I hate ironing. No, I really hate ironing. The iron spends more time in the cupboard than in use but my OLD iron, the one my husband used for years during his art degree, sits permanently on the side ready for use. Not for ironing use, for pressing use. They’re the same aren’t they? Thankfully not!
Everyone who sews needs to press whatever it is they’re sewing as they go along. Let’s have a look at the techniques I use – and if you have tips and other techniques, let us know in the comments below! And – as with everything we write about on William Gee, test the techniques on spare fabric and only continue on with what we suggest once you are happy the fabric won’t be damaged as part of the process.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s continue.
Steam is your friend when pressing, as is a press cloth. I always used my mum’s tea towels – clean, of course – but all you need is a clean piece of cotton. I did buy a press cloth but now use a square of calico. Once it is worn out or too mucky, I will wash it or throw it away and start again with a new piece. I don’t have a separate one for applying interfacing and stabiliser but you could do so.
Turn up your iron and fill it with water. Wait for it to heat up.
When a seam is sewn, before it is pressed open, current techniques recommend pressing the seam while it is flat as it helps set the stitches. Place the seam flat on the ironing surface and put the press cloth on top. Place the iron on top of the seam and press down for a couple of seconds.
Gentle pressing – no throwing your whole bodyweight behind the action! Lift the iron and place it further along the seam and repeat. That’s the easy bit – now to press the seam open.
Place the fabric on the ironing surface and place the tip of the iron at the start of the open seam, gently opening the seam further along with your fingers. Press the iron onto the open seam and then lift and repeat along the length of the seam.
Some seams are curved or fully enclosed – for example, pressing a sleeve seam.
Luckily, inserting a rolled up towel into a sleeve to be pressed is tried and tested – with a press cloth on top, of course – but curved seams benefit from the use of a tailor’s ham.