The Art of Pressing

Last week I was having issues with my ironing station. For starters, my iron was wigging out and it was time for a new one. I then noticed that my ironing board cover could use a good washing, actually maybe even a throwing out and getting a new one. I took off the ironing board cover and much to my dismay, I found that my ironing board was having some rust issues. The paint was peeling off and there was rust beginning to soak through the pad. Reaching the end of my patience, I chucked the ironing board, cover and iron, went and bought a new iron, board and the cover that came with the board. I was completely unhappy with the cover and had to make my own. I have a tutorial on how to make your own coming up in the next few days. Today, I wanted to cover pressing technique. I press so much when I sew and to me, it’s an art form. I love freshly pressed clothes. I love the way they look and I have a great appreciation for seeing a garment on someone else that has been properly pressed. It’s such a beautiful thing. Pressing is my favorite part of laundering clothes. It’s relaxing to me.

Enough of me, and my love affair with ironing. Here are a few tips, tricks and techniques I use when I press:

Mr. S has kindly volunteered one of his nice dress shirts as an example here. I always start with a hot iron and a spray bottle full of water. Sometimes I use that spray starch which I think works wonderfully for white dress shirts and pillowcases (yes, I do iron my pillowcases, try it, you’ll never go back). When I press a garment, I start with the collar. Spray a little water and press. Some collars don’t take kindly to being pressed straight up with the iron. It’s best to use a pressing cloth. Don’t have one? Use a dishtowel, they do the trick quite nicely.

Next comes the sleeve. I press both sides of the sleeve and I make sure that the bottom seam of the sleeve is flat ensuring that the crease from the iron is precisely at the top of the sleeve.

The shoulder is what I press next. I position the shoulder of the garment onto the ironing board sleeve making it lie flat for an excellent press. Both the right and left shoulders should be pressed this way.

When pressing the body of the garment, I always start with the right side (right side if you had the shirt on) and work my way to the left. You can start the other way around, working with the left and going to the right, whichever is your preference. Don’t forget the outside edge of the buttons and in between the buttons either. This does affect the way the shirt lays against the body.

Some extras for other garment types:

When pressing longish skirts, I work from right (right side of the body) to left and in two sections. The top section is first and then I do the bottom section. The wrinkles come out much easier with less surface area for the iron to work on.

For pants, I always press the top four portions (right front, left front, right back, left back) first. When making the crease down the center, hold the pants up to you and pull the front section where the crease will begin away from you, lay flat on the ironing board and press. Works like a charm every time.

Old fashioned tips you may not know:

It’s best to have a really hot and heavy iron. If you don’t, always keep your iron full of water and put a layer of tin foil, shiny side up, in between the cover and your pad. This helps the heat deflect back to the iron making it extra hot.

Spray your ironing board with your favorite perfume and each time you iron, it will release the scent into your clothing. Not to mention, its like aromatherapy each time you iron.

Having trouble with ironing board cover slippage? Those wire plate hangers are a great fix. You can buy them almost anywhere and attach them to each side of the belly of your ironing board cover. They last forever and typically never break.

I do hope you enjoyed these ideas on pressing! May you love to press as much as I do.


  • Katrina - Wonderful tips! I don’t iron anything…at all…But as I read your statement about ironed pillows…I looked at my heavily wrinkled one and thought “I bet you’d look brand new if I ironed you”…So I just might try.

  • Peter - Thanks for the great ironing tips. My ironing board is an embarrassing mess with a lot of yucky old interfacing gunk embedded into it (if no longer sticky). I think it’s time for a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond.
    Just discovered your blog and I’m really enjoying it. Wonderful photography!

  • Kristin P. - I really want that tutorial on making my own ironing board cover. My ironing board is pitiful,and I had the idea earlier this week to go purchase a new one. You have inspired me. I’ve known about your love of pressing for at least the past 10 years, since the time we shared a room on a choir trip and you were ironing your jeans…and maybe even your socks. Okay, maybe not your socks, but you were the only one from our room that used the ironing board.

  • Gabbix - I started to iron after my grandmas passed away and I now I have two beautiful hand-made ironing board .. I just have to use them! So thanks thanks thanks for your tutorial and tips, there are just what I needed to get started … I also have their sewing machines, forms and all kind of sewing stuff .. so Ill be reading your blog often … its very inspiring ..
    love from Argentina …