That's Not a Sewing Machine! That's an Iron!

My older daughter demonstrates today's principle while making a tablecloth.
Step 1: 
Press before sewing.

Step 2:  Sew.
Step 3:  Press after sewing.
Easy!

If you really want to learn how to use a sewing machine, I have an important tip for you. Set up your iron and ironing board close by. Everything–and I do mean everything–will look better, fit better, and stitch out more accurately if you press as you go along.

Carpenters use the phrase, "Measure twice. Cut once." A good mantra for all sewists would be, "Press twice. Stitch once."

Pressing your fabric before you start cutting is a must. And if you've pulled your pattern pieces from a tightly stuffed envelope, there's no shame is giving them a light once-over. (It's tough to pin and cut accurately using a rumpled pattern piece.) After stitching a few seams, it's a good idea to press the seam as it was sewn, and then (depending on the project) press the seam open or press the seam to one side.

When I first started sewing, I only pressed my projects at the very end–probably in anticipation of stitching up the hem.

I don't remember what article I read, or when the light bulb went off in my head, but once I realized that pressing was a part of the sewing process, I never looked back.

My iron and  ironing board (actually, it's a padded desk top) are now two steps from my sewing machine.

And while my iron doesn't always get the glory, I know that it should.

If you're looking for some simple, charming dresses to sew (and press!), check out I Am Cute Dresses.

How many steps do you walk to get from your sewing machine to your ironing station?

Happy stitching,

 

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50 thoughts on “That's Not a Sewing Machine! That's an Iron!

  1. For most sewing and quilt piecing, my iron is in the next room–this makes me get up from my sewing machine regularly. When working on miniatures, I set up an ironing surface right next to the machine with my tiny iroin, Here is a hint that we quilters know: Use an up and down motion with your iron rather than scrubbing the fabric–less chance of stretching the fabric and your seams out of shape. Happy sewing!

  2. My ironing board, one end of my cutting table, is right behind me when I sew. All I have to do is swival my chair around and there’s the iron. Awesome for piecing and pressing the seams.

  3. My Iron, I just stand up from my machine and turn around. I have always done it this way since I started sewing in the 50s, makes everything much easier for me

  4. Since I’ve moved, there is now not enough space in my sewing room for an ironing board. 🙁 But, my cutting table is right next to me and I have a vintage sleeve board that I use for most things while sewing, along with a towel on the table for larger things. I just roll on over a few inches and I’m there. I certainly agree that ironing at every step makes all the difference. Before I learned to iron while sewing, my finished items did look “homemade”. Not anymore…my kids have actually said, “Mom, you made that?!! It looks like something you bought in a store!” To them that’s a compliment, so I take it as one. Haha.

  5. I had sewn garments, accessories, and home dec projects since I was 8. I didn’t learn to quilt until I was 40. It took about a year for the light bulb to click. Pressing when quilting was an entirely different animal that when doing other sewing. Getting up and walking to the ironing board just wasn’t working, it really slowed down speed piecing.

    My sewing machine and rotary cutter and mat were on a large, “church basement” table. The first thing I did was move the ironing board over to the same side of the room and lower it so all I had to do was roll my chair over to press. Not too much longer and I moved the board over at a right angle to the end of my table and on my left, no more rolling, just swiveling. The final adjustment was turning the ironing board so I was working on the broad end. I then started haunting yard sales, estate sales, and thrift stores looking for old, flat sole, non-steam irons. LOVE those!! If I find one, I buy it. The last thing I did was buy a second ironing board and a high quality steam iron. That board is set at standard height. I use it for my “other” sewing and pressing large pieces of fabric and finished quilt tops. There is definitely a “big top” board in my future.

  6. I lower my ironing board to be the same height as my sewing table and stand it next to my sewing machine table. I just swivel to the right to iron. I do a lot of patchwork piecing and my quilts stay the right size if I iron each seam before connecting the next pieces.

  7. You wanted to know how far my ironing board/pressing station was from my machine. It is about 25 feet. YES, my sewing machine is in the back room and the ironing board is in the front room… WHY you ask… the back room is acting as the storage room at this time and there is not enough space to safely set up the ironing board. I count this walking back and forth as my exercise… especially if I’m in a time crunch to complete a project.

  8. When I designed my sewing room I had my husband add an outlet on the ceiling, I plug my Irons into this to keep the cords out of the way. The irons can reach my cut table from this point also for bigger projects. Honestly I have to take about 4-5 steps from the machine I use most often to the iron, but I love my sewing room!

  9. I am fortunate to have a sewing room, so my sturdy vintage ironing board is always open & ready for pressing. I turn around from either of my two sewing stations & take a few steps. Thank you for stating how important it is to iron as you go. I can’t remember never doing this. Also, can’t imagine not have my sleeve board, sleeve roll & pressing ham – necessary sewing items.

