Pressing and Ironing
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Earlier today I showed off my new project with improv curved piecing, tentatively named "Energy". I was very happy with the top, but to be honest it was rather wavy and not as flat as I liked.
This was to be expected I suppose, because there was no extra fabric for seam allowances added to the pieces due to the method I used. This caused the pieces to not fit exactly, and especially with the "curvier" curves the result is not quite flat. It is particularly noticeable on the left side and in the top left corner, and it bothered me!
So out came the iron, ironing board, and a wet cloth. Often we are admonished to "press, not iron" our patchwork in order not to distort it. It is usually good advice, but the reverse is true too: If you use your iron well, you can "encourage" your distorted patchwork into a better, in this case flatter, shape. This is what I did:
Step 1: Press/iron your patchwork so that seam allowances are pressed to the right direction, and the fabric is as flat as possible (as above).
Step 2: Lay your fabric on the ironing board, making sure straight lines (edges and seams) are positioned straight, even if this gives waves or lumps in between. You can even pin crucial points in place onto the ironing board (put the pins in as flat as you can, and preferably small pin heads). If the patchwork is larger than the ironing board, I usually start with the middle section first, though if one section is particularly bad, I may start there. In this case the middle section included the waviest bits, so that part got the treatment first. I did the top and bottom sections after.
Step 3: Pat down the fabric to even out any lumps and bumps as much as possible. Then gently iron as flat as possible, leaving each section flat in place until cooled then moving to the next section. In my case this was not enough, though sometimes this is all that's needed.
Step 4: Lay the wet, but not dripping, cloth on top of the patchwork. Pat down as much as possible with your hands, making sure there are no creases, either in the pressing cloth, or in the patchwork underneath!
Step 5: Press with a dry iron, one small section at a time. Lift the iron from place to place, the cloth will steam and gradually get slightly drier, though there is no need to iron the cloth completely dry. When the cloth is no longer very wet, the ironing can become a bit firmer without the cloth moving about, but keep a gentle touch.
Step 6: Lift the cloth from the patchwork. The patchwork will be (unevenly) damp, and disconcertingly wrinkled, though unless it was severely wavy, the large waves will have gone.
Now iron out the small wrinkles, a small section at a time, using the tip of the iron. Pay particular attention not to distort bulky corners and (straight) seams, since distortion here can be extra visible.
Step 7: Place the full iron on the piece, going around the whole area bit by bit. Don't hold the iron in one place for too long, you don't want scorch marks! But keep going round until the piece is completely dry.
Leave your section lying flat on the ironing board until the fabric is cooled, then repeat the whole process with remaining sections until the whole piece is done.
Isn't this much better? It's not completely perfect, but the small waves that are left will hardly be visible once layered with wadding, and the rest will easily quilt out!