The importance of ironing & pressing your sewing creations

October 26th, 2012

I think that ironing is a hugely important factor in determining whether your creations will inevitably look polished & professional or home sewn & amateurish. I’ve seen so many gorgeous designs that never lived up to their potential – that looked homemade rather than amazing. And it breaks my heart to see that. So I’m just going to say it right off…. if you don’t like ironing, sewing probably isn’t the craft for you (sorry hehe).

I’m a bit of an ironing super fan, so please forgive me if I geek out on you. Firstly, I think it’s important to note that ironing and pressing are different actions – and as such have different uses. How I define them:

  • Ironing is when you slide your iron back & forth on the fabric to removed wrinkles
  • Pressing is when you place your iron on the fabric and then lift it repetitively, rather than pushing or sliding it.

I know. It sounds like a lot of effort. But there are a couple of good reasons why sewing & ironing/pressing go hand in hand:

  1. It’s impossible to make your items look polished without a good pressing. Especially when making tailored pieces and using fabrics like wool or tweed. Seams simply will not lie flat unless pressed, and you cannot achieve clean lines if your seams & hems are bubbling.
  2. Not ironing your fabric before cutting can result in inaccurate cuts, and as a result affect the overall fit and of course appearance of the garment.
  3. There are some techniques and projects you will never master if you refuse to iron. For example replacing darts with ease can only be done properly if you press (I will post on this technique later, because i freaking love it), and you will not get a good pleat if you don’t press it.
  4. Manipulating fabric. You can permanently change the shape of fabric through ironing & pressing. Of course this could be good or bad, depending on whether you meant to do it or not!!! For example ironing your fabric too much, can stretch it out, but ironing can help fix your mistakes. Yep it’s true. You wouldn’t believe how many of my mistakes I’ve fixed through pressing or ironing. Recently I was feeling lazy at the end of sewing a dress so instead of lining it or using facings, binding or whatever to finish the armsyces, I simply turned in the edges. It was a stupid decision as it resulted in the seams sticking up unattractively. But after a little pressing they shrunk into shape and looked perfect. Problem solved, butt saved!

Obviously I think you need an iron. Not all irons are created equal and what kind of iron you use is up to you – but thats the object of another post. Though I currently use the ridiculously expensive and completely awesome beast pictured above – I did a post wayyyy back at the beginning of this blog recommending a budget iron I really loved, you may enjoy reading (though beware it is outdated).

Aside from an iron, there are a host of ironing related doodads you might find useful. I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to sewing/tailoring tools. I think that there is so much junk out there that retailers try to convince you to buy, when in fact you don’t really need it. Don’t get me wrong, I love tools and gimics, but there’s wisdom in not going overboard. Anyway, I started rambling. These are some ironing related things that I cannot live without:

  • Tailors Ham. Mine was a gift from my mother in law and I love it! You could quite easily make a ham, you would just need to stuff it very firmly.
  • Pressing cloth. I prefer store bought pressing cloths, but you could quite as easily use a clean handkerchief or piece of cotton muslin. When using a pressing cloth you need to put it over the area to be pressed, dampen (not wet) the cloth with some water, and then press on and off until the cloth is dry. I promise you, a pressing cloth will change your life.
  • Spray bottle of water. I like to use a spray bottle of water to dampen my pressing cloth with. You could just use the spray function on your iron, but when i had an iron with a small reservoir I found I ended up constantly filling up the iron with water, so I prefered to have a separate source. Even now that I use a steam generator i still keep a spray bottle of water handy, and like it better than steam in some situations. You may want to consider keeping a spray bottle of vinegar/water mix instead of plain water. I’ve only just started doing this (a few weeks ago!) and i’m really happy with the results.

Some tips to remember:

  • Press your garment as you are sewing. And always press seams & darts either open or to the side before you sew over them. Pressing at the end of your project is not the same as pressing each seam after you sew it. I promise. The difference is visible.
  • Do not iron/press over pins. Not only is there the risk of them melting, but you can permanently distort the fabric in the places where the pins were.
  • Prewash & iron your fabric before you cut it, trying not to change the shape of the fabric too much.
  • Make sure that you are using the right temperature. You’d be surprised how much difference this makes. You can destroy a delicate fabric if you iron too hot, but some things like linen will never look neat unless ironed hot hot hot.
  • If you intend to manipulate your fabric, then test the technique out on a scrap piece first

Do you have any good ironing and pressing tips?! I’d love to hear them!!

7 Responses

  1. Kathie says:

    Pressing helps so so much. I didn’t know you can’t iron over pins!

  2. Hannah says:

    Great tips! Pressing has to be the most satisfying way to improve the look of things you make. Oh and if you *really* wanted to iron over pins you can use glass headed pins as they don’t melt :)

  3. [...] over this fabulous animal print dress from Erika B. ? Megan reiterates why its so important to press and iron your handmade creations. So important! ? This guest post on chic embellishments is sooooo inspiring! ? Did you see this [...]

  4. Juli says:

    I agree… ironing during each stage of a project is so important! To be honest, before I started sewing I hated ironing… I think that’s because I wore a school uniform in high school and had to make sure it was ironed before I left each morning. But now that I’ve been sewing for awhile, I actually kind of like it! I’ve noticed that if you take the time to do it properly during each stage of the project, it can really make a huge difference with how “professional looking” your home sewn garment looks! Sometimes even so much better than what you can buy in the stores (plus it’s custom-fitted and so much more unique too)! Great tips! :-)

  5. Ginger says:

    Thanks for these tips! I actually just bought the B&D Digital Advantage iron on your recommendation a month ago, and I love it so much! My garments are looking so much better already with a nice iron instead of the old clunker (no steam!!) that I had before. :)

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