Five Good Reasons To Press Your Fabric

Ironing water

Do you run an iron over your fabric before cutting out and, if so – why? I was thinking about exactly this question as I pressed some summer weight wool suiting to make yet another pair of culottes.

Here are my reasons to press fabric before cutting out – and they may not all be the obvious ones.

1. Getting In The Right Frame Of Mind

If you start your project in an organised, efficient way there’s a good chance that you’ll carry this attitude through the whole piece of work – or at least through the cutting out! Pressing your fabric takes a few moments of time, time during which your mind can settle into the work to be done. This activity can also be pleasingly mindful, emptying the brain with repetitive motions, and you know I’m a fan of that.

sew yourself calm

2. Assessing Your Fabric’s Behaviour

A good session at the ironing board gives you a chance to see for the first time how your pre-washed (you pre-washed, right?) fabric is going to behave during the sewing project. Is it slipping about? Resisting heat? Already fraying at raw edges? Or does it press like a dream?

If I need to pin selvedges together to ensure an accurate press, then I know I’ll also need to take care during the cutting out. You get a heads up on the challenges that lay in store. I’ve even been known to swap out one fabric for another if I don’t like the way it’s behaving with the iron, and that can save a lot of wasted time and effort.

silk organza selvedge pinned

3. Picking Up On Flaws

As you smooth a hot iron over metres of fabric, this is your opportunity to keep an eagle eye out for any flaws in the fabric. Mark them with chalk or a pin and avoid them when cutting out. No tears here!

polka dot lining with chalk

4. Right Side, Wrong Side

When pressing a solid colour fabric, I immediately check which is my right side and wrong side by looking at the selvedge. Hopefully, this should help you distinguish – but not always. Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to decide which is the right side and which is the wrong side, but barely indistinguishable is not the same as distinguishable, and this can often become apparent once a project is sewn up. So, I use the pressing exercise to establish which I want to be the wrong side, and mark it confidently with chalk. Saves a lot of frustration further down the line.

5. It’s Easy!

This is the easiest piece of pressing you’ll do during the whole project. Metres of smooth fabric to ease an iron over. No hams needed, no seams to trim, no fiddly tubes to turn inside out, no collars to press. Sweet! Start a project with an easy task, and you’ll already feel like a winner. I’m not above kidding my brain. But this does allow you to set up your pressing station, so that when the trickier tasks emerge your equipment is out, ready and waiting.

shirt on ironing board

Any tips of your own to add?

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14 Responses to Five Good Reasons To Press Your Fabric

  1. Michele says:

    Reason nr 6: big wrinkles can cause the pattern pieces to be warped when cutting them. Especially after pre washing and drying the fabric.

  2. Cherry says:

    Good tips. I loathe ironing so I usually listen to an audio book or radio. My tip is to use de-ionised water in steam irons to prevent limescale building up and clogging up your iron, or worse spattering splodges of it on your lovely fabric. Available in Halfords in UK (and other shops!).

  3. Gillian Chappell says:

    Reason nr 7: It warns the family that I am about to go into ‘protected’ time !

  4. Irene Stratton says:

    To find out how hot you can have the iron – best to test before you cut it out and then melt the front button band when pressing it….. been there, done that…..

  5. anne says:

    A good steam before you cut out will reduce the risk of shrinkage later and the possibility of the finished garment not fitting.

    I prefer to avoid pre-washing as I like sewing crisp fabric, but it is sometimes a good plan to pre-wash. Batik cottons in particular often have dressing that causes contact dermatitis until first laundering.

  6. Great post. It’s very useful to get to know your fabric in this way. When I had a much bigger studio for my made to measure business I always ‘volunteered’ to press the fabric before it was cut. As you say a few moments of calm and a great way to get warm on a winter morning!

  7. Cindy says:

    I’m intrigued by your summer wool suiting. What is it and where did you get it?

    • @ Cindy: summer weight wool is very very finely woven, you could easily take it for a heavy cotton or viscose. It’s easily available if you search under the right terms. I got my latest batch from The Italian Textile company on eBay [very high quality, designer fabrics, watch out for the half metre pricing] It’s readily available at The Fancy Silk Store in Brum too

  8. Louise says:

    My tip is more about what you do before you prewash the fabric. If you sew the cut ends together, making a tube, the material will not bunch up so badly in the washer and the dryer. I’ve found this very valuable, as I mostly sew quilts, so I’m using 100% cotton fabrics.

  9. I’m with Michele and Ann- avoiding wrinkles under pattern piecing and pre shrinking [especially with wool] I rarely if ever pre-wash as I also like sewing crisp fabrics, and find they behave better. If something has made my hands itchy during the sewing, I know it needs a wash before I wear it…I’ve never lost anything to shrinkage as I use low temperature in the washing machine and have never even owned a tumble dryer [awful things]

  10. I love ironing fabrics, and this is also when you can adjust them so that weft and warp are perpendicular. When fabrics are folded before they’re rolled up on the bolt I find they often end up being distorted. Much better to fix grainline issues before cutting and get clothes that drape like they should.

  11. mrsmole says:

    I steam press all the wedding gowns before hand basting as fabric relaxes/grows during the alteration process and I want the maximum drape/growth to occur before the final machine stitching. Great post!

  12. Jules says:

    Good post! I’m a quilter and so many skip ironing and jump right in to cutting. I realize I’ve not put the words to it as you have but yes, it brings your mind into your project. You see what you are working with. It is a good preparation. And for pete’s sake, get rid of that center crease! 🙂
    Lovely post!

  13. Tanya says:

    Such a lovely post. Agree with all you say and all the comments. I dislike normal ‘ironing’ so much, but with my fabric I’m starting a sort of creative meditation on what the future will bring with it and I love the process of it.

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