Simple. Cheap. Old-fashioned. Starch.
It has been crazy humid here this summer.
It’s beyond humid. It’s wet.
We had over 17 inches of rain in the first week of July – and we’ve continued to have heavy rains in the last few weeks. We usually get about five inches for the whole month.
My flour is clumpy. My cereal boxes are soggy. My salt is unsprinkleable. And my applique pieces won’t stay folded!
Five minutes after I press them they look like this.
It’s coming unfolded before I can even press all the pieces for one block!
The solution, my friends, is starch.
Look at the difference.
This is two days after I pressed it.
Starched folds stay folded.
I just use regular spray starch from the grocery store. Nothing fancy or expensive. And I think I’ve been working off this same can for over 10 years.
You can spray it on just before pressing, like I do in this video.
Or you can spray some into a small dish (like a little custard cup), wait for the foam to subside, then paint the liquid starch on with a paintbrush. If you do that you don’t have to paint the whole seam allowance – just make sure you get it right up against the freezer paper. That’s where the fold will be that you’re desperately trying to hold in place while you get the rest of the pieces for the block pressed.
I use both methods interchangeably. It depends on my mood, how many pieces I’m working on, my tolerance for mess that day, and how generally lazy I’m feeling.
If I’m only pressing a few pieces I just spray it on and ignore the mess from the overspray. The extra flakes of starch will brush right off my ironing board and wipe off my iron.
If I’m doing a whole bunch of pieces I’ll actually go downstairs and get a dish, then dig around for a paintbrush and use the paint-it-on method. I actually prefer that, but sometimes I’m too lazy to go to the extra trouble.
If you want to see the details of the machine applique technique I’m talking about here, click here to find all the tutorials about it in one handy dandy place.
But starch isn’t only useful for applique! That’s where I use it most often, but it’s great for holding any pressing. It’s especially useful for hemming – particularly if the fabric you’re trying to hem isn’t a crisp woven cotton. It can be really helpful in making slippery synthetic fabrics behave like a nice, obedient cotton. 🙂