Before I explain more about pressing seams, it is essential to understand the difference between "ironing" and "pressing." Ironing involves moving the iron back and forth over fabric as you press out creases. When you press, you hold the iron down over sections for a few seconds and then pick up the iron and move it to a new spot and press down gently. This allows the heat and pressure of the iron to flatten the fabric without distorting it.
Here are the steps that I follow to press seams (don't forget to clip loose threads first):
It may seem tedious, but it really is best to press all of your seams immediately after you sew each one. Most importantly, it prepares the seam for the next step in the assembly process, but also, by pressing as you go, you can visually examine your seams and spot any errors before proceeding with the project.
One question I hear often is how to press seams when you are using a serger. There are two ways of handling this. Most times when I am serging, I use it to finish the edges of a seam after I sew it on a conventional machine. When I do this, I press the seam after sewing as explained above and then I hold the edges together again to serge them. I do this because I prefer to press the seams with the seam allowance open - it gives it a crisper look. If you want to use the serger alone for construction, you can press the serged seam flat and then press it to one side, opening the seam in that manner. Just be careful to not press too hard on the seam allowance side so that you don't press a crease into the fabric from the bulky seam edge.
Another useful pressing tool is a Seam Roll. This is a long stuffed roll that can be used in hard to reach areas such as sleeves or pant legs.
Lastly, a pressing cloth is an inexpensive way to protect your fabric while ironing, especially those that are delicate or easily marred. The pressing cloth goes between the garment or fabric and the iron. These are great to have around for all-purpose ironing, not just for sewing.
I hope you enjoyed this installment of the sewing lesson series. It is almost time to start working on a beginner sewing project!