Working with an iron is likely to be found in the top 3 most hated sewing (or probably even the house-holding) activities. Unfortunately, it is an extremely important part of a sewing process and skipping it may cost you a professionally looking finish of your garment. So the choice is yours, but you have been warned.
The true secret of a neat finish is to press as you sew. Pressing at each stage of a construction process will result in good-looking seams and corners in a ready garment. You may get an impression that it takes much longer to complete the project in this way, but it is actually the other way round – and the end result is much better.
While working on a garment you are not so much ironing as pressing. If you are not familiar with a difference between these two techniques, it may be an eye-opener to find it out.
Pressing is a lifting and lowering motion. You lift the iron up and down, “walking” along the pressed element.
Ironing is a sliding motion. You move the iron back and forth on the fabric surface.
Having that clarified, we can reveal some secrets of perfect pressing.
• Always test on a scrap of fabric which heat setting to use. Seek for indications on the selvedge, fabric bold, fabric tag.
• Use a lot of steam and a press cloth, which keeps the surface of fabric from getting shiny or from burning. Alternatively, you may also use a hot iron and a damp press cloth.
Some irons are equipped with special iron covers to be placed over (clicked into) the soleplate of the iron. The can be used instead of a press cloth. A great thing.
• Every time you stitch a seam or a dart, first press is flat as it was sewn to blend the stitches and smooth the fabric. Then press it open on the wrong side of the fabric. Press the seam open on the right side of the fabric making sure that you use a press cloth.
• Place a piece of paper under the folds of darts or pleats to prevent the seam/fold imprints from showing on the right side
• Do not press over pins – you will get imprints not to mention that the plastic heads may simply melt.
Pressing tools are essential ingredients of the fine art of pressing (try to make it fun). Apart from the obvious ones such as ironing board or sleeve board there are some pressing toys which make the whole process a lot more easier. We will list our favorites – and the good news is that some of them you can easily make on your own.
Tailor’s ham. It is a medium-large, oblong, firmly stuffed cushion. It is intended to be used for pressing curved seams and areas of the garment such as princess seams, darts, sleeve cups, collars. This is a real pressing must-have.
Seam roll. It is a long, sausage-like, firmly stuffed cushion rounded at each end. It is designed to press small curved areas and longer seams. It works perfectly fine while pressing the sleeve side seams or cuffs. This one is also a must-have for pressing.
Point presser. It is made of wood and provides many differently shaped edges for pressing curves, points and straight edges. Allows to press hard-to-reach seams without wrinkling the surrounding areas. This one is nice to have but you can survive without it.
Press mitt. It is a smaller version of a tailor’s ham, which fits into your hand. It usually has pockets or belts on either side to protect your hand or secure it to a sleeve board. It is useful while working on sleeves. You can slip the press mitt over the end of a sleeve board to press/steam sleeve caps and armhole seams. Highly recommended.
Clapper. It is just a piece of wood, but very useful. It is used to flatten the seams. For lightweight fabrics just the weight of the clapper is enough to do the job, but with thicker/softer fabrics you may need to apply some steam and pressure. The wood absorbs the heat and moisture. Useful in shaping soft rolled hems. Is it worth to have it? Why not?