THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

February 22, 2007

Pressing equipment part 1

Filed under: Els,Machines,Notions,Pressing — Els @ 7:00 am

Like anyone who sews, we all know the important part of sewing is pressing. It starts with preshrinking the fabric prior to cutting  the fabric, but also the pressing which takes place in the process of sewing the garment.

Ann already showed in Threads magazine issue 126 how to use  some pressing tools and if you missed that article you can see Ann’s video clip Pressing tools

My pressing equipment: a vacuum suction pressing board , steam iron with a 3,5 liter water tank, the  sleeve board is turned under the board .My pressing board is 116 cm long ( 45 inch) and 38 cm wide ( 15 inch) The pedal on the ground is used for the suction function.My press iron has a Teflon cover.

pressing station 3,5 liter water tank vacuum suction board

You can see the sleeve board ready to use.

 My singer press which I use  for fusing interfacing

Besides the use of the oval shaped edge of the pressing and sleeve board, I use several pressing tools, like this large tailor’s ham for any contoured  shapes or curves  like princes seams in jackets, coats and dresses. 

This small one , which I covered on one side with a piece of wool crepe fabric I use for bust and waist darts and collars, sleeve cap easing etc.

I have a June Tailor hamholder but I hardly use it, maybe because it does not fit my small tailor’s ham very well. Probably the size of the US tailor’s hams are different than my Dutch one.

You can see the difference of the two hams in size now they are on top of each-other.

A press buck ( in Dutch called pers bok) which has a different shape,  straight lines and curved corners. The buck has a wooden base and legs, the size of the rectangle is 31 cm ( 12,5 inch) wide 22 cm ( 8,5 inch) the padding is 5 cm thick ( 2 inch) The total height is 23 cm ( 9 inch) which is lower than the all known oval shaped ham.

The advantage of this press buck is the different shape and size above the other 2 hams.Use for pressing seams open like shoulders, bust area, neckline, collars and darts .

I bought this buck last year for only € 16.00 it is a used one but still in a very good condition. New ones costs about € 50.00. Tailor hams are expensive but will last a lifetime. 

Point presser/clapper is a great tool to press seams open and to beat the steam into the fabric to flatten bulky edges.

Point turner to press open for the hard to reach seams where the point presser is of no help.


But also a wooden spoon is a great tool, even a wooden chopstick can be helpful.

 Also a toothpick or large embroidery needle with a blunt end helps to press a dart open,

I inherited this press block from my grandfather who was a tailor but I only show you this because it is old one (about 80 years)  and not very smooth anymore , but I keep this for sentimental value.

I asked a timber to make me some new press blocks from steamed beech wood because the advantage of steamed beech wood is, it will not bend out of shape .


The large block is great for pressing seams open like pants or any long seams, and I use those blocks to flatten seams while cooling down.

You can see a detailed picture of the shape of these blocks here, the small one is a rectangle while the large one is a curved one. They can also be used by pressing the seams open or to flatten the edges from a jacket or coat while the fabric is cooling down.

The seam roll is made from a Saturday newspaper tightly rolled and covered with 2 layers of fabric, the first one is cotton the second layer of wool fabric .

The handle of a  shoe-brush made of unvarnished wood is also helpful as a pressing block and the brush side I use for removing threads or brush fabric.


For sleeves I use the sleeve board but sometimes the arm roll gets some use too, this one is made to use with a dress form but I like to use it as a seam roll for a 2 piece sleeve. Here you can  see the upper side.

The underside of the arm.

Card board rolls for ironing or pressing very long seams,

As press cloths I use silk organza

As well as fine linen cloths.

I made a sort of mitt from 4 layers of heavy Terry which  can be helpful if I need to press any small curved seam.

 There are many ways to prevent pressing imprints like,

 brown paper strips.

Templar sheets used for appliques are a great tool to prevent pressing imprints.

 I cut the desired shape for example if I need to press a bound buttonhole.

 Pressing a bound buttonhole form the inside , you can see the Templar sheet is placed around the bound buttonhole edges.

No visible pressing imprints.

Because you can cut the desired shape I use those sheets too for pressing mitered corners on a skirt or jacket hem.  

A teflon sheet is also a helping hand ,

To seal, seam seal tape for covering the seams in rain coats.

Another tool which I inherited from my grandfather was a wooden hat shaping block, and I found it very useful to use as a pressing aid when I made a hat and needed to press the seams open. Here you can see the hat block closed.

And open.


  1. Wow Els, I have pressing equipment envy! I want a press bok!

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — February 22, 2007 @ 8:44 am

  2. Els, many thanks for writing this super informative post. I think it is the most incredible piece I’ve ever seen on pressing tools. Wow!

    Comment by Mary Beth — February 22, 2007 @ 9:33 am

  3. Yes, thank you. It was very informative indeed & now I’m despairing again over getting a better ham. And let’s not even talk about that pressing buck. Sigh.

