The Pressinatrix Has A Sad…

Oh kittens. Dear, dear kittens. I, your beloved Pressinatrix (go with me on this one) am draped over my fainting couch, fanning myself, in dire need of chocolate to keep me from falling into a deep and enduring malaise.

And why, you may ask? Because, my darling, precious readers, this week I beheld the website of a purported expert, in which the garments on display were so badly pressed, I thought at first it might be a joke or a mistake. Alas, it was not a joke. On further exploration, I saw that most items on that site barely, if ever, saw the underside of an iron. Here. For your benefit, I will hoist myself up to a sitting position, look you right in the eye and remind you that…

Pressing IS sewing.

I must recline again. That took all my strength. My dears, lest you disbelieve me, let me point you toward a couple of items to remind you why pressing is so important:

And Now, A Word From the Pressinatrix – the introduction to my lovely and perfectly pressed self, and why you need to get thee to an ironing board.

If you prefer a video tutorial, watch “Press That Bad Mamma Jamma” to see your Pressinatrix in action:

My loves, I can’t begin to tell you how sad it makes me to see otherwise wonderful garments ruined, ruined by lack of pressing during the construction process. And I’m sorry poppets, but running an iron over the finished piece doesn’t cut it. No, you must press as you go. Or you risk sending the poor Pressinatrix into paroxysms of puckery-seam-induced grief. Now, you don’t really want that, do you?

Happy pressing (it is sewing, after all)

55 thoughts on “The Pressinatrix Has A Sad…”

  1. Thanks Ann for the very helpful tutorial on pressing.

  2. MC says:

    I really thought I was alone in my irritation over unpressed clothes. It bugs me even in RTW. I wear out many irons, and you have reminded that is OK. Thank you. PS: I will send my middle school age sewing club to your website for the tutorial as they fight me on pressing as you sew all the time.

  3. devra says:

    you have clearly been reading too much TLo. 🙂
    i’m falling over my desk from laughing too hard!

  4. Karin says:

    Thanks for giving me a giggle Ann!
    Pressing is no laughing matter, though. You are right, pressing along the way makes all the difference.

  5. Kathleen says:

    How do you get the message across to this someone? Do we do an ironing intervention? Because I saw those too and it made my inner home ec teacher very unhappy

  6. Bess says:

    On the other hand, I’ve been sewing up a rayon jersey sweater and I absolutely cannot manage to press without the pressed bit looking lighter in color and slightly shiny. I’ve tried lowering the heat on the iron all the way down to where it’s barely warm (and no longer doing the job of pressing), I’ve tried using press cloths, I’ve tried using multiple kinds of press cloths, I’ve tried using multiple press cloths at once, I’ve tried praying to the pressing gods, everything. At this point, my choices seem to be either don’t press, or iron the whole damn thing and live with a sweater that is a different color and slightly shiny. It’s annoying.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Try this, Bess. Use just the tip of your iron against the stitching and the seam allowances. And use steam. Lots and lots of steam. Another thing to try is using strips of brown paper between your seam allowances and the outer garment, as I show in the video.


      1. Bess says:

        I’ve tried using just the tip of the iron on the wrong side (and I tried the paper bag trick), and I can still see the shine on the right side — although that might just be my own critical sewer’s eye. I should probably ask my husband if he notices a difference.

        I did turn off steam as one of the first things I tried, and I haven’t turned it back on for this project — maybe lots of steam and the wooden clapper might work?

        1. …umm forgive me for jumping in here. That happens to me too sometimes, but disappears after the first time I wash the garment.
          I follow all of Ann’s presSing techniques, and for soft knits like rayons and sweater-knits, etc, I steam, then “press” with my fingertips…just my 2 cents.

        2. sewsy says:

          Bess, what you might try is lots of steam over the sa’s, but don’t set the iron down on the seam allowance, just hit the steam button, let the steam penetrate the seam allowance underneath, and then apply the clapper. Still use the brown paper bag strips underneath the seam allowances so as not to cause show through.

          Ann, as usual, a very informative blogpost. Pressing as one sews can’t be stated enough. If one doesn’t press the seam allowance as they are being sewn, it’s really not worth sewing them in the first place.

          Sewing a seam and pressing a seam are ONE operation, one operation. Not two.

  7. RK says:

    I have to agree with you and all comments above. I’ve always pressed as I sew but I don’t remember where I first learned it. Maybe older patterns from the 50s/60s when the instructions were better? I hope you’ve had your chocolate and arisen from your fainting couch 😉 Have a great day!

