Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Do You Iron Wrinkled Pattern Pieces? And Other Thoughts About Ironing...

Sometimes, you find a pattern that is a folded mess. Some books suggest ironing the pattern pieces on low to straighten them out. I use my hands to uncrease the pieces as much as possible, but I rarely iron my pattern pieces.

The idea behind ironing your pieces is that it allows you to transfer markings from the pattern to the fabric accurately. But is using a hot iron necessary?

Vintage patterns seem to be quite fragile, I  trace them out onto tracing paper before I begin. I only make a working copy of the pattern when working with vintage or when making patterns from Burda magazine or Lutterloh. For the brand new patterns bought at the fabric store, I cut and use them as is.
If you choose to iron your pieces, you should iron your pattern pieces on the coolest setting your iron allows.

Ironing Musts: 

Care - Regardless of the brand or type you choose keep both the iron and ironing surface clean, checking them regularly for mysterious "gooey-stuff" that can ruin your fabric and your entire day.

Before You Begin - Be aware of the fabric’s reaction to ironing. Always test press a scrap piece of material and adjust the settings accordingly before pressing your garment. Fabric bolts are usually labeled with care instructions, which may reference ironing. Using de-mineralized (distilled) water will extend the life of your iron and reduce the risk of staining your fabrics.

Iron Temperatures for Different Fabrics:

This needs repeating: always test the heat of your iron on a scrap of your garment's fabric. The temperature setting guide on most irons indicates the heat setting suitable for a variety of fabrics. Set the iron according to the chart for best results. Then follow these general pressing suggestions:

Acetate—Use a press cloth when using steam. Place paper under seam allowances and darts to prevent imprints.

Blends—Set the iron according to the fiber requiring lowest temperature. Press on wrong side or use press cloth on right side.

Cotton—Press on either side with steam or after fabric is dampened with sponge or by sprinkling. If fabric shine occurs, use a press cloth.

Linen—Highest setting on iron is used along with dampened press cloth or steam. Press on wrong side to prevent shine.

Polyester—Press on wrong side or with press cloth. Use steam and dampened press cloth to smooth seams and set creases.

Rayon—Use a moderately warm iron with press cloth; do not use steam directly on the fabric.

Silk—For sheer fabric, use dry iron only; for heavier fabric, use light steam and press cloth.

Wool—Iron should not be placed directly on fabric; use steam and press cloth. A damp press cloth may be used to help shrink out ease in sleeve cap, curved seams and hem edges

Some Ironing Tips:

  • After pre-washing your fabric, iron it.
  • Press a seam open if you wish the seam line to be inconspicious on the right side.
  • If your fabric is likely to show the impressions of seams on the outside after it has been pressed, use a piece of paper between the seam allowance and garment. A pressing cushion, such as a seam roll, also will help prevent such impressions.
  • Always avoid pressing over pins. Pin marks are very difficult to remove from fabrics, especially synthetics.
  • To keep fabric grainlines true, always press straight seams on flat surfaces and curved seams over a pressing cushion. 
  • Curve seams may need to be clipped or trimmed so they can be pressed flat and smooth.
  •  Finger pressing helps to open seam edges for pressing. Moisten the stitching line slightly with a damp sponge, cheesecloth or small brush. Open the seam with your fingers and press as needed to flatten the seams. Finger pressing alone may be enough for some fabrics. If not, press the seam again using an iron
  • Corduroy, plushes, velveteen and velvet should be steamed rather than pressed. If a steam iron is
  • used, place the fabric right side up on the pressing board. Steam the fabric well, holding iron about 1/ 2 inch above the surface. After steaming, brush gently with a soft brush while the fabric is still damp. Let dry without handling.


  1. What a useful post, thank you.

    I have ironed patterns in the past. What sort of paper do you use to make a working copy of your vintage patterns?

    1. I use one of two different things (and I'm not thrilled with either). I either use the contractor grade painter's sheets at home depot ($10 for 40 m and its 2 m wide) or the kids paper rolls at Ikea ($5 for 100 ft)

    2. Thank you Nothy, I know of a place where I can get newsprint paper quite cheaply, I might give that a try. It comes in A1 sheets, thicker than tissue but thinner than drawing paper.

      After reading your post on Pauline's skirt pattern I wondered, did you line the skirt? I've ordered the skirt pattern and fabric including lining. If all else fails I shall make a petticoat!

    3. Hi Maureen,

      It is the best skirt pattern I own. It is so simple and the fitting process is so easy. All the way through, I kept thinking "Of course" you make the darts after you sew the seams. The skirts are so flattering. I've made 4 - two unlined and two lined in different weight fabrics. I want to order the t-shirt pattern next!!!

  2. I clean my iron by filling the water decanter in the iron with 50% water and 50% vinegar. Then I iron a towel for about 5 minutes with the steam on so that the vinegar washes through. Then I empty the water decanter and refill with water and iron the same towel for a minute or so. The vinegar helps to rid the iron of mineral deposits. This works like a charm - I have had the same iron since 1981!

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