The identical lovely handmade doilies your grandmother and great-grandmother so adored are still a classy, charming touch in any room. Many of the doilies today are machine-made instead of handmade, but you scarcely notice. When you stiffen a doily and use it to get a lacy decorative table setting, the effect is guaranteed to be breathtaking. You have many alternatives to get stiffeners, from watered-down white glue to chemical-laden sprays bought at the store. Attempt your grandma’s and great-grandma’s recipe rather. At times the old-fashioned things are best, just like your doilies.
Fill a small saucepan with 1/2 cup of water. Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and stir thoroughly. A whisk works best but a spoon will suffice as long as you focus on the pan bottom borders.
Put the pan on a stove burner set to low heat. Keep stirring as the sugar water heats. A low simmer is fine, but do not let the mixture boil. Watch for the sugar water to turn a clear color with a fluid texture, not sugary and white.
Turn off the burner — eliminating the pan in case the stove is electric — and permit the sugar starch to cool to about room temperature.
Dip each doily into a sink filled with very warm water. Put the doilies in an absorbent bath towel and roll up the towel to blot the excess water. Wetting the doilies prevents the fibers from consuming excessive starch. The fibers are fragile when wet, nevertheless, and wringing, pulling and twisting on a doily will stretch it out of shape, particularly when it’s moist.
Drop each doily, one at a time, in the sugar. Wait a minute or 2, then recover the doily and, holding it above the pan along with your sink, gently squeeze the doily or press it between the two of your hands to remove as much excess sugar starch as possible. Avoid wringing, twisting, stretching actions.
Lay each doily on a fresh, absorbent bath towel, leaving a little space around each one. Shape the doilies as appropriate — squaring or rounding into a circle for instance and smoothing out ruffles.
Tack the doilies with stainless steel sewing needles or hooks to avoid shrinkage since they dry. Leave them at an undisturbed place where they will not be exposed to dirt — moist, sticky surfaces like produced by sugar starch pull dirt — for a day or so. Remove the pins and use as desired once they’re dry.