Sunday, September 02, 2007

Pressing Issues

I am always pleased when people can't believe that I've made a garment, or when they say something like, "your clothes never look home-made." Well, I tell them the secret is that I spend more time at the ironing board than at the sewing machine! I think it's true - so today I thought I would share my indispensable pressing tools.

First, is my sleeve board. Although it is very useful for pressing finished garments, I rarely use it when I'm constructing a garment. This one I purchased used on ebay and then made the covers. I have a review on how to do it here.
So, although this tool is one that most sewists are likely to own, it is probably the one I use least.

The tool I use most (besides the iron) is my ham. This is a dressmakers ham and I have had it for about 20 years or so. The ones I've seen in stores are a bit smaller. A tailor's ham is actually bigger and a little bit differently shaped, since they are designed for pressing men's suits. I use my ham for pressing anything curved or creating a curve (such as a dart.) It is perfect for pressing the bust area, sleeve caps, armscyes, neclines, or anything that is not perfectly straight or flat. If I were to lose my ham, I would go out and buy another one immediately.

Speaking of which, that is exactly what I had to do with my clapper. I bought my clapper (the smaller of the two shown) around the same time I bought my ham, and somehow I lost it last year. I looked all over the internet and in stores, but could not find another one like the one I had. I finally found one on ebay and bought it. I learned the beauty of this tool from one of Nancy Zeiman's books (Probably The Busy Wonan's Sewing Book - but it could have been one of her others.) Clappers were originally desiged to pound down difficult seams in lofty fabrics such as wool. I don't use mine that way. When I press a seam open, I put the clapper(s) on top of the seam and let it sit there until the seam cools. The hardwood of the clapper absorbs heat and moisture and makes a great seam press. I often use both clappers together to set longer seams. I also press seams on my ham with the clapper after using the iron. It really does make a difference.

Now that I'm making more jackets, I couldn't live without my tailor's board. This board has a variety of curves and straight edges for pressing. They do have pads and covers available, but I use mine naked. (the board, not me)
I use this tool whenever I need to press an enlosed seam or very curved seam. You can get into small spots and tricky places with this tool. Whenever I have an enclosed seam, I press it 3 times. First I press it closed (right sides together). Then I press it open. Then I turn it right sides out and press it again. This gives you much more control over your seams and and a much nicer finished press.

In the top picture you will notice a long piece of wood dowel. This is my seam stick. I made this one long so I could use it with pants, but a shorter version would be much handier. This one is 36" and is great for pants seams. I just used a strip of muslin, wrapped it around the stick and stitched it on. I have another piece of dowel (like you would use in a closet) that I will cut to a 24" length and cover it. The seam stick is perfect for pressing a seam when all you want pressed is the seam itself. This prevents the outline of the seam allowance from showing through on the right side of the garment.

Also in the above picture is my pressing cloth. I have used several different types of pressing cloths, but this is my favorite - and the cheapest! It is just a piece of silk organza. It tends to ravel, so I like to cut the edges with pinking shears. silk organza can withstand high heat and it is very easy to see through, so you can see exactly what you are pressing. I usually just pin a corner of it to my ironing board so it is always right there when I need it.

Last but not least, is my iron. I had an old Proctor Silex iron that was heavy and I loved it- until DH knocked it off the ironing board in the bathroom one day and burned the floor with it. Burned linoleum does not make a good ironing sole plate! I was determined NOT to buy a Rowenta after hearing so many poor reviews. I bought a Shark and loved it for about 3 weeks. Then it started spitting and sputtering on my fabric and not steaming when I wanted it to. I took it back and got another of the same figuring that I had a lemon. Same story - worked great for a few weeks then started the same old thing. Well, to make an old long story short, I ended up with the Rowenta PowerDuo and I love it. I have had it almost a year and no problems.

I have an old cheap ironing board, but I re-padded it and put a new cover on it once in awhile. It works fine. Other "tools" on my board are
1. My Gingher G5 Tailors scissors - I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!
2. Spray bottle with water
3. Pin cushion or magentic holder
4. water soluble marking pen
5. seam guage or 6" ruler.
6. Fray Check
7. rolled up piece of wool to use as a dauber


Tany said...

Great post, Nancy! The one tool I'm missing (from your list) is the tailor's board. I'm still hoping to find one at Ebay.

Nancy Winningham said...

I did get mine on ebay - and it was broken when I got it! I won't go into that long story! Anyway, Nancy Erickson at Fashion sewing group sells them. I think they have them at Nancy's Notions as well.

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

This is a great post...I have almost all of these pressing tools and use them all of the time! And I use my clapper the same way you use yours!

cidell said...

Thanks Nancy! I just pulled out my new clapper to use and this helped me sort it all out!

BTW, Jacket is GORGEOUS!!

Anonymous said...

Your post is a good reminder to all..
Pressing either makes or breaks a garment, that's for sure!
I love my Rowenta's too..they have served me well. I have never, ever, had the problems that others have complained about with them...
By the way, your jacket shows the effort you put into it, it fits you beautifully!