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Pressing & Ironing: How-To

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Click to Read MoreWhat's the diff between pressing and ironing? Both can be done with your steam iron, but pressing and ironing are as different as jumping rope and roller skating.

Ironing and Pressing

When you roller skate, you're making a similar move to ironing. You iron by gliding your iron back and forth over fabric to smooth away wrinkles. Ironing tends to stretch fabric and may skew the grain, resulting in crooked and puckered seams. Ironing is fine for finished woven garments.

Pressing is more like jumping rope. You press with an up-and down motion. Most pressing is done on the back side of the fabric. When you sew, you always press. 

Press as You Go

Your iron is surprisingly important to the art of sewing. Make it convenient by setting up your ironing board and iron near your sewing machine. By pressing during construction, you avoid the embarrassing "did you make it yourself" question, and your finished product will be more professional looking. Guaranteed. I'm annoyingly eager to cut to the chase, but I always iron as I sew.

Before Sewing

Be sure to use the right temperature for your fabric. Most irons have a setting guide that indicates what setting is suitable for your fabric. If you're unsure, test on a scrap or the back side of one corner of your fabric. With some fabrics, you'll need to use a pressing cloth to avoid pressing an unwanted sheen into the fabric, so test a little corner of the right side to see what happens before you go too far. 

Always press your uncut fabric to remove wrinkles and fold lines. Even after preshrinking fabric, fold lines can remain. Cutting wrinkled fabric can cause distorted pieces that don't match up properly, making your finished project less professional looking.

Now, press your pattern pieces with a warm iron. This is especially helpful with the tissue type patterns where wrinkles can cause you to cut wildly distorted pieces.

When to Press

Pressing sets your stitches, blending the seam into your fabric. It flattens and smooths puckers and gives your project a professional look. Press after every seam, or at a minimum before crossing two seams. Also, press any time your pattern instructions call for it.

Click to Enlarge

Step 1: Press along seam line.Step 2: Flip and press the other side.Step 3: Press open or as instructed.

 

Always press along the seam line before you press the seam allowance open (or in the direction indicated in the instructions).

Good to Know

It's better not to press over pins. The heads of pins put difficult-to-remove indents in your fabric. Sometimes those little pin heads surprise you and melt. 

Fabrics with a nap should only be pressed on the back side using a light touch. It may help to lay a clean fluffy bath towel on your ironing board, place your napped fabric face down on the towel, then press. 

Don't forget to unplug your iron when you're done.

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Comments (1)

Ann M. said:
Ann M.'s picture

I knew using an iron is important fo sewing, But I didn't know ironing and pressing meant different motions. Thanks for this lesson.

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