  8. Rosie says:

    Oy I have seen this problem and it drives me bonkers. I thought about sending the person a real iron. Then again I thought, “Hmm maybe this person loves the disheveled / unkempt / Becky Home Ecky look.”

  9. Cindy says:

    Hmm. I thought I knew which site you were referring to, but now I’m not so sure. I was sorely tempted to email the owner and ask if this was a design choice, and if so, why? There was a lot of effort put into the garments’ presentation, so neglecting to press seemed so inconsistent.

  10. MushyWear says:

    I love the way you are getting the message out! I’m still trying to discipline myself to press “every” seam from “every” angle. It’s a lot of work, but you are right; it makes such a positive difference!

  11. mjb says:

    Pressing is what gets in the way of me not sewing more (I can’t leave the iron on while the kids are awake – not safe with crawlers in the house) so I wish I could ignore it, but I just can’t! I end up with piles of WIP’s that need pressing before their next step

    1. Vanessa says:

      A cousin of my Mum’s used a playpen. Not to put the baby in, but for her and the iron & ironing board.

    2. Anna Lord says:

      I have it set up so the iron is plugged in behind a desk, and the iron itself can be rested on a high shelf, behind the ironing board. Nobody’s figured out his to get to it yet!

  12. Karla Kizer says:

    I have had a silicone “slipper” on my iron for so long that I had honestly forgotten about the days when the iron left marks on seams, etc. The one I have isn’t made any more (rats!) but Bo Nash makes one that purports to work the same way. I haven’t scorched anything, or left seam impressions on anything for years, thanks to my “iron condom.”

  13. Jodie says:

    Dear Pressinatrix – I’m a HS Fashion Studies teacher and do actually teach the “press as you go”. I showed your videos just now to my students – and while we had a giggle over them and your post today, we all agreed that they are great.
    So thanks from the Fashion Studies dept (that’s me!) at amiskwaciy Academy in Edmonton, AB, CANADA

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      How wonderful, Jodie! Thanks for letting me know that and tell your students that the Pressinatrix sends her warmest regards!

      Yeah, my bad! 🙂

  14. theresa riess says:

    Anne, you are so right and you had me in stitches. I am currently coping with a dress that was underpressed. I was in a hurry and did not press at every step. It is wearable, but it could have been better. So thank you for the reminder.

    Theresa in Tucson

  15. Meredith Piatt says:

    We appreciate the effort in returning to the vertical. Great video, BTW. 🙂

  16. Shams says:

    Hallelujah!!! EVERY SEAM. Well said.

  17. Teri says:

    I see this on many sewing blogs and it bugs me to no end. I always want to comment by saying their garment might be attractive if they had pressed it properly during the stitching process.

  18. Meredith says:

    When I learned to sew when I was about 10, I hated pressing. Now I love it! It makes every step seem like an accomplishment. When I only have 10 or 15 minutes to sew and I take the time to press my seam, even one seam is something that looks finished.

    I have a question about clappers. Why or how do they work? What is it about the tool that makes the pressing hold better than if you hadn’t used it?

  19. I love it! Swoon and faint! How about pattern instructions from The Big Four – they tell you nada about HOW TO PRESS -love ya – saving my pennies for a fabric
    splurge. I just made a hoodie using the monaco stripe you had several years ago as a contrast in the hood lining!

  20. Maureen says:

    I worked for a Paris educated Couturier. She was the designer, the dressmakers did the sewing. One of her biggest screaming, hissy fit rants would be overpressing! Apparently, in couture, edges should have soft turns, not crisp. Hemlines, shoulder seams, and lapels should not be pressed. Nothing should be pressed so that it shows through. Previously all I ever heard was press, press, press, so it was news to me.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Yes Maureen, it is possible to overpress. But judicious pressing is NOT the same as leaving seams unpressed. Pressing is necessary, and I will repeat – it IS sewing.

      In garment factories, pressers earn more than seamstresses, because they spend more time with the garment.

  21. Judy ross says:

    My first thought on reading your post was guilt – I have just blogged a dress I made for my four year old, photographed with an unpressed hem because I hadn’t done that before she tried it on and started twirling. (She’s four – you grab your photos while she’s in the mood!) The rest of it saw the iron regularly during construction, but fear of the Pressinatrix had me quaking in fear over an unpressed hem exposed for the world to see!

    I also suspect that I know to which site you are referring. Those unpressed garments looked pretty awful to me.

