Pressing Accessories: Essentials To Buy and DIY

Pressing Accessories: Essentials To Buy and DIY

Last week, Charlotte Kaufman showed us her precious pressing station she made for her sewing room. Vanessa Nirode wrote about irons a while ago. But we haven’t discussed pressing accessories on this blog yet. We need to, because there are a few things that you really must have near your iron to get things done well.

While I am on the subject, I want to explain the important difference between pressing and ironing, because they are not the same thing. Ironing is when you move the iron back and forth across a fabric or garment, smoothing wrinkles out. In pressing, you don’t move the iron back and forth in the same manner, but rather press down with the iron, moving it slowly or not at all. You can iron clothes or fabric, but usually use pressing in sewing. Press seams open or to one side. Press to shape garments during construction. And press to affix fusible web and other heat treated adhesives to fabric.

Proper pressing technique makes the difference between a perfect finished product and a mess. Quilters who press every seam know that it’s key to success. Other things that can make a difference to your finished products are pressing cloths, a seam roll, pressing ham, and spray starch- or something better than starch. Useful but not as essential are a clapper, seam board, and pressing mitt. If you are lacking these things, you fix that with DIY; here is a link to a detailed page with instructions for making them: Make your own pressing equipment

Let’s take a closer look at the pressing accessories that are essential, so that you can understand why these items are must haves.

Pressing Accessories: Essentials

Don’t be without these:

Pressing Cloth

These serve more than one purpose. They can protect delicate fabrics from too much direct heat, and protect your iron from gunk and goo when you are affixing glue. A pressing cloth is essential for fabrics like linen and rayon, which develop a sheen if pressed without one. For most projects, I prefer to use a large square of T-shirt knit that I cut for this purpose. However, a see-thru pressing cloth is essential as well, to see what you are doing when working with small pieces and applique.

Seam Roll

A seam roll is helpful to have for pressing small curved seams and darts.

A seam roll is helpful to have for pressing small curved seams and darts.

A seam roll is helpful to have for pressing small curved seams and darts. It also prevents seam allowances from impressing through to the front of the fabric when you iron garment seams open. The way to do it is to place the spread open seam down over the roll, then press the right side of the fabric instead of the seam itself. I made a seam roll following the directions linked above, except I made one variation. I started with a couple of magazines, rolled tightly together as the base. Then I covered these completely by wrapping electrical tape tightly around. I added the extra layer of a felted wool sweater sleeve, and then wrapped the whole thing with another piece of cotton canvas and hand sewed it closed.

Tailor’s Ham

It's called a ham because it looks just like one. It's a stuffed and curved helper.

It’s called a ham because it looks just like one. It’s a stuffed and curved helper.

It’s called a ham because it looks just like one. It’s a stuffed and curved helper. You can use a tailor’s ham for many purposes, most importantly and often to shape garments and curved seams. You’ll use it on collars, sleeves, sleeve caps, cuffs, bustlines and darts, waistlines, hip seams, and more. You want a ham made from two fabrics: wool on one side for pressing wool, synthetics, and other fabrics that need low or medium heat; cotton on the other side for high heat tolerant fabrics like cotton and linen.

Here’s the one that I made, instructions are linked at the top of this page. Or you could save time and stuffing and just order one from our store.


I’m not a big fan of starch. It can be messy and it smells, polluting my room. Anyway, aerosol cans are environmental bad guys and I try to be environmentally conscious. Treating fabrics is essential,though, so I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press instead. I love this stuff and go through it quickly, because I never use my iron without it. As opposed to starch, it smells really nice. It doesn’t flake or leave any residue, which starch sometimes does. It provides a crisp finish and makes fabrics soil-resistant. I really recommend ditching the starch and switching to Best-Press instead; you’ll be glad that you did. Order some right now. In fact, do yourself a favor and get two bottles, because you will love this stuff and not want to be without it.

Be sure that your sewing room has all of these items so you can conquer any pressing job.