There is nothing that stands between that homemade look and that (hopefully) finely-finished look than an iron, ironing board and a tailor's ham.
I will admit that back in the day of home economics class, I was that student the teacher yelled at for trying to postpone pressing. My rebellious wild-child days are long behind me and I've crossed over to the steamy side.
I'm not one to have the pressing equipment near by while I'm sewing. I actually kind of enjoy the short walk to the other room to press the seams and get a bit of a stretch from sitting at the sewing machine. It is the most important exercise of my sewing day.
Thankfully pressing is not ironing. Ironing is a chore, pressing is a technique.
Pressing is the process of lifting the iron and setting it down in the proper position. You can use pressing to accomplish feats not possible with a needle and thread (Vogue Sewing 344).
Some tips that I've learned on the steamy side of life
- Extra fabric or scraps left over? Perfect! You may want to keep these to test the fabric's reaction to steam and moisture.
- Know your fabric, including any interfacing you will be using. I like to have a bit of extra fabric, you never know when fusible interfacing will react to pressing. I would have the heat setting according to the fusible interfacing, you can always turn it higher if it is not hot enough to set.
- Try to use the the tip of the iron and work in the same direction as your stitching. It helps to avoid stretching out the fabric.
- If using a steamer avoid direct contact with the fabric in order to prevent water marks and puckering.
- Unless your garment or pattern piece is cut on the bias, try to press with the grain of the fabric.
- Avoid pressing over basting threads or pins so that no imprints or damage are left on the fabric. I learned this one the hard way when I melted the plastic from a pin head onto my fabric.
- A pressing cloth can help to protect your fabric from shine. The best pressing cloth that money can buy is an extra scrap of your fabric. If you don't have enough to use for a pressing cloth chose a fabric that is similar in weight.
- Always press darts on the wrong side of the fabric before continuing to sew seams, it will help to avoid bulkiness at the seam edges when you go to sew those. Besides, it is much easier to get a neat press of the darts before you sew the seams.
- I love this tip from Vogue Sewing, "[u]se brown paper strips to prevent impressions of seam allowances, darts, or pleats from appearing on the right side of your fabric" (344). It works and also handy for removing any wax that might have landed on your fabric while waxing your thread.
- Keep your iron clean to prevent damaging your fabric unnecessarily. I use vinegar as a cleaning agent for my iron's surface and take care to check my iron's surface after using fusible interfacing to make sure there is no leftover residue.