How To Flatten a “Not So Perfect” Quilt Top or Border!

YES, it can be done! I learned this method from a wonderful class with Sharon Schamber. You can use starch and heat to reduce wobbles and waves from any quilt top, border, or block! I did this last week with a beautiful, vintage top. The quilt was machine pieced and hand appliqued in the blocks.




This is what the block looked like before I created the magic! There was at least 2 inches of extra fabric in the center. After I sprayed the block and ironed, it was almost flat. I was able to start stitching at this point with NO WRINKLES OR CREASES!


The final block looks like it was perfectly flat to begin with!


As usual, I used my favorite quilting rulers for lots of ditch stitching on this quilt.


Now, if you’re still wondering how this whole starch and shrink thing works, watch this quick video.  I learn by watching, so I hope the visual helps you too!


  1. Leave a Reply

    Bonnie Hernandez
    May 2, 2016

    Thanks! That was very helpful! Love your work!!!!

      • Leave a Reply

        Lynne Rainen
        January 18, 2020

        This is a great video. Thanks. I was wondering whether this method (starch, heat) also works on already quilted quilts. Have you ever tried this?

        • Leave a Reply

          January 29, 2020

          I highly doubt it, but I’ve never tried.

          • Pegi Cromartie
            January 29, 2020

            I am thinking the reason this wouldn’t work on well used quilts is because all the shrinking has happened that is ever going to happen. Also, I’m thinking that the fabric has not been pre-washed, am I correct? thanks Kelly

          • Kelly
            January 29, 2020

            Well, it’s already been quilted, so there’s not much to adjust at that point. I have no idea about prewashing, but it works on almost anything I put on the longarm. It has something to do with the starch and heat. Shrinks all cotton fabrics a little each time.

        • Leave a Reply

          Jane Meilbeck
          January 25, 2021

          Does the same procedure apply when the top border is 2 1/4″ Shorter than the quilt … (so far as what i can measure in the quilting area). Suggestions please.

          • Kelly
            February 1, 2021

            It can! If you baste the quilt ‘as you wish it to be’, you can take up a large amount of fabric.

    • Leave a Reply

      May 30, 2016

      I just happen to be doing this now! The 12.25″ squares are okay but the 3″ squares at the four corner in the sashing are lousy! Can I use the spray starch on just those 3″ squares??? Will it stain the other area?

    • Leave a Reply

      Maryann Doucette
      November 29, 2017

      Thank you so much! I have a border to do right now. Happy holidays!

        • Leave a Reply

          Maura Capiak
          November 20, 2019

          Thank you so much. I’m still a newbie. I dont have a longarm, but how it will work on my machine. I’m using a walking foot.

  2. Leave a Reply

    May 3, 2016

    Wonderful tip and demo. Will be remembering that one every time i have a wonky border! Thanks!

  3. Leave a Reply

    May 3, 2016

    Thank you for sharing. I didn’ do it with starch and heating but with water and heating /or becoming dry, if you have time;-)/ and it works good to me. I used to “overpress” my patchwork blocks sometimes and it was hard to put them together properly so I decided to try the natural cotton fiber tendency to shrink.
    Best regards :-).
    / I hope it make sense despite of my poor English/.

  4. Leave a Reply

    May 3, 2016

    I use the “AZ press” with a good spray of water while I’m loading the baking and let the dry desert air/heat smooth it out nicely. I’ve used water without heat on the top, but I like your idea of the starch. I’m going to give it a try with some borders I’ve got sitting in my bing waiting to be quilted.

  5. Leave a Reply

    Lynne Stucke
    May 3, 2016

    Wonderful video with great tips. Thank you.

  6. Leave a Reply

    Marsha cline
    May 3, 2016

    Kellie thank you for your great tips. Will try this. Thank you, Marsha Cline

  7. Leave a Reply

    Virginia McKenna
    May 3, 2016

    The only thing I can say is Amazing!!! Well maybe two things, now I really wish I had a long arm but I will be content with what I have now. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Leave a Reply

    May 3, 2016

    That happens to me all the time! I can’t wait to try this and see how it works. Thanks for the info!

