Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How To: Starch Fabric to Walls

If you read blogs then you’ve seen people starching fabric to walls instead of using wallpaper for the past year or two online. I’ve always wanted to try it but couldn’t decide where in my house to do so. So, when I was home in October and we removed the old wallpaper in my Mom’s bedroom I knew that wall would be perfect for this project…mainly because the wallpaper ruined her drywall so just painting it would not be an option and it was a feature wall so it needed something special.  This was definitely a two-person job since I held the fabric taut while Mom used the wallpaper device to spread the fabric out.


We followed the instructions here, but there are a ton of instructions out there.


  • Fabric – we used a cotton fabric that worked perfectly. I’m guessing home decor fabric would also work but the cotton was easy to saturate and smooth on the wall
  • Several bottles of fabric starch – we used Sta-Flo
  • Wallpaper smoothing device
  • Sponge
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Push pins
  • Drop cloth
  • Paper towels

Step 1.  Measure your walls. The instructions said to add 6” to the height but I’m here to tell you to also add at least 2” to the side since the fabric shrunk as we put it on the wall. Maybe if you prewashed the fabric this wouldn’t happen but I couldn’t be sure. Just add the extra inches – it will save you the headache later.


Step 2. Lay out your drop cloth to protect the floor – this process is MESSY and you’ll be happy you did it. Also, I advise wearing short sleeves since I had to keep pushing my sleeves up with my starch-covered hands.

Step 3. Pour the starch into a bucket (we used a tote) then dip the fabric into the starch. Make sure that the entire piece is coated on the front and back – ring out any excess starch since it just needs to be wet – not dripping.

fabric_starch_athomewithhStep 4. Press the fabric into place on the wall and use your hands/wallpaper smoother/sponge to get out all the bubbles. We started with the corner next to the window and we started at the bottom since we figured the top, once cut, could be tucked into the ceiling trim and we wanted a smooth edge at the bottom where people would see it (remember, we only did a half wall so the bottom was along the picture ledge in the top picture in this post – not the bottom of the wall). This proved to be difficult since I was standing on a step stool holding the fabric up with my arms – the next time I do this I’ll start at the top corner and work my way down.

Keep smoothing the fabric into place, making sure you get rid of the bubbles. We used the wallpaper smoother, a sponge and paper towels at times. We found it easy for me to pull the fabric taut while Mom smoothed along the bottom since that resulted in fewer bubbles. I then pulled the fabric taut at the top and used a sponge to smooth out the fabric.


fabric_wallpapertool_athomewithhPress push pins into the fabric and wall periodically to hold it in place while you work.

fabric_pushpin_athomewithhStep 5. Once the fabric is smooth on the wall, trim off the extra at the top/bottom/sides.  We waited until the fabric was dry so that it was easier to cut and we used a very sharp utility knife. Once we trimmed, we could tuck any imperfect cuts under that ceiling trim. The instructions noted that if you have jagged cuts you could add a decorative trim to the wall but we didn’t want to do that. Make sure you use a sharp knife or scissors and take your time making the cuts.



That picture above makes me want to bust out the caulk gun again – guess I’ll do that next time I’m home.  In the pictures below you can see that although we added 1/2” to our fabric side cut, we were about 1.5” short. Damn. This is again where I’ll warn you to add extra length to the side measurement as well. We cut a small strip and starched it to the wall using the same smoothing method. The first picture is the too-short cut and the second picture is with the added strip. Luckily this is behind the door but you really can’t tell that we goofed up. Now that I’m looking at the pictures I kind of wish we just took the fabric to the door frame and covered that tiny sliver of painted wall but it still looks great. I found myself running my hands over the fabric each time I walked past her room.

fabric_sidebefore_athomewithh fabric_sideafter_athomewithh

That’s it! We did get a little bit of bubbling in a few spots once the fabric had dried and stiffened. We just used the sponge to add a little starch to the bubbly area to get it wet again and then pressed it back into place. This worked like a charm. Now Mom just needs to decide what to put on the picture ledge (we just tossed some things up there to see what it looks like) and her room is finished! If she ever tires of the look, she can easily remove the fabric without damaging the walls, wash the fabric and then reuse it elsewhere!


I now want to starch fabric to a wall in my house…a very small wall so that I can easily tackle the project myself. The only problem is finding the perfect fabric since I haven’t had any luck so far.


  1. Looks great!
    This is something I have wanted to do for a while, I had the perfect spot at my last house...trying to find just the right space (and fabric) at this house :)

  2. WoW! I didn't even know you could do that! Looks awesome! Thanks for sharing...

  3. Wow! Your blog layout is so much like young house love, it's startling! Did they help you with it? It's so awesome! Did you hire a developer? I wish I knew how to do all these cool things!

    Love that wall.

  4. Hi Sara,

    I'll take that as a compliment since I designed my blog layout myself. :) I have HTML experience so I've modified blogger's basic templates to my own needs (I believe they are in WordPress so our platforms do different things). There are a few similarities but they have a lot more widgets/things on their sidebar than I do but I think a lot of DIY blogs have similar items (navigation bars with similar topics, search buttons, ways to stay in touch, etc.). I'm actually working on my project page right now but haven't had much time to update it yet. Hopefully I'll roll out a new version this month!


  5. Awesome! I was thinking that maybe they formatted there's after your's! Lol. Im new to the whole blogosphere! I LOVE your house and everything you have done with it! It was definitely meant as a compliment! I am definitely a follower now! :) Thanks for taking the time to respond!

  6. I'm always glad to have a new reader! Thank you for the comments on my house - they are always so nice to hear. Have a great day!


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