The Pressing Matter of Pressing

December 9, 2019

At some point in their creative process, most quilters try to refine their technique and increase their precision.  Achieving an accurate seam allowance is the first place we tend to go when looking at precision, but pressing seams properly is just as crucial.  Today for the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge we were asked for our top tip, and I am going to talk about a few tools to help make your pressing easier.

  1. A starch alternative gives your fabric a slightly firmer hand that makes it easier to sew without stretching.  This is great for all forms of piecing, but it is especially useful for fabrics that will include piecing or applique on bias edges.  I pour my starch alternative into a mist dispenser to get a more even spray across the fabric I am pressing.
  2. This flat metal hem gauge is great for turning back a specific amount of fabric along the edge of a piece of fabric. As a quilter, I use this most when turning back the edges of quilt labels, but I find it extremely useful in constructing garments and bags.
  3. A wool pressing mat allows you to press seam allowances with very little distortion to the block.  The wool holds it in place just enough to prevent movement as you press that seam allowance flat.  The wool also has just enough give to it to absorb the thickness of the seam and prevent an unsightly bump in the quilt top.
  4. Go with the best quality iron that you can get. I recommend one that can be used dry or with steam.  This is a Hot Steam gravity fed iron. This means that a water reservoir is suspended above the iron, and you get steam by tapping a button with your thumb. This is a fantastic iron choice if you have a place you can permanently set up your ironing space.
  5. If you make clothes or bags, a tailor’s ham helps to emulate all sorts of curves to make your pressing look great!
  6. There are certain instances that you need to press a seam in a long narrow tube, such as a quilt sleeve. At these times, I use a large dowel rod on the inside of the tube to press the seam allowance open.
  7. My newest favorite pressing tool is a wool pressing bar and clapper. It is perfect for pressing any seam allowances open, and the wooden base also functions as a clapper to set a seam allowance.  If you press a seam with steam, you can help it set nicely by holding the clapper over it as it cools, similar to using the cool air function on your hair dryer.

I hope that these tools help you up your pressing game!

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of, and I hope you will have the chance to check out some of the other awesome blogs that are participating this month.

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