Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pressing Matters

I had hoped that my first 'real' post would be a tutorial regarding a great no-sew invisible hemming technique that I recently learned from a Threads DVD. Alas. My camera is not co-operating with me, and the tutorial sans pictures, sucks. So: let's talk about pressing vs, ironing.
I recently conducted a week-long summer sewing camp for raw beginners through the Extension Office, and one question that came up was, "What is the difference between pressing and ironing?"
I explained and demonstrated, and was surprised to learn that, while my adolescent students merely took the info in, my adults were shocked. They didn't know there was a difference between pressing and ironing. I guess this is something else that is no longer taught in High School Home Ec. I'll just add that to the list.
The difference between the two is the location of the iron with regard to fabric when the iron is in motion. In other words: if the iron is touching the fabric while it is being moved across the fabric, then you are ironing. If the iron is placed on the fabric, then lifted, moved, then set down again -- you are pressing.
Does it matter which you do??? Maybe. If your goal is to reduce wrinkles, then either method will work, but do know that ironing will get that job done much faster, and with slightly less tedium than pressing. To lay darts, tucks and pleats down flat, pressing is preferred. Even if the pleat runs the length of a skirt, press! Ironing runs the considerable risk of distorting the grain you have so carefully folded your pleat along, and your pleat may not so much crease, as ruffle. I have done this. If the fiber being pressed lends itself well to creasing (silk, wool, cotton, linen), then the only remedy is to thoroughly wet the fabric, and start over. So: yes, it matters. When pattern instructions say to press a dart, or pleat -- they mean it.
When next I post (no promises on a date) I shall discourse on pressing tools: hams, rolls, and boards. Stay tuned!


  1. Great, now I just need an iron that doesn't spew water out then sides when picked up.

  2. And I need one that heats reliably - oh and the spewing rusty water is annoying, too.

  3. Kate: your iron needs to be cleaned thoroughly.
    Buy some distilled water. Empty the water that is currently in it. Refill with distilled water WHEN THE IRON IS OFF. (this helps prevent spewing and spitting). Turn iron on, heat without steam, if that is an option (if it isn't -- go to Target, and buy a new iron). Turn on steam, and, when iron is producing a lot of steam, express all of that steam over the kitchen sink, until the steam runs clear. If you are in the market for a new iron, let me suggest mine: It is a Shark. I got it at Target about 5 years ago for $50. It replaced a $120. Rowenta, and I am very happy with it.
    Sewers should look for an iron that has steam and dry heat, several temp settings, and a nice, sharp point on the nose. Make sure the cord is center-mounted, or when Southpaws come to visit, they will have trouble using it without burning themselves.