Oklahoma Sewing Machine Artists

Sewing Machine

Oklahoma Sewing Machine Artists

Pressing or Ironing?

This is the ‘Pressing’ issue - pressing and ironing, that is!
I am including some information on pressing and ironing, to help you make your garments look even better!!! I know that it is easy to ‘skip’ pressing a seam here and there, if I am short of time, and I always regret it! I have to remind myself that the time I put in during construction pays off when my garment is finished. Good pressing techniques can make a poorly sewn garment look its’ best, but on the flip side, poor pressing techniques can make a finely constructed garment look mediocre.

PRESSING is done with an up and down motion, and done during construction.

IRONING is done with a gliding motion and is done after the garment is finished.

In other words, press while you sew, and iron while you wear!

Some photos
of pressing when constructing
a men's tie vest.

The three elements of pressing are heat, pressure, and moisture.

Using the correct balance of each will lead to successful pressing. Knowing your fabric and what it requires will assist greatly in achieving the right balance and getting successful pressing results.

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Cotton and linen fabric more heat than wool, silk, or synthetic.

Thick fabric can stand more heat than thin fabric, even if the content is the same.

Pressing without a pressing cloth requires less heat than pressing with a pressing cloth.

For heavy fabrics or thicker seams, more pressure will be necessary than for fine fabrics.

You can apply pressure in several ways with an iron, clapper, fingers, etc.

Moisture can be applied with a press cloth, a steam iron, or a sponge.

Steaming is the easiest, but it is also the most unreliable, since it can leave water spots, depending on the fabric you are working with.

If you are working with fabric that will water spot, cover with a dry pressing cloth, then a damp pressing cloth.


Tailor’s Ham
looks like a ham covered with fabric, usually unbleached muslin or heavy cotton. Used to press curved seams (top of sleeve, armhole).

Seam Roll a long padded culinder with a cover that is usually cotton on one side and wool on the other. Helps prevent ridges when pressing a seam open.

Sleeve Board shaped like a tiny ironing board. It is used to press sleeves without a crease.

Point Presser / Pounding Block
A pointed piece of wood, which is attached to a clapper. This helps to press points (point of a collar), and also to press open enclosed seams before turning them to the right side, such as a facing seam.

Puff Iron – Iron that looks like it has a silver egg on a pole. This ‘egg’ heats up and makes it very easy to iron puffed sleeves!

Needle Board – used when you press corduroy, velvet, or any pile fabric that might crush or show seam ridges.


Pressing Cloth is a layer of protective fabric between your garment and the iron. There are several different types, depending on the fabric you are working with:

Wool-back press cloth (wool on one side, cotton on the other)

Sheer Press Cloth usually of cotton batiste, voile, or lawn. Can see through it to know where to place the iron.

Moisture Press Cloth best are 100% cotton diapers or 100% linen towels. They hold moisture and can be used with a dry iron.

Bristled Press Cloth (see Needle board)

You should never see shine marks, iron marks, or unwanted creases on a well-pressed garment.

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All seams should be pressed flat after stitching; this helps to set the seams, and prevents puckering.

Typically, seams should be pressed from the wrong side of the garment.

Seams should be pressed in the direction that they were sewn.

On curved seams, place the iron perpendicular to the seam when pressing.

Press seams on a like-shaped surface. For instance, a curved seam on a ham, a straight seam on a flat surface, a point on a point presser.

For straight seams, open the seam with one hand and press (remember, up and down!). You can use a shot of steam if you have a fabric that does not want to lay down.

To avoid seam imprints, you can either use a seam roll, or use brown paper strips between the seam (or hem allowance) and the garment before pressing.

Embroidered areas should be pressed on the wrong side, face down on a thick padding, such as flannel or velour.

Silk Ribbon Embroidery should be ironed on the right side of the fabric, moving the iron around the embroidery.

And last but not least...do you have scorch marks that you need to get out?
Make a paste of lemon juice and salt and rub it onto the scorched area. Rinse clean, repeat as needed.

Hopefully you won’t need this, but it is nice to know, just in case!

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