Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Press to Impress: Not a Secret to Creating Professional-Looking Garments

I am a big fan of pressing. Some say that you probably spend more time at the ironing board than at the sewing machine when creating a garment. I haven't officially figure out where I spend most of my time, but that sounds about right.

On all the Itch to Stitch pattern instructions, I tell people to press. I don't know how many people actually follow through. To me, pressing is really worth the time. If I am spending a day or two to create a garment, I want it to be something I am proud of and love to wear. Pressing does make the garment looks extra sharp; it is the difference between home-made and custom-made. My motto, especially when it comes to sewing, is "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten."

Pressing can also help you ease your fabric. Do you know that in couture houses, they cut some princess seams on the straight grain and use only steam to shape the fabric? It's some powerful stuff. Steam pressing can also help you restore your stretched out fabrics and seams too.

But I am not spending the entire post on the importance of pressing - if you have two or three garments under your belt, you probably have heard the advice. Rather, I'd like to go over the pressing tools that I so love and use all the time. Other than my steam iron and pressing surface, these are my indispensable pressing tools.

I use these pressing tools all the time!

Pressing Cloth

The pressing cloth is used to protect your garment when you press - it goes between your garment and the iron. Heat, steam and dirt may mar your fabric (spitting iron, anyone?), especially if your fabric is delicate.

Silk organza is perfect as pressing cloth.

You can buy a pressing cloth at any big-box sewing stores, but I made my own. Silk organza is the ideal material for this purpose. It can withstand high heat and is translucent, so you can see what you are doing. My pressing cloth is 18" x 42" (45 x 107 cm) - I just cut a section of the silk organza on its cross grain. I then serge the edges. That's all. 

Pressing Ham

The pressing ham is probably my second most-used pressing tool. I have not tried dissecting one, but it feels hollow inside. It is padded with soft material and finally wrapped in wool on one side, and cotton on the other. 

The shape of the pressing ham is ideal for pressing curves; neckline, cuff, hip, sleeve head and collar can all benefit from being pressed on a pressing ham. It makes perfect sense that when you want your garment to shape over your 3-dimensional body, you don't want to press the area flat on your ironing board. 

Sleeve Board

A sleeve board is for pressing your...are you ready?...  your sleeves! Because it is narrow, you can slide it inside your sleeve. You can easily isolate the seam you want to press without making any unwanted impression on the other side of the sleeve.

For those of you who make children's clothing, the sleeve board could be used to press the pants' seams as well.

Seam Roll

Sometimes I use the seam roll instead of my pressing ham or sleeve board. It's a good alternative when I want to press a longer section of a seam without making an impression from the seam allowances. Just like the pressing ham, it feels hollow inside, and it's wrapped in layers of soft materials and fabric outside. I use it on a straight side seam, pants' inseam and pants' outseam. 

But this tool is probably my least used pressing tool; if you are on a budget and don't want to acquire all pressing tools at once, I would get this one the last.

Tailor's Clapper

"Oh, tailor's clapper, how do I love thee?" The clapper helps me create the most marvel-worthy seams. 

You would feel the same once you use the clapper on your thick fabrics and thick seams. This is the way you use it - you steam press your seam as usual, and then put the clapper on the seam for several seconds with slight pressure. You will find that your seam will be as flat as a board. If I want to prevent the seam allowances from making impressions on the fabric, I will use the clapper in conjunction with my pressing ham or seam roll.

The clapper is a solid piece of wood. To be honest, I don't know why a mere piece of wood is able to do the things it does. I think it has something to do with the fact that it absorbs the moisture from the fabric, and somehow it helps to create nice creases. Scientists, are you out there? Let me know if you know the mechanic behind the clapper.

I know a lot of people make their own clappers. You need to make sure you sand the surface really well, so it doesn't snag your fabric. And don't finish the wood! If you are particularly handy (or have access to a particularly handy person - really, what is a husband for?), you can make the grooves on the sides for easy handling, just like the commercially available ones.

Tailor's Board

Last but not least, the tailor's board is a handy tool. It has so many angles and curves to accommodate your garment's nooks and crannies. I use it quite a lot on my collars and other hard-to-reach seams.

The tailor's board is also made of solid wood. You may see that some people have removable padding for the board, but they are hard to come by. I found that the board is good enough as is without the padding.

One thing that I use sometimes (that I don't have a photo of) is my broom handle. That is a great tool from pressing long seam on pants without making impression of the seam allowance. We are creative people, so be creative with your pressing tool too!


Kennis is the owner and designer of Itch to Stitch Designs

1 comment:

  1. Great tools! I need a clapper and it's been on my wishlist for awhile so I think I should just up and buy one already :)


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