top of page
  • Writer's pictureLonda

Pressing Matters

Find my selection of pressing equipment HERE

The article “Going to Press” by Cecelia Podolak in the current THREADS magazine issue 144 – Sept. 2009 – page 70 is the impetus for sharing a bit of my learning curve regarding Pressing with you….

I remember I was SEW frustrated with trying to find – for myself, and to sell in my shop (1990-2003) – an iron that would stand up to the demands of my sewing and household tasks. Finally – a gentleman explained to me that an iron is a heat-resisting/producing piece of equipment…and will NOT last forever. Once I heard that – and took it to heart – my expectations were re-adjusted, and I actually just take it for granted that my investment in an iron is NOT one that will last forever – especially with the demands I have. Honestly, if I make it a year with an iron – I consider myself lucky!

When Cecelia explains on page 71 in the first paragraph below the chart that a too cool iron will NOT produce steam…”Water will just dribble from the iron” – She is SO CORRECT! You just must comprehend that (in all but steam generator iron systems), steam is created by water dripping onto a sole plate that is hot enough to create steam! If the sole plate is NOT hot enough (meaning you don’t have it on at least the cotton setting), you can simply NOT expect steam! Expect water dribbles instead.

Cecelia says “It’s important to add moisture to the fabric, if it requires it, and then dry it out to set the press” and that reminds me of how I saw and learned from my mother how to ‘iron’. I distinctly remember her ‘sprinkling bottle’ – a 7-up glass bottle outfitted with a sprinkle cap on a cork that was shoved into the top. Once my Dad’s shirts were laundered, she sprinkled them thoroughly, then tied them up in a big cloth so that the fibers migrated throughout the shirt. THEN, at least half a day later – she’d carefully get them out one by one (closing up the ‘package’ of ironing so that the others would stay moist) and IRON them with a DRY iron. Worked like a charm – and I can remember steam rising as she worked…the effect of HEAT – STEAM – and her loving ARM PRESSURE created amazingly crisp shirts for my Daddy.

I want to further quote Cecelia’s last paragraph on page 71 – because I think it is so TRUE! “When uncertain about the temperature and amount of moisture to use, always begin with low heat and a dry iron. If the pressing results are unsatisfactory, increase the temperature; if the dial is in the steam range, add a little setam. Proceed in this manner until you are satisfied with the results.” The chart of Heat sensitivity, Iron temperature and Fiber content above on page 71 alone is worth buying this THREADS issue in my estimation! Copy it, laminate it, and put it in your sewing room!

Another piece of info – “Hot Forgets, Cool Remembers”. This applies to everything – even your hair. I have very, very thin hair, and when I ‘do’ it – whether it is styling with a blow dryer and round brush, or with a curling iron – once I ‘curl’ it – I have to let it COOL before I can really style it…playing with it while it is hot – I may as well not have bothered, as the ‘curl’ I just got will quicky disappear if I comb it without letting it COOL and REMEMBER. It is the same with fibers!

SEW…HEAT, STEAM and PRESSURE is what it’s all about. Page 72 refers to pressing tools…I’m adding my own comments and links to these products on my website for each…

Iron Features – I need GREAT steam. I’ve had Rowenta irons – many models. I’ve been happy with most of them – (except those that the water container removed to be filled). I’ve also had professional gravity feed irons – a Sussman (where the water hangs in a bottle higher than the iron and gravity feeds the water onto the hot iron soleplate, creating steam). I believe I had that for a couple of years during my custom dressmaking years… During my shop years, I sold Euro Pro ironing systems. Those were good too – for a while. I have NOT invested thousands in a system like the Laura Star – nor have I used a vertical steamer. Some swear by an old Black and Decker…whatever works, that’s the thing. This Spring, I invested in a Euro Steam iron at a show – $200, with the all-important tasks of creating my daughters’ wedding gown foremost in my mind. It is a pressure cooker type of system where the steam is made inside the iron under pressure. They demo that it doesn’t burst a balloon, and that you can set it on a sequined gown without burning it. I like it – though it is a dry steam – different from most. Therefore, it won’t shrink the great new Texture Magic shrinking fabric. I don’t entirely actually understand it – (I heard different tips from 2 different saleswomen now), but it works. It just uses OODLES of water! I find I use it for creative work pressing, and my Rowenta for ironing my hubby’s shirts. Just keep realistic expectations for lifespan…

