The Pressinatrix Interview

Yes, that’s right. You read that right. The famous Pressinatrix (and her alter ego, Ann Steeves of Gorgeous Fabrics fame), has awarded yours truly an exclusive sit-down to discuss the pressing matters of sewing. And that’s only the beginning of the groaning puns, so prepare yourself!

SA: When did you realize your calling?….was there a garment where you saw a dramatic difference between not pressing/pressing badly to pressing well?

M. Pressinatrix: The Pressinatrix realized her true calling when she attended a seminar by a wonderful teacher, Roberta Carr. During the seminar, one of the attendees (not The Pressinatrix) exclaimed that she hated pressing. Ms. Carr, who regrettably passed away several years ago, looked sternly yet gently at the entire class and said, “Folks, pressing IS sewing.” The Pressinatrix’ eyes and mind were opened at that moment!

SA:  Who are your favorite assistants?….in order – is it because the ham is always moral, truthful, and versatile; because the sleeve roll is good confidant and available; the clapper, even though a little heavy-handed, can get the job done, or the press cloth, retiring and illusive can still be just the right touch; or is there an unsung hero that we never hear about?

Press cloths. The Pressinatrix cannot sing the praises of press cloths highly enough. Her favorite is silk organza. It holds up to high heat, you can spritz it with water to create steam where and when you want it, and it is transparent, so you can see clearly what you are doing

SA:  What is the most important thing to remember when you are pressing – in order 1.) Burn, Baby, Burn – you can’t help getting burned sometimes, 2.) Lava Lamp Pressure – varying pressure gives varying results, 3.) Geyser Steam – Let the steam do the work, and 4.)The Machinist – the equipment makes the difference

MP:  Ah, Your Pressinatrix can make fabric sing just as readily with a $25 Black and Decker iron as with a $2500 pressing station. The techniques I show on my blog and in my videos do not require expensive equipment. It’s more important to consistently, thoughtfully press your garments. And test test test! If you are not familiar with how a fabric reacts to steam and heat, play with a scrap before you begin working on your garment. Even The Pressinatrix has made her share of mistakes (some day she shall tell you about her adventure with nylon mesh and an over-warm iron).

SA:  What is the one falsehood of pressing?……that it’s the unsung hero…..that never gets enough press?…..that it can’t/can be done wrong…..that it’s just a given to set up an ironing board & iron close to your sewing machine.

MP:  The single biggest falsehood of pressing is that it is not necessary during each and every step of construction. It is. The Pressinatrix was appalled not too long ago to see a photo shoot by an independent company in which it was patently clear that the garments being photographed had not seen the bottom of an iron until the last hem was hemmed. Even more egregious is a garment by a major pattern company that is in their most recent catalogue. The puckering seams, the dreadful easing, it is almost too much for The Pressinatrix to bear! Pardon me – I must compose myself…
There, now we can continue.

SA:  Some may not be able to withstand your bring shine, what sort of protectors do you recommend – specifically presscloths – organza, organdy, or felt (for preserving loft or texture (as in trapunto stitching) – which ones do you use the most and find the most beneficial?

MP: There are several press cloths and tools in the Pressinatrix’ arsenal. You can see many of them on the video “Press that Bad Mamma Jamma“, as well as on The Pressinatrix’ lesser self, er, alter ego’s blog. One of the lesser-sung heroes in The Pressinatrix’ own pressing toolkit is a silicone kitchen mitt. It functions as a flexible clapper.
As far as press cloths go, The Pressinatrix likes to use silk organza the best, but she also uses unbleached muslin and wool flannel for different types of fabrics. Also, The Pressinatrix is fond of using a very light hand on delicate fabrics. She will hover the iron over the fabric, about 1/16 inch above it, and use steam along with a clapper or silicone mitt to gently flatten seams. Another excellent technique that doesn’t get much acknowledgement is point pressing, in which one uses just the pointed tip of the iron and very light pressure to press seams. The Pressinatrix has found that it works wonderfully on cashmere, alpaca and vicuña and other delicate fabrics.

SA: We all know that you are, if nothing, in great physical condition, but what sort of routine do you use to keep in shape?….acidity solutions, vinegar – something in the water?….any thing else?

