It's often necessary to stiffen hand-crocheted items such as Christmas ornaments or doilies so that they'll hold their desired shape. There are many commercially manufactured starches readily available for this purpose, but thrifty crafters know that you don't have to spend money on these products. Crochet lovers have been using homemade materials to stiffen their handmade treasures for decades. You can easily make your own crochet stiffening solution with a few simple materials that you probably already have in your home.
Add ¼ cup of cornstarch and 1-½ cups cold water to a heavy saucepan. Stir until the solution is smooth with no lumps. Cook on medium-low heat, stir constantly until all of the cornstarch is dissolved and the solution is thick and transparent. Remove from the heat and allow the liquid starch to cool to room temperature. Dip the crochet item into the starch. Squeeze out the excess liquid gently without wringing or twisting. Shape according to pattern instructions or as you usually do and allow it to air dry completely. This non-permanent stiffener rinses out with water so it's best for pieces that require occasional laundering, such as doilies. Re-stiffen the item after laundering.
Combine 1 cup of liquid all-purpose white glue with 1 cup of water in a large bowl. Dip the crochet piece into the stiffener. Squeeze out the excess solution carefully. Don't wring or twist. Shape your item as you usually do or according to the pattern recommendations. Allow it to air dry completely. The finished piece will feel like plastic, so the glue stiffener is good for three-dimensional pieces like baskets or holiday ornaments.
Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil. Remove the solution from the heat and allow it to cool just enough so that you can handle it safely. Dip the crocheted item in the stiffener. Squeeze out the excess liquid gently without twisting or wringing. Shape your crocheted piece as per the pattern instructions or like you always do. Air dry the piece completely. This stiffener is good for anything that you would like to add a shiny finish to, such as doilies or snowflakes. It is not practical if you have a pet which may be tempted to eat the sweet item.
Spread your crocheted item out flat. Spritz all surfaces lightly with hairspray. Flip the piece over, spread it out and spray the reverse side. Arrange and shape the item as you usually do or as the pattern instructs. Allow the crocheted piece to dry completely. This stiffener is best for pieces that require a hard, stiff finish, like snowflakes and holiday ornaments.
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1 cup of Epsom salts until dissolved. Cool the stiffener just enough so that you can handle it safely. Dip the crocheted item into the stiffener. Squeeze the excess liquid out gently. Don't twist or wring. Shape the piece as you desire or according to the pattern directions. Allow to air dry completely. Use this non-permanent stiffener for items such as doilies that should be washed from time to time. Reapply it to the item after laundering.
Store excess cornstarch, glue, sugar or Epsom salts stiffeners in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Set up a small fan to blow on your damp stiffened crochet piece to speed up the drying time. You can also use a blow dryer. If you use pins to secure, shape or block your crocheted piece, always use rustproof pins to avoid rust stains, which are often permanent.