I also had and sold the Elna Press. Those type of presses apply wonderful pressure over a large surface area and can’t be beat for applying fusibles – a la fusible interfacing in a tailored jacket! Other brands are available. I’ll just add though that we tried to teach ourselves how to do my hubby’s shirts with it – and ended up with only burnt arms to show for it.

Auto-Off or Not??? I never used to think that I would like an iron that automatically turned itself off – but I have one right now, and honestly – I LIKE IT! Actually, I find that am really more economical in my movements, sewing everything possible before needing to shake the iron to ‘wake it up’ and then proceed to many pressing tasks. All the energy-saving mentality, ‘green’ thinking of today has gotten to me I guess, but I do feel better not knowing I’m wasting energy the entire time I’m sewing just so that I can have a hot iron exactly when I need it. Then… there is the safety thing. I have to admit that I HAVE left an iron on – overnight – and when I realized it, was mortified! Gheesh – I remember WAY back when I was in K-2nd grade and pretend playing with my ‘toy’ iron that actually plugged in and heated! I figured out that the only way to let it get hot enough to really iron my dolly’s clothes was to leave it on overnight! You don’t want to know what my Daddy said when he discovered THAT….!!!

Water? I AM convinced of 2 things: That using Distilled Water and emptying the iron after you are done using it are two keys to success in extending the life of your iron. A salesman once told me that when iron instructions say you can use tap water – they are just insuring your next purchase, because tap water will kill your iron – sure thing.

Ironing Board Pads and Covers

You MUST pad that board – of THAT, I’m 100% convinced. Golden Hands makes a great pad – OR, get old 100% WOOL blankets and cut several layers to cushion your board. You are after a pad that wicks the moisture away from the cover and keeps the cover dry. No molding is a good property as well…..

For the cover, the way I see it – there are 2 schools of thought – either you like a cotton, absorptive ironing board cover, or you like a shiny teflon or other modern-type surface that reflects the heat back onto the fabric. Some claim that a reflective property cuts ironing tie in half. Perhaps that is true for IRONING – like ironing shirts for your man. However, for PRESSING – I really personally believe in the concept of pulling heat THROUGH the fibers and letting the fibers cool – is preferred. The vacuum board we sold at my shop from Euro Pro really, really did that – and it was amazing. I think some of the more expensive systems still use that system. I really like a 100% cotton duck plain ironing board cover myself. Golden Hands is the manufacturer and the owner of that company is at lots of the sewing expos, and you can find his line at Regrettably, I can’t get that cover from my supplier right now. I’ll stock up when I see him again and let you know! Cecelia Podolak sells a similar one on her website – and NOT any of the reflective covers, so that speaks volumes to me on the side of pulling heat through fibers rather than reflecting them…try both and decide what meets YOUR needs.

Pressing Cloths

My favorites are Press It, Silk Organza, and even a piece of the garment fabric itself. When my dear daughter (good new wife that she is) asked for a pressing lesson and supplies, be assured I gave her a 1/2 yard piece of cream silk organza!

Ironing a Shirt

I think I’ll have my son tape this process – but it is how my Grandma did it, how my Mom did it – and how I’ve done it for years. A wrinkled shirt just says “I don’t care” to me! Not on my men – much less myself!

1. Wrong side collar – then right side collar and stand

2. Back Yoke – point of iron extending into sleeve area and down the front yoke area

3. Sleeves – back side first, then front – then cuffs

4. Body – starting with the yoke area of the shirt’s right front, then move to do around buttons, and rest of front…work around back of shirt body, and then to left front.

I welcome your comments – add to this posting – let’s talk and share!

For Londa’s books, patterns, and supplies as described in her sewing escapades, please see Londa’s Creative Threads –

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page