Pressing garments is an important part of the clothe-making process but some newcomers overlook the importance of the pressing cloth. So, let’s look at why we need one and what to use as a pressing cloth.
Why do we need to press the garments that we make?
The first step in learning how to use a pressing cloth and choosing the best pressing cloth alternative is to understand the process. Pressing a garment isn’t the same as ironing. What you are doing is pressing the surface of the iron onto the seams and creases to make sure everything is flat and in line. You can do this during the process for a better cut and when working on different seams.
What is the purpose of a pressing cloth?
A pressing cloth is a brilliant way to add protection to your garment in this final stage of the make. You want to be able to add just enough heat to your material to get the best finish, but not so much that you could scorch it. The right cloth between the hot plate of the iron and the clothing is the perfect barrier. This also means protection for the iron. We don’t think about the risk of an iron losing its protective coating or becoming compromised by fabrics with high melting points. But, this is a risk. You can also use these pressing cloths when working on other processes, such as applying heat transfer vinyl lettering to a t-shirt or bag. This way you can get even heat that isn’t going to melt the vinyl or cause any irreversible damage to your clothes.
What makes a good pressing cloth?
Next, we need to consider what to use as a pressing cloth. The ideal pressing cloth is a piece of white cotton that will sit nicely between the garment and the iron. This will protect your work and allow the appropriate transfer of heat from the iron plate to the material. The reason that white fabric is so highly recommendable is that there is no dye in the material that may transfer onto the garment. The last thing that you want is a stain or other imperfection right at the end of the process.
The piece of cloth also needs to be just the right size for the job. Two big and it just gets in the way as you are trying to get the best result on your ironing board. Two small and you run the risk of the iron going over the edges and touch the material. Find what works for you.
Can you use other types of cloth instead?
You don’t have to go out and buy a special piece of white cotton for this task. If you have some in your fabric basket then that’s great. If not, you can always use a scrap of a different color or repurpose some other material. If you have an old shirt or bed sheet lying around unloved, you can always cut it up for use as cloths and rags. One of those pieces will easily work as a pressing cloth if it is clean and there is no risk of dye transfer.
Another great option is to use a clean tea towel. These cloths will hold the heat well and provide a strong barrier. You can always keep an older one back in your sewing basket so you always have something there in case you need it.
You can always test out some fabric in your scrap basket to see what is a good fit. You need something that will provide good heat transfer, but that also has a high melting point. Don’t run the risk of melting some cheap synthetic material onto your new garment. You should also pay attention to the transparency and texture of the material. This is why some people aren’t as keen to use tea towels, especially those that are thick and textured. It helps to be able to see the material beneath, if only a little, and to make sure you don’t press a pattern onto your clothes. These criteria are why some people turn to organza. This sounds like an odd choice, and it is understandable if you don’t have any, but it is see-though and nearly impossible to melt.
Can you use a wet pressing cloth?
Yes, if you use the right cloth. A damp pressing cloth can help you create more steam to deal with stubborn areas on a garment. Some sewers like to do this with chiffon and lace. This works better with thicker cloths that can hold the water and remain a little damp rather than sodden with water. Just spray the towel, lay it on the material, and then press the creases out. Just remember that the towel can become very hot after pressing so let it cool and be careful removing it.
Can you use parchment paper as a pressing cloth alternative?
Parchment paper is an option because of the properties mentioned above. You can transfer heat pretty easily without risks of melting or damage. After all, we bake with the stuff. It is also very translucent, which is why it doubles up as tracing paper for arts and crafts. You could lay a sheet of this over your garment if you have no better fabric alternative to hand. What you shouldn’t do is use wax paper because you don’t want to run the risk of the wax melting.
Don’t buy a pressing cloth when there are so many better options out there.
There are probably retailers out there promising the perfect pressing cloth for you to buy for your sewing room. It is a simple way to get a few bucks out of new sewers that want the very “best” options. But, there really is no point spending money when there are so many pressing cloth alternative options – many of which are sure to be lying around the house. Take some time to test out tea towels and scraps of cotton in your collection until you find the right fit. Soon you will see why so many of us use these tools to press our clothes.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.