Choosing the best type of fabric stiffener depends on how you intend to use it. Fabric stiffeners have a number of different uses, including household and crafting applications. Fabric stiffeners can be used to add body to curtains, tablecloths, and slipcovers; they can give your homemade crocheting or fabric projects a lasting hard finish. Take a look at the following primer on fabric stiffeners before you go out and pick some up (or make it yourself).
Most commercially available fabric stiffeners are some sort of acrylic- or glue-based mixture. Stiffen Stuff and Stiffen Quick produce a semi-hard, non-permanent finish, although additional coats of Stiffen Quick will increase rigidity. Modge Podge and Stiffy produce very stiff results that can be affected by humidity and are not necessarily suitable for crafts that will eventually reside in a bathroom or other damp environment. Aleene’s and Craft Pro both manufacture products that provide permanently hard, humidity-resistant finishes, and Powertex and Pavepol stiffeners provide a permanent, hard finish suitable for use in projects that will be used outdoors.
Starches do not truly harden fabric; rather, they give body and smoothness to fabrics such as table linens, sheets, and other fabric home décor items, as well as clothing. Starches are available in powder, liquid, and spray form. Powders and liquids can be diluted to desired strength. You can choose to soak fabric in diluted starch or spray the starch directly onto fabric.
There are multiple recipes for homemade fabric stiffeners that offer an economical alternative to store-bought varieties. A traditional approach uses equal parts sugar and water, boiled and then cooled slightly before use. This provides a finish similar to starch, but may attract pests. For another starch alternative, bring ¼ cup cornstarch and 1½ cups water to a boil and then stir until dissolved. Simmer until mixture thickens and then allow to cool before using. For a homemade fabric stiffener that gives a permanent and hard finish, try mixing equal parts water and glue.