Sewing tip: Pressing 101

Poor pressing techniques can make almost any garment look homemade.  Let’s face it, we spend all that time fitting and constructing the garment we want it to look great.  Let’s get back to basics with Pressing 101.  This blog posting is adapted from my Pressing Matters seminar presented at Creative Stitches and Crafting Alive.  Let me share a few good basics I learned along the way – giving particular credit to the “Queen of Pressing” - Cecelia Podolak. 

It is import to press as you go.  You simply cannot press construction details properly after the fact.  Take your time and press at each step of the way remembering to let the fabric cool before moving it.  There is a difference between pressing and ironing.  Pressing is an up and down motion and ironing is a back and forward motion.  Ironing during construction can actually stretch your fabric.  Always press DON'T iron.  Construction pressing can be broken down into 3 basic steps.

Construction Pressing - easy as 1-2-3

Setting the stitch - Press seams flat together.  Stitches will meld with woven yarns smoothing out any puckers.  No press cloth is required as you are pressing from the wrong side.

Under pressing – Open the seam and press from the wrong side. No press cloth is required. Use a seam roll or seam stick to prevent imprint.  A clapper will provide a sharp press on those difficult to press fabrics.  It is important to let the fabric dry before moving otherwise it will wrinkle and stretch.  You can use a dauber to help control the moisture on wool.

Top pressing  - Pressing from the right side of the fabric but important to use a press cloth.  This step is often forgotten but will give you that professional finish. 

Always create a TEST sample - you may need to vary heat, moisture, pressure & press cloth to get the desired results!  Consider these questions:

  • How does your fabric respond to heat and moisture?
  • Does it water spot, change colour, lose shape or surface texture?

 My favorite pressing equipment (as pictured above):

  • Iron - (weight is important) or steam generator
  • Clapper - reduce bulk, provides a sharp crease or press
  • Point turner / June tailor board - open enclosed seams on collar or front edges, prevents imprints
  • Hams - used to shape and press curves and darts
  • Ham holder - allows for hands press pressing
  • Press cloths - Teflon for heat sensitive, for fusibles mark "this side up", velvet for textured fabrics and, silk organza for see thru top pressing.
  • Seam roll - used to open seams on softer fabrics, prevents seam imprints
  • Cheese cloth - remove shine and raise nap
  • Seam sticks - used to open seams, providing a sharp press on difficult fabrics, prevents seam imprints
  • Dauber - control amount of moisture, important for wool
  • Press board - large enough to lay garments flat.  Overhang can cause stretching.

I always recommend investing in good equipment.  Hardwood pressing equipment can be costly but as I tell my clients, it is a life time investment.  Never use tools made of soft wood as mositure may draw sap to the surface and ruin your fabric.

Happy pressing!


Next blog post - how to make a press board


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