Well I promise this is not Fake News because it’s absolutely true, pressing is one of the key three skills that we need to perfect when we become quilters. I remember being very blasé about it when I was new and innocent and hadn’t really taken the time to truly understand the skill that it takes to make a pretty quilt. Sadly I also really underestimated the learning curve that came with it too. I mean we’ve most likely all being using irons since we were at least teenagers …. Right?
So here’s a little bit about what I’ve learned along the way. Firstly it is really important to understand the difference between ironing and pressing. Ironing is how we regularly smooth out our clothes, you know, that nice backwards and forward with the iron so that it doesn’t burn the item. Well ironing is not your friend whilst quilting. That “normal” movement will cause your fabric to stretch especially on the dreaded bias cuts. Pressing is lifting and setting down, lifting and setting down. Sounds easy of course, but even now if I’m tired, in hurry or distracted, it’s still really easy for me to go ahead and iron! Pressing will really help with accurate cutting and accurate piecing. Ultimately we are always aiming to get the blocks and quilt as flat as possible – believe me, if you send your quilt to a quilter for long arming, they will love you forever if the quilt is beautifully flat!
Next is the actual iron itself, and I bet there are as many opinions about what makes a great iron for a quilter as there are quilters. My own personal preference is for a simple but quite heavy iron. I’ve tried that fancy schmancy iron that lifts up off the surface all by itself and, for me; it didn’t have the weight or the heat I preferred. I also don’t need bazillion different settings as I keep that iron in my sewing room and it doesn’t get used for other tasks. I don’t put water in the iron because over time it seems that they will all start spitting up on your fabric plus we have water with a lot of minerals etc., and I don’t want the bother of having to get special water for it, so I just keep a small spray bottle of water handy for when I need the steam.
OK so starch or no starch. Well I’ve heard all sorts of stuff being mentioned even Vodka and water! Now being for the land of those who enjoy a bevvy or two, I think what a waste of a good nights partying. I use a light starch such as Best Press. I like it because it doesn’t leave any residue on even dark fabrics and the scent is usually pretty gentle. However, it won’t prevent fraying that much unless you are pretty liberal with it. I don’t tend to use a heavy starch as I found it was easy to leave a little stain, plus if you are too heavy handed it makes the fabric quite stiff (funny that’s was it was designed to do!) and that means you may not be able to get the most complete flattening of your seamed pieces. Think of it like folding a piece of paper versus folding a piece of cardboard, you’ll get a thinner piece much flatter. Not so important if you’re losing a 1/16th of an inch on 12 blocks or so, but if you have an 80 block quilt and lose 1/16th each time then that has the potential to cause problems.
I normally press as I go but if I’m not pressing because I don’t want to distort a bias edge too much, then I will use my secret weapon – yup, my finger! Finger pressing is da bomb! Honestly! If you haven’t started doing this yet then then I highly recommend watching some videos. It really means that when you get to the ironing board or pressing mat then half the work is already done and you’ll find it easier to avoid the stretching. Alright so that’s it for this quick blog, let me know are you a finger presser or not? I hope that spring is beginning to peak around the corner in your part of the world, here in Virginia we’ve gone from T-Shirts and flip-flops back to sweaters and brollies ugggh. Good thing we have our huge east coast quilt show to look forward to this week. Hugs and stitches, Amanda.