The Difference Between Ironing and Pressing
Everyone knows what ironing is, but few who start out in sewing know what pressing is. Many don't even realize that there is a difference, and knowing about it can make a huge difference in how the finished garment turns out. Knowing how to press the correct way is the key to creating a professionally looking garment.
So what's the difference? Ironing is what you do after the garment is washed after it's already been worn. When you iron you use a sliding motion and go back and forth to get all the wrinkles out.
Pressing is what you do before the garment is finished. When pressing you never slide the iron over the fabric because this will distort the material and the finished work won't look right. Instead place the iron where you want to press and hold for a few seconds pressing down lightly, then lift the iron and move it to the next spot and repeat.
If you have pretreated the fabric it is best to press the fabric before cutting as well. All seams should be either pressed open or to one side before being crossed with another seam. This may seem time consuming, but if you skip this step your garment will look home-made. And you don't want that.
The reason for pressing so much is that it blends the thread with the material, also known as setting the seam. It also helps to remove any puckers and gives it a more professional look.
Pressing results are not achieved by the amount of pressure applied, but with the right temperature and steam. Always test on a scrap piece of material to determine the right temperature. Start off with a lower temperature and gradually turn it up until you have the right setting. This way you won't risk scorching the material.
When setting the seam always press on the wrong side to prevent iron shine. In some cases you might have to press from the right side. In those cases always use a pressing cloth, or an old t-shirt in between the iron and material.
There are several tools to help you obtain that professional look when pressing. An ironing board and a good steam iron are the most essential tools.
A seam roll is a firmly packed cushion ideal for pressing straight seams. It's a must have if you sew a lot as it helps to speed up the pressing time.
A tailor's ham is a firmly packed cushion with rounded curves that helps when pressing curved seams, darts, collars, and sleeve caps.
A pressing cloth helps to prevent iron shine when ironing on the right side of fabric. It is also used to apply infusible interfacing.
A sleeve board is basically two mini ironing boards with one on top of each other. This is used to press sleeves and pant legs. Again, another neat tool to help speed things up.
These tools are not a must if you're just learning how to sew, but they sure can help to make your job a lot easier and give you that professional look.