  10. I’ve been taking my sewing machines (serger and regular) to a soup kitchen once a month to do simple repairs for the folks that use the kitchen. My iron, sleeve ironing board and mini ironing board come along for the ride and get set up right next to my machines, the iron make the repairs much easier. (I’ve ironed a few shirts too 🙂

  11. I have a small table, low enough so I can sit to iron, next to my sewing machine cabinet with an ironing pad on it. I move it in shape of “L”, so I just turn in my chair to iron.

  12. Hi, Rose! I have my ironing board and iron directly behind me. After I sew a seam, I just stand up, turn around and begin to press. Since I’m the only one who ever goes into my sewing room, there’s no problem in how it is arranged.

  13. I have a U-shape sewing area so everything is right there. With arthritis, getting up constantly to cut, sew, press can get hard on the knees.

    But I do have my big cutting table and big ironing station in the next room and do use that too.

  14. I made an ironing board (pad). I started with a piece of cardboard, covered it with leftover batting , then covered it with fabric–from my stash. As it gets dirty or gets sticky from iron on applique fabric, I just cover it again. I pull the fabric to the back and stitch it by hand. I can move it where ever I want. While sewing (I make lots of quilts) I have it right by my machine so I can reach it without getting up. I press everything! 🙂
    Grandma Ginger

  15. I have a roll out cart that slides under my sewing table. The top is padded as an ironing board. It isn’t 2 steps away it is NO steps away. A little turn to the left and there it is. The iron sits arm’s length away on a little trivet. While I haven’t sewn clothes in a while I quilt nearly every day. EVERY seam is pressed as I go. Can’t imagine doing it any other way.

  16. I just want to say, I live in an apartment. I share my sewing room with my bed! I have cut, ironed, sewed and quilted probably 100 plus quilts in this room. I have my Janome set up on a breakfast sized table by my window, my one dresser has become drawers for material, which is a must! I have set up an ironing board to be my cutting table and ironing board. I have an office chair that I sit on and swivel from machine to iron. My husband has to remind me that coffee break is a must, lol. Just saying if you want to sew you will find a closet to sew from and by the way my double closet is also shared with bolts of material and shelving. Everyone tells me I should share my room with my husband, but then again he would actually know how much material I have.

  17. My ironing board is only a couple steps away too. It is a table top one too. I totally agree with you about ironing. I hated ironing and didn’t do it when I sewed when young, but last year I taught sewing to some of my family members and I had to tell them that ironing as you go is the only way to do it!

  18. My sewing room is upstairs and my ironing board is downstairs. This way I get a little exercise as i sew. I really don’t mind getting up and moving a little during sewing. I also believe that pressing is very important.

  19. I have my ironing board set up at a right angle to my sewing table. That way it’s just a “spin” in my chair to get to the iron. I love it and I learned a loooong time ago to “press often”.

  20. I set up an ironing station right next to my sewing machine table. I use a large wooden tv tray, place some padding on the tray, and plug in my iron. I can do most quick presing without getting up. My quilting sister insists I need to stretch my legs, so I also have my regular ironing board just a few steps away.
    When sewing quilt blocks pressing the pieces beforehand helps ensure edges line up evenly

  21. My ironing surface is close, but in a place where I have to get up and walk a few steps to use it. This is deliberate, as it forces me to get out of my chair and change position, which is much better for my back than sitting constantly.

  22. My sister & I like to quilt together at her house… we cut out fabric together but I do the ironing. When we start stitching, she sews (it’s her machine~) and I do the pressing. We have a fun routine down and it gives us time to talk over our world’s problems.

  23. I sometimes sew in my bedroom instead of my sewing room, but my ironing surface is always to the left of my sewing machine. That way, I just swivel my chair around and press.

  24. My sewing machine is 7 steps away from my sewing machine, but I ALWAYS press as I go, no matter what I’m sewing. It may seem time consuming or inefficient, but getting up so often to go to the ironing board is good for my back, shoulders, and neck, and a great reason to get up and stretch my legs.

  25. I purposely leave the ironing board /iron downstairs to force myself to use the stairs for a little exercise! (Less guilt for remaining in my happy sewing room longer than I probably should…)

  26. I have my ironing board set up behind my chair at my sewing table. I can just swivel around, but I usually stand so I get a little bit of exercise 😉

  27. I have my ironing board set up behind my chair at my sewing table. I can just swivel around, but I usually stand so I get a little bit of exercise 😉

  28. It depends on how I feel. Often I set the iron and board up in the laundry room, so I need to get up and move. Right now, it’s set up on the other side of my cutting table, making me get up, but I don’t have to go so far.

    When I began sewing, my mother would press for me as I sewed. It was a way for her to support me, advise me and let me do all the sewing. I made a lot of projects in 4-H and this was a way to keep it all “legal.”

