Pressing Pointers - NMSU ACES

Pressing Pointers - NMSU ACES
Pressing Pointers
Guide C-309
Revised by Jennah McKinley1
Pressing helps to keep clothes looking their best. It
smooths away wrinkles and aids in restoring the fabric’s
original texture. Good pressing is also helpful in preserving the shape and fit of the garment.
What is Good Pressing?
Good pressing is different from ironing. Most pressing
should be done by lowering and lifting the iron rather
than moving it over the cloth as you do when ironing.
This “lower and lift” motion applies pressure where
needed and helps to avoid stretching the fabric. Almost
all pressing is done from the wrong side of the fabric.
When pressing is done on the right side of the fabric,
always use a press cloth or a special iron attachment to
prevent fabric shininess.
The amounts of heat, moisture, and pressure needed
for a good pressing job must be determined with care.
The amounts used will depend on the way the garment
is made as well as the fiber content, weave, texture, and
finish. Garment care labels will help determine procedures to be followed.
Pressing incorrectly can pull fabric out of line and
give it a shiny “ironed” look. It will flatten curves,
stretch the neckline, ripple the skirt hem, and generally
change the shape of the garment.
Pressing as You Sew
Careful pressing is required for successful sewing; it
should not be put off until a garment is finished. A
“stitch-and-press” approach makes for a more professional look when a garment is completed. An iron and
ironing board should be set up near the sewing area,
ready to use when needed. The following are some
pressing pointers to use as you sew.
© Elnur |
Before You Start
Press wrinkles and folds from the cloth before you cut
out a garment. Take care to avoid stretching the fabric. Smooth wrinkled pattern pieces with a moderately
warm iron to ensure accurate cutting lines.
Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Eddy County Extension Office, New Mexico State University.
To find more resources for your business, home, or family, visit the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental
Sciences on the World Wide Web at
Selecting Pressing Temperature
The correct iron temperature depends on the garment
fabric—its fiber content and finish. An easy way to
check the most effective temperature is to press a scrap
of the fabric before using the iron on the garment.
Compare the pressed surface of the scrap with the unpressed fabric. Too much heat, steam, or pressure may
dull or flatten the fabric surface.
The temperature setting guide on most irons indicates
the heat setting suitable for a variety of fabrics. Set the
iron according to the chart for best results, then follow
these general pressing suggestions for popular fabrics:
Acetate—Use a press cloth when using steam. Place
paper under seam allowances and darts to prevent imprints.
Blends—Set the iron according to the fiber requiring
the lowest temperature. Press on wrong side or use press
cloth on right side.
Cotton—Press on either side with steam or after fabric
is dampened with a sponge or by spraying with water. If
fabric shine occurs, use a press cloth.
Linen—Highest setting on iron is used along with
dampened press cloth or steam. Press on wrong side to
prevent shine.
Polyester—Press on wrong side or with press cloth. Use
steam and dampened press cloth to smooth seams and
set creases.
Rayon—Use a moderately warm iron with press cloth;
do not use steam directly on the fabric.
Silk—For sheer fabric, use dry iron only; for heavier
fabric, use light steam and press cloth.
Wool—Iron should not be placed directly on fabric; use
steam and press cloth. A damp press cloth may be used
to help shrink out ease in sleeve caps, curved seams, and
hem edges.
the seamline to be inconspicuous on the right side. Press
both seam allowances to one side when one is fuller
than the other, usually pressing the fuller against the less
full. For example, when you press the waistline seam
of a gathered skirt, always press seam allowances up. If
your fabric is likely to show the impressions of seams on
the outside after it has been pressed, use a piece of paper
between the seam allowance and garment. A pressing
cushion, such as a seam roll, will also help prevent such
To save time, stitch a number of seams, then press
them. Always be sure to press each seam before crossing
it with another line of stitching. If it’s necessary to press
over basting, press lightly. Leave the final pressing until
the basting has been removed. Always avoid pressing
over pins. Pin marks are very difficult to remove from
fabrics, especially synthetics.
To keep fabric grainlines true, always press straight
seams on flat surfaces and curved seams over a pressing cushion. Curved seams may need to be clipped or
trimmed so they can be pressed flat and smooth. To
flatten seams or creases, use a wooden beater to pound
fabric immediately after it is pressed with a steam iron
or a press cloth that is damp.
