I believe pressing to be one of the most important parts of dressmaking. It is the act – or rather art – of pressing your garment throughout the sewing process, as well as the final press, that will set your clothes to the highest standard.
By paying close attention to the pressing of your garment at every stage of each seam, placket or collar, you set the stitches into the fabric, which allows them to perform their job of holding several pieces of fabric together much better.
Do not confuse pressing with ironing
Pressing requires you to use the iron as a precision tool, lifting and pressing it down rather than sweeping it across fabric, to flatten, shape or crease very specific areas on a garment. Pressing also requires a light touch. A heavy hand can result in over-pressing, which knocks the stuffing out of fabric!
There are several items of equipment that will really help with the pressing of your garments.
Make sure it is good quality. It should be reasonably heavy to have some weight behind the press, as well as a function to vary and turn off the steam. You could invest in a tank iron, which holds a large reservoir of water that is converted to boosts of steam when needed. The power of the steam is greater than that of an ordinary iron (and doesn’t need refilling as often!).
Try and get an ironing board that comes up to waist height. It should also be well padded. If the padding is a bit scant or on the old side, you can always add more in the form of quilting wadding and make another cover to fit the board.
This is invaluable, as it separates the direct source of heat from your garment, giving it a little bit of protection and preventing shine and scorch marks. A damp pressing cloth can also impart moisture to help achieve perfectly flat seams. Your pressing cloth doesn’t need to be anything special (a piece of linen or calico is fine), but it should be washed first.
This is a large egg – or ham – shaped bolster that features different curves to enable garments to be pressed on it without flattening out the three-dimensional form. Tailor’s hams are traditionally made from calico on one side and a wool fabric on the other. Usually they are stuffed with sawdust, as this absorbs the steam when pressing.
This does a similar job to a tailor’s ham, but it allows you to press smaller and more difficult areas, such as sleeves. Both items are easy to make yourself.
No need to buy them – we share step-by-step photo tutorials in The Sewing Studio ‘How To Make a Sleeve Roll’ and ‘How To Make a Tailors Ham’.
This looks like a miniature ironing board. It makes pressing those small and awkward places a lot easier. Good-quality sleeve boards have the stand at the far end, which enables you to press along the whole length of a sleeve.
This is a piece of old tailoring equipment and makes pressing creases a lot easier. It is a flat piece of wood, usually with a handle that can be shaped to a point. When you are pressing a heavier fabric such as denim, steam the area and then press down firmly with the clapper over the area to press. The clapper pushes the steam down through the fabric and helps to set the press. Ideal for pressing hems on jeans.
Fingers & Hands
Touch is one of the most important ways of assessing the amount of pressing required. Use your fingers to press out seams on delicate fabrics and your hands to hold seams flat after steaming.