Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Thought or Two on Pressing

Have you ever seen the movie, "Real Women have Curves"? America Ferrara plays one of the main characters who works in a sweatshop in Los Angeles. The thing that I always remember about that movie is that Carmen (America Ferrara) begins working in the sweatshop as a presser.  She wanted to be one of the sewing machine operators but they started her at the pressing machine. Explaining to her that pressing was one of the most important steps and the last step before the garment was hung to be shipped out.

Now we as sewists know that "Press As You Go" is the golden rule. However, do you do it every time? I thought about this as I was making those simple t-shirt dresses. I know that I doubled the amount of time it took to make those dresses because of the amount of pressing that went into making them.


Bonita Pride Ironing Board, Bright Text

So is pressing important to you?  Do you follow the golden rule?  Do you press every seam flat, then open?  Do you know not to cross sew seams until the first seam is pressed? Have you invested in the best pressing tools there are? The best iron you can afford? Pressing tools like a sleeve board, a ham, a clapper?

Do you spend as much time pressing your garment while making it as you do with pattern alterations, fitting challenges & changes, as well as, sewing the garment? It's like if you had a tent with tent poles, your tent can stand without that fourth pole but it stands so much better with it.

Now there have been some great articles written about pressing but I personally love the series that Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics has written about it. My two favorites are, "Pressing: When you care enough to sew the very best!" and "Pressing Impressively without Impressions." 

I know there is so much information available on the internet because you can google how to do anything. However, I think it's important to visit the sites that give you the best advice to take your sewing to the next level. I love Ann's pressing advice and hope that it will help you step up your press game too.

That way whether you are making a simple "Learn to Sew" garment or an involved tailored one, using good pressing techniques can make the difference between a Becky Homecky garment or the statement, "Did you really make that? It looks like RTW!"

That's today's ramble...let me know what you think, okay?!

...as always more later!

52 comments:

  1. I always press as I go, but I do try to sew & press efficiently. I sew all the seams that I can before going to my pressing area. At times, depending on what I am doing, I may have to sew a single seam and then press, but I never cross a seam that isn't pressed first. I'm always happier with my end results when I press well as I sew.

    No, I don't have top of the line pressing equipment. I have a middle of the road Rowenta that is a couple of years old, but it still steams like a charm. I do of course have a ham, a seam gauge, seam rolls and a clapper & point turner. Lately I have been making cardboard templates for pockets & wondered why on earth it took me so long to do that. And I know you will think I am totally crazy, but I do occasionally use spray starch as well. :)

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    1. Nadine - I honestly miss spray starch! It gave everything a crispness that's just lacking today...y'know what I mean?!

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  2. I think pressing is extremely important when sewing. It really makes a difference to the finished garment. I'm reading this one hour after my iron died, I was sewing a top and went to press the shoulder seams. Once I realised the iron is dead I had to put my sewing away and felt so sad. Needless to say first thing tomorrow I'm off to buy a new iron. Love reading your blog.

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  3. Pressing - yes! It makes such a huge difference. I have all the regular pressing notions (that Nadine mentions), plus two others that are key for me: a 24x24" piece of Fashion Sewing Supply silk organza (7mm weight which heavier that the normal 5mm) for my go-to press cloth - love the transparency and the ability to take my iron's highest heat; and a 36" long piece of well-sanded maple stair rail that does double duty as a seam roll and a loooonng clapper.

    Also, a Louise Cutting technique new to me that I've found to be brilliant is how she presses seams that will end up being enclosed, like the edge of a collar. She presses flat as sewn, as usual, but then presses the seam open on the wrong side (using a point press if needed), and only then rolls the seam closed and presses from the outside. It makes a big difference, I think.

    Great topic, Carolyn.

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  4. I try to press well and have good tools except I don't have a clapper (will get one when I start to do jackets). I feel my technique is lacking, though, as my results aren't always great. I asked for advice in my sewing class but didn't really get it.
    I like the collar tip mentioned above. A big issue I have is when where and how much to trim grade or clip. I feel some of my seams are just too bulky - but pressing unfortunately doesn't solve that!
    Thank you.

