Learn all about fabric stiffener – and how to use Mod Podge Stiffy to achieve success every single time you want to harden fabric or ribbon.
Stiffening fabric has a bit of a sordid past. I’ll be honest – when I first discovered it was a thing, I figured it was a craft from long ago that needed to stay in the history books. Let me take you back a little bit to the late 80s when fabric stiffener last had a hayday:
Don’t tell me you’re not dying to try a Stiffy Stuffins project! But seriously, it was popular to decoupage napkins on painted baskets and then stick stiffened fabric bows to the handles in the late 80s. Amongst other unique ideas. I could show you more “bow dazzling” book covers. It was a different time!
Here’s the deal though . . . once I got to learn a little bit more about why you would want to harden fabric and some of the projects you can do with this technique, I got a little bit more interested. In fact, one of my first projects were these doily bowls.
I had so many questions when I made them. Like how hard would the doilies get, and could they really be used as bowls? The fact is, it works.
Then I was doing a bit of research, and found that there are a lot of cute projects you can make with fabric stiffener. Not just doily bowls! A lot of the ideas are for holidays (think cheesecloth ghosts), but there are also other options like fabric bowls, gift toppers, bow pins, place cards, and more.
I did a lot more playing around with Mod Podge Stiffy (my stiffener of choice) and I wanted to share with you what I learned. I tried a few of the other methods and I want to answer some questions, plus I’ve got some project ideas for you at the bottom of this post. If you’ve never tried fabric stiffener before, I’m excited to share with you. I’ve got my learnings in Q&A format. Scroll down to learn more!
Fabric stiffener makes fabric firm and rigid for craft projects. I’m going to answer your most frequently asked questions below.
Does it make the fabric stronger?
Stiffener makes fabric more rigid, or less flexible. It does make the fabric harder to tear, but not harder to cut. If you use it on 100% cotton (for example), you would be able to hold a piece straight up in front of you as opposed to just flopping over. But you could still bend it if you really wanted to.
Can you make your own fabric stiffener?
There are three methods/recipes people use that I’m aware of:
- Mod Podge or Elmer’s Glue
- Cornstarch Mixture – 1 T cornstarch, 1/4 cup cold water, and 1/4 cup boiling water
- Flour Mixture – 1 T flour, 1/2 cup cold water, and 1/2 cup boiling water
I address #1 below . . . Mod Podge Stiffy works better (stiffens the fabric more than Mod Podge or glue alone). I tried both #2 and #3 and they are great for children’s projects. There were clumping issues with those recipes, and it didn’t apply evenly to my projects. That’s why I stick with Mod Podge Stiffy. It’s pre-mixed, ready to roll. There are others on the market too, but it’s Mod Podge branded and it works, so I use it.
Can you use hairspray to stiffen fabric?
This was mentioned to me and it might work as a temporary fix, but it’s going to wear away. It will be on top of the fabric and not soaked throughout the fibers. Not only that, but if it gets wet, you’re going to have “un-stiffened” fabric.
What can I use to stiffen fabric?
Seriously, stick with Mod Podge Stiffy. It’s amazing. No mixing, and ready to go straight from the bottle.
Can you use Mod Podge as fabric stiffener?
You can! I’ve done bowls, eggs, etc. with just regular Mod Podge (like Gloss). Some people mix water with the Mod Podge to make it flow and dunk their pieces in it. And this is fine. However, Mod Podge Stiffy will make your projects even stiffer.
If a “10” is the most rigid you can reasonably get a piece of fabric or strand of yarn with a specific product made for it (like Stiffy), then I’d say regular Mod Podge is around a “6.” The piece will be more flexible with regular Mod Podge.
What is the best fabric stiffener?
Mod Podge Stiffy, duh. It really, really, works . . . it’s easy to use . . . and I have never had a bad experience.
On what type of surfaces can I apply Mod Podge Stiffy?
Mod Podge Stiffy can be applied directly onto all types of fabric surfaces such as cottons, cotton/poly blends, burlap, gauze, laces, ribbons, needlework, and felt.
