Skip to Content

How To Press Seams

Sharing is caring!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Do you know stitching requires special instructions along with a detailed and thorough pressing technique? From sewing seams to seam finishes, press seams are very much important to remove tiny puckers in the fabric and securely set the stitches to give the garment a finished look. 

Without adhering to pressing techniques, the seams will not set the stitching allowances and give bulky joint instead of smooth flawless appearance. Proper pressing will manipulate the the fabric and tighten up the joints between layers and pieces. 

Pressing follows a few important instructions depending on the type of iron you choose for sewing

How do you press seams? Set the correct iron temperature for the fabric. Use a light patting motion and gently press down on the seam without sliding the iron.

You should not iron vigorously with a back and forth motion as it will create unwanted stretching on the fabric. Adjust to the iron to the right temperature for the fabric, and avoid using steam as it can cause damage or shrink the fabric. 

Understanding the fabric and direction of pressing the seams is necessary part to accomplish crisp and professional looking garment.  This article explains everything you need to know about pressing seams, and included below are answers to your frequently asked questions about pressing seams and helpful tips to get your started.

What is the difference between pressing and ironing?

When the sewing instruction indicate pressing the seam or ironing, it sounds tricky because it may sound the same and you may not understand the difference. However, there is a difference between ironing and pressing. 

Pressing means to hold the iron on the fabric and press it for a short time and then remove it from the surface. On the other hand, ironing means to vigorously move the iron in a back and forth motion across the surface of the fabric. 

Ironing is the technique we are familiar with of ironing clothes. Even though you may hear the terms ironing and pressing used interchangeably, they are completely separate techniques that have different meanings.

So, ironing is the one thing that you need to do to get rid of wrinkles set into the fabric. Press the iron down and slowly move the iron along the surface of the fabric, continue moving the iron until the wrinkles are removed from the fabric. 

On the other hand, pressing is used to flatten the seams of a newly made garment. It will ensure the allowances of the seams are opened and the seam presstechnique will give a finished and professional look.

steps how to press seams correctly

Why is pressing important when sewing?

Pressing is secondary important element when it comes to sewing. Whether you press seams open, press dart down, or press to one side, it will lay flat and you will get a polished and professional look of the garment just like a store-bought clothes.

Pressing is very much necessary before you sew another seam or even finishing the hemline. It will flatten the previous connections and make it perfect before proceeding forward. 

Pressing may look like a tedious act, but it will do magic for the finished garment. 

Also, pressing seams during each phase of the sewing project will help to retain the shape of the garment even after washing. Pressing is very much vital if you want to ensure the quality of the final project. 

So, now you know why pressing is so necessary at the time of sewing. It ensures the perfect shape of the clothing and keeps the fabric seams and stitches flat.

When do you need to use a press cloth? Why?

A press cloth is a finely woven cotton or synthetic mesh that is suitable for high heat and helps you see through to the garment underneath while ironing. It is used as a protective layer between your garment and the soleplate of the hot iron.

When working with delicate fabrics such as silk, wool, and mixed fabrics containing synthetic or man-made fibers, it is recommended to use an ironing clothes while pressing.

The importance of why using a press cloth to press seams:

  • Depending on the fabrication you are working with, certain materials develop a shine after pressing them such as wool or suit fabrics.
  • Protect surface of fabric from shrinking, burning, or transferring deposits from the iron plate.
  • Prevents the iron from sticking to the garment or creating sticky deposits due to static and high heat.
  • Prevent the iron from scratching metal buttons and zippers.
  • Save money and time to avoid accidental damage to clothes or the iron.

Place the pressing cloth between the iron and the fabric if you are pressing a fusing interface on clothes or fabric. If you want to press a synthetic fabric but you do not know how to press it like a pro, then a pressing cloth is useful for extra protection.

If you don’t have pressing clothes, adjust the heat to a low setting and iron the wrong side of the fabric or apply steam from 1 inch away from the surface and then gently press to remove wrinkles.