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  5. Sewing IS pressing. If you think you can sew without pressing you haven't learned how to sew and shame on your teacher which mostly like is google search from someone else who hasn't learned that sewing is pressing. It shows, people, really shows.

    I also use the Louise cutting method. Its working great on the bags I am currently making. I actually think I saw it first on Nancy Zieman. Either way, great tip!

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  6. It depends what fabric I'm working with.

    I used to be meticulous about pressing, until I started sewing with ITY. Do you know what it's like trying to press ITY? It's so pointless...I spent so much time trying to press away sewing sins in a fabric that simply does not take a press at all. So now, I'll press the first seam of a garment as a test -- if the fabric doesn't respond, I don't bother to press any more!

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  7. I agree with all of the comments as to how important "press as you sew" is.I don't have as good of an iron as I would like, however, in time I will get one. I too like the series on pressing that Ann of Gorgeous Fabrics has written.
    Thank you for the reminder, they are always welcome..
    Marie

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    1. I have a really crummy iron, in a succession of really crummy irons. I wear them out (or they have tragic gravity related deaths) to the point I do not spend that much on them and buy them in thrift stores. Requirements: it can't turn itself off and it has to have a steam button.
      If it could defy gravity, I'd spend more.

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  8. I've always said I can sew without a sewing machine, but I can't sew without an iron!

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  9. Pressing is CRITICAL! I own many excellent pressing tools and Ann's advice is spot on.

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  10. Ditto all the comments especially from Bunny. When I teach young girls sewing I stress the pressing! Karen

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  11. Honestly, it depends on what I am sewing & which fabrics I am using. I have all the tools I need for now and use them when necessary.

    For example, if I am sewing a French seam, I just wait until the end and press then. I haven't noticed any real difference in pressing as I go or waiting, in that particular case.

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  12. Is that the reason it takes me longer to make a 1 hour dress? They don't include the ironing? Yes yes yes yes yes....press press press press press. Every time, all the time.

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  13. I definitely press as I go, though I streamline it depending on the garment. I invested in a gravity feed iron and have several pressing tools: clapper, sleeve board, hams, press cloth, spray bottle, and point presser.

    The mark of a well-sewn garment includes pressing. Though it may add time to construction, it is well worth it in the end.

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  14. I completely agree with you, Carolyn! I was taught the saying "Well-pressed is half-sewn." And I pass that on to all of my sewing students as well. A good iron, ironing board, sleeve board, and pressing ham are my only tools, but I couldn't live without any one of them.

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  15. I am a presser! Every seam, every step. I didn't know how much of a presser I was until a few weeks ago when I attend a bag making class. After batting, etc. was pressed on bag pieces, pressing was rarely done, except by me. (I was the only "seamstress" in the group.) Through years of experience, I have found pressing and ironing) to be relaxing and something I don't mind doing.

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  16. And please, for the love of all that is right in the world...PRESS YOUR HEM AFTER YOU SEW IT!

    Ah. That's been held in too long. LOL!

    I do press as I go, I do not press flat then open. I have ready WHY, but I tend to press open and then press to one side (if I am serging the seam allowances together). I have all the run of the mill stuff for pressing except the sleeve board. My iron isn't expensive at all but it's heavy, gets hot, and it's steamy. It works.

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    1. Pressing flat prior to pressing the seam open allows the stitches to enbed into the fabric. Do it a couple of times and you will notice how much flatter your seam presses open.

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  17. I railroad pieces through my machine. Confession: I don't always press seams before I sew across them. I do fingerpress them, but taking a great pile of pieces to another room down the hall to press makes more sense to me (in my particular situation).

    Some other times I do not press: 1. Polyester does not press. There is no need to ever attempt to press it -- it will melt before it will press. To flatten you have to sew it down.

    2. Natural fibers often finger-press beautifully. I rarely press the component steps of a flat-felled seam as I construct it, for instance, since I can fingernail-press it into obedience (I do press the finished seam). French seams ditto.

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  18. Is the movie actually "Real Women Have Curves"? I've seen that one and it sounds like what you described. I haven't seen the traveling pants movies, though, so maybe they are similar.

    I always press!

