Pressing matters: Part 2
by Sandra Starley
Last month I wrote about the importance of properly pressing quilt blocks rather than ironing. I am back to share more hot topics. Quilters do take pressing issues quite seriously. #pressingmatters was even one of the daily prompts in the popular March Instagram posting event: #igquiltfest. Quilters follow a month of posting prompts or guidelines and share relevant pictures and tips. Read below and then also search under these tags to see more product information and many wonderful quilts.
Wool Pressing Mats
In addition to favorite irons and pressing sprays, the two most mentioned items for precise piecing were wool pressing mats and wooden tailor’s clappers. Wool pressing mats are available in a variety of sizes. Small ones are handy in a pressing station next to your sewing machine. This is a terrific way to make sure you press each seam before sewing the next one. But most people recommend you set them up away from your machine so you get up and move regularly.
Larger mats can be placed on a standard ironing board. So why are they so wonderful? The wool conducts heat very well resulting in crisply pressed seams. It heats both sides of your fabric at the same time. Another excellent choice is to make your own big pressing station by covering a large board with a wool blanket and then covering the unit with a heavy fabric. This makes your whole surface a wool mat.
Wooden tailor’s clappers are another old tool that has become trendy. They are simply heavy pieces of wood that are placed on top of seams after pressing to further flatten and set the seams. Quilters are raving about the magic they create in terms of precisely pressed seams. They are available in assorted sizes and with simple or elaborate woodworking details. You can get clappers with other decorative designs like flowers or bees. For a totally unique tool, you can have a custom clapper made with your company name, logo, or the name of your “sewing studio.”
Other Clever Iron Alternatives
In addition to irons that come in many price points and a variety of sizes and colors, there are myriad gadgets to help you press on. From wooden rollers to pressing sticks, woodworkers are busy creating many useful tools besides the tailor’s clappers. Often, these small tools are used at the sewing machine to do an initial press after sewing a seam. The tools are an alternative to using a fingernail to press open a seam; known as “finger pressing.”
Pressing tools, old and new
Pressing tools, old and new, on a wool mat. (Image courtesy of the author)
More about flattening sprays or starch; I previously mentioned that some quilters love to heavily starch and literally soak/drench their fabric before pressing while others do not use it at all. Some quilters buy commercial quilting pressing concoctions (starch alternatives) like Best Press or Flatter. Others make their own moonshine spray – the main ingredient is cheap vodka (hence the name) along with distilled water.
Recipes also may include liquid starch, which makes a thicker, stronger spray. You mix the ingredients and add essential oil of your choice if you like scented spray. Use in a spray bottle to zap pesky wrinkles and control seams. And since quilting is such a creative business, you will not be surprised to find that you can buy fillable decorative spray bottles designed with quilters in mind.
One example features quilted stars and the direction to “Keep Calm and Quilt On!” Great advice for us all.
Sandra Starley is nationally certified quilt appraiser, quilt historian, and avid antique quilt collector. She travels throughout the U.S. presenting talks on antique quilt history, fabric dating classes and trunk shows as well as quilting classes. Learn more at utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com. Send your comments and quilt questions to SandraStarley@outlook.com