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Top Tips for Pressing Fabric Like a Pro

Pressing well makes a big difference in your finished quilt's appearance. Learn the secrets to pressing like a pro!

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[Next page: 5 Ways to Press Your Seams]

Good pressing is essential for accurate piecing. In general, every seam needs to be pressed before another unit is added, and most seam allowances are pressed to one side. Press with an iron set on a temperature appropriate to the fabric on a flat, firm surface. (An ironing board or pad with a heat-resistant cushion and cotton cover is fine. Avoid a Teflon-coated, heat-reflective ironing board cover. This coating reflects heat and steam, not allowing them to pass through the fabrics.) 

 

Top 10 Pressing Tips

 

1. PRESS, DON’T IRON
Are you confused about the difference? Ironing involves moving the iron while it is in contact with the fabric, which can stretch and distort fabrics and seams. Pressing means picking the iron up off the surface of the fabric and putting it back down in another location.

2. SET YOUR SEAMS
Before pressing a seam open or to one side, first just press the seam as it was sewn, without opening up the fabric pieces. Doing so helps meld or sink the stitches into the fabric, leaving you with a less bulky seam allowance after you press it open or to one side.

3. LET THEM COOL
Once fabric pieces have been pressed, let them cool in place. This prevents distortion of bias edges.

4. FINGER-PRESS FIRST
Finger pressing isn’t a substitute for using an iron, but it does temporarily press a seam in one direction or another. It’s a good method to use if you’re unsure which way a seam eventually will need to be pressed.

5. AVOID SEEING SEAM SHADOWS
Generally speaking, press seams toward the darker fabric to avoid creating a shadow on the lighter fabric. If pressing toward the lighter fabric is a must, trim the darker fabric seam allowance by 1/16" after the seam is sewn to prevent any shadows.

6. BEGIN AGAIN
If a seam allowance has been pressed the wrong way, return it to its original unpressed state and press the unit flat to remove the crease. Allow the fabric to cool, then press the seam in the desired direction.

7. KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN
When multiple seams come together in one area, press them open. This helps distribute the fabric bulk evenly, eliminating lumps and making the seams easier to quilt through.

8. AVOID CRUSHING RESULTS
To prevent flattening your appliqués, turn an appliquéd block facedown on a terry-cloth towel for pressing.

9. KEEP IT STRAIGHT
Straight seams should be pressed from the right side of the fabric with the iron parallel to the straight of grain. This helps avoid pressing tucks and pleats into the seam.

10. FOLLOW THE GRAIN
A bias seam should be pressed with the iron at a 45-degree angle to the seam and along the straight of grain to prevent distortion.

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