  9. Leave a Reply

    May 4, 2016

    Hey Kelly, thanks so much for sharing this video! As a newer follower it was a pleasure to see you in action. I love seeing your work!

  10. Leave a Reply

    Patty Hecke
    May 4, 2016

    Great to know ahead of time! Thanks Kelly!

  11. Leave a Reply

    May 7, 2016

    You quilt is lovely. Great fabrics and fantastic quilting

  12. Leave a Reply

    Mona Keegan
    May 30, 2016

    Kelly, senility has set in for me. I apologize for confusing your name in the previous comment. I follow both you and Lyn Durbin for quilting on fb. I did buy your rulers, though. And, I really did enjoy this post & video. Thanks, mona

  13. Leave a Reply

    July 15, 2016

    Is there a method for flattening blocks before quilting? I’d like to quilt a vintage top on my domestic machine, but, like your example, there is extra fabric in some of the blocks. I can see the advantage to stretching the top prior to starch and heat. Any suggestions?

    • Leave a Reply

      [email protected]
      July 17, 2016

      Hi Karen, you can “block” your quilt before quilting. You’ll need an ironing board surface or something you can use an iron on. You would pin down the quilt, spray with starch, then take a steam iron over the surface.

  14. Leave a Reply

    March 10, 2018

    Do you think this would work with Best Press starch alternative?

    • Leave a Reply

      March 11, 2018

      I’ve not ever tried it. I do believe it needs to be true starch. I’m not sure what Best Press is made of. Give it a try on something that doesn’t matter!

  15. Leave a Reply

    Pegi Cromartie
    March 31, 2018

    I realize that this was an after demo so I’m wondering if you just floated the iron over the piece or actually applied it to the top. Thanks.

    • Leave a Reply

      April 2, 2018

      Just float the iron over the top for the steam.

  16. Leave a Reply

    Brenda Nixon
    April 25, 2018

    This is just what I needed! My center block is baggy, ugh! Everything else, so far is flat. I hope this works.

  17. Leave a Reply

    November 29, 2019

    I’m not sure that it will unless you’ve created a basting line all around a taut quilt. You would need to block the top before quilting.

  18. Leave a Reply

    Eileen LaGreca
    July 20, 2020

    I’ve been asked to quilt a quilt that the blocks measure 7 inches square on the edges but measure 8 inches across in the center both directions. It is 4 kite shapes sewn together with the longer point at each corner and filled in on the sides with a long triangle. How is the best way to hide the fullness? It sticks up like a tent in the center.

    • Leave a Reply

      July 21, 2020

      Oh my gosh, that’s tough!! Have you seen my starch and steam video?? I’ll put the link here, but it might work to shrink up the fullness. Starch and steam can do amazing things, you just have to be patient and work it slowly. Are you on a longarm? That’s the only way it will really work.

  19. Leave a Reply

    April 4, 2021

    I saw your video regarding starch and steam to get rid of a poorly pieced quilt. I was given a vintage hand pieced glorified nine patch to quilt using my mid arm machine on a long arm table. Unfortunately it did not appear to shrink at all. This was supposed to get quilted and get donated for use at an addiction recovery center. I fear that if I try to quilt it that there will be lots of puckers and I do not have time to take it apart. It appears that the melon shape was cut too short and too wide causing the nine patch part of the quilt to not pull taut and the melon shape to bulge lengthwise. Any other suggestions?

    • Leave a Reply

      April 16, 2021

      Hi Lori, I’m guessing the fabrics might not be 100% cotton, possibly a blend. I would pick another quilt. It will be a nightmare to finish! Also, vintage tops like that are not good candidates for donation where they will be heavily used and laundered. Current, modern day fabrics will be much better suited.

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