Fabric starch has been in use for fine linens and laces since the 15th century. It became an important item during the 16th century because of all the fluted collars. Although most of us are used to the ease of commercial spray starch, the technique of making fabric starch from sugar and water has been around for many years. Most households, by the early 19th century, had sugar on hand as a food staple. It was convenient and inexpensive. Sugar and water starch produces a non-permanent hard finish on your decorator fabric that allows the feel of the fabric to come through.
Combine one cup of tap water and one cup of granulated sugar in a saucepan. Stir the solution on a hot stove burner until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring the water and sugar to a rapid boil. Immediately remove the mixture from the stove to prevent the sugar from crystallising. Allow the solution to cool slightly. If you need a larger amount of starch solution, increase the amounts of sugar and water, always combining equal amounts of each, to create the solution.
Wet the decorator fabric under running tap water. Lay the wet garment on an absorbent towel. Roll the fabric in the towel and gently press out all excess water until the garment is damp, not dripping.
Pour the starch solution into a large container. Submerge the damp fabric in the sugar starch solution. Let the fabric sit for two minutes to fully absorb the starch mixture. Remove the material from the starch solution and lightly squeeze out the excess starch.
Lay the decorator fabric out on a flat surface covered with waxed paper. Using your hands, smooth any creases. Allow it to air dry. As the fabric becomes dry and begins to harden, turn the fabric over, exposing the opposite side. Allow the fabric to dry completely. If additional stiffness is desired, use a clean pastry brush dipped in the starch solution to lightly go over the fabric again. Let the fabric dry. Repeat this process until the desired stiffness is achieved. The fabric will stiffen as it dries and keep its shape unless it gets wet or until you launder it.
When using sugar and water starch, it is not customary to iron the garment. Starch-dampened fabric is simply smoothed out and shaped while on a clean, flat surface. The sugar and water starch solution is often used on crocheted items, such as crocheted Christmas ornaments, to stiffen them. Glitter may be mixed with the starch solution to add a bit of sparkle to the crocheted or fabric item.
Sugar and water starch tends to yellow with age. It can also get sticky in damp, humid weather, and the sugar can attract bugs.