Pressing. Although it’s what quilters do to our projects as we piece along, Merriam Webster defines it as an adjective meaning “urgently important.” Proper pressing helps me achieve my best quilting results, so I tend to believe the adjective definition applies!
I’ve heard strong feelings expressed about a lot of things related to getting the perfect press. Some people prefer a dry iron while others love the setting power of steam. The cotton temperature setting may match the fiber content, but I have been known to crank my iron up to the hottest setting after first testing a scrap of fabric to be sure it won’t scorch. There are starches, sprays and lots of pressing gadgets that help open seams, as well as old-fashioned tailor tools to help shape and set fabric. There are also varying opinions about pressing to the dark, the light or pressing seams open.
I personally like to use a variety of these options, depending on the project and how the fabric is behaving. Sometimes the weight or weave of the fiber lays down and gives up with little effort, creating a perfectly flat seam. Other times it’s a bit of a challenge for me to get that crisp finish, which is when I bring in steam, extra heat and setting sprays until I find the method that will help me get the best results.
As for which direction to press, I like to let each quilter decide for themselves. Two pieces pressed opposite ways are necessary for nesting seams. I like to create as little bulk as possible and often find myself re-pressing as a block or a project grows with additional pieces, rows, or segments. I don’t want dark fabric showing through an adjoining lighter fabric so those color pressing decisions are often necessary as I sew. I also happen to be a fan of pressing seams open, although I know that doesn’t work for everyone. Open seams are easy to match (just stick a pin in the gap) but this is not typically recommended if the quilting will be stitch-in-the-ditch style.
Ultimately, I think there’s a time, place and project for all the pressing alternatives.
Do you have favorite pressing techniques? Please share so I can try your method on my next project!