sewing · sewing room

pressing matters

I’ve mentioned before that my Dad is rather handy, especially with timber.  Now that Dad is 86, he prefers smaller timber working projects to larger ones such as major pieces of furniture.  I suspected that he would be looking for a project to do while we were up visiting at Christmas time, so went searching for something appropriate – and found both photos and diagrams of point pressers and clappers, plus a pattern for a tailor’s board.

tailors boards and clappers/point pressers

Okay, what is a point presser, a clapper, and a tailor’s board, I hear you ask? Well, they are all tailoring and pressing tools.

tailor's board and point presser/clapper

The tailor’s board, which is at the back of the above photo, is used for pressing points, pressing seams, pressing sleeves and sleeve heads, and generally helping you to get into hard to reach places that you just can’t press easily on the regular sized and shaped ironing board. There are actually a couple of excellent tutorials available online that explain how to use them. Dritz have one here, and there is a video tutorial by Nancy Zieman on youtube over here.

The clapper is the bottom part of the tool at the front of the photo above.  It is for pounding seams, and any other bulky edges.  After they have been steam pressed with the iron, clapping or pounding down on them with the clapper forces the moisture out and gives you flat seams and crisper edges.  It’s not something that you use all the time, as it depends on the fabric, but can ver a very handy tool.  It can be made just flat with a groove for holding it, or else with a handle.  And the handle can be made in the shape of a point presser, as Dad made for me.  So you’ve got the clapper underneath, which you can hold with the point presser, and you can use the point presser to do exactly that – press points, or press along other seams.  Angela Wolf has a video tutorial on how to use it here.

Another wonderful pressing tool is a sleeve board.

sleeve board, made by Dad

Dad made me this one a few years ago. I drew out a pattern on paper of what I was after, and he put it together. I then covered it with batting and a cover made from curtaining fabric, the sort with block-out on the back. This is the BEST thing for pressing sleeves, unsurprisingly. I use it often.

So by now I bet that you’re going to ask me where to get these or how to make them.  I have a few suggestions.  You can google them to find a local supplier or mail order supplier in your country.  You can make one yourself.  There are tutorials for how to make a clapper here and here.  Unfortunately the website for the pattern that Dad used for the tailor’s board appears to be down at the moment.  I’ll leave the link in anyway, because I have many thank you’s to the person at http://www.chance-of-rain.com for their pattern and instructions, and hopefully it will reappear at some stage.  I have found a link to the instructions through the wayback machine, but not a link to the pdf of the pattern.  The University of Kentucky have instructions for how to make a number of pressing tools – including a tailor’s board, tailor’s ham, clapper, pressing mitt and sleeve roll – over here!  Hooray!  There are also patterns available for sale here.  You could ask a handy person that you know to make one, or contact your local woodturner’s or woodworker’s group and see if anyone there could do it.  Many of them could work from photos and/or diagrams, and there are loads of those available if you do an image search on google for “tailor’s board” or “tailor’s clapper” or similar.

*stop press!  The Curious Kiwi has instructions on how to make both a sleeve board and a tailor’s board over here!  Thanks to Nicole and Jo for pointing that out – extremely helpful!

And obviously, if you are going to press as you sew – and you absolutely SHOULD – then you need an iron.

steam iron

I currently use a Kogan steam iron, and love the huge water reservoir and the amount of steam that it pumps out.  A number of manufacturer’s make similar irons.  Everyone has different preferences in their irons, and it depends a little bit on how much ironing you do!  Between household ironing and sewing, I do plenty.  I like an iron with a decent amount of weight to it, one that puts out plenty of steam, and preferably one that turns off automatically if it hasn’t been used for a certain period of time.  This iron doesn’t have automatic switch off, so I do need to be careful to remember to turn it off myself.  It’s not hard to remember generally, as it continues to pour out steam and that reminds me!

Also, I’ve talked about my ironing board cover before, but I’ll mention it again while I’m talking about pressing.  It is a Fitz Like A Glove cover, from Interface Australia, as is over their felt underlay.  Their goods are not cheap, but they are absolutely high quality and last for a long, long time.  Service is always excellent when I have placed an order and everyone I know who has used their cover and underlay has been very happy with it.  Worth every cent.  While I’m at it, I’ll also just note that all my above comments are just consumer comments and reviews – I am not sponsored by either Kogan or Interface to mention their products!

There are other excellent pressing tools that really help to make your garments sew up successfully.  I use a Best Boy pressing cloth (also from Interface) and a silk organza pressing cloth when needed.  I also have a tailor’s ham and a pressing mitt.

Craftsy give a run-down of pressing tools here.  The Sewing Divas have a superb series on pressing here.  Colette discusses pressing tools here. And last, but definitely not least, Ann from Gorgeous Fabrics is also known as the Pressinatrix, and she has an excellent series of blog posts about pressing here – and a video to go with them!  You absolutely must read her series and watch the video if you are interesting in finding out about how pressing can improve your sewing.

And one last thing before I go.  Let me introduce you to Ada.

Ada, my new dress form

Ada is my new dress form, and she came to me at Christmas. She is an Adjustoform Lady Valet, and my husband found her at Sew Much Easier. (Meaning, I emailed him the link with extremely strong hints). She’s currently wound out to approximate my measurements, but will still need some additional padding and shaping in a few areas. I’m really looking forward to working with her!

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11 thoughts on “pressing matters

  1. Look at all those lovely pressing tools! My compliments to your skilled father. I am lucky to have a dear stepfather who is a woodturner, but he would definitely not be interested in making such practical objects. I enjoyed reading your roundup of pressing equipment–thanks!

  2. Lovely! and Congratulations on your lovely Lady Valet!
    Thank you So much for all the details, especially on how to use them! 😉 My newly retired dad used the university of kentucky’s instructions & tips from the curious kiwi’s post http://thecuriouskiwi.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/mission-complete-pressing-equipment/ http://thecuriouskiwi.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/thecuriouskiwi_sleeve-board-template.pdf – now if only hubby can save some fine sawdust for my ham …

    1. he he, I just found the same instructions! I have been pondering one of these items for some time, so Lara, your post was timely and has prompted me to move it up the list – I am fairly sure we have all the tools required hiding out in the garage…

      Love your blog Lara!

  3. Kristy and I are on the same page – I was looking closely at the point pressers at Tessuti’s yesterday (and we brought the same fabric!!!). I do have the ham, roll and cloths but need more.

  4. Thanks for this excellent post. I’ve only recently been mulling over my less-than-excellent iron, and the issue of whether I really need a dress form. And I’m sure my husband will be overjoyed to knock out a point presser and a sleeve board.

  5. Can anyone tell me the measure for each part of the tailor pressing board? I would like to make one but I can find detail measurements. Thanks for all your help in advance.

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