Moda Bake Shop Basics: Perfect Pressing

Oda May here for another installment of Moda Bake Shops Basics. Today we welcome Liz from Simple Simon and Co. with tips for perfect pressing.
I used to think that "pressing" and "ironing" were the same thing until one fateful night...
I was at my pattern drafting class which was taught by a wonderfully eccentric retired wedding dress designer.  The instructor was helping me with a dress and sent me over to "press" a seam.
I walked over to the ironing board and began my version of "pressing".  Within seconds I was being very LOUDLY reprimanded and then spent the next 2 hours learning (and practicing) the differences between "pressing" and "ironing". 
At the time I wasn't thrilled with the lesson and would have rather worked on the dress but now I am so happy to have had her intervene and insist that I learn how to properly press.  That lesson has made all the difference in my sewing.
Here's what I learned (and still use) concerning pressing:

#1.  Pressing and ironing are not the same thing! 
Pressing involves lifting and lowering your iron onto the desired area while ironing involves pushing your iron across the desired area.  (When you press it's: lift, lower, press, lift, lower, press.  When you iron its just a back and forth sliding motion.)  With pressing it's the combination of the heat, pressure, and steam that allows you to mold and shape your fabric.   

#2.  When pressing, always press on the wrong side of your fabric.
Pressing on the wrong side of the fabric allows you to properly see all the seams and therefore to press them as crisply and correctly as possible.

#3.  Before pressing your seams open always press them flat first.
If you press your seams flat before pressing them open you will be able to "set" the stitches into the fabric.  It makes for a crisper fold and will help to eliminate puckers.

#4.  Never press over the top of tape or pins.
Pins will leave imprints and scratch your iron while tape will melt and leave goo all over your iron and fabric.

#5.  Take care of that seam allowance.
You can slide an envelope or piece of cardstock between your seam allowance and top fabric to avoid having your seam allowance press through and mark the front of your fabric.

(See the difference?)

#6.  Use the correct setting on your iron.
Choose the correct setting for your fabric.  If your iron is too cool your pressing won't be as sharp as it could be.  If your iron is too hot your iron can stick to the fabric or cause it to melt, pucker, and even smoke!  ( I know all of this from sad, sad, experience...especially with synthetic fabrics....)  If you are unsure which setting to use test it first on a scrap of the fabric that you are planning to use and see how it reacts to your iron.

#7.  Iron all fabric before beginning any project.
Before cutting any fabric for your next project iron it first.  (Yes, I said iron and not press.  In this case ironing is perfectly acceptable.)  Ironing will help to ensure accurate cutting.  Even if it may seem unnecessary, time consuming, or just a plain old pain I promise it will be worth it in the end and will always help to give your project (whatever that may be) a more professional look.

Pressing should indeed work hand in hand along with you and your sewing machine through any project...whether it be in constructing a garment or creating a quilt top.  Proper pressing techniques can make the difference between a good finished product and a great one. 

Now, depending on your project there are further pressing tips, tricks, and techniques that can be discussed.  But in general the 7 tips I shared today are always good to follow as a rule of thumb.

Thank you Moda for having us over today to share a few things that we've learned along the way through our adventures in sewing!


Thanks, Liz! Be sure and check out more Simple Simon and Co. tutorials on the Moda Bake Shop.


KatieQ said...

I love the tip about using an envelope or card stock when pressing. It drives me crazy to look at my blocks and see the bump from the seam allowance.
I like to iron all of my fabric before using it. Many times I see quilting tutorials where the author has not ironed the fabric before cutting and there are fold lines and wrinkles in the finished block. Ironing takes extra time, but the results are definitely worth it.

Rachel said...

Wow, thank you so much! I have been doing some of these things properly, but yest that envelope trick will be SO helpful to me! I have had so much trouble with that in the past and thought maybe it was just my iron or the type of fabric I'd chosen for said project... :)


Jacqueline said...

Do you use steam or a dry iron?

Simple Simon and Company said...

I know some are against it...but I LOVE steam. I think it helps hold the fabric in place!

Quilt Fabric Pizazz said...

I love steam for getting things in place correctly. As for the line from the fabric underneath.....don't sweat it.....once quilted you will never see it. It vanishes. This is a lesson in pickyness, that would drive any would be quilter, or seasoned running down the road screaming and pulling out their hair.

Qltr89 said...

I agree with Quilt Fabric Pizazz, I don't sweat the small stuff. The quilt top will be quilted then washed and used and no one will ever know the seams caused a bump while pressing the block. I also find that using steam is the quickest way to get rid of wrinkles or set seams. I don't like to spend too much time at the ironing board.

Pam @Threading My Way said...

I had heard there was a difference between pressing and ironing, but I have never seen it explained clearly like this. NOW I understand the difference. Thank you!!!

GranChris said...

In my book you can't replace a good old Tailor's Clapper for helping those seams be perfectly flat.

Charo said...

Very interesting!
The difference between ironing and pressing is something I learnt not a long time ago.

Tina said...

I noticed you press your seams open, I have always been told to press to the dark side. What is the difference and why open?