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How to Press


Pressing refers to using an iron with an up and down motion. Ironing is sliding the iron across the fabric. Pressing is lowering the iron, pressing, then lifting it up and placing it down in a new position. There’s no dragging or sliding the iron in pressing.

Pressing a seam

Pressing a seam

Heat setting dial on iron

Heat setting dial on iron


Press as you sew! Each seam, dart (page link) and pleat (page link) will be pressed as you sew, before moving on to the next stage of construction. You’ll also press the final garment when it’s completed before hanging it in your closet. My least favorite type of pressing (although necessary) is pressing after laundering. Apply the same techniques to press your garments after each wash so they look their best. Press your fabric before cutting, and press to apply fusible interfacing (page link).


irst, choose the right heat setting for your fabric. Generally synthetic fibers are pressed with low heat; cottons and linens on high heat; and wool in between. Modern irons have a heat dial labeled with fabric types, which makes it easy to choose the right setting for your sewing project. If your fabric is a blend, use the setting for the lowest fabric on the dial. For example, if your fabric is a cotton-polyester blend, use the polyester setting as it requires a lower heat setting than the cotton. Usually the steam and the temperature are both controlled by one dial, but there may be a separate switch for turning the steam on or off. Take a look at your iron before getting started, and test the iron on a scrap of your fabric before pressing your first seam.

If you are going to press curved seams or darts, you’ll want a tailor’s ham (page link). A seam roll also comes in handy for pressing seams (page link). One more tool that will improve your pressing is a press cloth (page link). Gather these supplies, then make sure your ironing board is clean and your iron is working.


Pressing Flat Seams


After sewing, press seams and darts flat first, then press them open. Press all seam allowances open unless otherwise instructed. Press on the inside of your garment first, then on the outside. Use a press cloth (page link) when pressing on the right side of your garment, and press with the grain (page link).

Pressing Over a Tailor's Ham


Darts are curved, so it’s best to press them over a curved surface. Using a tailor’s ham (page link), open up the darted area and find a place on the ham that fits the curve. Press on the wrong side of the garment.

Pressing Over a Seam Roll


It’s challenging to press sleeve seams without flattening the rest of the sleeve. For narrow parts of a garment, like sleeves or pant legs, use a seam roll (page link) to press just the seam allowances. Place the seam roll underneath the seam, tucking it inside the sleeve tube or pant leg. Press on the wrong side of the garment. This is also useful for pressing seams that might show through to the right side of the garment. The sleeve roll is curved just enough so you’re pressing the seam allowances but not the garment itself.

Tips + Notes

  • Set up your iron and ironing board so they are easy to access while sewing. You might even want to lower the board to sitting height, so it’s easy to switch between sewing and pressing.
  • Press only once you’re sure the seams and darts are in the right place. It’s hard to press out the creases if you end up letting out the seams or moving the darts.
  • If you have to pack up your project while it’s in progress, fold the pieces as little as possible to avoid having to press them again when you start sewing.
  • Don’t press over pins. You’ll damage the iron, leave impressions on your garment and possibly melt the pins!
  • Fabrics with nap (page link) need to be pressed very carefully so you don’t flatten the surface. Some should not be pressed at all, for example, faux fur fabrics. Press velvet on a special pressing surface for velvet called a needle board.

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine