The Pressinatrix Would Like a Word…

Darlings, Sewing Kittens, Minions Dearest Readers,

Your beloved Pressinatrix would like a word with you. Dears, it has come to The Pressinatrix’ attention that there has been some inquiry in the blogosphere lately about pressing and pressing tools. Well never you fret, my pressing poppets. Your Pressinatrix is here for you, with information that while being witty and pithy, is also going to make sure that you always, always have results that will elicit coos and gasps of admiration from the hoi polloi non-sewing masses – and even (especially!) from the sewing cognoscenti – when you wear your perfectly pressed garments in public.

First up, let us review the basics. Of course, you all read religiously The Pressinatrix’ posts about proper pressing technique and tools, no? Of course you do. But just to remind you,

Click Here to See a Compendium of The Pressinatrix’ Posts on Pressing and Pressing Tools

And if you prefer your information in a more videographic medium, Click Here to See a Video About Pressing.

There, isn’t that refreshing? But that’s not all that The Pressinatrix has to share with you. Currently, Ann, The Pressinatrix’ lesser self alter ego, is working on a marvelous Marfy coat. Very Burberry, darlings, but with a longer capelet. She will, thanks to The Pressinatrix, look fabulous in it. Why? Because The Pressinatrix is making sure she properly performs each pressing process with particular precision. Oh, The Pressinatrix does amuse herself!

But seriously…

This coat requires work to make sure that it looks like the many-thousands-of-dollars garment to which it is equal or superior. That means much time and care will be spent shaping it with steam, heat and pressure. Not all of these are applied at the same time, which is a very important point. Remember, kittens, it is possible to over-press a garment, and your Pressinatrix would never want you to do that. So here are a few illustrations to show you how to use your plethora of pressing tools to help you achieve great results. First up, let’s talk about the biggie – your iron. Believe it or not, when working with many fabrics: wool, cotton, linen and more, you don’t have to press down hard, or even apply the iron directly to the fabric. You can let the steam do most of the work. Steam is a wonderful tool for shaping natural fabrics (and even many synthetics). You don’t need to slam your iron down onto the fabric. In this picture, The Pressinatrix is holding the iron a teensy bit above the collar seam. Note the ham, darlings, note the ham. Always press curved seams over a curved surface. After blasting the seam with steam, flat on both sides of the sewn seam:

Please pardon The Pressinatrix' cell phone pictures.

Please pardon The Pressinatrix’ cell phone pictures. Now hold your iron about a quarter inch above your garment and blast that puppy with steam.

then open, the results are simply, well gorgeous.

Oh, isn't that seam just glorious?

Oh, isn’t that seam just glorious?

Next up, The Pressinatrix used a marvelous little tool called a clapper. The Pressinatrix bought hers from a wonderful eBay seller, but you can use a smooth block of hardwood (maple, oak or cherry, for example) with great results. To give a crisp edge to the finished cape pieces, The Pressinatrix simply holds the iron right above the edges and steams  thoroughly. Immediately after taking the iron away, The Pressinatrix takes the clapper to the edge and lightly applies pressure until the fabric has cooled to the touch.

Light pressure will do the trick.

Light pressure will do the trick.

Contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t need to lean on it with all your body weight. Yes, there are some wools (meltons, very heavy boiled wools are two) where you need to put a lot of pressure on the fabric, but it is most definitely not the case in every instance. So The Pressinatrix urges you to test some scraps of fabric. After all, we want your garment to look couture, not, “pressed to death”.

Now, isn't that Gorgeous?

Now, isn’t that Gorgeous?

And finally for this evening, let’s talk a little about darts. Your Pressinatrix sewed the darts in the sleeve cape and pressed them open over a ham:

It is important to position your dart carefully on the ham to match the curvature, thus avoiding the dreaded "dart end bubble"

It is important to position your dart carefully on the ham to match the curvature, thus avoiding the dreaded “dart end bubble”

As with the rest of this garment, I have used lots of steam and a modicum of pressure to get the results I want. And this is the result The Pressinatrix wants:

A no-bubble dart

A no-bubble dart

My dears, The Pressinatrix is tired, and has much to do on her lesser self’s alter ego’s coat before it is done, so I shall bid you bon soir, bon nuit, and

Happy pressing!

