The Secrets of Perfect Pressing

Like the vast majority of pattern designers – whether that’s embroidery, quilting, applique or sewing patterns – I do recommend that you press your work at different stages of the process. This is a really good habit to acquire as it allows you to set your stitches while your project is still a work in progress and make any small adjustments necessary to allow it to come together perfectly. No puckering, twisting, wonky corners or even surplus fabric caught in your stitching. If you wait until your work is finished before you press it, then you may not spot any problems – and it may be too late by then to make corrections.

Proper pressing is critical to achieving beautifully finished sewing projects. You will probably spend almost as much time pressing as sewing! And remember to press your fabric well before you even begin to stitch. That’s really important as if you stitch over any small puckers and creases there’s no way you’ll be able to get them out when your work is finished and they are likely to ruin the look of your project. I can guarantee that although others may not notice them – you will – every time you look at your finished work (I speak with the voice of experience!)

The Secret of Perfect Pressing

It’s very important to understand the difference between ironing and pressing. Ironing involves pushing your iron backwards and forwards over the fabric using heat and sometimes steam to remove creases from freshly laundered items. On the other hand, pressing means exactly what it says – gently lifting and lowering your iron straight up and down over the area of work concerned. You should press down for only a few seconds at a time. If you iron your project during construction, you risk distorting the fabric or catching your iron on any loose threads so pulling or puckering your stitching. But if you use an up and down pressing action without any sideways motion you will be well on the way to producing a beautifully finished piece of work. Remember – ironing is moving your iron backwards and forwards whilst pressing is lifting it up and down.

You should always test your iron setting and the effect of steam on a scrap of fabric first. Begin with a low setting and increase the temperature as appropriate. If the iron isn’t hot enough it simply won’t work properly on the fabric, but if it’s too hot your work will scorch or pucker. Steam can have the same adverse effects. Allow a few moments for your iron to stabilise at the correct temperature before starting to press.

Your ironing board should be nice and sturdy with a flat firm surface to help when fusing interfacing or Bondaweb. You should press on the wrong side of your project wherever possible to avoid flattening or otherwise damaging your work.

When pressing embroidery, place a folded towel onto your board before placing your work face down and pressing from the back. This will help prevent your stitches being flattened by the pressure of your iron. If you have to press on the right side then use a cloth or iron guard to protect your work.

Do not press over pins or tacking stitches as these will leave indentations in the fabric.

Always allow pressed areas to cool before you move them. If the fabric has to be moved, then lift and support it with both hands – don’t drag it as it will be more easily distorted when the fibres are warm.

And finally, at the risk of stating the obvious, don’t forget to turn your iron off when you’ve finished your work! Modern irons are supposed to have a safety “off” switch if they’re not moved for a certain length of time so are unlikely to burn your house down – but speaking for myself, I’ve never quite trusted that this really works and so for complete peace of mind I always unplug at the end of every session. Sad – maybe – safe – definitely!!

*Article originally featured in the April 2016 issue of Bustle & Sew Magazine. Find out more HERE*

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