Pressing is an essential part of sewing. Use these tools to help you get more professional looking results when you sew.
Iron Get a steam iron with a surface that’s easy to clean. A “burst of steam” feature is also nice to have. A heavier iron can help produce flatter, crisper seams and a narrow tip can help get into hard to reach areas. You may want to forgo an automatic shut-off timer, since it’s convenient to leave your iron on while sewing. If you do quite a bit of sewing and pressing, you may want to invest in an iron with a separate steam generator.
Ironing board A good ironing board is a sturdy one with an adjustable height. The metal base should have holes in it for venting steam, be topped with cotton or wool padding (not foam) for proper moisture absorption, and have a cotton or a wool cover. It’s also nice to have an iron rest and a cord holder.
Helpful to Have
This is a ham-shaped cushion that provides a rounded surface for pressing curved seams like sleeve caps, princess seams, and darts. One side is covered in wool for pressing wool fabrics and the other side, cotton for all other fabrics. The ham is usually filled with sawdust, which allows it to be shaped and molded.
Seam roll Sometimes called a sleeve roll, this is a tube-shaped cushion that’s used to press seams in sleeves and other narrow areas. The seam roll is inserted into the sleeve, allowing it to be pressed without being creased. It can also be used as a surface for pressing other seams open. The rounded surface of the seam roll keeps the edges of a seam allowance from pressing a ridge into the right side of fabric. The end of a seam roll can also be used to press curved areas a tailor’s ham is too large for. One side of the seam roll is covered in wool for pressing wool fabrics and the other side, cotton for all other fabrics. A seam roll is usually filled with sawdust, which allows it to be shaped and molded.
Sleeve board This tool looks like two miniature ironing boards stuck together, one on top of the other. It provides a small, flat surface for pressing sleeves, pant legs and other narrow areas. The sleeve or pant leg is slipped over the board, then pressed. Press mitt This is a soft pillow with a pocket on one side for your hand to slip into. It provides a pressing surface for curved areas a tailor’s ham is too large for. It’s covered in wool on one side and cotton on the other. A press mitt can also be slipped over the end of a sleeve board to create a stable, rounded pressing surface.
Tailor’s board Made of wood, this tool consists of numerous surfaces – flat, curved, and pointy – for pressing various shaped seams. Removable padded covers are usually available for it. Velvet board/needle board This is a flexible mat with a bed of tiny needles or pile sticking up from it. It’s used to press velvet and other napped fabrics without crushing the pile. The fabric is placed onto the needle board pile side down, then pressed on the wrong side.
Clapper This is a hand-held wooden block used to flatten bulky areas, create sharp creases, and make smooth, flat seams. After an area has been pressed, the clapper is placed on top of it and pressure is applied until the area cools. Point presser and clapper Made of wood, the top part of this tool is flat with a point on one end. It provides a flat surface for pressing seams and a pointed surface for pressing points and corners. Its base can be used as a clapper (see above).
Press Cloth This is a lightweight cloth used to protect fabrics from the heat of an iron. It’s laid on top of a fabric as the fabric is pressed. A press cloth can also be dampened to produce steam. Pressing rods and bars These are wooden tools available in various lengths that look like dowels cut in half lengthwise. Use for items that are too narrow for a seam roll to get into. They can also be used to press seams open without leaving a ridge in the right side of fabric. The flat side of a pressing rod can also be used as a clapper (see above).