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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Press, press and press again

A good press with the iron makes sewing so much better! 

One of the most valuable sewing tips I can give is about pressing your work as you go along.  One caveat: I sew mainly with woven fabric, the need to press may or may not apply to jersey fabrics.

I used to underestimate the difference it would make.  I dismissed the need for pressing and felt it was just a bit too over-the-top, too fussy and pernickety - I wanted to sew!  Which meant that anything that was not about sitting at the sewing machine and putting my foot down (literally, on the foot pedal) didn't feel like 'proper sewing' - it just didn't count in my book.

I used to get incredibly impatient with the need to cut out the fabric, mark it, overlock, baste or pin and when I finally got to the sewing stage I just didn't want to stop for anything.  Getting the iron out?  What for?!

Well, I learned from experience that sewing over unpressed seams produces an end result that I am not happy with. Fabric has this habit of not creasing by itself: it will hold a certain rolled shape at the seam until you press it flat.  If you are really stuck without an iron you could try to use your thumb nail to crease a seam flat enough to be able to sew over it, but it is not ideal.

You will need the iron anyway for attaching interfacing but keep the ironing board out, or you could get an ironing mat you can spread out on a table - quilters use this a lot but their projects start smaller than full-size garments. It is so very much worth the time to set this up because you can wander on over whenever needed. Use it often: if in doubt, press!  Except, perhaps:

...there are areas where pressing is not wanted at some stages of construction: when you make welt button holes or pocket openings you don't want press the welt lips flat because it would distort them before you carry on with further steps. A skirt waist edge that will be understitched to stop the facing or lining rolling up into view should also only be pressed once the understitching is done.  There might be other occasions, let me know if you can think of other elements.

But most of the time a quick press is hugely important for a good result that brings joy as opposed to the frustration of a bodged project: it feels very demotivating to have put all this time and energy into a sewing job and then it doesn't turn out very well.  You're not quite sure what went wrong so you don't even know how to fix it next time.

Pressing seams flat might just make the difference.  Try it!

What are your experiences of using an iron while sewing?  Any mishaps, any tips?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, pressing does make a difference. My tip would be to always test press a piece of scrap fabric first, in the same way as you would always test your machine stitching on a scrap before sewing. This means you can find out what iron temperature your fabric will need and how hard you need to press. Some synthetic fabrics need a very low temperature indeed- I speak from experience- and if you do not know the composition of your fabric, which often happens with market stall buys and bargain outlets, you do not want to have the unpleasant surprise of your fabric melting or scorching.
    Don't forget, pressing means what it says, pressing, not ironing. First press down on the stitches you have done to set them into the fabric. Then open up the seam allowances so that you can press the seam flat.


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