Do you always press as you sew? Or are you guilty (like me) of occasionally skipping the pressing to focus on the more exciting part – the sewing?
Something I’ve learned throughout my years of sewing is that pressing is one of the most important components of sewing and should (almost) never be skipped! Pressing is the key to getting professional, high-quality results from your sewing and avoiding that dreaded “homemade” look.
The Importance of Pressing
When you press as you sew, you’re getting each seam nice and flat before another seam crosses it. If you skip this step, the intersecting seam may not sit correctly and you’re likely to end up with a bulky, puckering intersection point, no matter how much time you put into pressing it after the fact.
Pressing also “sets” the stitching into the fabric, helping it to hold its shape and blending the stitching into the seam better. This results in a more professional-looking, crisp seam and a project that looks well-made.
I can’t stress this enough – pressing is key to getting high-quality, looks-like-you-bought-it results!
How to Press Fabric while Sewing
Now that you can see just how important pressing really is for your sewing, let’s get into the how of pressing.
Using an iron seems simple – you just turn it on and slide it across the fabric, right? Well, pressing is easy, but there’s actually quite a bit of technique involved when pressing sewing projects.
When to Press
While you’re sewing, it’s important to press each seam before another seam intersects it. This allows you to get that seam flat and the stitches set before you sew it into another seam.
I typically sew as many seams as I can that aren’t intersecting, then iron all those seams flat before sewing any intersecting seams. For example, you could sew the side and shoulder seams of a shirt, then press those seams before attaching the sleeve, since the sleeve seam will intersect both the shoulder and side seams.
However, if all this is too much to keep track of, feel free to simply press each seam after you sew it!
The typical go-to move of anyone new to pressing is to crank that heat up and start sliding the iron back and forth across the fabric. But that is actually ironing; pressing is a bit different.
When pressing, use an up-and-down motion, rather than moving the iron from side to side. Lift the iron, then press it down onto the fabric firmly, holding it in place for a few seconds. Next, lift the iron and move it to the next spot you need to press and repeat that process until your seam is beautifully flat.
Pressing Seams Open vs. To One Side
Many pattern instructions will indicate that you should either press your seams open or to one side.
When pressing seams open, start with your project wrong side up. Using an up-and-down motion, press the seam allowances away from each other. Once flat, flip the project to the right side and press it again to get a beautifully crisp seam.
If your pattern instructs you to press the seam allowances to one side, it will usually indicate which side to press them to – up, down, towards the front, or towards the back. To press to one side, again start with the project wrong side up on the ironing board. Push both seam allowances in the direction indicated by the instructions and press them flat. Finally, flip the project to the right side and give it another good pressing.
If your project includes darts, pressing the darts well is very important for getting them to lay flat and provide the nice shaping they were made for.
Your pattern should indicate which direction to press the dart, usually towards the center for vertical darts and towards the hem for horizontal darts.
Start by pressing the dart from the wrong side, allowing the fabric to curl up around the iron – darts are meant to be curved, so you don’t want to press them flat and cause puckering. You just want to get that seam nice and crisp. Alternatively, place the dart on a pressing ham or tennis ball to allow it to hold its curve while you press.
Next, press the dart from the right side, again allowing the dart to curve rather than forcing it flat.
5 Quick Tips for Better Pressing
- Test your iron heat and steam settings on a scrap piece of your fabric before pressing your project.
- Let the seam cool before you move it after pressing. This will help it to retain the press.
- Use a press cloth between the iron and fabric on heat-sensitive fabrics. An organza cloth is see-through for easier pressing.
- Make use of a pressing ham or sleeve roll for curved seams or tubes (like sleeve cuffs).
- Try to avoid pressing over pins. Plastic-headed pins may melt, and even metal pins can leave little holes in the fabric if you press over them.
Thank you for reading and Happy Sewing! 🙂
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