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  19. To the commenter who is waiting to get a clapper (until she sews jackets): Since you know you will want one eventually, I really recommend getting one sooner rather than later. A clapper helps bludgeon those bulky seams into submission toot sweet (yes, I know that's not how you spell it). I just finished making a casual top from a vintage cotton lace tablecloth and my clapper was a big help in convincing the seams to not ripple.

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  20. I got really lazy about pressing for awhile...and it really showed. {Hangs head in shame}. But now that I'm back sewing again, my iron is my BFF. It really, truly makes a difference!

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  21. I use a Reliable iron (which I love) and I do press as I go. I am amazed by the results in wovens and knits when I take the time to be diligent in pressing seams, hems, etc. Even when I wash my hand made items the seams stay flat and the garment maintains a 'professional/rtw look'. No one else may notice, but I do.

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  22. Wow, thank you for the shout-out, Carolyn! I'm blushing!!!

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  23. Great question! I press EVERYTHING as I sew, except on knits! In fact, Loes Hinse recommends not pressing too much on knits as it can press the fabric out of shape before you are finished. Of course, it is necessary to press any crossed seams first. I have 2 clappers and 2 point pressers and am sometimes using all four at the same time! I took a class from Kenneth King and made a seam presser out of a closet rod. I also have a ham, tailor's board, sleeve board, pants board, and regular ironing board. I use all of these tools for different things. I have had high end irons and gravity feed irons. Right now I am using an old proctor silex iron that needs a new cord, and it works great. Most of the newer irons i've had (including Rowenta and Shark) leak or spit. My best friends in the pressing area are a squirt bottle of water and Mary Ellen's best press. I've tried DIY starch alternatives, but none are any better than water alone. I love Best PRess, but it's expensive. I'd love to use starch, but living out in the country, you don't want to use anything that may attract bugs. I do use it for something I know I will wear right away and be laundered afterward.

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  24. Another dedicated presser here, with tools a-plenty. Part of the reason I love pressing is that it gives me a chance to think about next steps and to fondle the fabric. Just the tactile please of the work.

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  25. Of course, always!! No matter if it is a knit. The rewards for pressing are worth the time spent.

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  26. Yes I press as I go - my mother instill that this was a very important step when I was a girl and it's second nature now. She also told me when making a suit take it to the dry cleaner and have it professionally pressed when its done - that too gives it a real ready to wear look I made a lot of suits when I first started working in the 80's not so much anymore. I do have a pretty good iron, ham and sleeve press. A clapper and higher ironing board (I'm 5'9") are on my list - but I'm in the process of downsizing so those will have to wait!

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  27. When I first started out sewing (55 years ago) I didn't press "anything" until the piece was done and I was often discouraged by the "way less" than professional appearance of the finished item. It took me years of watching sewing shows and hitting the sewing books/videos to figure out how to progressively iron/press as I go. Now I have all my pressing tools at the ready on a roll out shelved cart that fits neatly under my sewing table. The first thing I do before I touch a sewing machine is to heat up the iron. I don't have to pop up and down to finish up a seam or a hem or a dart. I just swivel to the side and there are all my "toys". Of course I still have my stand up ironing board and my "industrial Rowenta iron." But tools don't have to be expensive to be effective. I just had to learn how to use them....lol.

    Pressing makes the difference for me between OK looking articles and GREAT looking articles.

    What an informative and fun "thread" this is.

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  28. I definitely press as I sew. I just don't think you have much room for short cuts when it comes to pressing. It makes garments look beautiful.

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  29. I do press as I go and it does make a big difference.

    btw...the movie was "Real Women have Curves", it was America Ferrera's big break!

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  30. I am also a presser, it is the difference between homemade and handmade. Don't know where I heard it many moons ago, in the same category as "is this fabric needle ready?"

    When I bought the June Tailor - Tailor Board, it came with a booklet "The June Tailor Method of Custom Detail Pressing". Learned so much and still refer to it today. I cringed when I look at some of the finished garments on blogs. So many of them have not been pressed as they were sewn and it shows.

    As others have stated, you don't have to jump up and down when sewing. I don't press until I would cross an unpressed seam.

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  31. Depends on the fabric. Anything with interfacing such as collars, cuffs pockets and facings, most seams unless they can be fingerpressed with a thumbnail such as a shirt sleeve placket, hems, always. I'm doing my ironing tonight prior to putting the board away and watching some reruns. Pressing and ironing can be soothing as it gives one time to assess the next step.

