"Get pressed for success!", is a very good motto for any seamstress! Pressing fabric for sewing is very different from ironing your clothes for work. In simple terms of pressing vs ironing, one technique requires pressure and the other smoothing.
Pressing Fabric for Sewing
If you took a step back in time you would see that sewers used a ‘smoothing iron’ to press garments. It was a heavy metal iron that was heated on the stove or by the fire and used to smooth creases out of very elaborate garments. Today we have the advantage of being able to press with a steam iron, heated electrically. A good steam iron can press seams flat and reduce wrinkles.
The secret of a well-made garment is to remember to press each seam or section as you construct your garment. Always practice on a scrap first so you can be sure of the effect of the iron on your fabric.
What is Pressing Fabric in Sewing?
If you don't press as you sew, it would be very awkward in some areas to do it at the end. Pressing can also make sewing easier. For example, pressing up a hem before sewing makes the hem sewing a breeze in comparison to just pinning it up.
How to Press Fabric
Pressing in sewing is the act of using the iron in an up and down motion to open seams and smooth the unfinished fabric pieces.
Press by lifting the iron up and down with a slight pressure. UP-DOWN-UP-DOWN.
This puts pressure on the seams in order for them to open and sit flat. It allows the stitches to meld into the fabric in order to become flatter and less noticeable.
Depending on the fabric, steam or a water spray may be used. I rarely use commercial chemical ironing aids when sewing. Just buy yourself a water spray bottle and keep that handy for difficult fabrics or seams.
Which Side to Press
Press on the wrong side of the fabric and to iron your seams and darts in the correct direction for the best finish possible.
Successful pressing for sewing is assisted by some really useful tools.
- A good steam iron. Some irons turn off automatically after a set time. Continous irons are better for longer sewing periods but make sure you turn them off when you are finished.
- Ironing board at a good height with cover and metal frame. You can get covers that assist ironing.
- Tailor's ham – especially for children’s clothing, curved seams and darts
- Pressing cloths for delicate fabrics
Further Reading: More about pressing tools including the essentials and the luxuries.
Pressing Vs Ironing
Pressing is different from regular ironing in that the iron is pressed up and down rather than dragged along the fabric. Slight pressure is needed to set seams.
What is a Pressing Fabric Cloth?
A pressing cloth is just a protective piece of fabric that you put between your sewing project and the iron. It is important to use a pressing cloth so that the iron is not pressed directly onto your fabric.
This will reduce accidents and the worst-case scenario when iron meets fabric and the temperature is too hot. You get that sinking feeling as you lift the iron and your fabric is attached!
Pressing Fabric for Sewing - In Conclusion
Taking the time to press each step of the process to complete a garment is such a worthwhile investment. You can look professional in the garment you made because you were "pressed for success".