Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pressing Matters

When I first started quilting, I thought that after years of ironing my husband's shirts I knew all there was to know about "pressing". 
If ironed instead of pressed, this simple fabric square can become


The difference was "ironing" vs. "pressing. If you are new to quilting, you may not have been told about this. Ironing involves moving the iron across the fabric. It can push the fibers out of shape, leaving your fabric out of square. Pressing involves setting the iron down on the fabric, pressing down briefly, and lifting it without pushing it across the fabric grain. 

One great tool to help you press instead of iron is "The Steady Betty". The special foam surface grips your fabric to keep it from moving under the iron even if you make an ironing movement. (I'm not affiliated with this company and they are not compensating me in any way. I just happen to have one and love it!) You can find out more about it on their website, Your quilt shop may carry them. They come in different sizes.

I like to use spray starch on my quilt fabric to help stabilize it. Using starch also gives it a crisp feel that makes it easy to work with. If you want, you can make your own. You can mix liquid starch with water, 1 cup starch to 1 cup water. Mix it well and put it in a spritzer bottle. (You can also make a stiffer solution by increasing the amount of starch to water.) This is the formula I use when I make my own spray starch.

Another way to make spray starch is to mix 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. Slowly add 4 cups boiling water to this and let it cool before putting it in a spritzer bottle. You will need to shake this well each time you use it. 
An easier version of this is to add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 2 cups of water. Stir it well and put in a spritzer bottle. Shake it well before using. (The uncooked cornstarch may tend to leave more residue. 
Each of the cornstarch recipes will last only about 2 weeks. You may get longer use out of the cornstarch mixtures if you keep them in the refrigerator. 

You will notice that there is a pillow case slipped over the end of my ironing board. I do this so that I can easily slip it off and wash it when needed. I put three large safety pins underneath to pinch the loose ends together and hold it in place. When one side gets dingy, I unpin it and rotate it so that the area that had been underneath is now on top. I use a pillow case that had been used to submit a quilt to a quilt show. We were to write our name and the name of the quilt on the pillowcase with marker. Since I wasn't keen on putting this on my bed, I use it for the ironing board.

If you knew all of this already, hopefully you don't mind a refresher, but if not, you will find that correct pressing will make a huge difference in the accuracy of your piecing.   Until next time, good luck in all pressing matters!


  1. I am like you! I iron all the time!
    And I iron my squares all the time.
    Then I have wondered when I put them together why they don't fit together!

    Funny how a little thing like that makes such a BIG difference.

  2. Yes. It's amazing how those little things add up in a quilt! I have had such a hard time stopping the "ironing" motion, I felt like I HAD to have a Steady Betty just as insurance. I also use a ton of spray starch. I love the crisp look of the fabric after I use it!

  3. I like the tip regarding the pillowcase over the ironing board. I'm going to try it.

  4. Thanks, Liz. It works really well. Be sure to pull it in tight underneath the ironing board and pin with large safety pins. I use a lot of spray starch and it really "gunks" up my ironing board cover, so this was my solution to that. I can pull it off and wash it whenever I need to.

  5. Thanks for the pillowcase tip. I don't often use spray starch, mostly because I'm very unhappy with what it does to my ironing board cover. I'll have to check it out.


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