How to Press Fabric: 9 Tools You’ll Need

Proper pressing fabric is critical to achieving beautifully finished sewing projects. You will probably spend almost as much time pressing as sewing! It’s important to understand the distinction between ironing and pressing. When you are ironing, you slide the iron back and forth on the fabric, using heat and sometimes steam to remove creases from laundering. When you press, you are placing your steam iron on a portion of your garment and pressing down with some force, and often applying steam at the same time. Ironing is back and forth; pressing is up and down. During sewing construction, pressing is what is called for.

For detailed, step-by-step guidance on how to work with your iron to get perfect pressing results every time, sign up for Gail Yellen’s class 40 Techniques Every Sewer Should Know. The first lesson includes a detailed discussion on pressing matters!

Pressing tools for sewing

Let’s look at the tools that will help you press your sewing projects properly.

1. Iron

Your iron is one of your most important sewing tools. If you don’t have a good quality steam iron, make that a priority purchase or put it on your gift wishlist. Your sewing life will immediately improve, I guarantee it!

In a perfect world, you would need a dry iron, a steam iron and maybe even an industrial steam iron with a separate water supply. But most of us make do with a single steam iron for all jobs. Check reviews and try to test out various models before purchasing the one that best suits your needs.

2. Ironing board and cover

The main requirement for ironing boards is that they are sturdy and have a perfectly flat surface to help when fusing interfacing. Ironing board covers can be removed for washing. You can also cover a large board, 3/4″ thick, with batting and firm cotton fabric to help with fusing and pre-shrinking large pieces of fabric.

Pressing clothes - Iron and Fabric

3. Press cloths

You will need a variety of press cloths for pressing different types of fabric, including silk organza, cotton muslin or duck, velvet or corduroy, and cotton drill for serious tailoring are all useful. In general, match the weight of the press cloth to the weight of the fabric being pressed, and used a velvet or corduroy press cloth on napped fabrics to protect the pile.

Pressing Ham, Properly Pressing Fabric

4. Ham

Padded hams are great for pressing curved surfaces.

Sleeve Roll - How to Press Fabric

5. Sleeve roll

Sleeve rolls can be slipped inside narrow openings to help press open seams.

Sleeve board for Pressing Fabric

6. Sleeve board

Sleeve boards can come in a variety of sizes, and since they are stable on a flat surface, they can be more useful for pressing open seams than a roly-poly sleeve roll.

Clapper for Pressing Fabric

7. Clapper

Clappers are made of hard wood, and are used to either press or beat a steamed seam allowance dry and flat.

Wooden Point presser - Tool for Properly Pressing Fabric

8. Point presser

Point pressers are made of hard wood, and are used to press flat seam allowances.

9. Seam stick

Seam sticks are another tool for pressing open seams. They can be difficult to find, but searching online will provide a few options.

Do you have any favorite pressing techniques or tools you like to use? Tell us about them!

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