Why We Love Pressing Tools (And You Should Too!)
As a highschooler, I had a penchant for the button down shirt. It was 2001 and I had a rock solid obsession with JCrew. My closet was filled with preppy tailored tops that I just loved wearing. Back then, wrinkle free wovens were less ubiquitous than they are today. So that meant that I had to iron every button down shirt I owned approximately once per week.
My mother, the lovely woman who taught me to sew at age 7, also taught me to press garments like a pro. She knows her way around an ironing board, having sewn most of her life. She taught me the correct temperature and steam setting to use for different kinds of fabric. And she taught me the order in which you iron said button down shirts: first the collar, then the sleeves, and the bodices last.
Today, I still have a thing for button down shirts (and shirt dresses), but my pressing skills have expanded a bit. We carry several patterns with features like gathers, princess seams, and plackets that can be tricky to iron without a few key tools. Here’s why.
1. Because a quality steam iron will do most of the work for you.
For the first few years of my adult sewing hobby I used a crappy $15 iron I bought when I went away to college. It dripped water constantly and didn’t give me any options to control the amount of steam it omitted.
Just a few years ago, I was gifted a Rowenta Steam Iron, the same iron my mom uses at home. My sewing hobby got a lot more fun with that gift, as I realized how much better garments looked when they were properly pressed. I quickly learned how much easier sewing was when pattern pieces are neatly pressed before they're sewn together.
By far my favorite feature of the Rowenta Steam Iron is the ability to control the amount of steam that omits with a trigger pull. This makes it easy to apply more steam to tough creases that don’t want to iron flat. Plus, the water tank is so large that I only have to refill it once per week or so, even when using the iron everyday.
2. Because a tailor’s ham works wonders on curved seams.
If you’ve ever sewn princess seams or darts, you may understand why an iron and ironing board are not enough. You need something that resembles a bust, a shoulder, or a derriére to press the garment over.
A tailor’s ham is the first pressing tool you should buy after your ironing board and iron. I use mine on a daily basis. Most women’s garments have some sort of curved seam and you will be so happy to have a pressing tool that mimics different body parts. Here, I’m using my tailor’s ham to press the princess seams of my Marbella Dress.
3. Because sleeve seams are nearly impossible to iron without a sleeve board.
I have to admit that I never used to press my sleeve seams after a garment was sewn together. I just couldn’t figure out how to press those seams without putting giant creases into each side of the sleeve. And since sleeve seams are hidden underneath the arm, I didn’t think it was a big deal. It is. If you never press your garment seams they’ll always look a bit unfinished. And luckily, there’s a tool made just for sleeve seams! A sleeve board looks like a mini ironing board.
When you slide the sleeve over the board, you can access those sleeve seams without creasing the rest of the sleeve. The Wenona Shirt Dress is a garment that requires a sleeve board to achieve crisp sleeve seams.
4. Because a sleeve roll gets into the narrow spaces.
Yes sleeve boards are great for sleeve seams, but sleeve rolls are even better for super narrow spaces on garments. I use my sleeve roll to press out cuffs on garments without creasing the rest of the sleeve.
Sleeve rolls also work great on children’s clothing since the sleeves and cuffs are much narrower than adult clothing. For peasant style blouses, sleeve rolls work well for spreading gathers while pressing, like I’m showing here with the sleeve gathers of my Josephine Top.
5. Because using a tailor’s clapper is just fun.
If you haven’t used a tailor’s clapper before, then you’re missing out. One function of the tailor’s clapper is to achieve crisp straight seams when you have tiny seam allowances. Rather than burn your fingers, the tailors clapper keeps your seams to one side (or pressed open) for you.
But for heavy weight garments, a tailor’s clapper has a different purpose. After applying a hot steam iron, the tailor’s clapper is pounded (yes, pounded) against the edge of the seam to achieve a taut, crisp seam. I’m demonstrating that technique below on the Pleated Pencil Skirt. It’s a blast.
6. Because a tailor’s board is essential for pressing collars.
For a novice sewist, a tailor’s board might be a bit superfluous. But if you ever decide to sew set-in sleeves or collars, you’ll want one by your side. I own this tailor’s board that has no less than seven ironing surfaces for things like shoulder seams and collars. Here’s a great tutorial to show you just how useful a tailor’s board is.
I find a tailor’s board ideal for pressing into tight spaces, like the peter pan collar on the Sugar Pop Top. You can see how having a surface that is roughly the same shape makes the seam lie flat.
If you’re ready to start expanding your sewing supply cache, I suggest you start with a few of these pressing tools. Your garments will look a bit more polished when you have the right tools to press out stubborn seams. And make sure to press your fabric after each step in the sewing process! It’s much easier to assemble a garment when your pattern pieces are pressed neatly.
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