  29. I always have an adjustable ironing board. I lower it so that it is the same height as my sewing machine. It is next to my machine so I just roll my chair from machine to ironing board. That way I don’t have to get up each time. It saves my old knees (-;
    LisaD in upstate NY

  30. I have an ironing pad right beside my sewing machine, and my iron is on if my sewing machine is. I worked for a short time at a sewing shop and was told that ironing was most of the time, an unessential step in most sewing. Hogwash. Ironing IS an important step that does make a positive difference.

  31. I have an ironing pad right beside my sewing machine, and my iron is on if my sewing machine is. I worked for a short time at a sewing shop and was told that ironing was most of the time, an unessential step in most sewing. Hogwash. Ironing IS an important step that does make a positive difference.

  32. My ironing board has been right angle with my sewing machine for years, 15 plus. So I agree 100%. The desk into an ironing surface is a good idea I want to try. Franz

  33. I have my iron about ten steps away. I need the get up and move.
    I wanted to comment on the iron artical. In my eighth grade Home Ec class the teacher made two dress exactly alike, except one she pressed at every step and the other one she did not touch with the iron. I can still see the differerance. I am an iron user/believer.

  34. I use a very small ironing board, and my desk is big enough that I can often push back my machine and pull the ironing board up in front for a few quick seam presses. This set up doesn’t work for cutting and pinning when I need to drape things out flat. For those time, I pull out my double folding craft table.
    Luckily it fits right along side my desk, so yes, about two steps away!
    I have some ironing board batting I purchased that covers half the table. I never made a cover for it so I have a paper bag I opened up and I iron over and under then depending on my needs. The paper bag is good because when I get anything sticky on it I can just get a new one.

  35. None. I turn in my chair as I set the ironing board at the same height as my sewing surface and just need to swivel in my seat to press. A boss from the past used to say he liked to hire lazy people because they always found the most efficient way to do things. Jo

  36. My iron, board and ironing accessories are purposefully placed across from my sewing machine in the craft room. I have a circulation problem in my legs and the distance forces me to get up, move about, and get pumping. I used to have the iron right next to the sewing table so that I could swivel sideways and press.
    This was TOO convenient and I would get involved in a project and not move from a sitting position for too long of a time.
    One of the valuable things I have learned is the difference of pressing and ironing. The pressing motion is up and down (which will not stretch fabric out of shape) and ironing is a back and forth motion (to remove wrinkles and shape curves). I learned this by watching a children’s sewing teacher instruct her students. It was one of the best things I ever learned about an iron!

  37. I have my ironing board set up beside my sewing machine. All I have to do is swivel around to go from serger, sewing machine or ironing board.

  38. My 18×23″ ironing pad is at the far end of my cutting table, about 12 feet from my Bernina and less from my other sewing machines. About 20 feet away, I have another large ironing pad that is about 23×55″ so I can iron large pieces of fabric. This distance gives me the exercise I need so my arthritis doesn’t cause me to get too stiff while I am sewing. These distances are intentional as I designed my sewing studio with this need in mind.

  39. My 18×23″ ironing pad is at the far end of my cutting table, about 12 feet from my Bernina and less from my other sewing machines. About 20 feet away, I have another large ironing pad that is about 23×55″ so I can iron large pieces of fabric. This distance gives me the exercise I need so my arthritis doesn’t cause me to get too stiff while I am sewing. These distances are intentional as I designed my sewing studio with this need in mind.

  40. My sewing area is U-shaped and very tiny. All I have to do to iron is swivel around to the left in my chair and there’s my ironing station. While convenient, it’s better for you to get up and walk to an ironing board. That way you don’t sit too long in one place and get stiff.

  41. I agree with you Rose. Ironing is crucial to my creativitiy and productiveness. I only need to turn my chair 80 degrees to the left to use my iron. My husband has filled my studio with wonderful shelving but right in the middle of my studio is my sewing station. Immediately to my left is my lowered ironing board and directly to the left of it (behind me) is my cutting and assembly table. I work in a triangle the same as in my kitchen. I couldn’t begin to make half of my accessories if I didn’t have my iron to use each step of the way. Stay creative…

  42. Since I moved my ironing board to my sewing room, I press as I go. I think it actually saves time as the sections go together much more easily when pressed.
    It has the added advantage that I can now do the household ironing while supervising my embroidery machine, too.

  43. My ironing board is right beside my sewing machine. I sit in a rolling chair, so I can just do a little scooting back and forth. My problem is finding a decent iron. One that gets hot enough to make steam without spitting and dripping. One that actually has temperature change between the settings. Can anyone help.

    LisaC
    wal1978@bellsouth.net

  44. Iron on the other side of the room (10 steps?). Share sewing room w/ lg. pantry, treadmill, music room and other storage. Trying to figure out more ways to store fabric!!!

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