Thursday, June 21, 2012

diy spray starch: eliminate curled edges on jersey

Look familiar?:

Knit jersey is GREAT (yea? nay?), but, you know, it has some characteristics that can bug the hell out of us seamsters. The raw edges don't fray, but they do curl. This can work in your favor if you want it to be a design element, like on the cardigan Lizz made from Dixie's pattern. Or it can mean difficulty matching edges and trimming seams accurately. And careful -- watch that overlocker knife when you use your finger to unroll the edge as you serge.

I don't know what you people do/don't know, but I thought I'd go ahead and share a new-to-me discovery of a way to keep those roley-poley edges in check. Quite obvious, really: fabric starch!

Certainly you can buy some fabric starch spray at your local grocery store or whatever, but I decided to go au naturel and make my own. Save money, avoid the chemicals, love your jersey.


  • Distilled water (in case you have hard tap water with high mineral content that can damage your iron or possibly your fabric)
  • Corn starch
  • Empty plastic spray bottle. They sell these at stores, too, but luckily I had saved this spray bottle from a questionably effective hair product so I'm totally eco-friendly here. OK that's questionable, too. Please forgive that I bought water in a huge plastic tub.

I used 1 cup (240 mL) of distilled water: 

and 4 level teaspoons (20 mL) of corn starch:

You may want to use less corn starch to test first, and I think it also depends on the fabric content and weight. Cotton jersey stiffened up more easily, so three teaspoons would probably be fine, but rayon jersey seemed to need the help of an extra teaspoon. I wanted to get rid of the curl but also wanted to use it as a stabilizer for stitching, so I was happy with my lightweight cotton jersey turning pretty crisp.

Mix these ingredients in a bowl or something that will be easy to pour from. I used my measuring cup. The liquid will turn milky white, and the lumps should dissolve once stirred.

Pour into your spray bottle, reattach the nozzle and give it a good shake. Don't spill like I did. Or photograph the process in the light of an epic sunset, like I did.

Here's what normally happens when you don't starch but simply press the edge out and then lift or move the fabric at all:

Instant re-curl! Instead, press the curl out, then spray the edge liberally with your starch. I spray until it's pretty damp, but don't go overboard.

Run your iron over it until dry. I did not use steam.

And your edges will be nice and crisp. Go ahead, wave the fabric around. No re-curl!

Here's the fabric, where the left edge has been starched and the right edge has not. Much more sewable, eh:

The starch will come out when you wash your finished garment. No worries. In the end you'll still have a nice drapey garment to frolic around in.

And here's a part I test-hemmed along the crossgrain. It seems more successful (less wavy) than my jersey hems usually are, and faster than using Steam-a-Seam:

Unfortunately I don't know how long this starch will keep before you need to make a new batch. The Internet has mixed verdicts on DIY starch, so maybe just make a small amount as you need it. Be sure to shake the mixture each time before you use it, and as always, test on scrap fabric first to make sure it doesn't leave any residue or stains.

Any other fabric starching or jersey stabilization tips out there?