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Rolling Pin in my Work Room - why you don't need to buy specialist pressing tools

By Di, Aug 5 2016 01:32PM

Pressing is an essential part of garment making, yet it is something all too often overlooked. It is different to ironing which is the smoothing of cloth by sliding the iron. Pressing is all about heat, moisture and pressure and is more of a lifting motion using the steam and the weight of the iron to flatten and shape fabric. In dressmaking it is often used to flatten seams, create sharp creases, apply interfacing etc.

However once you move to working with wool and especially when tailoring, this is when the alchemy begins. Pressing is used to actually shape and shrink wool fabric, turning straight pieces of fabric into curved collars and shrinking fullness on back armscye and shoulder to give fullness over the shoulder blade, shrinking fullness at the end of darts to achieve flattering skirts and trousers.

Many people believe the following are essential items

• tailor's ham - a sawdust filled pad, they come in different sizes and are placed under curved areas so that pressing will help to maintain the shape of the garment. They are often covered in cotton on one side and wool on the other for working with different cloths.

• Seam roll - a sausage shaped, sawdust filled pad, also covered in cotton and wool. The garment seam is placed on the seam roll with the wrong side on the top. It allows you to press the seam open without getting an imprint of the seam allowance edges on the right side of your fabric, because the main fabric falls over the roll and pressure can be applied just to the actual stitched area.

• Sleeve board - this is like a small ironing board that fits inside a sleeve or other tubular project to allow you to press without making unwanted creases.

Now this is where I offer my first money saving tip, because if you already own a sleeve board it can also be used as a seam roll. Place it on its side on the ironing board and use the padded edge to press seams. The more well padded the better.

How many of you have melted a synthetic fabric or put shine onto suiting?

To press well you really need to turn off the steam function on your iron. Is this woman mad I hear you asking? She just said heat and moisture are part of the process ………. Steam irons are brilliant for ironing and for quite a lot of dressmaking processes, but they spread steam all over your fabric. Once you move on to expensive fabrics you need to protect them and place the water exactly where you want it, especially working with wool.

A pressing cloth is the first thing you need, it'll also protect heat sensitive fabrics when using the steam iron. This is placed in between your fabric and the iron. Ihave one that i bought for dressmaking that is a synthetic mesh, but yoiu really need a cloth that will absorb moisture. I was taught to use muslin, which isn't found in many fabric shops, then I discovered my local supermarket selling it on the make up aisle as face cloths. You can also use remnants of cotton fabric, preferably white or a natural colour so there is less chance of any colour running. Cotton is important as it is very absorbent and can withstand the very high iron temperature.

Without the steam function you need to be able to add water. This is put onto the press cloth. I use two items that most homes have or you can make very easily. A small paint brush that came in a selection from a discount store, I find it really useful for small areas. The following idea came from a Savile Row Master Tailor who uses a strip of woollen cloth cut with a fringe along one edge, then rolled and tied. It works just like a brush so you can get the water exactly where you want it.

Earlier I mentioned a Tailor's Ham, make your own using a cushion covered with a towel, you probably have them in different sizes that will suit different parts of a garment. Do remember that even covered with a towel they will get very hot so don't use ones with delicate covers!

Towels are a really useful part of your toolkit! Preferably plain light coloured ones so there is no chance of colour transfer. Here are a few uses for them!

I also use rolled up bathroom towels when pressing sleeves and especially sleeve heads and shoulders.

One of my favourite pressing hacks is my seam roll. I use my wooden rolling pin covered with tea towels. I have a terry one and a smooth cotton or linen one that I roll around the rolling pin giving a well padded, but smooth surface.

A silicone rolling pin will work as well, but I haven't tried that one yet!

Take a good look around your house. The most important thing to consider is can the 'useful' object cope with heat and moisture? Wooden objects like wooden spoon handles are good, but soft woods might stain fabric when they get wet, so will need a towel or cotton remnant to protect your work.

Our kitchens are increasingly gaining products made from silicone, this is non stick and can cope with very high temperature which make it ideal as a pressing tool. Cut a mat into strips of different widths that you can use to turn up hems of different depths by placing it on the hem line, aand turning up the fabric to the same depth as the hem guide. then pressing the edge.

I hope you find other useful items round your house suitable for many of your sewing and crafting needs .... measure different objects when you need a circle ....lids off jars, inside the centre of sticky tape, bowls in the kitchen, vases etc.....................!

Aug 6 2016 01:31PM by patsy punchard

Wonderful tips..very greatful..

Aug 7 2016 06:50AM by sonja

Great post with useful tips. Thanks for sharing.

Oct 7 2016 05:41PM by Catsew

Useful info. A new broom handle is helpful when pressing trousers.

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