28 March 2013

Pressing Your Sewing Projects


First up, a massive THANK YOU for your lovely comments on my last post. I'm getting soooo nervous now but it feels so good to have your support! Right, on with the post...

Thought using the iron was boring? Think again, my friend!

Call me a total saddo, but I find a bit of hot iron action really satisfying when I need to add shape to my projects. Pressing is a crucial part of sewing. It can make your project look miles better by flattening seams, adding definition to stitching lines, shaping darts elegantly, and generally making everything look much neater and more gorgeous. In this post I'll offer some tips on when to press, what to press and how to press...

When to press


Before you cut out your fabric, give it a press to smooth it out – this will help you get more accurately shaped pieces. If your pattern is creased, give that a press too on a low, dry setting (check the ink doesn’t run first!).


If you’re folding over the edge of the fabric to stitch it as a hem, for example, give it a press before stitching to flatten and neaten it.

Press each seam after stitching it and before stitching across it. You don’t literally have to get up after sewing every seam and go over to the ironing board – you can “save up” a few bits that need pressing and do them in one go, as long as the iron gets to them before you stitch over that part of the garment.

What to press


Press seams either open or towards the back of the garment.

Press darts towards one side (horizontal darts usually go downwards).

Avoid pressing gathers, for example on the head of a set-in sleeve, as it may ruin the lovely fullness you’ve created with your stitching.


If you're pressing a small tricky part such as a collar, you can hang the rest of the garment off the end of your ironing board so it doesn't get under the iron.

How to press

First, test your iron setting on a small swatch of your fabric. Different fabrics can tolerate different amounts of heat and steam – too high and they may become marked or even melt!

You can help avoid damaging your fabric by laying a pressing cloth over it to protect it from the direct heat of the iron. A piece of muslin, cotton or even a tea towel will do just fine.

When ironing your pre-made clothes, you usually move the iron back and forth to smooth out the creases. When pressing, on the other hand, you’re placing the iron onto the fabric, holding it static for a few seconds, then lifting it up and placing it on another part of the fabric.


Don’t be afraid of a bit of steam. As long as your fabric can take it, steam will soften your fabric and help you mould and manipulate it into the shape you want it to be. For instance, it can help you roll a facing to the inside of the garment, or it can make a pointy bust dart look a little more curved and a lot less rude.


Press on both wrong and right sides of the fabric to get a neat finish.

If you’re really fancy, you can use a tailor’s ham and seam roll (aka sausage). These are specially shaped dedicated pressing devices which look like cushions but are deceptively firm. A tailor’s ham will help you press curved parts of a garment such as darts or collars; a seam roll is a cylindrical shape which lets you press just the middle of a seam without creating a ridge on the seam edges. If you don’t want to buy them, you can make your own or roll up a towel tightly as a make-shift alternative.

And finally, at the risk of sounding like your mother, turn the iron off when you’re not using it, won’t you? Not only will conserving the energy help save the planet (sort of), but if you knock it over and burn yourself you'll probably be so absorbed in your sewing that you don't notice until the next day, by which time you have a massive scar. Or that's what I do, in any case!

Still awake?! Do you have any pressing tips of your own to share?

33 comments:

  1. Can never emphasise the 'pressing not ironing' tip enough.
    (I really like your clear photos)

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    1. Unfortunately my iron is so old and shit (I really mean it) that I have to almost iron for it to actually work. It also has zero steam (if you put water in it, it just spits all over the fabric).

      Someone has bought me a new steam iron for a wedding present and I think it will be one of my FAVOURITE gifts - people seem to find this strange but they obviously don't sew.

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  2. "more curved and a lot less rude" - I agree, just because it worked for Madonna doesn't mean we should copy the pointy look.

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  3. Great post Tilly! The only time I don't mind ironing is when I'm sewing, the rest of the time I hate it with a passion.

    You're so right about the difference a good press can make. I've just finished making a top that looked like a dishrag until I'd pressed it properly. Now it looks pretty good.

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  4. I finally purchased a tailor's ham after 3 years of sewing, and I have NO idea how I made it this long without it! It's amazing!! Great post on pressing - your tips and tutorials are always perfect.

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  5. If you are working with fabric that has screen printing on it, don't iron directly onto the fabric! I learned this the hard way and completely ruined my iron.