Finger pressing helps to open seam edges for pressing.
Moisten the stitching line slightly with a damp sponge,
cheesecloth, or small brush. Open the seam with your
fingers and press as needed to flatten the seams. Finger
pressing alone may be enough for some fabrics. If not,
press the seam again using an iron.
Pressing Darts
Always press darts over curved pressing cushions. To aid
in sewing, press the folded edge of a dart before stitching it. After stitching, trim very wide darts to a seam allowance width, then press the dart open over a pressing
cushion. Fold the point of the dart toward the center of
the garment.
Press narrow darts to one side. Lengthwise darts are
pressed towards the center front or the center back of
the garment. Bustline darts are pressed downward.
Pressing Pleats and Tucks
Pressing Seams
Smooth each line of machine stitching by pressing along
it before you press the seam allowance open or in the
direction it should go. Press a seam open if you want
Press pleats or tucks in place before joining pleated sections to the rest of the garment. Place strips of paper
under the edges if the fold of the pleat or tuck leaves an
imprint on the right side of the garment when pressed.
Guide C-309 • Page 2
After stitching, press the line of stitching, then turn the
pleat or tuck in the correct direction. Press folds flat on
the right side using a press cloth.
• Embroidered, embossed, and quilted fabrics should
be pressed from the wrong side over a thick padding, such as a Turkish towel.
Pressing Enclosed Seams
• Glazed chintz and other glossy fabrics are usually
pressed on the right side to retain the shine.
For other edges, such as the enclosed seam of a collar,
cuff, or facing, press the seam allowances open before
pressing them together. Grade and clip seams as needed
and turn the garment to the right side. Press the area
again to make certain that the edge is smooth and flat.
Understitching will help keep seams from rolling to the
right side of the garment.
Pressing Eased Areas
Steaming and pressing helps shrink out ease and shape
fabric. The top of a sleeve cap can be eased by holding
it over the proper pressing cushion while pressing. To
shrink out fullness from the top of the skirt hem, lay
it flat on a table or pressing board with a piece of cardboard under the section to be shrunk and press lightly
with a steam iron.
• Puckered fabrics should not be flattened by pressing.
They may need a light smoothing of the seams and
touchup of the collar, cuffs, pockets, and other details.
• Dark cottons should be pressed on the wrong side to
prevent shine.
• Gabardines and other hard-finished twills should be
pressed lightly using little steam. Try finger pressing
on seams and folded edges.
Original author: Susan Wright, Extension Clothing
and Textiles Specialist. Subsequently revised by Constance
Kratzer, Family Resource Management Specialist.
Special Pressing Problems
• Corduroy, plushes, velveteen, and velvet should be
steamed rather than pressed. If a steam iron is used,
place the fabric right side up on the pressing board.
Steam the fabric well, holding iron about 1/2 inch
above the surface. After steaming, brush gently with
a soft brush while the fabric is still damp. Let dry
without handling.
• For pressing on the wrong side, place the fabric face
down over a Turkish towel, a piece of self fabric, or
a needle board and steam press lightly. Brush and let
dry. Seams of these pile fabrics can be steamed and
then finger pressed.
• Heavy crepes tend to shrink up when damp, and
they are apt to flatten out and loose their crepey
look when pressed. To press, place crepe fabrics right
side down against a Turkish towel and press lightly
using very little moisture or steam. Use this same
method for pressing ribbed fabrics.
Guide C-309 • Page 3
Jennah McKinley is a Family and Consumer
Sciences Agent and I-CAN Supervisor for
NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Services
Office in Eddy County. She earned her B.S. in
family and consumer sciences education and
her M.Ed. in online teaching and learning
from NMSU. She specializes in community
education and 4-H youth development. Her
programs focus on parenting, childcare, nutrition, diabetes education, family resource management, and youth development.
Contents of publications may be freely reproduced for educational purposes. All other rights reserved. For permission to use
publications for other purposes, contact [email protected] or the authors listed on the publication.
New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department
of Agriculture cooperating.
Revised October 2016
Las Cruces, NM
Guide C-309 • Page 4
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