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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rediscovering Spray Starch For My Thrift Shop Refashion

So what's the big deal about spray starch? Most people these days don't even iron their clothes, let alone starch them! Isn't starch one of those old fashioned things that added hours to our grandmothers' workloads? Clothing starch has been used on clothing since the 16th century when it was used to stiffen the large collars, or ruffs that were in vogue. At one time people actually dipped their wet clothes in a solution of water , boiled and mixed with the starch that came in boxes. Then it was hung on the line to dry and ironed while damp. It was a lot of work, to be sure. It was common to treat linens this way. If you have ever been to a yard sale or flea market and picked up an old tablecloth that has that stiff card-boardish feel and perfect creases and wondered how people did that, now you know it's starch. If you look at old photos you can't help but notice how crisp and neat looking the clothing people wore back then was. 
The invention of spray starch was a real time saver for ironers in the fifties. It was no longer necessary to stir up the powder into a bucket and dip the clothes into it. Just a little spray at the ironing board would do it! Canned aerosol spray starch is still available today. It does work wonders for your vintage sewing projects and gives that crisp, stiff feel essential to a fifties style dress. Collars, cuffs, blouses, and petticoats were routinely starched.
So what is in these cans of spray starch?
Water, Propellant, Film Former, Ironing Aids, Quality Control Agents, Fragrance Hmm.. What the heck does that tell us? Not much. But there is a stamp on the can claiming no CFC's which deplete the ozone layer are in it.
I was at the 99 Cent store the other day and saw a can and bought it. I have been working on a thrift shop refashion; a yellow nineties linen dress with a big white crochet collar which I wanted to turn into a fifties style frock. I was done with the project this morning but it just didn't have the oomph I was looking for. So out came the can of starch to give it that crisp stiff feel I like on linen.
The dress from the thrift shop when I brought it home. I like the linen fabric but it was tea length which I don't go for, and longer in the back than the front, making it more formal.

The dress after I removed the collar and facing. I added some vintage bias binding I had and hemmed the skirt. I starched it and put a crinoline skirt under it, giving it a crisp, swingy, feel

My starch.


  1. Spray starch can certainly be a beautiful thing! I like sizing for my quilting and fabric ironing. Not as much stiffness but it is just as good on the wrinkles (and I prefer the smell too!).

    The dress turned out beautifully!!!

  2. You can also get more concentrated liquid starch at places like Walmart. Then you put it in a spray bottle and add the desired amount of water, depending on how stiff you want the fabric to get. Its MUCH more cost effective, and uses less packaging. Oh, and spray starch is a wonderful tool for making slinky or thin fabrics easier to handle!

  3. I like to use Mary Ellen's Best Press, a clear starch alternative. It's acid free, leaves no residue, and does not attract bugs. You can get it in scented varieties, but I prefer the unscented version. I used it on linen when I was making an heirloom blouse out of handkerchief linen. It was amazing!


  4. My mother still uses starch on all linens (including bedding's) and even tea towels. She says it keeps them clean longer and I have to agree.
    I usually only use it on my clothes which have a need for it.
    In here they don't sell the canned variety, so we still do it the old fashioned way and to be honest, I don't find it to be really time consuming.

    The dress is gorgeous!

  5. Spray starch is one of my favorite sewing aids, and I like to use it when doing the ironing. I know-many people don't iron anymore...but clothes just look better after pressing.

    The yellow dress is so pretty-love this refashion!

  6. Thanks for all the neat tips ladies. Sharing stuff like this is one of the things I love about blogging.Where else can I go on about the wonders of spray starch?

  7. I love the effect that starch had on the dress - it looks amazing now. So very 50s too with those lovely hip pleats and lemon colouring, great spot!

    I'm a starch fan too, originally from using on period costumes and then realising the cross-over benefits to my personal sewing and ironing. I particularly like it as an alternative to light interfacing or a bit of extra support for fabric that is being embroidered (as it washes out easily).

    I wish it were more commonly available, I can get the spray in my supermaket but liquid and powder are hard to find, eventually found it on eBay, maybe I should just make some, lol.

    The one thing I find to watch out for with starch is if your iron temperature is too hot or you press for too long it turns yellow on the fabric (washes out but wastes your time!). Thank you for bringing our focus back to this great aid!

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  9. I wandered over here from Casey's Elegant Musings, and I am entranced by this dress! The hip pleats are driving me nuts: I never even imagined that such a design feature existed, and now I can't stop thinking about them. And are those kimono sleeves I see? Obviously this dress always WANTED to be styled for the '50's-- it just didn't know it! :D

    Thanks for the hints about spray starch! I sew a ton of linen for reenactment costuming, and I just realized that a can of starch could make how I sew neckline facings in lightweight linen far, far easier than it is now. It's serendipitous-- I was wondering if I could justify buying starch to make my first slinky-knit project a little easier, and now I know I'll have more uses for it!

  10. Sadly, I am old enough to remember (just barely) people using starch that came in boxes.

  11. moi aussi j'utilise l'amidon particulièrement sur mes chemises je trouve cela très sympa et mon mari et fière de ma tenue impecable

  12. je suis asse vintage dans les vêtements ,je porte toujours robes classic ,j'aime utiliser l'amidon pour mes tenues,en particulier sur mes chemisiers avec plus de soins sur mes cols(ils sont amovible et fortement amidonnés) et mes poignets,s'est un produit très adapté a toute les situations bravo pour l'amidon vive l'amidon


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