Top Tips

Lauren's Top Tips for pressing and ironing
for a lovely finish on your dressmaking projects

Blog / 25 October 2017

I would say one of my top tips for getting a super neat, clean finish on your dressmaking project has got to be making sure that you press and iron well. 

I've found it can really make a difference, not only to help things during the construction process but on the finishing touches too. 

In this post and vlog I want to chat you though the things that I use to help me press well and some of the tools and gadgets you can get to help you. 

Check out my video below to see how thing work in real life or read on to find links to the different gadgets!

My ironing set up

Whenever I'm working on a project (which is pretty much all the time!) I'll have my ironing board set up next to my machine with the iron turned on. I find it a really useful extra surface to work on and often I'll stand there to pin or get my next bit of sewing ready. 

I've not had much experience with lots of different types of irons but the two I do use regularly are both Philips ones. My personal one at home is Philips GC3220 and the ones we use in the studio are Philips Azur. 

I've had my personal one for probably about 8 years and the studio ones are almost 5 years old. I think they are both great, the studio ones are a bit better and have a better steam function. 

On my ironing board I use the Prym Ironing board grid cover. It comes in two sizes for different widths of board. I find the cm grid section really useful for measuring shorter distances when pressing. For example, pressing back a hem a few cm or so. 

Underneath the cover I have used curtain interlining to add a extra layer of padding. As the base of the board is a metal lattice, having thin padding can mean when you are applying pressure with the iron to your fabric, the outline of the lattice can transfer though sometimes. Having the extra padding also helps to hold heat and steam so will almost help to press your garments from underneath too. 

Keeping your iron clean is also important as its all too easy, over time, for grime to build up and the odd little bit of interfacing thats stuck to the wrong thing! 

Every few months or so, I'll use this iron cleaner. It's like a wax stick that you rub onto your iron (while the iron is on). The wax melts and helps to clean the iron. You then need to run off the excess with a cloth. 

Make sure that you put something underneath the iron as you do it..so greaseproof paper or scrap fabric to catch the dirty melted wax as it falls off. You'll also need to use steam and give a scrap of fabric a good iron to get any excess wax off before you start using it again as normal. 

Iron settings and steam

The term 'pressing' or 'to press' comes up really regularly in sewing pattern instructions and it's important to know the difference between that and ironing.

Ironing is when you are moving side to side/backwards and forwards over a larger surface area, where as pressing is being more precise, usually on a smaller section of your fabric and applying pressure though the iron. 

To press well and effectively, you need to have the iron at the correct temperature for your fabric and have water in your iron so that steam can be generated. 

Without proper heat and steam you won't be able to set or fix the fabric as well when you press - thats why a good steam function on an iron is a really worthwhile investment. 

On some fabrics you might want to use a pressing cloth to help protect the fabric and prevent a sheen from appearing. I have to admit, I rarely use one, but when I do I'll just use a bit of cotton calico.

Another way to help generate steam is by using this really lovely fragrant spray called Flatter. It's like a milder starch spray which smells divine and can be used to help freshen up clothes inbetween washes and reduce and resist wrinkles. It's made from a plant derivative and renewable ingredients and is kind on sensitive skin. 

It comes in 4 differenet lovely fragrances and scentless. To use it simply spray it onto your fabric before pressing or ironing. The moisture in the spray will generate steam. 

The one downside to steam when pressing is that it can be a bit painful on your fingers. I've managed to build up a bit of resistance to heat over the years on my finger tips, but I do still have to be careful when pressing hems, especially a narrow one. 

These silicone fingers guards are great for not only giving a barrier between the steam/heat and your fingers but then help you to grip the fabric as well which is really useful when opening out a seam.  

Extra tools and gadgets

As your garment comes together, pressing certain parts of it can become more challenging as your bit of fabric now takes on a 3D form. 

So, having pressing tools that are also 3D will help you to get into those tricky areas. 

I most commonly use a sleeve board, which as the name suggests, is great for pressing sleeves! I've found its also great for kids cloths as well as necklines and collars when its hard to get my garment over the end of my big ironing board. 

Similar to the sleeve board is the sleeve roll, which will do a similar thing. It's just a bit smaller which might help in some situations or hinder in others. 

A tailors ham is great for helping to press darts and sleeve heads. Like the sleeve roll it is like a really firm mini cushion that you can sculpt your fabric around to then press. 

Another tool that I like to use sometimes for measuring and pressing back hems and cuffs is this seam gauge. It's like a flexible ruler but holds its shape more than a measuring tape will, making it easier to fold and then press back a certain distance. It's a great alternative to the grid ironing board cover. 

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