MP: No no no no NO!!! Oh my gracious. The Pressinatrix recently received an email from a sewing company in which they… Excuse me, The Pressinatrix is finding it hard to even repeat this…
They recommended putting a solution of cornstarch and water in one’s iron to stiffen up chiffon and other soft fabrics.
OH THE HORROR!!!!
Pardon me, but The Pressinatrix needs to do some meditative breathing before we can continue…
My darling, The Pressinatrix was appalled and shocked that someone who is purportedly expert would make a recommendation like that. Here is what the Pressinatrix puts in her iron:
Water.
The tap water at The Pressinatrix’ home is rather hard, so The Pressinatrix uses demineralizing filter beads to remove the mineraly detritus. The Pressinatrix would NEVER introduce extra chemicals into her equipment. If one desires starch, or if one wants to mix a teaspoon of white vinegar into 2 cups of water as a crease remover, that is all well and good. But never, EVER put those directly into your iron. Keep a spray bottle handy for that purpose, and use that. Adding extraneous solutions to one’s iron will only succeed in shortening the lifespan of said iron.

SA: Having your finger on the pulse of the fashionista du jour, can you talk a little about the pressing done in the commercial world?….specifically talk about how industry standards wouldn’t dream of being without a garment pressed – how they do it?

At the garment factories which The Pressinatrix has visited, pressers are paid more than seamstresses. This is because they spend more time with the garment. The factories that supply better than low-end manufacturers practice the methods that The Pressinatrix preaches, and they spend much time and care to ensure that the garment looks good at all phases of its construction. They have some specialized tools and tables to speed their processes, but the process is much the same – sew the seam, press the seam. The Pressinatrix cannot fathom why so many sewing hobbyists declare loudly that they either hate pressing or that they find it to be a waste of time. Another wonderful sewing teacher, Cynthia Guffey, has a saying, “It’s your hobby; what’s your hurry?” The Pressinatrix agress, and The Pressinatrix finds that the time spent pressing is not only well worth it, but it also allows her time to think about the next steps in the sewing process, ensuring perfect results.

SA: Let’s just get it out there: Rumors are that you are linked to a big-wig political type (we won’t name names), what other rumors would you like to dispell and debunk?….like the diluted starch solution…..any other myths or wives’ tales out there that need debunking?

MP: The Pressinatrix never discusses politics, religion or baseball.

SA: OK – I just lied – we want you to name names and dish all the scoop….what is your favorite equipment, and your favorite models (boiler or gravity or other)? And any history you have with them.

MP: The Pressinatrix loves all pressing equipment! Her personal favorites are Reliable and Naomoto for irons, Stitch Nerd for hams and sleeve rolls.
And now, my dear, The Pressinatrix must get back to work. There is a silk dress waiting to be made. Ta ta, and Happy Pressing!

 

Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel all energized to start pressing something!  All kidding aside, pressing is vital to that professional result we all want.  It’s so simple, sometimes it’s forgotten, but don’t- or M. Pressinatrix (and I) will come haunt you!

closing

9 Comments
  1. For decades my motto has been “I sew with my iron”.

  2. Oh I am so with you ladies on pressing 🙂
    It has to be done and never…ever….a step to leave out.
    Lots of fun 🙂

  3. Amen to pressing all seams! My grandma taught me that pressing was a necessary step and I’ve followed this practice all my 54 years of sewing. Thanks for the funny interview.

  4. Ain’t Ann a stitch!

    • Kate – she is too much fun to play along with me – hopefully we will get under the radar to have folks start thinking about pressing as much a part of sewing as thread is!

  5. I think I heard Kenneth King say somewhere that good ironing could save bad sewing, and bad ironing could ruin good sewing.

  6. Ann needs some sort of Academy Award for her Pressinatrix videos. It is such sorely needed info and she does such a great job getting her point across.

    • She does indeed – it’s such a mundane boring subject and seemingly so inconsequential, when it is besides the sewing itself the most integral part of sewing. After a machine, the iron or pressing system is the next most important piece of equipment! I had fun with the puns and playing along with the always stellar Pressinatrix!!!

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