Pressing Equipment, Techniques, Problems

Good pressing is the secret of a beautifully finished garment. It is as important as good sewing. It takes time and patience. Press each unit before joining to another section of the garment. Handle pressed sections carefully and the finished garment will require very little pressing.


Ironing board, sleeve board and covers. Use well-padded boards and removable covers. A stained or scorched cover may soil light colored fabrics. Specially treated covers are good.

Point presser. Sits on ironing board or table; has a narrow surface with one pointed end. Useful for pressing seams open and points on collars, cuffs, etc.

Iron. A spray/steam/dry iron with a dependable temperature control and fabric guide is a good investment. A Teflon-coated soleplate requires less cleaning. Sewing irons with a narrow, tapered soleplate designed for hard- to-reach areas are available.

Iron cover. Slips over soleplate; fits any iron; designed to prevent scorching and shine on all fabrics. A press cloth is rarely needed.

Press mit. A padded cushion with a pocket to fit on the hand or over the small end of sleeve board. Useful for pressing short seams or darts, curved seams, top of gathered sleeves, etc.

Tailor’s ham. A very firm, shaped, rounded cushion. Necessary for pres sing and maintaining garment shaping such as curved seams from hip to waist, curved seams over bust area, dart ends; for shaping collars, lapels, etc. Press faced round necklines over large end of ham.

Seam roll. A firm, long, narrow, cylinder-shaped cushion, designed to prevent seam edges from marking garment when seam is pressed open. Seam board. Shaped like a rolling pin with a flat side to sit on ironing board. Used covered or uncovered. Produces a very flat seam without the edges marking garment.

Wooden clapper (paddle or pounder). Used to flatten edges of collars, lapels, garment fronts, pleats, creases, pressed-open seams, etc. Area is steamed, wooden clapper applied quickly. Apply pressure and hold until all moisture is absorbed. Turn clapper if it becomes moist or dry it with iron.

All items mentioned can be purchased in notions departments, sewing centers and dressmaker’s supply houses. They can also be made at home. Examine them in the stores and make your own.

Other useful items — sponge and small paint brush for separating seam allowances and dampening small areas.

Press Cloths. Have a variety on hand for use on different fabrics and on different parts of garment and garment construction. Strips of fabric 8 x 18 inches. Launder well to remove sizing and lint. Do not launder chemically-treated purchased cloths. Use light-weight press cloths for light-weight fabrics and heavy press cloths for heavy fabrics. Pieces of worn-out garments, etc., are good.

* Light weight — lawn, muslin, thin cotton, voile, etc.

* Heavy weight — tailor’s interfacing canvas, drill, terry cloth, wool.

* Organdy — use for visibility when pressing some fabrics.

* Vue-thru Pressing Cloth may be purchased.

* Cheesecloth — one or two layers helps to prevent shine.

* Linen — holds more heat than other fabrics, and a good press is obtained with little effort.


Press means setting the iron on the fabric, raising it slightly and moving on to next portion. Do not bear down on iron as fabric will iron mark. Do not rub across fabric or fabric will stretch. Always press with the lengthwise grain of the fabric.

To dampen press cloth. Wet cloth thoroughly, no dry spots. Wring dry. An even distribution of moisture is important.

Water-marking. Many pure silks and man-made silks water-mark. Run iron over entire cloth to remove the “sizzle” (excess water), leaving cloth slightly damp.

Edges marking. Use strips of brown paper under the edges of seams, darts, tucks, pleats, and hem edges. Shape paper if necessary. Shine. A scrap of the garment fabric placed between press cloth and garment will help prevent shine. If shine appears, “steam it off” immediately. Place a very damp press cloth over the shiny area. Bring iron close to wet cloth. It will “sizzle”, forcing steam into fabric. Do not rest iron on fabric. When sizzling stops, lift press cloth and brush garment with scrap of garment fabric or very soft brush. Repeat if necessary. This technique is excellent for woolens, brushed and napped fabrics.

Seam board; Wooden clapper; Tailor’s ham; Shaping tape

Test-press sample seams and darts of your garment fabric for: temperature of iron, amount of moisture required, weight of press cloth, marking, shine.

Terry cloth, laid over ironing board or pressing cushion will prevent many pile, napped and embossed fabrics from flattening. Place right side of fabric against the terry cloth. Use steam iron or slightly damp cloth.

To keep long edges straight, draw a chalk line on ironing board with a long ruler. Pin edge of garment along the line. Do not press over pins.

Always support the weight of the garment. Place ironing board beside table or counter top.

Press on wrong side as much as possible and protect fabric with thin cloth when pressing from right side. Never press on right side of synthetic fabrics or wool fabrics without a press cloth.

Lift press cloth occasionally to release steam.

Use clapper or paddle to obtain a flat finish, for faced or turned edges, to absorb moisture. If these areas are pressed dry they are apt to shine.

Zippers and fasteners pressed from right side of garment — place towel or folded cloth between iron and garment to prevent shine and protect fastener.

Press seams flat from both sides, then press open, using seam roll and strips of brown paper.

Darts. Press folded edge as flat as possible. Use clapper, then place dart over your tailor’s ham, selecting the portion that fits the garment shaping. Press dart in direction indicated on sewing guide. Press from wrong side. Then press from right side, protecting garment with scrap of self fabric or press cloth.

Gathers. Press gathered seam edges flat before joining to a flat section. Rest iron on gathered seam allowance only. Use clapper. After joining don't press seam open; press toward flat section. In final pressing or in laundering run point of iron into gathers, a small section at a time, shifting garment often.

Press long seams from hem to waistline.

Sleeves. Shrink out fullness in sleeve cap before inserting in armhole. Place seam on sleeve cap over end of sleeve board. Dampen gathered seam allowance only. Bring iron close to gathers and steam. Do not rest iron on seam, or pleats will form. Repeat. When flat, press dry or let dry. Re-set sleeve in armhole. Has all fullness been shrunk? Press top of sleeve from outside. Place a mark 3 to 3-1/2 inches down from shoulder seam on front and back. Press seam allowance toward sleeve. Use a slightly damp cloth with a scrap of self fabric between press cloth and garment. Tilt iron slightly and press stitching line only. Be sure sleeve cap is sitting on end of sleeve board — edge of board no more than 1/2 inch from stitching line. Press. Remove cloth and absorb moisture with wooden clapper. Lower half of armhole isn't pressed, it stands up under the arm; this procedure does vary occasionally. Consult sewing guide before pres sing sleeve and armhole.

Press sleeve hems from right side, using brown paper between hem and sleeve. Why? Hem will appear too full when sleeve is turned right side out.

Hems — see Section 14 for directions and illustration.

Scorching. Consult a good stain removal chart.

Shaping tape to stay curved areas. 1/4-inch twill tape doesn't require shaping. Ribbon seam binding, tape, grosgrain ribbon and bias strips, 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches wide, used for facings, should be shaped with an iron. Use paper pattern and draw the curve on ironing board with chalk. Use steam iron. Keep iron parallel to outer edge. Work iron inward, swirling it toward inner edge, easing and shrinking fullness at inner edge and stretching outer edge — see illustration.

Bias cut garments and garment sections. Press with lengthwise grainline.

Velvet. Special kits are available for pressing velvet and deep pile fabrics.

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Thursday, 2009-07-16 15:55