We’ve provided a list of stiffeners from commercial brands to homemade solutions along with recipes, opinions, and expected results for each!
Use our Jump-To menu below for quick reference to.
- Hair Spray
- Spray Starch
- Liquid Starch
- Powdered Starch
- Cornstarch & Water
- Epsom Salts
- Glue & Water
- Wallpaper Paste
- Sugar & Water
- Commercial Brands
- Other Starches
- Reshaping Tips
- Drying Tips
It seems gelatin was used in the early 1900’s. This tip come from a 1910 magazine.
Dissolve 2 ozs. of clear white sheet gelatine (which may be obtained at any drug store) in 1 pint of hot water.
Strain the solution through a white cloth before using and keep as hot as possible without boiling.
Immerse piece in hot solution and squeeze out all superfluous moisture with a clean white cloth. Keep cloth in the hand while shaping piece. Avoid handling more than is necessary and set away on a clean plate to dry.
Lightly spray project with hair spray and shape on a prepared work surface. Pin in place using rust proof pins and let dry.
This produces a non-permanent semi hard finish suitable for snowflakes, etc.
- Procedures (3 methods):
Cover with a handkerchief and press on the wrong side using a cool iron setting.
Stretch out on a shaping board (which can be a cardboard box, styrofoam base, or ironing board to name a few), and pin in place using rust proof pins. Templates are wonderful to ensure an even piece.
Stretch out on a terry towel and let dry. The towel will “hold” the piece while it dries.
This produces a non-permanent soft finish for maintaining shape. Perfect for doilies, snowflakes, tablecloths, bookmarks etc.
Liquid starch can be diluted with water as desired or used straight. The more water used, the softer the piece.
- Procedures (2 methods):
Dip crochet piece in starch and gently squeeze out excess solution being careful not to twist or wring the piece. Roll up in a towel jelly roll fashion until almost dried. Then cover with a handkerchief and press on the wrong side using a cool iron setting until completely dried.
Dip crochet piece in starch and gently squeeze out excess solution being careful not to twist or wring the piece. Stretch out on a hard flat work surface and pin in place using rust proof pins until dried. For doilies with ruffles, place identical forms at even intervals around the doily, gently stretching the ruffle up and slightly around the form used. Let dry. Forms can be anything from spice bottles, IBM cartridges and even soda bottles (like Coke).
This produces a non-permanent finish. Very stiff to soft depending on the amount of water used to dilute the starch. Perfect for ruffled doilies.
To make solution follow instructions on back of box and dip piece in solution; gently squeeze out excess being careful not to twist or wring the piece. Shape according to pattern instructions.
This produces a non-permanent hard finish.
Cornstarch & Water
- Recipes (2 methods):
Combine 1/4 c. cornstarch and 1 1/2 cup cold water, mix until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thickened and translucent. Cool to room temperature before using. Excess solution can be stored in the refrigerator for approx. a week.
Dissolve 1/4 cup starch in 1/2 cup of cold water. Bring to a boil about 1 1/4 cups of water, remove from heat, then slowly stir the starch mixture into boiling water, stirring constantly. Place back on heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Cool slightly before dipping crochet in solution.
Gently squeeze out excess solution being care not to twist or wring the piece, then blot excess starch from fabric using a clean cloth or paper towels. Shape according to pattern instructions.
This produces a non-permanent hard finish.
Using equal portions of Epsom Salts and water. First bring water to a boil, add Epsom Salts and stir until dissolved. Cool slightly and dip piece in solution, gently squeeze out excess being careful not to twist or wring the piece. Shape according to pattern instructions.
This produces a non-permanent hard finish that dries quickly.
Glue & Water
Mix togethere equal portions of glue and water. Dip piece in solution and gently squeeze out excess being careful not to twist or wring the piece. Shape according to pattern instructions.
This produces a permanent finish with a plastic like feel. Great for items such as angels, baskets etc. With a great deal of care and work, solution can be washed out.
Follow instructions for using as you would cornstarch and water or powder starch and water. A tip submitted by Ria.
This produces a hard finish suitable for baskets, angels, bells etc.
Sugar & Water
Sugar and water solution is my favorite. I’ve not had any problems occur using this mixture and I’ve lived in Hawaii, Nevada, Florida and California, high dry deserts to humid sea level conditions. Nor has any piece shaped using this solution been attacked by insects. I recommend using Mod Podge Matte Mat finish on your piece if you’d like to protect it further from moisture. This will produce a permanent finish. I apply two coats using a sponge allowing the piece to dry between applications.
- Recipes (2 methods):
Bring equal portions of sugar and water to a rapid boil, remove from heat and cool slightly.
Bring water to a boil, and add sugar. Return to a boil and boil for a few minutes, or until like thin corn syrup. For best results in molding, boiling time may vary. Try experimenting in 2 minute increments for the best time for your climate and area. General rule of thumb, less boiling time results in longer drying time, while boiling too long may result in sugar crystals forming
Dip piece in solution, gently squeeze out excess being careful not to twist or wring the piece. Shape according to pattern instructions.
Cool the cooked mixture slightly and dip piece in solution, gently squeeze out excess being careful not to twist or wring the piece. Shape according to pattern instructions.
This produces a non-permanent hard finish which allows the natural feel of the crochet to come through.
Provides a permanent hard finish suitable for baskets, angels etc. Available through most craft stores.
- Craft Pro Fabric & Doily Stiffener:
Provides a permanent hard finish suitable for baskets, angels etc, not effected by humidity. Available through some craft stores. Or call: (402) 339-3922 to order.
- Stiffen Stuff:
Provides a semi-hard finish suitable for snowflakes. You can speed the drying process of this solution by placing your piece in the microwave and following manufacturer’s directions. Not suitable for angels, baskets etc. where you’ll need a hard finish. I’m not sure if this solution is permanent. Available at most craft stores. Please note: This product has been reported to not stiffen well, dries VERY slowly and multiple coats (or even one heavy coat) immediately yellows the item. Thank you Cass for your opinion.
- Stiffen Quick:
Provides a non-permanent semi-hard to hard finish and is easy to use with a spray bottle applicator. Microwave instructions are included for a faster drying time, but the product can be used without the aid of the microwave. For rock hard finishes more than one application is recommended. Subject to humidity. Please note: This product will adhere to rust proof pins. Soaking pins and peeling the film off will remove the hardened solution, but may destroy the pins in the process. Thank you Jeannie for an opinion on this product.
Provides a permanent hard finish effected by humidity. Suitable for angels, baskets etc. but will need protection against humidity.
- Hodge Podge:
Mix 3 parts podge and 1 part water. Stir until dissovled. Place items in mixture, then block as usual. Dries quickly with a very stiff and clear result. Curtesy of Christine Lucas.
Other starching solutions can be made from potato or rice water or anything that contains “starch”. I haven’t tried all solutions nor do I have all products listed that are available on the market. I encourage you try different mixtures to see which one you like best. You’ll find many opinions on each.
Another useful tip I’ve come across is for shaping after the pieces have dried completely. I figure how well it works depends on your choice of stiffening agent (I use Emer’s Glue and water 1:1). Hold the piece briefly in the steam from a kettle and it will soften enough to let you shape your piece. It dries again very quickly. You can “sculpt” the wings into soft curves this way. (Tip provided by Donna Leggee).
Always use rust proof pins for securing your work while it dries to ensure against rust. I’ve found that using the sugar and water solution, pins will not leave rust stains behind, even older untreated pins. Not all pins are rust proof. To help prevent rust stains from occuring you may wish to speed the drying process by using a hair blower (tip provided by Lenora Thompson), or setting up a small fan to blow on the piece.