Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to make things Stiff with Curlypops

The great Sew It Together name tag swap is underway, and one of the challenges with making a name tag out of fabric is how to keep it Stiff...so to speak. Nobody wants their name tag flopping about limply on a lapel! So the very talented and lovely Curlypops set about investigating 'all things stiffening' and was gracious enough to write the following 'guest post' here for all our 'swappers' about the benefits of using fabric stiffeners. Thanks so much Cam, we are very grateful to you for sharing your, er, 'stiffy' expertise!

So to begin with, lets all chuckle that I'm going to give you some tips on 'How to make things Stiff'... and leave poor Gypsy to receive lots of weird and wonderful blog visitors from random google searches about all things stiff!

The great thing about the name tag swap, is that we can all think outside the square and do a bit of experimentation (if we choose to). The piece only needs to function as a name tag. It's not an item that is designed to be washed, and doesn't have to serve a particular function (apart from pinning or clipping on, and displaying a name).... which means that there's lots more options for running amok and not playing by the normal rules.

I tried and tested lots of different things, so I thought I'd share what I've learned.

I like to make mess and get covered in paint and glue, so if this sounds like you, then the following options might be fun.

There are lots of liquid type items that can be used to stiffen things (fabric, paper etc). Most of my experimentation has used fabric, as that is currently my favourite medium to work with. I started out with things that I already had around the house:

Please note:

If you choose to use liquid stiffeners, they take a really loooooong time to dry. This might be quite frustrating for a small project.

I've tried dipping fabric pieces in a bowl full of these liquids but they end up quite gluggy. I've had the best result by just brushing them on with a paint brush and then waiting for them to dry. If the finished item is not stiff enough when dry, you can add another layer with the brush.

Water Based Varnish

I've used the Jo Sonja's craft varnishes and also Cabots Crystal Clear from the hardware shop. Both do the same job - Cabots is more economical if you're using litres at a time (which is probably not going to happen), but it's also likely that you might find some in your garage or garden shed.

PVA Glue

Watered down PVA glue also works quite well. About two thirds PVA glue to one third water makes a nice mix.

Fabric Stabiliser

I've tried Sew Stable Fabric Stabiliser which is designed for applique and machine embroidery.

It worked quite well but this is actually supposed to wash out, so don't use it for something that you would like to permanently stiffen.

Fabric Stiffener

I actually found out about this product just simply by googling fabric stiiffener. It suspiciously smells exactly the same as pva glue..... a rose by another name perhaps?

It's designed to stiffen permanently - my advice is to wear old clothes in case of spillage.

The brand that I've tested is Craft Smart Fabric Stiffener, but I've had a tip that there's another one named Stiffy which is really good (I just have to track it down).

Varnishes can be purchased from hardware shops - Stabiliser and Stiffener can be purchased at Spotlight (look in the craft section amongst the various glues and paints).

Fusible Interfacings

Now of course if you'd prefer not to make a huge mess and end up covered in glue and varnish, but still want to get the stiff look, then maybe iron-on fusible interfacings might be a better option.

I don't have much experience with using these but I have have seen the results of lovely things that have been made with them - Vilene S320 - http://nicolemdesign.blogspot.com/2009/12/slightly-besotted-and-gushy.html


Last but not least, I thought I'd test out my laminator, to see what would happen if I tried to laminate fabric. I have a home laminator which is not designed for heavy card, only plain paper.

I tested it out with an offcut from a crocheted tablecloth, a stripey piece of light cotton fabric, a piece of black felt, and a piece of heavy brown fabric.

The light cotton fabric and the felt laminated quite nicely, but it didn't work so well for my other two samples.

I hope this have given you some new ideas to try out, and remember to have some fun with it!


  1. I can't wait to see who finds you via google with that heading...hee hee!

  2. I'm going to use the word harem just to make the search results even more interesting.

  3. I thought making things stiff, was pretty straightforward but I was obviously wrong! Who would have known there were so many ways to get a stiffy!! Hey, Gypsy, on a more sensible note, I seem to have missed the boat re your name tag swap. Is there any chance I could sneak my name in a pop it on your kitchen table? We could pretend it accidentally got lost under the pile of school notes & bills. Perhaps there is another hopelessly late blogger who would like to do swapsies with me? Of course I understand if it's all sorted, it just sounds like an ace idea. Not sure how this one got past me, I'll blame it on a busy life! Bye for now xo

  4. That's a wonderful blog post Cam!! You have road tested and researched which means we don't have to! I can sit a have a coffee with my time instead..hehe. Meanwhile laminating fabric?!?! I am a little excited...
    ps. no result on the stiffy google search...YET!! haha

    xo Steph

  5. Now that beginning bit was very tricky to read with a straight face.... a bit x-ie for me ;)

  6. Great post! Thank you so much, Cam!

  7. I'm going to add the word hedgehog to make the search results even more mystifying :-)
    Thanks for organising all this ...

  8. A huge help...
    Thanks for making all things stiff,
    make sense...Trust Cam!!!
    I'm off to finds some fabric stiffener at spotlight...


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. It's nice to know I'm not just talking to myself here! Hope you enjoy the blog :)