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Press Cloths Take Center Stage

Threads #84, Aug/Sept 1999

No matter how snazzy or expensive your iron is, it’s only part of the tool equation when you’re trying to get great pressing results. As unexciting as it may sound, your press cloth collection is as useful as the most exotic iron or ironing board and every bit as essential for beautifully pressed results. Why a collection? You’ll get the best results with a lot of different cloths to choose from to suit a wide variety of fabrics and situations.

First consider your surface

Besides the familiar ingredients of heat, moisture, and pressure that your iron provides, pressing variables boil down to two elements: what you’re pressing the fabric through – the press cloths – and what you’re pressing it against – the pressing surfaces.

Surfaces can be divided into three types: soft, hard, and thinly padded. Most ironing board covers are soft, which is ideal for pressing finished clothing, fabrics with surface interest such as lace, and complex layered constructions such as welt pockets and bound buttonholes. These multiple thicknesses will sink into the padding and won’t leave imprints or get crushed. But it’s difficult to press creases on soft surfaces, and general pressing is slowed down by too much padding.

At the other extreme, there is completely unpadded or muslin-covered wood, found in seam sticks and boards, point pressers, clappers (as useful as pressing surfaces in their more usual function, described below), June Tailor boards, and large wooden surfaces used by tailors, called cheese blocks along with hams and seam rolls, which also qualify as hard surfaces. All these are needed when you want to press a sharp crease or edge into a thick fabric like wool or to completely open a seamline. Because wools need to be pressed or held in shape until…

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