Pressing Matters - Topic Overview, Essential Tools, and an Ironing Board Makeover!

Hi Everyone! Welcome to the topic - Pressing Matters! For this topic, I'm excited to announce that Shari Fuller, the designer of the Thimbles and Acorns brand, will be my co-host! We are also joined by designer Melinda (Melody Valerie Couture) with a look at all the essential pressing tools. Pressing is an essential skill to master and will really make a difference in how your finished garments and projects turn out! I encourage you to follow along and glean as much as you can from the wisdom and experience of these amazing seamstresses!

The posts will include a lot of information, but rest assured, we will consolidate all of this into a nice & neat PDF that you can download at the end of the month. 

Also - many of us don't have immediate access to all the supplies needed to make the ironing board cover. Don't stress! Order what you can and come back to this later in the month to get it finished up - there's no rush!

The topic will be divided into four sessions:

  • Part 1: Topic Overview, Essential Tools, and The Ironing Board Makeover
  • Part 2: How To Clean Your Iron
  • Part 3: Pressing Techniques Demonstrated
  • Part 4: How To Make A Portable Pressing Mat

It's going to be a fun course! Are you ready? Let's go...


Suggested Pattern: Grab the Love U Bunches Pressing Tools pattern. Use this pattern to make a doll scale ham and sleeve roll!


What is Pressing and Why is it so important?

Pressing is one of the most integral parts of garment construction. It combines heat, moisture, and pressure to permanently shape the garment. In contrast to home ironing (a sliding motion designed to remove wrinkles), pressing is primarily an up and down motion, intended to permanently shape the garment during construction. After pressing, let the fabric cool and dry before moving it; this is part of what makes the pressing permanent.

First, pressing will help flatten and "set" a seam. Applying pressure, heat, and moisture to a seam you have just sewn will interlock the stitches more permanently, giving it extra strength. This is also called “melding” a seam.

Pressing also allows you to shape fabric in a way that cutting and stitching alone cannot. For example, easing a wool sleeve cap, helping shrink a bias edge that is stretching excessively, stretching a seam that has puckered, and shaping bias strips into curves before sewing are all common pressing operations. Pressing can also help two dissimilar layers conform to each other.

All fabrics respond differently to pressing; some fabrics, like wool, are very responsive to moisture, where others, like satin, do best with a dry iron; cottons and linens can withstand higher heat than polyesters or silks, and so forth. It's best to practice on a sample piece of fabric first to determine what combination of heat, pressure, and moisture will be most effective.

In short, pressing is an essential step in garment construction; shaping the fabric with heat and pressure plays nearly as large a role in shaping the garment as the actual sewing does.

Essential Pressing Tools 

A good quality Steam Iron. There are many different tools available to apply heat, pressure and moisture to your project. Professional workrooms often use heavy ‘gravity feed’ irons (the term refers to the tank of water suspended above the iron; gravity provides a constant source of water for steam), but for doll couture, the heat and weight of a home iron will usually be sufficient. Tiny irons can be helpful for pressing extremely small spaces. However, they often don’t get as hot as the conventional home iron, and don’t have enough mass to flatten the fabric effectively. 

Update from Cinnamon :) I have a mini Oliso iron and it's pretty great! It gets very hot and does have a nice quality steam function. So if you're looking for a good quality mini iron, you can check them out here: Oliso Mini Project Iron 

Other important pressing tools include a tailor’s ham, a sleeve board, a sleeve roll, and a clapper or point presser of some sort. For dolls, I like to use a 3/4" dowel wrapped in muslin as a sleeve roll; it works wonders. I also have other unfinished dowels of various sizes that work like 'seam sticks'. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to follow a tutorial for making your own Dowel style doll scale sleeve roll.

It's great to have a variety of surfaces to press on; a standard ironing board, a sawdust-stuffed ham, and unfinished hardwood (such as a dowel or a point presser) will all absorb moisture differently. Some of these surfaces, such as the ham, can be pinned into, to provide extra control.

If you will be sewing velvet regularly, you may wish to invest in a velvet board. These small boards are covered with short metal spikes that support the nap of the velvet while pressing. While velvet boards are expensive, they practically eliminate the risk of accidentally crushing the nap. 

Pressing Cloths. No pressing setup would be complete without at least one press cloth. Press cloths serve to protect the fabric from any shine marks caused by the iron, and distribute the iron’s heat more evenly. It's great to have a variety of press cloths available, but if you must choose one, a simple piece of silk organza will work wonders. The silk can withstand a fairly high pressing heat, and it's transparent enough to see the project underneath. Cotton muslin is another good choice for a press cloth. 

There are as many ways to combine these pressing tools with heat and moisture, as there are couture sewers. With time and experimentation, you’ll find which pressing tools work for you, and which will help you press each part of your garment successfully.


