9 Essential Pressing Tools In Sewing

To achieve a professional finish on your sewing projects, utilizing the 9 Essential Pressing Tools In Sewing

As my grandmother often said, 

“Without proper pressing, you’re only halfway done.” 

As a novice seamstress, I initially underestimated the importance of pressing, but after witnessing the dramatic improvement in my work, I quickly changed my tune.

Now, my sewing room boasts an entire section dedicated to pressing aids. Let me walk you through these tools and explain how each one can elevate your sewing game.

Essential Pressing Tools In Sewing

1. Iron

The cornerstone of any pressing toolkit is a high-quality, dependable iron.

A full-sized iron with adjustable steam and temperature settings is crucial for pressing large pieces of fabric before cutting.

For intricate work like doll clothes, appliques, or in-hoop embroidery pressing, a mini-iron can be invaluable for reaching tight corners and small areas.

2. Multi-Purpose Ironing Board

Invest in a sturdy ironing board with a thick, smooth, padded surface. An adjustable height feature ensures comfort during long pressing sessions.

While a full-sized board is ideal for large fabric pieces, compact or DIY versions can work well in limited spaces.

3. Sleeve Board

A sleeve board resembles two connected mini ironing boards, with one side larger than the other.

The narrow side is perfect for pressing sleeves and pant legs without creating unwanted creases. The larger side works well for straight seams, while the curved edges can assist with shoulder seams and other rounded areas.

4. Seam Roll

This cylindrical pressing aid is designed for pressing seams in tubular garment pieces like sleeves and pant legs.

Its narrow shape minimizes fabric contact with the iron, reducing the risk of seam imprints on the right side of the fabric. It’s particularly useful for delicate fabrics prone to marking or shininess.

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5. Tailor’s Ham

This densely stuffed, ham-shaped tool is a garment maker’s best friend. Its curved surface is ideal for pressing shaped areas like darts, princess seams, sleeve caps, and collars.

Available in both store-bought and DIY versions, many feature dual sides with different fabrics for various pressing needs.

6. Pressing Board and Clapper

If I had to choose one indispensable pressing tool, it would be the pressing board. This wooden tool features various curves, points, and shapes to accommodate different garment areas.

It’s particularly useful for pressing collars, sharp corners, curved seams, and circular items. The clapper portion is excellent for setting crisp creases in heavy fabrics like wool.

7. Pressing Mitt

This heat-resistant glove allows you to use your hand as a pressing surface for hard-to-reach or curved areas. It’s particularly useful for sleeve caps and other rounded sections, offering a similar function to the tailor’s ham but with added flexibility.

8. Wool Pressing Mat

A relative newcomer to many sewing rooms, wool pressing mats offer a portable pressing surface that can be used anywhere. They’re particularly popular among quilters due to their ability to press both sides of the fabric simultaneously.

The heat-retaining and moisture-absorbing properties of wool often eliminate the need for additional fabric sprays or steam.

9. Needle Board

When working with napped or pile fabrics like velvet or corduroy, a needle board is essential. It prevents crushing the fabric’s surface during pressing.

Simply place the pile side down on the board and press according to the fabric’s care instructions.

Press Cloths: A Crucial Accessory

For delicate fabrics or when applying fusible interfacing, a press cloth is indispensable. It protects fabric from direct heat, preventing shine or other damage.

You can purchase dedicated press cloths or make your own from lightweight, transparent fabrics like organza or fine muslin.

Pressing Sprays and Their Benefits

Fabric stiffeners like starch or specialized pressing sprays can significantly improve your sewing experience. They add body to fabric, making it easier to work with and press.

These sprays are particularly useful when working with knits or embroidering on lightweight fabrics.

As  sewing instructor often emphasized, “A good iron is as important as your sewing machine.”

Hemming Aids for Precise Pressing

Tools like hem gauges and folding guides can help achieve accurate and consistent hem creases. These aids allow you to fold fabric over them and press directly on the tool for perfect results.

Alternatives to Traditional Pressing

When an iron isn’t available, tools like seam rollers or point turners can help open seams or create creases. While not as effective as heat pressing, they’re handy for quick fixes or on-the-go adjustments.

3 FAQs about pressing tools in sewing:

  1. What’s the difference between an iron and a pressing ham?

An iron is a flat-bottomed tool used for general pressing and removing wrinkles from fabric. A pressing ham, on the other hand, is a tightly stuffed, curved cushion used for pressing curved seams and shaped areas of garments. The ham’s rounded surface allows you to press darts, sleeve caps, and other contoured areas without creating unwanted creases.

  1. Do I really need a tailor’s clapper?

While not absolutely essential, a tailor’s clapper is a very useful tool for achieving crisp, professional-looking seams and edges. After applying heat and steam to a seam or edge, you quickly press the wooden clapper onto the fabric. This traps the steam and heat, helping to set a sharp crease or flatten a bulky seam. It’s particularly useful when working with heavier fabrics or creating tailored garments.

  1. Can I use a regular ironing board for all my sewing projects?

A standard ironing board works well for many sewing tasks, but serious sewists often benefit from additional pressing surfaces. A sleeve board, for example, is narrow and curved, making it ideal for pressing sleeves and other tubular garment pieces. A pressing board provides a larger, firmer surface than a typical ironing board, which is helpful when working on larger items or when you need extra stability. For the best results, it’s worth considering specialized pressing surfaces to complement your regular ironing board.


The right pressing tools can elevate your sewing projects from homemade to professional-looking. As you develop your skills, you’ll likely find yourself reaching for these tools more and more often. Happy pressing!

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