General directions to press seams:

For perfect pressing, preheat a steam iron and prepare a sturdy ironing board so you can follow this step by step process to press seams the right way.

  1. Set up your iron and ironing board near the sewing machine. It is convenient to leave iron on so that you can press seam right away instead of turning on and off every time.
  2. Adjust the iron temperature appropriate for the fabric you are working on. Refer to the fabric guide for the correct temperature to press the seam.
  3. Test the iron on a fabric scrap first to make sure the temperature is right and doesn’t cause any damage to the material.
  4. Start pressing the seams on the wrong side of the fabric. If uncertain in anyway, use a press cloth on top when pressing the right side of the fabric.
  5. Avoid pressing over pins or basting stitches. The plastic pin head could melt and it might be difficult to remove once it is set into the fabric. 

Expert Pressing Seams Tips

Always follow the pattern instructions to accomplish a professional looking garment. To have perfectly pressed seams, darts, and edges that are pucker free and smooth edge on the right side, here are expert advice to create flawless seams every time:

  • Avoid sewing over unpressed seams
  • Use a sleeve roll to press any curve seams or under sleeve seams
  • When pressing knits or delicate fabrics, press up and down instead or left to right.
  • Follow the direction of the fabric grain when pressing
  • Make a habit to press wrong side first, then lightly press the right side to finish
  • Adjust the heat and steam as the fabric instructs.
  • When pressing thick seams of heavy fabric, use a thin card stock as a DIY pressing tool
  • For additional help, use finger press method first to open the seam to make the iron task even easier.

Achieve perfectly pressed seams instead of having under or overdressed the seams on the garment by using the press as sewn, open, one sided, or dart technique. 

Understand the difference before ironing a fabric, press seamswill ensure the proper shape of the fabric. The quality of the stitching of your clothes will make it lay flat and give a professional look to the garment.

Best pressing methods

Here are some different pressing methods to use when pressing seams:

Press as sewn: The press as sewn method is mostly used on side seams of the garment. Start by sewing seams indicated on the pattern and simply press along the seam exactly as you sewn, which means don’t open or flatten the seam. 

This method “sets” the stitches into the fabric to create smooth seam line and also remove any puckering that occurred while sewing. Pressing the seam also adjusts any slight tension from the sewing machine. 

Press seam open: This type of seam press is used in quilting, on any under stitching for the collar or to add topstitching along the seams. 

First press as sewn and then open the seam with fingers and press to open with finger nails. Finish with the flat of your iron to press seams flat. 

Make sure to press the seam open with a vertical motion instead of horizontal. 

Press to one side: The press to one side method is used occasionally for princess seams on the bodice and bottoms, but more often used in quilting than in garment sewing. 

Press both sides of the seam to one side. If you are sewing two different materials, it is recommended to press to the side of the darker or heavy fabric to avoid showing through the light fabric.

Pressing darts: Pressing darts are essential technique to create smooth bust or waist darts. The general rule of thumb for bust darts should be pressed down and any vertical waist darts should be pressed towards the center.

Sew darts the correct way and always start pressing the wider end of the dart and work your way up towards the point to give shaping to curve the fabric along your body. 

When pressing a straight seam, use press open or press your seam allowance to one side. However, when pressing a curved seam after sewing facing such as neckline, armhole, or hip seams, press seam flat onto one side. 

Pressing Seams: Final Thoughts

Pressing is an important step when sewing fabric together. The seam allowance needs to be flattened in a direction, otherwise it remains unfinished.

When pressing the seam open, make sure to clip the allowance first to make them lay flat. Then press according the the type of finish you are looking for.  

We covered the difference between pressing and ironing, and why pressing uses a patting motion to finish a seam while ironing moves the hot iron in a back and forth motion to release wrinkles.

There you have it, all the important details about pressing seams. Read through the pressing tips and select the right type according to the project, garment and material you are working with.

Sharing is caring!

rotary cutter and fabric scissors on cutting board
← Previous
Fabric Scissors vs. Rotary Cutter - What’s the difference?
mini iron on fabric seams
Next →
Best Irons for Sewing