The Importance of Being Pressed

on Dec 5, 2007 in Quilting, Sewing | 18 comments

I got a great e-mail this morning from Janet:

I was looking at your quilt pieces on your blog and noticed how flat they are. When you iron do you use starch to make the pieces stiffer? Do you use steam? I’m kind of a wimp with the iron because I’m afraid it will distort my piecing so I just press very lightly. Yours are flat as a pancake! Also, when you are pressing do you always press from the back or front first?? Thanks for your advice!!!

Note the use of double question marks and exclamation points. A method I strongly approve of and a sure fire way to get your question answered.

There are several different tents set up in Camp How to Use an Iron When Quilting. I live in the tent with the following rules:

– Pre-wash all fabric without fabric softener. Dry in the dryer to pre-shrink.

– Turn iron to the high cotton setting, into the steam zone.

– Always use steam. This is my personal preference. You’ll find quilters that say no steam until the top is completely finished. I think I use this method because I do a lot of free-form type of piecing and I like it flat and tidy as I go along.

– Press. Pressing is moving the iron up and down on the fabric surface. Moving the iron back and forth, the way we traditionally iron clothes, will distort the patchwork components. Think of pressing as a kinder, gentler way of using an iron. Allow the weight of the iron to do the work for you.

– Setting seams before pressing them open or to one side is a technique that will lend a professional finish to any sewing project. Setting refers to the process of heat penetrating the fibers of the top and bottom seam threads and locking them together into the fabric.

Set a seam by laying the unopened sewn seam on your ironing board, press it in place, open the seam (or push it to one side), press flat, flip the unit over, and press the right side.

– Seam open or off to one side? I do both depending on the project. I generally like to press seams open so that the patchwork lays more flat. It also creates a smoother surface for quilting. I also like a helping hand when I need to match intersecting seams. That’s when I’ll press those seams to the side in opposite directions.

– I use a can of spray sizing to had structure to limp fabrics. I always spray my linen with sizing before cutting it. I also like to use it on vintage feedsack fabrics. It gives body to the loose weave. I don’t use spray starch.

– Final pressing. I like to spritz my finished blocks with water and do a final pressing. Let them cool in place on the ironing board. This will help them retain their shape. I know there are various methods to block an entire quilt top, I’ve never done that.

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The photo is a Rice Heat Therapy Bag using the tutorial by Kristin at Sew, Mama, Sew! I made an 8″ x 16″ patchwork top (quilted stand alone) and flannel for the backing. I added on a 2 1/2″ cuff for the velcro closure. My Out of the Box group challenge was to ‘Use a color you don’t normally use.’ That would be Yellow. We also decided to make it a gift exchange. Can’t wait to see what I get tonight!

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Hmmm, three sections, maybe I need to post more often! I did a little late night Etsy browsing last night for handmade ornaments. I found some very fun, beautiful, creative, unique additions for my collection. I would like a few more. Please leave me a link to your Christmas ornament picks (personal horn tooting is encouraged). When did Etsy get so big?!!!