Susan's Tips: Do I Need to Iron or Press?

Susan's Tips: Do I Need to Iron or Press?

Recently, I did a little tidying up around the house only to discover, to my chagrin, I still hadn't cleaned and readied my cloth napkins that I last used at Christmas! Oops! 

After treating with a stain remover and washing, the napkins were ready iron. Or, were they ready to press? This got me wondering which I should be doing when I read "press" in my pattern directions. 

Let's see!

Although many use the words ironing and pressing interchangeably, they are different techniques. Ironing is the back-and-forth motion we do at home with an iron, whereas pressing is pressing the iron down directly on a piece of fabric and holding it there before lifting it. Ironing smooths out wrinkles Pressing creates bold or visible change on the material. Seams are the primary example. 

When working with loosely woven fabrics such as tailored shirts, suits, lined garments, silks, or rayons, the act of ironing (back and forth) can distort the fibers. When you iron fabric before sewing, you risk stretching or even changing the size of the piece or altering the grain. Plus, if using steam, this will further move and keep the fibers in the new unwanted shape. The same goes for quilting. Ironing can distort blocks and can affect how well blocks fit together and the look of the quilt overall. 

Pressing (placing and removing), on the other hand, ensures the grain and size of your fabric remains intact and your overall project looks its best, and it's the best way to ensure your seams look professional. 

So, what about steaming? 

There are many variables to consider. No matter what, use distilled water as it reduces scale build up to prolong the life of your iron. To help set the seams, blocks, slashings, and borders when quilting, it's helpful to steam your quilt top at the very end, letting the quilt completely dry and cool before moving it.