Let's start with a fact: I never (ever) iron anything: I just hang clothes on the clothesline “in the right way” (and please tell me I am not the only one)! Conversely, I'm a strong supporter of pressing seams while sewing: one of the worst things to see, when lurking someone else's project on the web (just because in my real life I don't currently meet anyone else who sews…) are badly-pressed (or even not-pressed-at-all) seams…
They can ruin a whole garment, in my humble opinion. As I've learned along the way, pressing tools are what makes your life easier: you won't go anywhere, with just an iron… lots of frustrations (and burned fingers) are waiting you! I have collected a few (and others are coming soon in my sewing room) and today I'm showing you my favorite pressing tools and how I use them, to save you one bit of the learning curve. Here are:
My Favorite Pressing Tools
(and how to use them)
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A little premise
Having an ironing station (a place for everything, everything on its place) can help a lot: gather there all your pressing tools so they are easy to reach when you need them and ready for you to use; seeing them there will remember you that they exist and you will use them a lot more. I know this may seem just a sweet dream for a lot of you (and I've been there me too for too long), but dreams are there just to be realized!
The Press Stick
A press stick resemble a broom handle with one long side flat; its magic is that you can lay one long seam on top of it, along the rounded surface and press it without touching the rest of the fabric. This is perfect when you have to press flat seams inside legs, underarm seams or even when quilting, to press a long seam intersected by many others. It can double like a long clapper: just weight it on top of a long seam you've just pressed with your steam iron to absorb the moisture and set a sharp crease. This is a handy tool you can DIY (my lovely hubby made mine, from a leftover from my point presser & clapper!). You can either
- split in two a long wooden dowel along its length OR
- sand until they're rounded two of the four long edges of a long wooden stick with a rectangular section (like we did).
If you decide to create your own, please be sure of:
- use a hardwood, like cherrywood or maple
- sand it really well with a fine-grit sandpaper (to be sure it won't grasp on your delicate fabrics, ruining them)
Don't have a useful husband who can DIY? Check out clappers and steam sticks that you can buy HERE.
The Tailor's Ham
Another fabulous pressing tool DIY: I've made this one all by myself (and you can make yours too, following my step-by-step tutorial!) using hamster sawdust and scraps of fabric… it's that easy! It's great to press flat seams into curved shapes, read: collars, princess seams, hip seams, darts. If you've ever tried to press that kind of seams above a flat surface, like your ironing table, you've certainly experienced wrinkles and puckers: it won't happen anymore with your tailor's ham!
Just turn it in your hands until you locate a curve that mimics the final shape of that seam on your garment, steam press the fabric and let it get cold before you move it, to perfectly set the crease. You can manipulate so it lays on the long side: or even make it stand on the short side (help yourself placing it above a football display ring, if you have it available) to iron a sleeve cap: Note that it has two different sides, one is made with cotton (for fabrics that can handle high temperature and steam) and a second is made of wool, for delicate fabrics (like wool, cashmere, silk…).
Don't want to make your own? Check out the options on Amazon to buy a Tailors Ham.
The Pressing Cloth(es)
A lot of sewers do not give press cloth the importance they deserve. I have several unconventional press clothes, and I cycle through them, depending on the project I am going to sew. The ones I use more are the cotton ones, but I'm planning to add a silk organza press cloth to my arsenal too, because of its transparency that would allow me to see through it.
Other pressing clothes are made of mesh (I have one but it's not my favorite: it tends to leave square stamps on the fabric) or Teflon (they are usually called applique non-stick pressing sheets, or something like this). If you use fusible interfacing, protect your ironing table AND your iron using 2 press cloths: one below your project and one between your project and the iron. This way you won't ruin anything if a bit of glue goes out of control (it happened to me “a few” times: it's not fun to take the glue off!). Wash them right after using them to iron on interfacing (or appliquè) to be sure you don't make a mess, using them the wrong way next time!
Wanna DIY? Most of my cotton press clothes are old handkerchiefs, but you can easily make yours serging the edges of a squar-ish piece of muslin.
Prefer to buy a professional pressing cloth? You can find some here.
The spray starch
I can't imagine my pressing station without it: first of all it tames all those rebel knit fabric rolling edges. Another great use for spray starch is to add body to denim fabric, giving it a little protection from dirt and stains (and this is why I use it to press the fabric I use for all my bags, like the laptop padded bag).
If you use quilting cotton, you know that after pre-washing it, it partially loses some of the stiffness it originally had because of the chemicals they put on it during the industrial production. Substitute them with some spray starch, to give back some body to the fabric that will then be easier to work with (and it won't shrink at the first wash, since you already pre-washed it!).
It's important that you spray starch right before you press the fabric, section by section: don't let the spray dry on your fabric without ironing it, or you may end with starch stains.
If you like, you may try making your own: mix cornstarch powder with water (1-2 Tsp into 1 cup, more or less), shake vigorously… et voilà, here's your spray starch. I buy the canned one, because I've experienced starch lumps in my sprayer bottle and I hate them! I've read you can boil this homemade stuff to avoid lumps but I've never tried: do you have any feedback on this method?
Now it's your turn: what's your favorite pressing tool? And why? Share your tips, I'm eager to learn!