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  32. I press as I go, for the most part. I will sew a lot of pieces first, then press them all before they cross seams. I have a DeLongi steam iron with a separate boiler that makes tons of steam. I only have a seam roll and have been creative making that and the end of my ironing board work for me, but I do need to get a ham and clapper. The most unusual pressing gadget I have is an egg shaped iron. It's the best for puff sleeves or anything gathered. You never end up with a crease and it can get into spots a flat iron just can't. But I don't have a good place to put it, right now, so I don't use it as much as I want to. and you can't regulate the temperature.

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  33. I press everything when I sew. After the garment is finished and being worn... Well, that's another story!

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  34. I am fanatical about, melding and pressing every seam before it crosses another during construction and do try and keep all things pressed once getting worn.

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  35. yessss press press press ... flat then open.. but also tying to group my seams. I wish I had one of those point presser clapper combos. Here in Italy I don't even think we have a proper word for that, every tailor shop invents its own custom made tool so they're impossible to find and buy ...

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  36. Yes, I always press "by the book." I learned a lot from Cecilia Podolak (hope I've spelled her name correctly) and Ann Steeves, but my first teachers were big on pressing, too. I use a seam stick, a ham, a sleeve roll, a June Tailor board, several types of press cloths, a homemade dauber, and a handmade clapper made by one of the religious brothers who worked with me at a college library many years ago. I think of him each time I get it out to use it.

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    1. Cecelia Podolak now that was a sewing teacher! I learned so much from her too!

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  37. Pressing is vitally important-the better a job one does at pressing in the construction phase, the fewer problems one has with finished garments, I truly do think that. Even if you don't press something before you wear it, having pressed every seam well during construction ensures that it tends to hang better and smoother even without pressing each time it's worn. I wouldn't ever skip it.

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  38. Absolutely, press as I sew. I wont'repeat what was said so well by many others, but want to be counted.

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  39. I always press as I go, even if it takes twice the time. I also iron my woven projects after they are washed. I think having wrinkles on your projects makes them look less professional.

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  40. I press as I go and have invested in the necessary pressing aids... tailor board, sleeve board, ham, pants board, clapper.. the works. The only time I do not do a lot of pressing is with my knits. I am really a pressmatrix.. I iron my clothes for the week on Sunday and even iron items that I pick up from the cleaners... as well as use my pressing aids when pressing my work clothes for the week...lol

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  41. Yes, I do press as I go...it makes the garment look so professional. I use pressing aides as well--I love, love my clapper and pants board. I made a pants board long enough for a 30" inseam. I use the Reliable 300IS iron and 500VB vacuum pressing board. It makes a world of difference. Since I started using them, I haven't sent a gown or dress to the cleaners.

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  42. Even though I am just getting back to sewing, I still press as I go. It makes a huge difference.

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  43. I confess, this is something that I something I've too often let slide. Part of it was forgetting (I'd been away from sewing for quite a while), and part was/is having to set up the ironing board and take it down to press (too much in the sewing room). I've made a wood TV tray table ironing board, and that's helped, since it's usually set up so I can use it as a work table as well. Quite often, I wait until I have a bunch of seams sewn, then iron.

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  44. I press as I sew, grouping items until I need to press several pieces when possible. Occasionally, I will cross sew a seam that is only finger pressed if the fabric allows. I've sewn for decades and I know when I can do this.

    Expensive ironing sysyems aren't as important as proper pressing. Many fabrics truly don't care what your iron costs. Pressing may be easier with an expensive system, but a cheap iron doesn't have to mean bad results.

    I don't believe bells and whistles take the place of skill.

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  45. It depends on the garment...usually I can get away with pinning seam allowances flat or pressing with my fingers. But a couple of times throughout the process, I will haul out my 21 year old iron and press a bit. I find I use my iron more when I sew purses or totes, rather than garments.

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  46. I used to press as I go after EACH seam without fail but realized that I can do the same with multiple seams so that's what I do. Not back and forth as much. For example, I'll sew both sleeves AND the hems before I press. I seal the stitch by pressing top and bottom of each seam, Then I press open and serge or pink.

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