    Comment by LMH — February 22, 2007 @ 10:09 am

  4. Wow, Els, you have some really great pressing tools!

    Comment by Gigi — February 22, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  5. WOW is right! I’m completely jealous. But thanks for showing us all of your tools. My wishlist just grew by leaps and bounds!

    Comment by Janimé — February 22, 2007 @ 10:43 am

  6. Hey, I actually have a few of those tools! But I am really envious of that steam press and the ironing board. And the iron, too! Maybe this is the next area where I need to spend some money rather than a newer machine. Something to think about

    Comment by lorna — February 22, 2007 @ 11:15 am

  7. Press tool envy! I am going to study this post, and will recommend it to everyone. Thanks – a picture is definitely worth a thouseand words.

    Comment by georgene — February 22, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  8. Now, using a chopstick or wooden pick to press open darts – that’s brilliant Els. And it’s nice to have old and useful tools, especially when they have a family connection. I use my grandmother’s pastry board, it must be at least 70 years old by now, and I just love it.

    Comment by PhyllisC — February 22, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

  9. Els, what a fantastic article! I enjoyed every word, every picture! This is mandatory reading to anyone interested in dressmaker pressing techniques; I too will recommend this article to everybody! I have problems finding professional pressing equipment in Portugal and I’m used to improvise (wood sticks, wood boards originally intended to cut meat on top of them, I also use a shoe brush as a clapper, etc.); I’m trying to get a point presser/clapper for ages now! Thank you for this very useful article!

    Comment by Tany — February 22, 2007 @ 4:25 pm

  10. As usual Els, outstanding! I so enjoy your posts to the Divas. So much wonderful information to soak up.

    Comment by Cindy — February 22, 2007 @ 9:04 pm

  11. Hi, I’ve thought about acquiring some better pressing equipment, and now i know what to look for. Thanks for taking the time to share. Any suggestions on good sources for acquiring some of these tools?

    Comment by Diane — February 22, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  12. Oh rats! I let DH throw away some scrap maple lumber-could have had some pressing blocks. Great informative piece- I am going to go find a nice large magazine to make a seam roll!

    Comment by Kathi Sorensen — February 22, 2007 @ 11:44 pm

  13. What can I say, well I’m now fully aware what pressing equipment I’m certainly lacking. Thanks Els for this comprehend information!

    Comment by Karina — February 23, 2007 @ 2:52 am

  14. WOW Els – This definitely deserves a rereading and list making! What a great collection!

    Comment by ConnieB — February 24, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  15. Thanks for such a wonderful article. I always tell people pressing is important but I now feel like a beginner but one with something to espire to

    Comment by Esther — February 26, 2007 @ 9:37 am

  16. What truly informative post. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by MKE-Kelly — February 26, 2007 @ 11:59 am

  17. Thanks for the great pictures…
    What brand of steam iron is that? My steam generators keep breaking!

    Comment by Kay — February 26, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  18. WOW!!! Where Oh Where can I go to look for that pressing buck????? Somebody tell me!!! Really wonderful article.


    Comment by Sandra — February 27, 2007 @ 10:30 am

  19. Thanks Els. I have learnt some really useful things here.

    Comment by Vicki — April 5, 2007 @ 2:19 am

  20. Thanks so much for the tutorials. You are a doll to share as much as you do.
    Is the Nairobi pdf offer still good??… if so could you email it to me.


    Comment by sheila — July 12, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  21. My goodness that was very educational. Thank you for sharing all those lovely tools.

    Comment by sherril miller — April 25, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  22. Hello, It seems as though we have similar equipment for pressing. We also have the large tailor’s ham but it is kidney shaped. I think it is German- a seamstress from Germany was working with us and she had one, so the company bought a few of them. We also have a large padded chest board that people use to baste canvases into jackets. They all help to get good results. I think people like the tailor’s egg because as you baste you don’t have to worry about stitching into a fabric covered ham, if that is the way you work.
    We still have the industrial “Sheldon” steam irons with the big cast iron or stainless boilers. We have a couple of vacuum tables too, but the rest of our tables are built of wood and covered in layers of thick wool felting.
    Equipment is a good idea for a post.

    Comment by Terri Dans — May 12, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  23. […] Pressing Equipment – I think I need a pers bok Posted on June 16, 2010 by Tina I found this interesting blog post about pressing items. I’m so jealous. Even though I’ve never really been a press-while-you-sew girl >gasp!<. Yes, I now appreciate the difference pressing makes. I love some of the alternatives that this blogger has…a rolled up newspaper, a cardboard tube and a horsehair brush. Like anyone who sews, we all know the important part of sewing is pressing. It starts with preshrinking the fabric prior to cutting  the fabric, but also the pressing which takes place in the process of sewing the garment. Ann already showed in Threads magazine issue 126 how to use  some pressing tools and if you missed that article you can see Ann’s video clip Pressing tools My pressing equipment: a vacuum suction pressing board , steam iron wit … Read More […]

    Pingback by Pressing Equipment – I think I need a pers bok | Sew Chicago — June 16, 2010 @ 6:18 am

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