What about Your Pressing Surface? 

Shari has a few thoughts and a fun tutorial to share to help us with this question!

Taking the time to press each and every seam while you sew is the key to producing a professional finish and a proper pressing surface is just as important as the iron you use. It is high time I replace my ironing board cover. Not only does it have a large tear in the middle of the pressing surface, it has become soiled from years of use which is causing me to stain some of my fabrics when I use extra steam.

The cover in our tutorial is quick and easy to make and will work for any size or shape board. Whether you need to recover a standard ironing board, a smaller sleeve board, or even a wood T.V. tray, this project will work for you.


How To Make A New Ironing Board Cover:

Supply List:

To make the ironing board cover in our tutorial, you will need to collect a few supplies. This list is a lesson in itself, so read it carefully to help you choose your materials wisely.

Cover and Backing Fabric – Enough to cover the top and sides of your ironing board plus an additional 3” - One piece for the cover and one piece for the backing.

  • This fabric should be 100% cotton in a medium weight. Avoid synthetic or synthetic blend fabrics since they have a tendency to trap moisture and don't hold up well to the heat of an iron. Trapped moisture and scorched fabric work together to transfer stains to the fabric you are pressing!

  • Choose a fabric with a minimal texture to avoid pressing textures into your fabrics.

  • Unbleached muslin is the most practical choice if you are concerned about transferring dyes or other chemicals to your fabrics.

  • If you prefer something a bit more exciting, choose a quality quilting fabric in whatever color or print suits your fancy.

  • For a durable stain-resistant cover, a Teflon™ coated fabric is the best choice. Teflon™ coated fabric can be found at most large fabric stores or online.

Batting – Enough to cover your ironing board and wrap the edges plus an additional 3”. Batting helps to smooth out your pressing surface and provides an airflow that helps the steam and heat from your iron work more effectively.

  • The best choice is a wool blanket, washed and dried so it won't shrink later on. The fibers of the blanket are designed to be more stable and less prone to pull apart over time. Wool is naturally heat resistant and does not hold moisture as much as cotton or synthetic fibers. This not only reduces the risk of stains in the fabric you are pressing, but also helps to improve the effectiveness of the steam from your iron. No wool blanket available? Use a couple of layers of wool felt, found on the bolt in larger fabric stores or felt a heavy wool coating by washing in your washing machine in hot soapy water and then running it through the dryer to finish the job.

  • Cotton batting is the second best choice. As a natural fiber, it is heat resistant and doesn't hold moisture as much as a synthetic fiber. Cotton batting is pretty thin, so you will probably need to use a couple of layers to get the cushion you want.

  • Avoid synthetic or foam batting as they trap steam and are prone to break down from the heat of the iron which could cause stains on the fabric you are pressing.

Drawstring - A length of 3/8” wide elastic a little shorter than the circumference of your ironing board OR 1/4” cotton cording a little longer than the circumference of your ironing board. If using cording, a toggle would be a good idea to help cinch up the cording on the ironing board – these can be found with the buttons at the fabric store or can be commandeered from an old sweatshirt or jacket.






Safety Pin

and, of course, the Ironing Board you would like to cover!

To get a nice professional finish when you are sewing, one of the most important things you need to do is take the time to press each and every seam. However, if your tools aren't in tip-top shape, you may end up sabotaging all your efforts. A dirty iron or ironing board cover can stain your fabric and a damaged work surface may introduce distracting creases. A couple of years ago, I inherited a wonderful ironing board from my mother-in-law. It isn't pretty to look at, but boy is it solid. The wide work surface makes it easy to carefully lay out larger items and the wide footing keeps it steady while I am working.

I love this ironing board, but it is in dire need of refurbishing. The first problem I want to take care of is the feet. Yes, the feet. Over the years the rubber caps have dried out and have a tendency to fall off while I am working - which isn't too good for my wood floors. This is a super easy problem to fix. Just measure the diameter of the feet and pick up a new set of end caps at your local hardware store or order some online. There are many different types of end caps to choose from. I'd pick a non-marking rubber as they will be kinder to your floors and the rubber will help them stay on and keep your ironing board more stable. Simply pop off the old caps and slip on the new... if only every fix was so easy!

Now, let's take a look at the top of my ironing board. Over the years, mom just put fresh covers over the worn ones. While this might have provided a little extra cushion, the soil from the older covers eventually made its way to the surface. Whenever I use extra steam or the sprayer, these soils have a tendency to stain the fabric I am pressing. I could simply purchase an ironing board cover, but ironing boards come in all shapes and sizes making it difficult to find a cover that fits nicely. Also, store bought covers are usually made with materials that don't work well with your iron. The proper fit and choice materials of a custom made ironing board cover will greatly improve your pressing results.

