils (optional–if you want it scented. I have not tried this personally.)
- spray bottle (THIS is the one I use. Make sure it’s glass or metal if adding essential oils.)
Combine 1 part vodka to 2 parts distilled water (I just eyeball it in my spray bottle if I’m being honest, ha.) Add a few drops of essential oils if using. Shake well and enjoy!
Note: I’ve also heard of people using a 1 part vinegar to 3 parts distilled water ratio, but I’ve always just used 1:2 and it’s worked great.
Whatever starch you end up using, I hope it helps you in your triangle quilting journey! Be sure to check out Part Two of this triangle series where we will be talking about glue basting.
Until next time,