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  6. Thanks for the post! I love pressing but I have a terrible iron - do you have an iron you recommend? I don't want to spend big $$ but I'm willing not to go with the cheapest either.
    Thanks!!!!

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    1. I'm not sure - mine is fine but I haven't tested enough to know the difference. See Lucy's recommendation below...

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  7. Tilly, you have all our support always and I just know that you are going to come across as the wonderful person you are in the TV programme. Regarding pressing tips: one good tip is that you don't always want to press away at the hem of something. Sometimes you want a bit of softness on the edge of your hem, to stop harsh lines ruining the hang of your skirt, trouser or coat hem. I agree that steam is your friend and I also think a tailor's ham is a really great investment.

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    1. Aw thanks Karen, you're so sweet.

      Great tip - I've made that mistake a few times of pressing a nasty line into my fabric. Boo!

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  8. This was actually so helpful. I'm a beginner and soaking these sorts of blog posts up like a sponge! Thank you so much :)

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  9. After having had a truly rubbish iron for 5 years I now have a fancy new one. It really is amazing; hot, steamy and my clothes now look ironed when I have ironed them! I have my mum to thank for splashing out and buying it for me (and the fact that I sew as it means I've now got many more clothes that need ironing). Its so great that i too was contemplating singing its praises too, just haven't taken any nice photos of it!! Kessem mine is a Philips Azur if that helps!?

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  10. Great tips! I don't know if it's just me but I press seams two times. The first pressing flattens the seam about 90% of the way. But I left it rest, cool off, and then press it once more. This really helps the seam lie completely flat and smooth.

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    1. That's a good tip - I'll give it a go!

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  11. Dont forget a pressing cloth I use damp muslin cloth

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  12. confession- I use my metal water bottle as a sausage. I'm sure it's all kinds of wrong but it's got a great curve.

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  13. Great tips as always. Just learning to sew so I find your tips and tutorials so helpful :)

    Kate

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  14. My sewing teacher (circa 1976, ahem) always said, 'Turn on the iron before you turn on the sewing machine'. Excellent advice. :-)

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  15. Thanks Golly, working on my blouse as I type ;)

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    1. Golly? Tilly even haha stupid autocorrect

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  16. The only tip I have is to buy a steam iron! It makes things SO much easier!

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  17. I like to use separate irons for facing jobs and pressing fabric. Adhering facing can gunk up my iron. I also use Faultless iron cleaner.

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  18. I remember being taught in school that "the pressing was as important as the sewing" and it has served me well over the years. It's amazing how a less than perfect seam can look fine after a quick press.

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  19. If you need a sharp crease after you steam the crease smack it with a clean and smooth piece of 2 x 4.

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  20. This may sound crazy but I love to iron. As a little girl my mother used to let me iron pillow cases and my dad's hankies!!! In sewing projects, no doubt--my iron is my best friend!
    Linda
    mysewwhatblog

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  21. Pressing really does make all the difference! I wrote a post this Monday with a little tip for pressing a curved seam in light to medium weight wool. Basically, you pin, baste, press with a presscloth+hot iron+steam+piece of paper. Works like a charm :)

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  22. Brilliant! It makes such a difference but I have to admit that I'm often too lazy!

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  23. I've found that projects that look very homemade preironing look instantly better after a good iron! Then again, maybe that's just the catholic schoolgirl in me; you can't iron your shirt every day for 5 years and not appreciate a well ironed-garment!

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  24. I recently bought an iron shoe for a couple of pounds on EBay, it prevents the fabric from being scorched and is a lot easier than using a pressing cloth because you can see what you're doing.

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  25. I find I actually like pressing my seams and preparing hems, it makes it so much easier to sew afterwards! I've arranges my ironing board to be just in my back (sewing table and ironing board are parallel), so I just have to turn on my stool to press - lazy girl who doesn't want to get up :)
    I've recently bought an iron that stops automatically after some time (8 minutes up straight and 30 seconds face down I think), because I've forgotten to turn it off too often to count!

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  26. If your fabric has really tough creases in it after washing and even steam wont get it out (more likely on thick cotton furnishing fabric) try Dylon Easy Iron. It savec my project!

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  27. I've been ironing my fabric - a rookie mistake! I'll use some of these great tips now that I'm moving from cushions to clothes.

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