Making a perfect ironing board cover is a snap, so let's give it a go together.

  • To make the pattern for your ironing board cover, simply lay your cover fabric right side down on a large table or a clean solid surface floor.

  • Turn your ironing board upside down on the fabric.

  • Measure the side edges of the ironing board and add an additional 1 1/2” for the seam allowance and casing. Use a ruler to mark a line that distance from the edge of the ironing board.

  • Cut our your ironing board cover and use it as a pattern to cut out your backing and batting.

  • Lay the cover and backing pieces right sides together over the top of the batting. Use plenty of pins to keep the batting from shifting while you sew.

  • Beginning at the back end, stitch through all three layers with a 1/2” seam allowance. Leave 3” open at the back for turning.

  • Trim the batting close to the seamline to reduce the bulk in the casing. Not need to clip the curves as that will weaken the seamline and bulk from the seam allowance won't be an issue when the cover is drawn tight over the board.

  • Turn the cover and backing right side out so that the batting is inside. Press, following the seamline.

  • Stitch the opening closed, leaving 1/2” open for the drawstring.

  • Topstitch 5/8” from the edge to form a casing.

  • The opening for the casing can be left as is, or you can secure the folded edges with a whipstitch, blanket stitch, or buttonhole stitch.

  • Use a safety pin to secure one end of your elastic or cord to the outside of ironing board cover to prevent it from being pulled through. Attach another safety pin to the other end of the elastic or cording. To strengthen the end of the elastic fold the end under 1/4” and attach the saftey pin through both layers.

  • Use the safety pin to carefully work the loose end of the elastic or cord through the casing.

  • Put the cover on your ironing board and draw up the elastic or cording to fit.

  • Pull the sides snugly around the ironing board to get it to lay as flat as possible and smooth out any puckers along the edges with your hands. The cover probably won't lie perfectly flat at this point, just get it to lie as smoothly as possible. Tie off the elastic and trim off the excess, letting the knot slip inside the casing. If using cording, tie the ends in a bow and secure with a double-knot or use a toggle to cinch up the ends.

  • To take care of any ripples on the ironing board cover, turn your iron on high and press the ironing board cover with plenty of steam. The heat and steam will constrict the fabric and batting to give it a nice flat even surface

  • The nice thing about this cover is that it is reversible. If your cover gets soiled or you just need a background change for a photo shoot, simply pop off the cover and turn it around.

    Bonus Tutorial Project

    How To Make A Dowel Style Doll-Scale Sleeve Roll:

    • Purchase or find a hardwood dowel of an appropriate size for your doll (3/4" for American Girl, 1/4" for Ellowyne, &c.) It should slip easily inside a sleeve, without too much extra room. Be sure the dowel is unfinished; paint or varnish may transfer to fabric during pressing.
    • Cut the dowel to a workable length -- between 8 and 12 inches.
    • Wrap the dowel in clean muslin. You can wrap one layer and slipstitch the muslin to
      itself, or you can staple the muslin to the dowel and wrap it multiple times for a different
    • If you choose to staple the muslin, make sure the staples go fully into the dowel, and that
      you wrap enough layers of muslin over the staples to adequately pad them. Any unpadded staples will result in shine marks, lumps, and possibly even holes in your pressed garments. 



    June 09, 2020

    Very interesting topic!! I have learned so much about pressing that I didn’t know. Can’t wait to try these tips on my next project!!


    June 08, 2020

    I have never mastered pressing. I am excited to learn more efficient ways!

    Linda Turner
    Linda Turner

    June 05, 2020

    Thanks for the great pressing suggestions and the reasoning or why we need this particular fabric or how it helps! It is a reminder and great suggestions for items for those darling dolls!


    June 03, 2020

    When I was in college studying Clothing and Textiles we were mad well aware of the importance of proper pressing. My major professor was a sticker for properly pressed seams!
    So many neglect this important factor and end up with garments which are “less than professional”. It is VITALLY important when dealing with small doll clothing where “space” can be an issue to begin with.


    June 03, 2020

    I also use a tomato pin cushion to press shoulders and sleeve tops.


    June 03, 2020

    Oh! I could’ve used this a few months ago when I redid mine! Least I’ll know how to do it better next time!

    Debbie Sebring
    Debbie Sebring

    June 02, 2020

    I am still working on last months stuff. I got the pants, tank and dress complete.


    June 02, 2020

    I can’t believe how many items that I see offered for sale that have no pressing at all! Hems, collars, necklines, sleeves, waistbands, etc. are all left without a single press. Thanks for offering this! I will continue to preach the benefits of pressing and perhaps more folks will listen if it comes from you guys!


    June 02, 2020

    So excited about this topic. I’ve seen the rolling ironing board and was thinking about making one.

    Leave a comment