  22. You’re in paroxysms?! I love it. Yes, O Pressinatrix; I promise to worshipfully press as I sew. 😉

  23. Lena Merrin says:

    Haha, loved this post! Yes, pressing is the key

    1. Anne Riddell says:

      Have enjoyed the blog(s) SO much – and laughed OUT LOUD!

      Thanks so much, Lena – even though, as you know< I don't know how to sew – let alone press seams! But WHAT an education!

  24. fourkid says:

    While I have no clue who you mean – but I know of one blog I visit where the iron does not exist – Oh, it does send one into a swoon. I spend more time at my iron than I do at the sewing machine.

  25. Liz Doerry says:

    Most excellent Ann. Some of this I knew but not why and some some of it I didn’t! I DO press as I sew and it does make a big difference. Pressinatrix….hahahahahaha!

  26. …and let the sewing church say…AMEN!

  27. Kbenco says:

    I hope someone delivered the chocolate!

  28. suzanne says:

    First thing I learned from my great-grandmother, along with hand stitches, was pressing. I have often wondered how those who review patterns can “sew” so quickly. I always suspect they are skipping the pressing (or not doing it properly).

    Now, I’ve got to get back to pressing that 5 yards of calico for school costumes (must pre-treat you know!)

  29. So with you on this one Ann. I was lucky enough to access a sewing class to learn to make a jacket and it was all about pressing… and what a difference it makes! I cannot comment when I see lovely garments on the web ruined by a lack of pressing. I still hate ironing but I do love pressing for the finish it gives my garments.

  30. umjudis says:

    I could totally relate to your opening comments of how could a professional NOT do the right thing? Reminded me of HGTV when they had the shows that helped people fluff their homes for resale yet hung drapes and made beds with the curtains and bedding right out of the bag and the fold marks plainly visible. Whaaaaa?????

  31. Steph A says:

    I love how you wrote this! It made me giggle too. But seriously, you’re right to feel this. It baffles me why something would not be pressed, everything just looks more polished.

  32. Andrea says:

    My goodness, this brings to mind my mother’s expression… “well pressed is half sewn”
    And it is one of those things that has stuck with me. Thank you for continuing to engage in proper technique.

  33. Maria says:

    Great post Ann! I love my irons (note the plural form) and every time I get ready to sew, the iron is always one of the things I bring out from my closet along with the sewing machine and notions. I do not know which blog you were referring to but I understand your reaction. It should be second nature, sewing and pressing.

  34. Shannon says:

    One of my biggest pet peeves in the office is when my co-workers come in to the office with un-pressed / un-ironed shirts, and sadly this happens a lot in the “under-forty” category. (I am 31)
    One girl had a lovely collared, button-down shirt with beautiful turned pleats down the front placket. It was new and I commented on how lovely it was, but it must be difficult to iron. The response was “Oh, its new, I never iron, I hate doing it and I think the shirts look fine un-ironed”. The next week she came in with the same shirt, now once laundered and un-ironed. All the crispness, professionality and panache from that beautifully-made shirt was gone. It looked more like it had endured a night of partying or she had just rolled out of bed. All because she could not be bothered to pick up the iron.

    1. Lyric says:

      OMG, does this not make one want to learn to properly iron. I, for one, have never been taught to iron (over 50 crowd).

      High hopes of learning via this site.

  35. Mary says:

    Laughing at the “iron condom” 😀

  36. Amanda says:

    Thanks so much for this. I was using my ham all wrong!

  37. Lyric says:

    OMG, I am so funny laughing. Yet, ahem, this is serious is it not, Pressinatrix? ~ Still giggling.

    Seriously, I stumbled upon this site thanks to “Wearing History” for providing a link. As one who needs to really take her sewing to the next level, the level where it should have been decades ago, I am so glad to see this site, want to bookmark, Pin and whatever to keep up with it.

    Thank you for doing what you do.

  38. Mary K says:

    One of the other things to remember about pressing is to allow the garment (or pattern pieces) to cool so you don’t cause more wrinkles…

  39. Giuditta says:

    After reading this and your brave post on independent patterns, I am so impressed by your wit and literacy. I knew you as the purveyor of great fabrics who lives back north of my Cape Cod in back-where-I-came-from-land, but had no idea you were such a good columnist, too . And, as a professional copywriter, I feel about the hosts of bippy-bloggers the way you feel about self-taught “designers!” My one question to myself is, “Why the hell aren’t you getting the feed to this blog?” I *will* add you to my feed.

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