I’ve been quilting since I was 12, though my love for fabric started at an earlier age. Several years ago I was able to fulfil a long-time fantasy of mine (and of many quilters) – I worked at a quilt shop. There are many amazing things about working in a quilt shop – being surrounded by beautiful fabrics, getting to tear into boxes filled with brand-new bolts of fabric, being surrounded by like-minded ladies (and men!), and getting to swap quilting tips. I learned so much from the staff and the customers at the quilt shop, and it was there that I learned about Best Press.
Best Press is a starch alternative. You use it when you want to add some stiffness to fabric. Starch comes in various weights to provide varying degrees of stiffness, but Best Press comes in just one formula, though the formula can be purchased in a variety of different scents, and unscented.
I love using Best Press when quilting, especially when stitching small pieces, or when I have fabric pieces on the bias. It does not make fabric as stiff as a board. Instead, it adds some stability to the fabric, and keeps the threads from being floppy. I like saying that adding Best Press makes the fabric “al dente”. Fabric right off the bolt has the consistency of an over-cooked noodle – it is floppy and moves all over the place. Adding Best Press gives the fabric a little “bite” keeping the fibers in place without making them as hard as a noodle still in the box.
I recommend Best Press to new quilters because it does give the fabric a little more stability, but as a seasoned quilter I pull it out regularly. I do keep it on a high shelf, though, because my youngest likes to open bottles and dump out the contents. Best Press comes in a plastic spray bottle (not aerosol), and the liquid has the consistency of a very diluted dish soap.
To use it, you lay your fabric down on the ironing board, spray the fabric by misting lightly, and then run your hot iron over the fabric. If you’ve used regular starch, the process is the same. If you have a scented bottle, you’ll smell the chosen scent as you iron, but the scent will dissipate as the fabric cools and will not linger on the fabric. When I press my seams as I sew, I often get a little hit of the scent, and it is like a little gift saying “thank you for pressing your seams.” I hate ironing, but I’m a stickler for pressing my seams when quilting.
Best Press should be used on fabric before cutting. This is so important I’m going to say it again. Best Press your fabric before you cut it, then put the Best Press away. If you Best Press fabric after it has been cut, your measurements will all be off. I recently used Best Press on a Layer Cake that needed to be cut into tiny pieces. Because I was cutting up the Layer Cake, I didn’t care if the pieces became distorted, which is good because as I sprayed the Best Press on, many of the pieces visibly shrunk by a quarter inch or more! But the accuracy I gained in cutting and piecing was worth the loss of fabric. However, you make a pattern that calls for using pre-cut fabrics (layer cakes, jelly rolls, charm squares, etc), use your Best Press on the sashing and border yardage, but not as part of preparing the layer cake squares.
Depending on the amount of yardage you put into a quilt, you can go through an entire bottle in prepping a quilt. I have been known to use a full bottle when making Twin and Queen Sized quilts. Even so, it isn’t terribly expensive, so I often pick up a bottle when I purchase fabric for a new project.
You can find Best Press at a Local Quilt Shop near you, or online at Amazon.com
Disclosure: no affilation to this product; reviewer paid for aforementioned product with her own funds.
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