How shall I apply Stiffy to my project?
It is quick and easy to work with Mod Podge Stiffy. Pour a workable amount into a bowl and completely immerse fabric. Once completely saturated, begin squeezing out the excess. Position wet fabric either flat or over plastic wrap covered form.
When stiffening a doily to create a bowl (for example), lay wet doily over plastic wrap covered bowl, continue working with wet doily placement until it is centered on the form and not touching the work surface. Allow to thoroughly dry.
Can I color my Mod Podge Stiffy project?
Yes, it is a waterbase product which means easy clean up with soap and water. However, it also means that you can tint your Mod Podge Stiffy with acrylic paint or food coloring to create a tinted project in place of pure white (for example). You’ll have to do some experimenting.
How should I care for my project, can I wash it?
A crafted Mod Podge Stiffy project should be intended for decorative purposes only as it is not dishwasher or washing machine safe. To clean your project, wipe over using a damp soft cloth; do not fully immerse in water.
Are you ready to check out some projects made with Stiffy? The best way to learn how to use it is to try a project. Scroll down through the list below!
Fabric Stiffener Crafts
Learn how to use Mod Podge Stiffy with these 20 craft ideas! You're not going to believe everything that fabric stiffener can do.
Make Dessert Cloche the Easy Way
Use Mod Podge Stiffy to create unique doily dessert cloche, perfect in place of glass cloches! These are so pretty and easy to make.
Electrified Fox Lamp
Katie used a stuffed animal to make a lamp, and she did it all with fabric stiffener! What a creative idea for lighting your home (especially a kids' room!).
Houndstooth Bow Frame
There are painted frames - and then there are painted frames with Stiffy bows. Add a bit of a dimensional touch to your project with this stylish bow idea.
Butterfly Box Trio
These boxes store belongings with a fashionable touch. Perfect for spring decorating, gifting, or anywhere else you'd like to use a box.
Stiffy Hot Air Balloon
This whimsical hot air balloon would be the perfect centerpiece for your next birthday party! Or if you like unique spring and summer decor, it would be fun for that too.
Yarn Ball Easter Eggs
Yarn Easter eggs are fun to make with stiffener! Hang them from the ceiling, put little treats inside . . . they are so easy to do with yarn.
Fall Floral Fascinator and Pin
I love how easy it is to stiffen upholstery fabric and felt to make a cute pin! You could also use this on a headband, or by itself as a fascinator. This is such a fashionable project.
DIY Leaf Bowl for Fall
Learn how to make a bowl using dollar store supplies and Mod Podge Stiffy. This is so easy, even a kid can do it. Perfect autumn decor.
DIY Doily Candle Holders
Create spooky DIY doily candle holders with just a bit of Stiffy! Light your Halloween night with these dainty little tea light holders. Easy to create and fun to display for added charm to your fall festivities.
Fall Bowl from a Placemat
Turn a simple placemat into a one-of-a-kind bowl using Mod Podge and Stiffy. No need to buy new fall decor, make it using these simple instructions.
Transform cheesecloth into spooky ghosts with a few recycled items and Stiffy. You'll want to make a ton of these for your decor, and you can add some glow in the dark paint for good measure.
Candy Corn Bowl
Keep your candy ready for all your Halloween visitors in this fun fabric bowl. Use fabric scraps and Stiffy to create a candy corn-inspired bowl that you can use and enjoy for many fall seasons to come.
Spider Treat Jars
Keep all your Halloween sweet treats tied up in a web with this adorable spider treat jar. Easily craft stiff spider webs on your jars with Stiffy! Perfect fall project for little hands!
DIY Lace Votive Candle Holders
Add some gothic romance to your Halloween decor with Mod Podge Stiffy and black lace around flameless candles. This is a fun and affordable craft for your Halloween party that will elevate the creepiness of your table decor.
Spooky Eye Topiary
This Halloween, ditch the greenery for a spooky eye topiary! Give your fall celebration an eerie vibe when you display this watchful tree in the foyer.
