Whether worn by age or straight off the needles, lace can look soft and limp. When you stiffen lace, you give it a crisp look. The lacework stands out in appearance and the overall shape remains sharp. The easiest way to stiffen lace is to spray or soak it with a fabric stiffening product. However, these products tend to be pricey. As long as you have a little extra time and effort to give, there are low-cost ways to stiffen lace with everyday household products.
Combine 2 cups granulated sugar and 2 cups water in a large cooking pot to create enough starch for 1 yard of lace. Increase the amount as needed to cover large pieces of lace, keeping the one-to-one ratio.
Place the mixture on a burner and turn to medium heat. Bring the sugar water to a low boil, stirring constantly. Remove the pot from the heat as soon as the sugar dissolves completely. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Select a piece of cardboard big enough to hold the lace and place it on the table. Cover the cardboard with waxed paper. Place the sewing pins within reach of the cardboard.
Wet the lace in warm water. Stir the cooled sugar solution. Place the lace in solution and let it sit until thoroughly soaked. Remove the lace from the sugar starch and hold it over the pot for a few seconds to let the excess liquid drip off.
Position the lace on the paper-covered cardboard. Use pins to secure the corners of the piece so that the lace dries stiff and straight. Allow lace to dry completely, which can take several days for large pieces of lace.
Wiggle the pins gently and slide each one out once the lace has dried. Peel the lace away from the waxed paper and check that it stiffened properly. Wash the lace in warm soapy water, rinse in cold water and repeat the process as needed to correct any problems.
White glue and water can also be used to stiffen lace. Follow the steps above and keep the one-to-one ratio, substituting white glue for the sugar. You can use a little more sugar or glue than water if you find the one-to-one ratio leaves the lace too limp. However, add the sugar or glue to the warming water one tablespoon at a time and mix well to ensure you don't add more than the water can dissolve. Do not add anything once the water starts boiling, as the solution may splatter and burn your hand.