Importance of Pressing

Importance of Pressing
In pressing a stitched seam fabric is beginning to be shaped, stitching threads are imperceptibly sunk securely into the surrounding fabric and the beginning transformation into a three-dimensional garment or useful home item takes form.

Although both pressing and ironing involve the same iron as a tool, and heat at times steam play an important part, the up-and-down motion of pressing using the weight of the iron is somewhat different than ironing as the goal is to shape fabric. The back-and-forth sliding motion of ironing, again using the weight of the iron, necessarily removes wrinkles from fabric by stretching out the lines and folds so fabric lays flat again.

The up and down motion of pressing limits any distortion of the fabric’s grain, helps stitches blend nicely with surrounding fabric and helps coerce seams into three-dimensions necessary to follow curves and angles. To see the benefits of pressing, after stitching a straight seam press immediately then turn over and press the underside. The stitches hug and blend into the fabric surface. For woven fabrics, usually seam allowances are first pressed open from the wrong or underside, turned over and pressed lightly again from the top or right side. Knit fabric seams are often pressed together and not pressed open. Still, the stitched threads sink well into the adjacent fabric and produce a crisp seam.

Whether a curved seam, like an armscye (where the armhole seam is joined to the bodice) or princess seam (a continuous seam to follow a curve), or a straight stitched seam, it is important to first lightly press seams together on each side to produce as neat a seamline as possible. After pressing curved seams, clip curves in the seam allowance if the seam allowance will need to remain open so they can lay flat. Press over a tailor’s ham, sleeve roll or tightly rolled towel to mimic the curve of the seam. Press lightly and use a pressing cloth to avoid compressing the fabric fibers.

Darts that are pressed either slashed open or over to one side allows them to lay flat yet accomplish soft shaping to accommodate a curve. Using a tailor’s ham and the tip of an iron press into the dart tip but not much beyond to avoid creating a pucker at the dart point.

Fabric type will determine how much pressure from the weight of the iron is needed to set a stitched seam into a desired shape. Delicate fabrics need careful pressing and a light touch. A pressing cloth protects fabric from the heat of the iron and limits scorching and discoloration. Always, always, test on a similar fabric scrap to see how the fabric takes heat, pressure and moisture from steam. Leave the fabric in place for a few moments after pressing to avoid any stretching distortion.

Some useful tools to aid in pressing are a combination point presser and clapper. A most valuable wooden tool for producing professional-looking results. The point presser is as its name implies - used for pressing narrow corners and points. The clapper, attached to the bottom of the point presser but can be found alone, helps to create sharp creases, like in the front of slacks and also helps in setting a pressed seamline. A tailor's ham (kind of has the shape of a tinned ham) is a firmly stuffed cushion that aids in pressing sleeve caps, cuffs, darts or any curved seam. A sleeve board looks like a miniature ironing board and aids in pressing already stitched seams in sleeves, slacks or small items. A sleeve roll is a firmly stuffed cylindrical sausage-shaped roll that helps to press seams in sleeves and pants and can fill in for a tailor’s ham for pressing small items.

Pressing tools are useful in aiding the sewer in producing crisp and neat seam lines after stitching. They can be purchased or handmade. All can aid in helping to shape a garment or item and allow each garment section to fit together with additional precision.

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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