Fall Leaf Place Card Holders
This is the perfect project for parents and kids to do together. The leaves look so pretty placed on a table as place cards, or hanging from a chandelier for unique fall decor.
Thanksgiving Pumpkin in a Doily Bowl
Your harvest decor will be elevated with this cute pumpkin piece added to your home! Use Stiffy to create a textured bowl from a doily and FolkArt Extreme Glitter to add sparkle to a foam pumpkin.
Vintage Inspired Stiffy Angels
Make beautiful Christmas angels from draped fabric that can be displayed year after year! They'll look so cute singing their hymns.
Fabric Origami Christmas Star Ornaments
You'll need to stiffen the fabric first, but then you can use it to make these beautiful star ornaments. Perfect for Christmas - you're going to want a whole tree of them!
Stiffy Christmas Gift Boxes
Fabrics can be turned into four sided boxes with Stiffy! I love these ideas for making tiny boxes for smaller gifting items . . . leave them out for decor when you're done.
If you enjoyed reading about fabric stiffener, I’d love for you to check out these other formula guides:
- Brushstroke Mod Podge
- Dishwasher Safe Mod Podge
- Extreme Glitter Mod Podge
- Fabric Mod Podge
- Gloss Mod Podge
- Glow in the Dark Mod Podge
- Hard Coat Mod Podge
- Matte Mod Podge
- Outdoor Mod Podge
- Satin Mod Podge
- Sparkle Mod Podge
- Ultra Matte Chalk Mod Podge
- Mod Podge Dimensional Magic
- Mod Podge Photo Transfer Medium
- Mod Podge Puzzle Saver
- Mod Podge Ultra
Tuesday 21st of March 2023
I would like to layer strips of fabric over a mold. I need the layers to stick to each other but not to the mold. How can that be done? Will you please email the answer.
Sunday 2nd of April 2023
The mold will need to be silicone, or covered in plastic wrap or foil like this: https://modpodgerocksblog.com/mod-podge-stiffy-doily-bowl/ I make bowls all the time and I use plastic wrap . . . the Mod Podge won't stick to it usually.
Thursday 5th of January 2023
If I am making a crocheted summer tote bag which I would like to be stiff but not as stiff as a bowl. It needs to be somewhat flexible and waterproof. How would I do that?
Saturday 7th of January 2023
Hi Bianca! Oh goodness I'm not sure. You could just use Mod Podge Hard Coat by itself. It's not going to make it waterproof though. I'm wondering if you could use a cord that meets your needs (stiff and somewhat waterproof) as opposed to traditional yarn?
Thursday 27th of October 2022
Just a couple of questions…
1) is Stiffy pet safe if your project is chewed on? 2) if I wanted to use yarn over plastic or wood, can Stiffy also bond then or would another product be needed for that? 3) is it possible to only stiffen a project (say yarn) one one side if brushed on?
Saturday 26th of November 2022
Hi Sandy! 1) it is nontoxic and waterbased, but you wouldn't want any animal to chew on it since it's not food safe 2) Over plastic, I'm not sure. Depends on the plastic. I'd do a test. With wood, yes. Having said that, it depends on what you are making. You might need an additional glue to adhere it 3) yes technically. BUT it might soak through. Just apply sparingly
Sounds like you're doing something a little more advanced . . . if you need more help join us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/craftywithmodpodge
Thursday 29th of September 2022
So glad I found this! I’m going to try to make a witch boot vase with muslin fabric using Stiffy then sealing with Krylon sealer. What are your thoughts on this being hard enough to hold an artificial flower arrangement? Thanks for your time & all the wonderful info in this blog!!
Wednesday 5th of October 2022
I think it would be fine to hold a fake flower arrangement! :D
Thursday 7th of July 2022
Would this work painted on the backs of feathers to make them stiffer
Saturday 9th of July 2022
If you want to use Mod Podge on feathers you'd have to apply the stiffener and then brush out the barbs with a fine comb. Let dry on wax paper. I'm not sure how it would turn out. I have never stiffened feathers! My worry would be clumping.