How to Stiffen Fabric for Sewing and Craft

Give your fabric the ‘stiff upper lip’ and be ready to have the best product that comes hand in hand with knowing how to stiffen fabric. On the sewing scene, there are interfacings and stiffening agents to help this process. Crafts that use fabric will also gain some assistance with spray or hand applied liquid stiffeners. A bit of experimentation and the process is simple.

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How to Stiffen Fabric

How to Stiffen Fabric for Sewing

Stiffening when sewing is useful for collars, cuffs, facings, tabs and openings. In fact, any area that would hold and hang better with some stiffness. The stiffening used can be fusible or sewn in and known as interfacing.

Your sewing patterns will generally recommend the pieces that need interfacing, but you may have a personal choice to use it in different places. Always try the interfacing out on a scrap before you sew it on your garment.

How to Stiffen Fabric with Interfacing

There are various types of interfacing and also different weights and sizes. Check your local haberdashery and become familiar with what is available.

Fusible interfacing has a shiny film on one side of the web that indicates the adhesive side. Interfacing can be woven and made of fabric, or synthetic. It comes in yardage, strips or pre-packed pieces, so choose the type suitable to your pattern. Two-sided fusible interfacing can be used to fuse two pieces of fabric together for applique.

Further reading: Types of Interfacing

Fusible interfacing:

It is very important to wash your fabric BEFORE adding the interfacing so that any shrinkage that may take place has been done so before adding the interfacing. Otherwise, the fabric and interfacing will shrink at different rates and cause wrinkles in your interfaced piece.

Then follow the manufacturer’s instructions to press the fusible side of the web on the wrong side of your fabric. Be sure to try out the product on a scrap before using it on the real garment. It is also important to remember to use a presser cloth to prevent the fusible interfacing from sticking to your iron.

Non-functional interfacing also known as ‘Sew-in’:

Non-fusible interfacing needs to be cut the same size as the pattern piece and sewn in. The non-fusible interfacing is stitched slightly above or outside the seam allowance to secure it. When the garment is sewn, the seam stitching falls just below the interfacing line.

Further reading: Types of Interfacing

How to Stiffen Fabric with InterfacingPin
How to Stiffen Fabric with Interfacing

How to Stiffen Fabric with Boning

Boning, or inserting plastic stays into bodices and other tight-fitting garments and corsets was the method used to strap a lady into her garment in the days of flowing dresses and tightly fitting gowns. Today boning is still a preferred way to stiffen a ball gown or dance outfit or even a bridal gown.

On stage and screen, it has its place but the everyday wardrobe is hardly the place for boned garments.

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How to Stiffen Fabric with Boning

How to Stiffen Fabric for Craft and Costuming

Crafting with fabrics has become more popular as people realize what a great medium fabric is to work with. In addition, the stiffening of lace is often used in historical costumes.

There are commercial stiffening agents available that spray on and keep the fabric stiff while you work with the sculpture or craft of your choice. Then there are suggestions of DIY stiffening liquids that can be applied to the fabric while it is either molded or simply cut and held in place.

Some stiffening agents are used to give the fabric more permanence at the time of cutting and then washed away. Others of the more permanent variety stay on the molded craft and keep its shape.

Craft Fabric Stiffening Ideas

  • Lacework and doilies make great craft items using a stiffening agent and a mold such as an upturned bowl.
  • Unusual flowers can be molded out of burlap and sealed with a stiffening agent.

Unleash your imagination and try different ideas using fabric and stiffening agents.

How to Stiffen Fabric: DIY Fabric Stiffener Recipe Methods

These common methods and recipes use common household ingredients.

How to Stiffen Fabric with Glue Recipe

Make your own solution by mixing 1 tablespoon of wood glue (PVA glue) to 1 cup of water and brush on where necessary. Other clear glues such as Elmer’s glue can also be used. Mold your fabric to shape and dry.

If you require a stiffer finish, you may increase the amount of glue substantially. A really stiff and permanent result can be achieved with equal parts of glue and water.

How to Stiffen Fabric with Starch

Mix 1 tablespoon of starch or corn flour and 2 cups of water. Mix well and remove all lumps so it is a smooth consistency.

This solution can be put in a spray bottle and sprayed over your fabric. Alternatively, you can soak the fabric in this solution. Once again test your solution and add more starch if needed.

How to Stiffen Fabric with Gelatine

This works well with chiffons and silky fabrics where you need gentle non-permanent stiffening.

Take 1 teaspoon of gelatine to 2 cups of tap water and leave to settle for 30 minutes. Add 4 cups of hot water to complete the mixture.

Dip whole pieces of fabric into the solution, mold into the desired shape, and hang out to dry. The fabric will now be stiffer and easier to work and then on completion of the project, the stiffening can be rinsed out and the fabric returned to normal.

How to Stiffen Fabric: Commercial Stiffeners

There are several commercial products on the market to help you stiffen fabric for crafts. The advantage of commercial spray stiffeners is convenience but the cost can increase if you are doing larger volumes of fabric.

Some of these are:

  • Mod Podge Stiffy
  • Aleenes Fabric Stiffener & Draping Liquid
  • Plaid Stiffy Fabric Stiffener
  • Beacon Stiffen Stuff

Stiffen Fabric FAQs

How to Stiffen Fabric with Spray

You can mix glue and water and put it in a spray bottle or purchase commercial stiffener sprays such as Aleene’s Stiffen Quick. The advantage of using a spray method is that it is quicker and has less drying time. Always spray outside in a well-ventilated area as there will be excess glue and overspray.

What is Stiffening Fabric Called?

The fabric used to stiffen fabric is called interfacing. It can have heat-activated fusible glue on one or both sides or be the type that you sew in. Sewing interfacing some in various thicknesses for different applications. It is predominantly white or black.

Does Hairspray Make Fabric Stiff?

While spray hairspray can certainly make the fabric stiffer, you will not get lasting or dramatic results. Always spray a test section first to make sure it does not leave a stain.

How to Stiffen Fabric – In Conclusion

As you can see there are many ways how to stiffen fabric. Try using different stiffening agents either store-bought or homemade to add cutting-edge finishes to your sewing repertoire.


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