Ironing vs Pressing – do YOU know the difference?

Yesterday on QUILTsocial we talked about different ironing surfaces and I showed you how to make your own pressing board. Today we’ll continue our theme for the week and talk about the difference between ironing and pressing.

Ironing and pressing are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually two separate techniques. Ironing is the back and forth sliding motion most of us are familiar with and do regularly at home when getting wrinkles out of clothes. Pressing is the placing of the iron on the fabric, holding it there, and then removing it. Pressing is the technique that should be used when quilting, as it prevents the stretching and distorting of quilt blocks.

Making pressing and ironing easier

Sometimes you need a little help to get creases and wrinkles out of fabric. When we’re rotary cutting, it’s best to have wrinkle-free fabric, so your cuts are the most accurate. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to get those wrinkles and creases out with just your iron and some steam, so a product like Mary Ellen’s Best Press becomes a quilter’s best friend! Best Press makes ironing and pressing easier, and makes fabrics look like new again. Plus, there’s no flaking, clogging, or white residue left on dark fabrics! A special stain shield protects fabrics, and the product helps resist and relax stubborn wrinkles. And Best Press comes in a variety of scents from lavender to citrus grove as well as scent-free!

Mary Ellen’s Best Press and Spray and Misting bottle

The Best Press Spray and Misting bottle is a high-quality step up from the average spray bottle! This spray bottle features a unique bladder design that allows for easier refilling and gives an extra-long, consistent, non-drip spray of extra fine mist. You get better coverage on your fabric and use less of the liquid. Non-pressurized and propellant-free, this refillable spray bottle is ideal for applying Best Press liquid starch, other ironing aids, or for almost any application around the home – from hair products, pet or car care, and gardening.

Here’s more of the fabric that I used to cover my DIY pressing board yesterday. In a couple of days I’ll use it to make an ironing board caddy, but today I’ll use it to demonstrate how well the Mary Ellen’s Best Press works. As you can see, there are a couple of large creases across the middle of the fabric.

Creases on the fabric

Prior to pressing, I used the Spray and Mist bottle to apply a small amount of Best Press along the creases in the fabric.

Spray Best Press along the crease in the fabric.

Now I’ll use my Oliso Pro TG1600 Smart Iron to press the fabric until it is dry.

Press until the fabric is dry

Once the fabric is dry, the creases are gone! I’ll set this fabric aside for now, and I’ll use it for my ironing board caddy project later.

Perfectly pressed fabric!

The Benefits of Pressing

Pressing your projects the correct way makes a world of difference in your quilting!

  • Your finished item will look more professional in the end because you used pressing in the process.
  • Pressing helps you to match up your seams better which will help you to have nicer, more accurate blocks.
  • Pressing blends the stitches into the fabric, flattening and smoothing any puckers that may have occurred during sewing.

Tips for Pressing During Quilting

  • Lift and press your iron into the fabric with a gentle motion, applying pressure only for particularly stubborn seams.
  • Never press over pins. You could create dents in your fabric, possibly scratch your iron, or melt the pinhead onto the iron or the fabric.
  • Keep your iron and ironing board handy so you won’t be tempted to skip the pressing step as you sew. Press every seam to make them look as professional as possible.
  • Set your freshly sewn seam flat before you press the seam allowances to one side or open. This will allow your stitches to relax and really allows the finished seam to be pressed flat.

Prepping a background for fusible applique

Tomorrow we’ll work on a little spring-themed fusible applique project, so today we’ll prepare the simple background. For this project we need just a few fabrics:

  • Black & white background fabric – 7″ x 13″
  • Blue border – two pieces 1½” x 13″ each, and two-pieces 1½” x 9″ each
  • Scraps of fabric for applique pieces

Step 1

Sew the two longer pieces of blue fabric to the two longer sides of the black and white background. Set the seams and then press the seams towards the blue borders. I’m using my handy Oliso M2Pro Mini Project Iron for this.

Setting your seam

Step 2

Sew the remaining two blue borders to shorter sides of the black and white background fabric, and press seams towards the borders.

Although pressing is defined as the process of lifting and pressing the iron repeatedly onto the fabric, I often use the side of my iron to press my seams using the motion shown in the picture below. I find that this process helps to make a crisply pressed seam but prevents the fabric from being stretched or distorted. Like shown, I start on the fabric closest to me and then move the iron at a 90° angle to the seam using the side of the iron instead of the tip.

Pressing the seam with the side of the iron

As you can see, pressing the right way makes your sewn seam more accurate and makes it look more professional. Using accessories like Mary Ellen’s Best Press and the Spray and Misting bottle makes pressing and ironing with my Oliso ProTM TG1600 Smart Iron so much easier! Now that my background has the small blue border on it, tomorrow I’ll show you another product that makes fusible applique so easy!

UNIQUE home Iron Sole-Plate Cleaner, UNIQUE sewing Self-Gripping Fastener Strip, Oliso M2Pro Mini Project Iron, Clover Hot Hemmer, Clover Hold It Precision Stiletto, UNIQUE Wool Pressing Mat, Misting Spray Bottle, Gütermann Thread

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: 2 excellent alternatives to ironing boards

Go to part 3: 9 steps to quick and easy fusible applique, the right way

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