19 thoughts on “The Pressinatrix Would Like a Word…”

  1. BeaJay says:

    Madam Pressinatrix, If I may be as bold to ask a question. I have purchased the most exquisite faux suede am and concerned about pressing the nap. How do you press suede? If you have posted about it before could you point me in the right direction? In appreciation – your humble servant.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Beajay, The Pressinatrix recommends using a cool-ish iron, placing your faux-suede face down on a fluffy towel, and pressing the wrong side. The Pressinatrix would also recommend using a silk organza press cloth.

      1. BeaJay says:

        Thank you Madam Pressinatrix – I will take your advice.

  2. QSSSue says:

    Yay for the pressinatrix! I am a big believer in pressing and have a number of tools but love to get more tips and hints on how to use them.

  3. Rosie says:

    A reminder about pressing during garment construction is always in order. The time and effort used to press makes a huge difference in the final outcome. Shelley likes her clothing looking good just like her. I cannot wait to see the finished coat.

  4. Kay K. says:

    I submit to your superior wisdom, Madame Pressinatrix! Seriously, following your instruction on pressing has made more difference in my finished products than any other tips I have picked up in 50+ years of sewing.

    I do have a question about pressing a coat-weight cashmere/wool blend. I recently made a fall coat of a luscious turmeric colored cashmere blend, and I wasn’t sure about how to apply the clapper. I did all my pressing on a towel with a silk organza press cloth. But there were several places where seams crossed on the bulky fabric where additional pressure was needed to really flatten the seam. I used some clapper pressure in a few places, but I was afraid to apply too much pressure for fesr of crushing the nap. Is there a way to use a clapper on such a moldable plush fabric without crushing it or making the seam line too visible on the other side?

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Kay, The Pressinatrix recommends cutting strips of oak-tag paper. Manilla file folders will do the job nicely, too. Place those between the seam allowances and the outer garment fabric. That will prevent press-through. To keep your nap lofty, place a fluffy towel between your ironing board and your garment.

      1. Kay K. says:

        Thank you! I knew to use the towel (probably from a previous post of yours), but hadn’t thought to use something to block press-through.

  5. Carmencitab says:

    Madam Pressinatrix,
    Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for having taken time off your busy schedule to enlighten us with your pressing science.
    You are my Master and I shall obey.

  6. Nancy Connor says:

    A while back you showed/spoke of….a big, square, european type–and big and square–pressing tool…I believe I’ve heard of the word “bok” or block.
    I emailed, a while back, the person who sells custom made hams on Etsy, and she said she might make them someday.
    Is there any way I can order one of these lovelies?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      It’s called a press buck or a press bok, Nancy. I call it a “ham on steroids” and I have never seen one for sale in this country. Mine came from my friend Els in the Netherlands. You can see it, along with other tools in this post, and in this video.

  7. Cynth says:

    Madam Pressinatrix —

    Another question about a difficult fabric. I have the most gorgeous crinkled silk, but have been wary about ruining the texture during construction. If you please, may I have a bit of advice about this fabric?

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Darlings, your Pressinatrix is always happy to dispense pressing advice from The Iron Throne (ah, The Pressinatrix is such a card!)

      No really…
      The Pressinatrix strongly believes in testing a swatch of fabric, especially when it is a novelty fabric like a crinkled silk. In her vast experience with fabrics of all sorts, The Pressinatrix has generally found that most fabrics are robust to light pressing, but it is always best to test first. Also, The Pressinatrix prefers to use a point pressing technique, in which you use just the point of the iron to press seams open, so you reduce the risk of flattening your fabric.

  8. Elle says:

    Does the Pressinatrix have any guidance about ironing board surfaces and/or covers? Those shiny silver reflective things don’t seem right….

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Cotton, my dear, cotton. The Pressinatrix refuses to use those silvery ironing board covers. They reflect too much heat back and can scorch certain fabrics. The Pressinatrix also pads her pressing surface with wool felt underneath the cotton.

      1. Elle says:

        Just what I needed to know! Thank you.

  9. Mary Beth says:

    Great post, loved the writing style as well as the photos and advice.

  10. ClaireOKC says:

    The SewingArtistrator is in sooooooo simpatico with the Pressinatrix. Does she do guest blogs?

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      The Pressinatrix will occasionally deign agree to impart her wisdom to the madding hordes do guest blog posts for her dear sewing friends. She would be delighted to work with the SewingArtistrator, whose work she very much admires. Perhaps in 2014?

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