All About Pressing

Iron Steam

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It’s sometimes easy to skip the step of pressing fabric because we are just TOO excited to dive into making the quilt!

I’ll fully admit that I’ve been there, done that.

But starting out with nicely pressed, wrinkle-free fabric is the best way to lay a good foundation during your quilt-making process!

When it comes to pressing, there are two different times when it’s important: pressing before you sew and pressing your seams.


Pressing before you sew gets rid of all of those pesky wrinkles and crinkles before you start cutting your fabric. This will help with accurate piecing!

If you prewash your fabrics, then pressing is 100% necessary! This is because your fabric will come out of the dryer super crinkly.

Also, if you’re someone who starches their fabric, you will want to starch and press it BEFORE you begin cutting.

Ironing Fabric


Now, when it comes to pressing seams, I always like to press my seams open! Personally, I find my quilt top lays flatter and I can match my points more easily when I do.

Many people love pressing their seams to the side, and that is totally acceptable as well! Quilters love to squabble over which is the correct technique and I have no plans on settling it now. Luckily, the following tips and handy dandy tools I'm going to share can apply to both techniques!

When you’re using an iron to press your seams, it’s important to not drag the iron while pressing downward on the fabric. This can distort the seam or fabric which can leave you with a wonky shaped block. So when pressing the seams, you want to make sure you're doing just that! PRESSING!

However, when I'm first ironing the fabric before cutting, I do slide the iron around more similar to how I would when ironing clothes!



Fun fact. There is another ongoing debate within the quilting community about…STEAM!

To use or not to use steam when pressing, that is the question. Again, I will not be the one to settle this debate. However, I will add my two cents.

I used to use steam ALL. THE. TIME. I liked how flat it made everything - with the side bonus of a little spa-like facial steam while I was working!

But since then, two things have changed my mind. 

  1. I learned about some of the downsides of steam. 
  1. It only takes gross brown water leaking onto your fabric/quilt one time to make you rethink putting water into your iron!

Iron Gunk

So let's chat about the downside to steam (AKA moisture). When pressing, steam has a tendency to create a little more “movement” in your fabric. This can be really great if you’re trying to remove creases or wrinkles. But, it can also make your already sewn HST (for example) go a little wonky or misshapen after pressing!

So, if I were to use steam - I would probably only do so during the initial ironing stage before cutting my fabric.

All of this being said, I used to press my HSTs with steam and they do get SERIOUSLY flat!

But again, personal preference!


Wool pressing mats and tailor’s clappers are bonus tools when pressing! They’re not necessary, but they can help if you want to treat yourself to something a little extra special! 


Wool Mat

I have a Project Wool Mat - which is only available in the US.

Wool mats really do speed up your pressing time! They heat from the top AND bottom, so you’re essentially pressing both sides at the same time. They also help create extra flat seams.

IF you use steam, here are two considerations:

It’s wool, AKA from a sheep. This means that if and when the mat gets damp, it WILL smell like wool…AKA A SHEEP! 

And if you use steam, the mat will absorb the moisture. This is a good thing - until it goes through the wool to the other side!

So, make sure you’re on a surface that can handle heat and moisture. Maybe not on your grandma’s dining room table!


Tailor's Clapper

A clapper (Canadians, click here) traps the heat, helping to create extra flat seams. They’re made from hard wood, which makes them generally heavy. This helps with pressing because it adds a little weight!

They’re great when combined with steam as the wood holds and absorbs the moisture. After pressing, place the clapper on your seam for 5-10 seconds while it cools. 

Tailor's Clapper

If you're thinking about getting a clapper, here are a couple of things to consider: 

It’s one more thing to have lying around your sewing room. This is a real problem if you have a small space! I personally find that sometimes I run out of room on my ironing board when I use one. 

Clappers can also slow down the process - which can be both a good or bad thing for some people!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…do whatever works best for you! Even with pressing!

I hope these tips are helpful for you along your quilting journey. Happy Quilting! 

Have questions about pressing or about anything in the shop? Please reach out to and we’ll help you out!  

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