Pressing and Ironing

Pressing and ironing are terms that often get used to mean the same thing. They are, however, different skills – both important in their own way! 

1. Ironing

Ironing is the process of removing wrinkles either on a finished garment or a piece of fabric. This is done by using a hot iron and moving it in a smoothing motion. Steam can be used to help remove the wrinkles. 

When should you iron? 
– You should iron your fabric before starting a project. 
– You should iron a garment once you have finished making it. 
– You can iron your clothes before you put them on in the morning (or you follow my example and try to make wrinkled clothes fashionable 🤣)

2. Pressing

Pressing is the act of literally pressing the hot iron down onto fabric and then lifting. Pressing is used throughout the sewing process to help the garment take its proper shape. Steam is often used. 

When should you press? 
– Press your seams as you go. For the best finish, don’t move onto the next seam until you have pressed the one you have just sewn. 
– Press to apply fusible interfacing to fabric. 

How do you press seams? 

1. Always do the first press with the seam exactly how you sewed it – don’t open the seam or press it to the side yet. 

2. Open your seam or press it to the side as required by the pattern. Press on the wrong side of the fabric first, then turn and press from the right side. 

Top Tips
– Always test on a piece of scrap fabric first. If in doubt, start at a low heat setting then increase. 
– Use a pressing cloth, especially when using delicate or precious fabric. A cotton tea towel will work brilliantly! 
– Try a tailor’s ham or a sleeve roll. Ironing boards are great for flat seams, but curves are more challenging. A tailor’s ham can help you achieve a neater press on a curve. A sleeve roll helps you press the seam along a sleeve without creasing the edge of the sleeve. 

My secret favourite… 
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t always follow ‘best practise’ when it comes to pressing. I press carefully when making special garments, but not always when making quick sew t-shirts or joggers. However, the one time I love my iron is when I accidentally get those wriggly, wavy seams when sewing stretch. If you’re new to sewing stretch fabrics and you end up with a seam or neckline that looks like this…

…you might panic or give up. Don’t! Nine times out of ten, seams like this can be pressed into behaving properly. Switch the steam setting on your iron to high and press gently. You can even start by holding the iron just a little above your wobbly seam and just steaming. 

Here’s that same seam after a good steam. Perfect! 

Last but not least – cleaning! 
If you ever use your iron at too high a temperature, you will end up with gunk all over the soleplate (the metal plate on your iron). Check our this reel for a quick way to magically clean that gunk!