How-to Tips

Pressing Pointers

You can achieve an expensive, couture look to all your garments by using the right pressing equipment. Here’s what’s what of the pressing tools.

Choosing an iron

Even if you can’t afford a new sewing machine, treat yourself to a new iron. A new iron can work wonders for dressmaking and transform your garments into something that doesn’t look homemade!

It doesn’t matter which make of iron you choose – many have excellent ‘selling points’ and the final choice will depend on personal preferences.

However, consider the following two points:

  • Buy the heaviest iron that you can handle easily – even if you keep this one for dressmaking only.
  • Buy an iron that has a good steam facility.

    To achieve good pressing results you need both weight and steam, hence buying a heavy iron. Quite often irons in this category are labelled as ‘professional’. Steam generator irons are also worth considering, but again check the weight of the iron as many of these include a lightweight iron and rely on the power of steam to get creases out. This is fine for domestic ironing but no good for dressmaking or tailoring.

    Other Equipment

    Having chosen the iron, you can achieve better results with the following handy items.

    Pressing Cloths
    An essential piece of equipment for both pressing difficult fabrics and for fusing. Use a piece of butter muslin or a piece of silk organza. You may think that a silk pressing cloth sounds a little extravagant but it works wonders on fabrics like garberdine.

    Make it yourself – half a metre of fabric will make two reasonable sized cloths, just overlock around the edges to neaten.

    HANDY HINT: Remember to wash the cloth regularly in a good hot wash to remove any residue that builds up on it, especially after fusing.

    Seam Roll
    No self respecting dressmaker should be without a seam roll!

    This looks like a padded sausage and is used to press seams open. If you have a fabric that the pressed seam will show through, press it over the seam roll and because of its shape, the edges of the seam will not imprint through. A seam roll is also invaluable for pressing the inside of trouser legs and sleeves.

    Make it yourself – you can make one yourself by firmly packing a sausage shape with wadding. However, they are available from good haberdashery shops for under £10.

    Sleeve Board
    This often comes as part of the ironing board and as its name is good for pressing sleeves and also small areas like shoulders seams. Also ideal for using when making small craft items or dolls clothes. (as seen on the ironing board photo).

    Tailor’s Ham

    This is an expensive item of equipment to buy but vital if you want to achieve a professional finish. The ham is a padded shaped form with concave and convex curves (sometimes they can be egg shaped) and is used to press princess seams open, shape darts and sleeve heads. It takes a bit of practise to use properly, but it is well worth the effort.

    Pressing Mitten
    A mitten shaped padded form (with no thumb) that your hand slips into. With the mitten you can just slip your hand under the place to be steamed, (without getting burnt) and sseful for getting to small areas when you’ve finished making the garment and you don’t want the iron to touch the rest of the fabric.

    Tailor’s Board
    Another expensive piece of equipment as you need to buy the board and the padded cover separately. However, it’s essential for pressing collar points, shaped seams, neck edges and all those difficult areas especially found on a jacket.

    It’s a strange looking piece of equipment but has a curve or point to suit everything.




    Ironing Boards and Mats

    Your choice of ironing board depends very much upon your height and whether or not you are lucky enough to have the board up permanently. Do make sure though that your ironing board is not too wide as this can distort a skirt when placed over the board.

    Use a pressing mat when you need to support the weight of a garment (like a jacket) where you may require the complete front section to be pressed.

    Make it yourself- Make pressing mats by covering marine plywood with wadding and calico. When the calico gets dirty you can either cover it again to make your mat pad softer or remove and replace it.

    This article was written by Alison Smith of Fabulous Fabric, T: 01530 416300,

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