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Fabric Stiffener 101: Your Complete Guide

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.

Fabric stiffener 101

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:

Stiffy Stuffins and Bow Dazzlers

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 used doilies from the dollar bins and Mod Podge Stiffy in this unique doily bowl project! You can make one with any size doily.

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!

Stiffening Fabric

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:

  1. Mod Podge or Elmer’s Glue
  2. Cornstarch Mixture – 1 T cornstarch, 1/4 cup cold water, and 1/4 cup boiling water
  3. 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.

If you enjoyed reading about fabric stiffener, I’d love for you to check out these other formula guides:

Brushstroke • Dishwasher Safe • Extreme Glitter • Fabric • Furniture • Glow in the Dark • Gloss • Hard Coat • Matte • Outdoor • Satin • Sparkle • Super Matte • Dimensional Magic • Photo Transfer Medium • Puzzle Saver • Ultra


Monday 8th of April 2024

Can Mod Podge Stiffy be diluted and made into a spray?


Sunday 17th of March 2024

Hi, I love your choice of using Modge Podge Stiffy to stiffen fabrics and the projects following your article. I would like to know if once the stiffened fabric has dried, can it be ironed to remove any wrinkles? Thank you


Sunday 17th of March 2024

Hi Terri! You can't iron directly on it for sure, but you might be able to put parchment paper over it and do low heat. I feel like too much heat would reactivate it. I've never done it before :o

Sharon McNeill

Tuesday 20th of February 2024

After using Mod Podge to stiffen doilies, could they then be cut without unravelling so that I can use the smaller pieces in a larger artwork project?


Saturday 3rd of February 2024

Hello I am making placemats from outdoor cushion fabric. Would Mod Podge last for a specific time. Will have to clean fairly regularly but depends on use. Thank you

Barbara Freeman

Wednesday 25th of October 2023

Hi, I have a thin cotton bag that I have already affixed coins, paper money and paper napkin using gorilla glue. After doing that I thought how dumb should have thought of stiffening the bag first. I want to hang it on the wall as a momenta of my trip to Germany. Can I use Mod Podge stiffy and paint it on now or do you have any suggestions?