Hello sewists! I apologize if it seems there’s been a lack of activity on Sew Me Your Stuff. My dino laptop decided to no longer connect to the internet, so I’ve been using a public computer to update my blog and Learnist when I can. But this is a pretty important post for beginners as you learn to sew so I wanted to be sure I shared it with you!
When you buy your first sewing patterns, you may find that the pattern instructs you to press the craft or garment in certain ways during the construction process. Also, it is necessary during all sewing projects to press your seams as you go to give the product a more professional-looking finish.
So what is pressing exactly?
Well, on the surface, it may look a lot like ironing. But there are a few key differences!
1. Unlike ironing, you don’t typically move the iron back and forth across the fabric in swift motions. When pressing, you use the tip of the iron to manipulate fabric, and you use repeated pressure rather than wide sweeps.
2. The goal of ironing is to remove wrinkles, which is why you use the back and forth motions to force the fabric flat. When pressing, your goal is to set a piece of fabric into a particular position, such as pressing up a hem or pressing open a seam. Sweeping back and forth would distort the grain of the fabric when doing this, so you only press the specific point you’re working on with the tip of the iron.
So what is pressing used for?
Typically, you’ll use pressing after sewing a seam. Stitch the seam, then separate the seam allowances to press it flat until it seems to become one with the rest of the fabric. At this point, it’s a good idea to finish the raw edges as well, but make sure the seams lie flat. Sometimes your pattern instructions will tell you to press the seam in a particular direction, but otherwise assume it’s to be pressed flat.
Also, pressing is used when tucking a raw edge in towards the craft or garment, like when you’re completing a hem. In these situations, your pattern will often call for you to press the edge up (or down) once or more and them stitch it in place.
So how do you press?
You may want to find a pressing cloth before you start. A pressing cloth can be anything as long as it’s 100% cotton. Most often recommended are old bed sheets and T-shirts. It’s helpful if you have something transparent so that you can still see what you’re pressing.
Once you have your pressing cloth, place your fabric in position according to the directions and the pressing cloth on top. Then press the tip of the iron to set the fabric into position inch by inch.
One thing I’ve learned from styling hair (random, I know) is that you get your best results if you hold the fabric in place with your fingertips after you lift the iron until the fabric cools. This will keep the new fold or seam in place better than pressing it over and over without holding it.
If you need a demonstration, here’s a short video where I demonstrate how to press a simple seam open and flat.
When you press your seams, you’ll probably want to repeat the motion more than I do in this video. This is just a quick demonstration of the technique.
Right now in the beginner stage, pressing seams flat is probably the best choice as you learn to sew from patterns and more complicated projects. As you become more advanced, you’ll find many ways to finish your edges and give your hand-made projects a more professional look and feel.