Prepping muslin foundations

I sew my blocks using the foundation piecing technique. This technique is also known as paper piecing. I do not use paper though. I use slightly starched muslin squares.

Why muslin instead of paper?

With paper piecing, the design is photocopied on paper; the block fabric is sewn to the paper along the printed design seam lines; and the paper is torn away when the block is completed.

I’m too lazy to tear away all that paper . . .

With muslin foundation piecing, the design is stamped on muslin squares; and the block fabric is sewn to the square along the design seam lines.

The muslin becomes part of the block. It is not torn away once the block is complete.

To begin, I pre-shrink my cotton muslin, fold it widthwise, and lay it on my cutting mat.

Folded, pre-shrunk muslin on cutting mat
Folded, pre-shrunk muslin on cutting mat

I trim the end, and cut the fabric into strips along its length, ending up with a stack of muslin strips.

Cutting muslin strips
Cutting muslin strips
Stack of muslin strips
Stack of muslin strips

Next, I prepare a solution of liquid starch and water. The bottle gives a formula of one cup liquid starch to six cups of water for “light” starch, and one cup liquid starch to four cups of water for “medium” starch . . . I use one cup liquid starch to five cups of water (heavier than “light,” and lighter than “medium”).

When I first started using this method, I used a 50/50 starch/water solution: the muslin came out as stiff as cardboard, the sewing machine needle made a “pock, pock, pock” sound while sewing, and I noticed little puffs of “starch dust” (which can’t be good for the machine). I quickly learned to dilute the starch further.

I starch the muslin for two reasons: the starch adds stability to the muslin, making it less likely to stretch when sewing on the bias; and the starch keeps the ink from wicking outward when I stamp the squares (I don’t mind the ink bleeding through to the other side, but I don’t want the lines too thick).

I pour the starch/water solution in an aluminum roasting pan (they’re not just for turkeys, you know). While wearing latex gloves, I add strips of muslin until all the solution is soaked up, then I flip the entire pile over, kneading the solution through (and out of) the strips, then let it soak up the solution again. I do this several times to make sure ALL the strips are soaked.

Soaking muslin strips in starch/water solution
Soaking muslin strips in starch/water solution

Next, I cover my worktable with a plastic tablecloth. I wring out the excess starch/water solution, then spread the strips on the table to air dry. I do not let the strips dry completely because it’s difficult to iron out any wrinkles. I let the strips air until they’re just slightly moist to the touch.

Air-drying muslin strips
Air-drying muslin strips

Then, I iron the strips. The heat from the iron removes the last of the moisture and gives a smooth, clean finish to the strips.

Iron the strips
Iron the strips

I layer the ironed strips on my cutting mat, trim off the selvage, then cut the strips into squares. There is usually a piece left over that’s smaller than my squares.

Cutting muslin squares
Cutting muslin squares
Stacked muslin squares
Stacked muslin squares

Years ago, I had a pair of rubber stamps made from my cell FKOQR.

Rubber stamps
Rubber stamps

I stamp the design on the muslin squares using a large stamp pad and fabric ink. I like that the ink soaks through the muslin, giving me reversible foundations.

Stamped muslin foundations
Stamped muslin foundations

I have a large project coming up . . . I’m gonna need a lot of these!!

7 thoughts on “Prepping muslin foundations

    1. Thank you, Carmen . . . I had the rubber stamps made by a local company, here in St. Louis. Google it, or check your local yellow pages.

      I got the stamp pad foam and the fabric ink through Dharma Trading Co.

      You’re welcome . . .

    1. You’re very welcome, Sharon . . .

      You’re not “inexperienced” anymore. Will you try it?? Will you show me??

  1. I was told that starch attracts bugs(like flour) and so I always use Magic Sizing when I want to stiffen something. I don’t know where you could get it in a powder form instead of a spray can.

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