The Quilt Maker’s Toolkit – How to Make Your Own Starch

Today’s post is a part of a series called The Quilt Maker’s Toolkit, showing and teaching about the products I use while I make my quilts.

There are no products in this series that I do not use and use often, though sometimes my opinions may change as I grow and move along in my journey of quilt making.  To view all posts in this series click here.




Instead of a Monday fabric post (sorry!) I’m sharing a starch recipe today.  I shared this on Instagram this past weekend:

I’m working along, making a bazillion flying geese for my next Little Miss Sawtooth quilt, when in the middle of things I run out of starch (I always buy the cheap kind from the grocery store).

Making flying geese or any triangle piece of patchwork without starch is a no-go for me.  I’m such a homebody and could not be bothered to leave the house to go and quickly get a new can of it, so I went to Pinterest to find a recipe (because that’s easier, right?).


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I picked a recipe and made the starch.  It worked, but because I couldn’t break up the lumps of starch properly, it coated my iron with a crusty white gunk.  It took half an hour just to clean the iron, and I was still in need of starch when I was finished.

Now I cook with corn starch often.  I love sauces and cornstarch it’s a thickener, so I know how to get it mixed in properly.  It dawned on me exactly how to tweak the recipe to get it to work correctly.



  1. Put the 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. While waiting on water to boil, mix the 1 TBSP of water and 1 TBSP of cornstarch in a tiny bowl (don’t let this sit, keep mixing to keep it liquidy).
  3. When water is boiling, put you cornstarch mixture into the boiling water and remove from heat.  Whisk like a mad woman until all lumps are gone.
  4. Pour mixture into your spray bottle.  If you end up with a few lumps, don’t put those in the bottle (any lumps will gunk up your iron).
  5. Add 1-2 drops of your favorite essential oil.  I used peppermint.  It scented my whole studio with the scent and it was beyond lovely.
  6. Shake spray bottle to mix in oil.

Now your starch won’t last forever.  It contains no preservatives, so small batches like the 1 cup will be best.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Just in case you are wondering, my favorite essential oils are lavender (but it can put you to sleep), rosemary, eucalyptus and of course peppermint.

It was nice to be pressing my geese while breathing it all that lovely aroma.  Makes me not mind pressing too much.  🙂

If you give this recipe a go, let me know how it worked for you.


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  1. Hi Melanie,
    I love your site! I’ve learned a lot in the few short months that I’ve been following you.

    My Mom always used Niagra instant starch. I can still sometimes find it in the store next to the aerosol spray starch. She just mixed enough to starch her selcected items, usually our dresses, blouses, and my Dad’s shirts, handkerchiefs and trousers. This was before permanent press freed her from the ironing board!

    Sometimes she cooked the starch and used it to stiffen her crocheted doilies and dresser scarves, because it made a stiffer starch.

    I’ve read about cooking a potato in a lot of water then straining it to use for starching. The only disclaimer was to be careful on what you used it on cause it would attract chewing bugs, like crickets and grasshoppers!! Yuck, gives me the shivers just thinking about it!!

    I use Best Press for all my pressing needs. It doesn’t stick to my iron like spray starch and doesn’t leave white flakes on my fabric.

    1. Hi! Potatoes that is really cool. Thanks for the tip on Best Press. Haven’t tried that before. I’ve also wondered how my grandmother got her doilies so stiff. Thanks for that too! 🙂

  2. What about substituting some of the water for vodka (after the boiling part)? From what I understand the alcohol will make the mixture dry faster when the iron hits the damp fabric.

    1. I read about that too. That’s a good idea, because I noticed that the homemade starch takes a bit longer to dry when the iron hits it than the store bought.

  3. Hi Melanie, Thank you for your beautiful site! My question: Do you wash out the starch at some point? My finished quilt will be on a bed, and I don’t want it to be stiff.

  4. Hi. I have made my own starch in the method you make yours. The one tip about the small batches. You can make more and store the extra in the refrigerator and it is ready when you need it.

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