A vast variety of crafting projects require that you first stiffen up the fabric or make use of molded fabric. Some may require additional smoothness and stiffness so that they can cover a larger area while others might need to be molded for a permanent shape, such as when designing clothes for small figurines or for sculpting purposes.
There are several different ways by which you can stiffen up the fabric. However, depending upon the reason for which you are going to stiffen it up, it’s recommended that you follow a series of steps.
As you continue to sew, you will come across different kinds of fabrics that can be used for different applications.
There are different kinds of techniques that can be used, some of which can be carried out using all-natural materials while others require you to make use of specialized liquids.
So, without further ado, let’s talk about the different ways by which you can stiffen fabric.
1 – Using Glue
Using glue is perhaps the best way to stiffen the fabric. Take a bowl or a bucket, and mix water and liquid glue equally.
Make sure that you measure it out first because you will want to be sure that equal parts go in the bowl. Otherwise, the viscosity of the liquid might change.
The use of glue is the most common way to add rigidity to a fabric and it’s also the simplest. Once you add the two together, continue mixing them until they are both completely blended and mixed with each other.
Then, take the fabric that you need to stiffen and immerse it into the bowl or bucket.
Make sure that the entire fabric has been submerged in the bucket. If any section is left out, it’s not going to harden. Leave it there for a while so that it is completely soaked. Then, take it out and place the fabric in between your fingers.
Run them tightly between your fingers to get rid of all the excess water and glue within. It’s important that you do not twist the fabric as you do this or the shape is going to get distorted.
You will need a large work surface in order to lay the fabric down. When you lay down the fabric on the surface, you can then give it any shape that you desire. The fabric will have enough rigidity to stay in shape and now you just need to let it dry out.
Depending upon the temperature conditions and the humidity, the drying process may take anywhere between a couple of hours to a full day.
That’s it; you are done! The fabric will harden as it dries out and will permanently take the shape that you molded into.
2 – Commercial Spray Stiffeners
If you don’t want to go through all this hassle and want to stiffen the fabric quickly, you should know that there are commercial spray stiffeners available in the market as well. These are available from local stores that specialize in arts and crafts equipment.
Depending upon the length and the size of the fabric, you might need to buy two or three spray stiffeners. Before you start spraying, it’s important to prepare the work space. The first thing that you need to do is to take a bunch of newspapers on the work surface and spread them around.
You can use a plastic covering or old newspapers for this job. Then, shape the fabric however you like and leave it be. Then it’s time to use the commercial spray stiffener.
You need to hold the spray bottle at least six to eight inches away from the fabric. Make sure that you do not keep it too far from the fabric or it will spread too far and won’t have the desired effect.
Then spray the fabric until it is completely wet. You will need to let it dry for a while before you see the effects of the stiffening. If you want to speed up the drying stage, you can make use of a hair dryer in order to speed the whole process.
If you feel that the fabric hasn’t stiffened as much as you would like, you can repeat the whole process again.
3 – Starch and Cornmeal
One of the most common methods to provide rigidity to a fabric is to make use of a mixture of starch and cornmeal.
Both of these are natural ingredients and you might find them lying around in your kitchen. Many people use this method because it is quite cost-effective and doesn’t require a lot of effort.
You need to begin by taking a tablespoon of starch and then mix it with at least two glasses of water. Try not to mix too aggressively because that will leave lumps in the water mixture.
Mix it as gently as possible so that there are no lumps and the liquid is going to have a soft feel to it.
Then just add the solution into a spray bottle and use it on the garment any time you want. Keep in mind that this mixture provides excellent stability to the fabric. That is one of the reasons why you should start off by first spraying it in low quantities.
That way, you will be able to control the level of stiffness of the fabric itself. If you want to harden it more, you can just spray even more.
4 – Gelatin
Another popular substance that you can use for hardening the fabric is gelatin. Gelatin, often found in desserts, is a great stabilizer and is ideal for hardening fabrics that usually have a slippery and soft texture. However, gelatin only provides temporary stability to the fabric.
This way, you can sew the fabric and then let it return back to its original state. All you need is a mixture that consists of two cups of water and a teaspoon of gelatin.
Mix it together and let it rest for half an hour. Then just add four cups of hot water into the mixture, and that’s it!
You can either spray it on the fabric or you can soak it in and then let it dry. As the fabric dries out, you will notice that it’s stiff. It will be much easier to work with as well.
This is one of the easier processes and doesn’t take up a lot of time, allowing you to use it whenever you need to temporarily stiffen the fabric.
5 – Water and Sugar
One of the simplest ways to harden a fabric permanently is to create a mixture of water and sugar. Mix water and sugar together in equal parts and let it rest for a while.
Put the solution on the stove to boil until it begins to bubble. Then, just soak the garment within the mixture.
Don’t squeeze the fabric too much as you take it out; be very gentle with it and lay it down on the work surface. Once you are done, just shape your garment any way you want and leave it to dry.
As the fabric starts to dry, it’s going to stiffen up on its own.
6 – DIY Fabric Stiffener Recipe
This might come as a surprise to most but you should know that there are several simple ingredients that you are likely to find in the kitchen that can be used as a fabric stiffener. Here’s a simple method that you can use.
Start off by boiling white rice in a pot and then drain all of the water from the pot. If you let the rice water cool off, it will lose its value and won’t be of any help to you.
Once you have the rice water out, you need to thin out properly until it is just the right consistency. If it is too thick, it’s going to be a problem.
Then all you need to do is to dip the fabric into the water that you drained. Make sure that the water has cooled down by now so that you can easily mix and soak the fabric properly into the mixture. Once done, take the fabric out and get rid of the excess water.
Afterwards, just put it out in the sun to dry. The rice water gives off a terrible smell so you need to keep out in the open so that it can dry out under the sun. Once the fabric dries out completely, you will notice that it will harden.
These are just some of the most popular methods that you can use in order to stiffen fabric. Whether you want to use the fabric for an arts and crafts project or for any kind of dress that you are sewing, you should definitely consider using these methods.
Most of the methods given above can be performed within a half hour using ingredients that are readily available in most houses. It’s best to wash your hands afterwards properly when you are done so that the glue or stiffener ingredients don’t stick to them.
I have two Associate’s degrees, one in Medical Assisting and the other in Computer Technician, and I am roughly five classes from a bachelor’s degree. Though I never ended up working in the medical field, I have five and a half years of experience in IT. I recently became a stay-at-home mom to my two young boys, and I’m so excited to start this adventure with them! In my spare time, I love to bake and read pretty much anything I can get my hands on.