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Pressing: when to press and when to iron, and is there a difference?

Did you know there are terms like, Under Press, Top Press and Off Press? They all have definitions and they all should be performed at particular times during the sewing of a garment. There is a difference between pressing and ironing. Pressing is done when the garment is being constructed and ironing happens once the garment is finished, worn, and washed.

Pressing correctly while you are making up the outfit will afford your garment a more professionally finished look. Pressing seams as you sew will set the seam and allow them to sit neatly.

It is very important to have your iron set up ready to go. If you are using an ironing board, you always seem to be getting up and down. If getting up and down is difficult for you, there is another option, (if you have the room on your sewing table) and that is to get June Tailor's "Quilter's Cut'n'Press". Many quilters would not be without one of these and for dressmaking this can be very useful too, especially for the smaller pieces of the patterns as well as with children's clothes.

Now for the definitions:

Pressing: is an up and down motion while ironing is a back and forth gliding motion. While you are sewing a garment it is always pressed. Once the garment is finished, worn and or washed it is then ironed. Pressing is used to, firstly set the stitch by steam pressing the area flat. This smoothes out puckers and allows the stitching to meld into the fabric.

Under Pressing: this is pressing on the wrong side of the fabric.

Top Pressing is pressing on the right side and always use a pressing cloth to prevent the nap from flattening and producing a shiny surface. A Raj cloth is good for this.

Off Pressing: now this is done on the right side of the fabric to remove the shine or raise the texture. To do this, place a piece of camp cheesecloth directly on the right side of the garment and place a hot dry iron so it just touches the damp cloth. This forces the steam into the fabric and raises the texture. Just make sure the fabric does not water spot.

So there you have it, pressing and ironing using the same tool, with different applications. I must admit, I do use the pressing technique with some of my outfits and certain fabrics. The pressing cloth is always ready too, and takes a little longer at times, but the results are well worth it.

CTBaird is a freelance author and web publisher of most things craft, Sew More For U DIY Sewing Companion and the Sew More For U Basic Pattern Drafting Course Get Free Sewing Tips at


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Replies to This Post

Mangler? Where do you see a reference to a mangler.... I've never heard of it.
A mangler is something that has hot rollers that presses flat things...from what I know and remember. My parents owned a funeral home way back and that was when hearses doubled as ambulances - for real! And, Mom had to do the linens for the ambulance - and had to run the sheets through a Mangler to press them. That's what I know.....
My grandmother had a mangle for years. They come in many sizes. They are primarily used for flat items such as table cloths, napkins, linens etc. They are still used by companies who supply items to nursing homes or large kitchens. Places that use aprons and the other items I listed. They do bulk items so hand pressing them would be impossible. One of the things my grandmother used hers for was bolts of fabric that she prewashed to shrink ie. (cottons). After washing she would run it through her mangle and they were like they just came off the bolt. It takes some practice to use.


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