Years ago before electricity came on the scene, pressing was done with smoothing irons powered by hot coals. How lucky we are today to have electricity and modern tools to press professionally. What are the basic pressing tools used today? Here’s a list of the basics and a few added extras for the enthusiasts and professional sewers.
Pressing vs Ironing
Remember pressing is not the same as ironing. Pressing is an up and down movement when you need to open curves and flatten seams. Ironing is a side to side movement used purely to iron out creases.
Read more about how to press for sewing
Pressing Tools: The Essentials
If you are on a budget or are just starting your sewing journey, here are the 5 most essential pressing tools.
This is the top of the essentials list. There are countless brands available but try to choose the one you know. Ensure the iron can be handled comfortably. Another consideration is whether you want an automatic cut off. This is an important safety feature but can be a hindrance when you are sewing for long periods of time.
2. Ironing Board:
An ironing board is the foundation of your pressing equipment. It needs to be firm and flat and able to withstand some pressure as you press down. An adjustable height is important for comfort.
3. Ironing Board Cover:
Different types of covers with different coatings serve the purpose of protecting the board and giving the best resistance for the pressing action. It also helps to be able to wash your ironing board cover but this is not always recommended with some coatings.
5. Pressing Cloths:
The right cloth allows you to put more pressure on the garment and not run the risk of burning your work. Generally, using a fabric similar to the fabric you are sewing gives the best results. A soft cotton works well or you can improvise with a nice big cotton handkerchief.
Pressing Tools: Nice to Have
Once you start sewing regularly, these are some pressing tools that can make your sewing life easier and faster.
Padded Tailor’s Ham:
These are a very useful, soft, cushion-like tool which are a great addition to your pressing tools. The padded ham is ideal for pressing curves, darts, puffed sleeves and other curved areas giving fullness to these styles.
Sleeve rolls are similar to the padded ham and are useful for pressing sleeves and other narrow areas. The sleeve roll is a padded cylinder with cotton on one side and wool on the other. It is inserted into the sleeve and has the advantage that the outline of the seam does not show on the right side of the fabric.
A mini iron is also an added consideration for getting into those tiny curves and corners.
This pressing tool looks like a mini ironing board. It will sit on top of your ironing board to give a stable option for pressing sleeves professionally.
Don’t think you have gone to the movies! This tool is made of wood and is used to beat the steamed seam into shape. It is a very useful tool if your fabric or seams are bulky. The added pressure of the clapper helps the steamed seam area to sit flat.
Point pressers or Tailor’s Board:
Point pressers are useful for pressing pointed seams such as those in collars and facings. It is also sometimes called a tailor’s board.
Pressing mitts are used for pressing areas too small for the tailor’s ham. It looks like a pillow with a pocket. The mitt is made of wool on one side and cotton on the other. The pressing mitt can also slip over the end of the sleeve board for some extra padding.
A velvet board or needle board:
Velvet boards are an interesting, flexible mat with a rough side useful for pressing velvet or any fabric with a pile.
The fabric is placed right side down to give the pile space to settle into the rough surface of the neddle board. The fabric is then pressed on the wrong side and this allows the pile to remain soft and fluffy.
Pressing rods and bars:
Now we are getting into the really ‘perfectionistic’ league with rods made of halved dowel sticks. Pressing rods can be inserted into tiny seams to allow for a really professional tailored pressing option. They are common for small straps and bias.
Which Pressing Tools Should You Buy?
The most essential pressing tools appear at the top of this article and after that, the rest could be considered as luxury items. Within these luxury items, there is an impressive array of gadgets and goodies to get the best-pressed garments and a consistently professional look. Pressing has come a long way since the days of the smoothing iron. Choose the tools that assist your sewing journey the best and remember that in order to get the best results, pressing goes hand in hand with sewing.