Pressing often seems to be an unnecessary interruption to your work. But it is very important to remember that pressing as you sew is an integral part of a successful sewing project.
After stitching seams, darts, tucks, facings and hems, you must press them. You must also press garment sections before joining them. Pressing beds the stitches into the fabric, flattens seams and shapes the item you are making. Some seams can never be made to lie well if they are not pressed as soon as they are stitched: at a later stage in the construction they may become inaccessible. You must get into the habit of pressing as you go to give everything you make a professional finish.
Collect pressing equipment together and arrange it conveniently, near the sewing machine. You will need most of the following items:
Iron. The most important piece of equipment is a reliable iron. Use one with a dependable thermo¬stat, so that you know it is at the right temperature for delicate fabrics. A steam iron is a good invest¬ment and provides enough moisture for most pressing jobs. Keep the sole plate clean, and always use distilled water to prevent the iron from furring up.
Ironing board. A sturdy board that you can easily adjust to several heights is the next requirement. Make sure that your board has a smooth, clean, padded surface. A heat-reflective cover makes the best use of the heat of the iron.
Sleeveboard. This small ironing board, which stands on the ironing board, is used for pressing sleeves, seams and all fine details. The ironing board supports the weight of the item being pressed, and prevents unfinished areas from stretching or wrinkling.
Seamboard. This board, which is used like a sleeveboard, is for pressing seams open on facings and at points. It is mainly used for worsteds and other fabrics with a hard finish.
Pressing mitt. This is essential for pressing darts, the top of set-in sleeves and curved seams on garments or loose covers, for example where the shape and fit must be preserved. Place the pressing mitt on the narrower end of the sleeveboard.
Tailor’s ham. This is used on the ironing board for pressing and shaping curved seams, darts, col¬lars and lapels on tailored garments. You can buy one at a specialist haberdashery counter, or make your own (see opposite).
Pressing cloths. You will need three kinds of pressing cloth to cater for most types of fabric. Use a firm woven, starch-free cloth or a special chemi¬cally treated pressing cloth for heavy fabrics; use a double thickness of soft muslin or cheesecloth for pressing medium and lightweight fabrics; and use wool woven interlining (domette) for top pressing on all fabrics. you will also need a metre of good quality muslin for moistening cottons and linens when pressing. Moisten it by dipping in clean water and wringing out. Place it over the area to be pressed. When pressing silks, woollens and delicate fabrics, place a dry pressing cloth on the area to be pressed, then cover with a moistened cloth to provide low, even moisture.
Brown paper. Keep some stiff brown paper with your pressing equipment to use when pressing seams and facings on certain fabrics. To prevent a ridged imprint of the seam allowance appearing on the main fabric, slip the paper between the seam allowance and the fabric.
Wooden pounding block. Use this to flatten the edges of faced lapels and collai-s, hems, facings and pleats on tailored garments or furnishings made of heavy or bulky fabrics. Steam the area first, then quickly apply the pounding block. After a little practice you will be able to judge the amount of pressure needed.
Sponge and camelhair brush. Use these to moisten the seams of woollens.
Clothes-brush. Use this for brushing napped fab¬rics after pressing.
Pressing pad. This is used when pressing mono¬grams, lace, raised decorative stitching, corded quilting and so on. To make a pad, take three or four thicknesses of wool interlining about 50 cm 20 inches) long by 35 cm (14 inches) wide, and stitch them to a backing of drill. When in use, place the pad on the ironing board with the layers of wool interlining right side up.
The main difference between pressing and ironing is that in pressing there is little motion of the iron when it is in contact with the fabric. In ironing, you slide the iron over the fabric, with the fabric grain, to remove creases and restore the shape of an item that has been laundered.
When pressing, correct temperature is even more important than when ironing. Always test the fabric for pressing. If necessary, make a seam or dart in a scrap of the same fabric and press it to see how much heat and moisture the fabric requires. Fabrics bought by the meter (yard) do not always come with the washing instructions supplied with ready-made items.
Place the item to be pressed in position, making sure the fabric is as straight and smooth as possible.
Always use both hands when lifting your sewing to and from the ironing board.
Always press on the wrong side to guard against shine. Use a pressing cloth on all fabrics, except cottons and linens. Place it between the iron and the fabric.
Place the iron lightly in position and allow the steam to penetrate the fabric. Use minimum pressure on the iron and press in the direction of the fabric grain. This helps to retain the shape. Lift the iron to move to another section.
Do not over press. It will take the life out of the fabric and cause shine. Overpressing results when you use too hot an iron, leave it in one place too long, use an inadequate pressing cloth, apply too much moisture, or press too frequently.
Pressing Different Fabrics
The texture and thickness of the fibre and the weave of the fabric determine how it should be pressed. Always set the dial to the appropriate fabric, or use the dot settings.
Nylon, polyester, acrylic and most other synthetic fibres require little heat. Set the dial to the lowest setting. Press on the wrong side, using a thin pressing cloth. The iron will not steam at this low temperature. If extra moisture is required, place a single thickness of moist, soft muslin over the chy pressing cloth.
Rayon also requires a low heat, but slightly more than nylon. Press on the wrong side, using a thin pressing cloth. Generally, steam from the iron will supply sufficient moisture. If you need more mois¬ture, place a single thickness of moist, soft muslin over the thin, dry pressing cloth.
Silk needs slightly more heat than rayon. But too hot an iron will weaken the fibre and discolour pastels and white silk. Press on the wrong side and use a thin pressing cloth for lightweight silk. If you need added moisture on thick seams, place a single thickness of moist, soft muslin over the thin, dcv pressing cloth. On medium- and heavy-weight silks. use a double thickness of moist muslin over the thin, dry pressing cloth for extra moisture.
Lightweight cotton requires slightly more heat than silk. Press on the wrong side. You may place the iron directly on the fabric unless you are using a dark colour. To provide uniform moisture on seams, cover with moist soft muslin. Press until drv.
Wool requires more heat than lightweight cotton. Press on the wrong side using a heavy pressing cloth or a double thickness of muslin, covered with moist muslin. Do not press dry. If you are working with a napped fabric, brush it with a clothes-brush. while there is still a moist steam, to raise the nap.
Linen and heavy cotton require a very hot iron. Press on the wrong side. You may place the iron directly on linen unless it is a dark colour. Use a thin pressing cloth covered with damp, soft muslin to prevent shine on thick seams and dark colours.
Blended fabrics should be pressed at the appro¬priate setting for the more delicate fibre.
Crepe weaves may present a problem, since they tend to shrink when damp and stretch when under pressure. Use a pressing pad and soft muslin or -wool pressing cloth to retain the crinkles in the fabric. Set the iron according to fibre content.
A Note About Velvet and Velveteen
Do not press these, or bring the iron in contact with the fabrics, as you will flatten the pile. Steam them instead. Stand the iron on its heel and place a damp cotton towel over the sole plate. Hold the wrong side of the velvet close to the towel and move it back and forth to allow the steam to penetrate the fabric.
You can also steam velvet and velveteen on a velvet board, which has fine fibre needles, or you can use a wool-faced pressing pad for steaming. Place the velvet face down on the board or pad. Hold the steam iron close to the fabric – not on it – and brush the fabric lightly to distribute the steam. Press seams open with finger tips, then steam the fabric by holding the iron close to it. Do not handle the velvet until it is dry.