Pressing Matters 3

By Heidi Mittiga, Flossie Potter’s Patterns
Karen Dosier, Threads of Troy
Linda Blaker, VintiqueDesigns
Meg Lineberger, Kindred Threads
and Shari Fuller, Thimbles and Acorns
I have a terrible time pressing out all the wrinkles if I pre-wash thin cotton fabric (like batiste).  All of you seem to have figured out how to make your finished doll clothes crisp looking. What are your secrets?

The only secret I have is to iron the fabric before it is completely dry, not soaking, but damp. The wrinkles don’t have a chance to set in the dried fabric.

I used to work at a dry cleaners, and we would steam our garments before we pressed them.  Since most of us don’t have professional steaming equipment, there are a few tricks you can use to get similar results.  First, lightly spray your garment with a water bottle, then lay it out on a towel and roll it up for five minutes.  This helps to dampen the garment evenly.  The other trick is to throw it in the dryer with a damp towel for a few minutes.  It gives the garment a thorough steaming and takes most of the wrinkles out.  Follow with a light pressing and voilà!

I use either Best Press or Bounce Ironing Spray starch alternatives.  Gets those wrinkles out great!

Does Best Press work well? I also like Magic Sizing . . . when I was doing a lot of quilting, I would use it as an alternative to starch.  I second Eve’s suggestion of removing from dryer while still damp.  The only thing I would add is that I upgraded a few years ago to a professional steam ironing station with a 1.5 quart reservoir.  Her name is Betty.  If my house was burning, she’s what I would rescue.  No wrinkles here!

That’s so funny!  Give Betty my best!

I wonder if Betty would like to meet my dress-form, Mrs. Borden?

I press all my fabric with just steam after washing,  then I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press on the cut pieces before sewing.  It IS a little expensive, so I stock up when it’s on sale, or purchase with a coupon.  I used to use Magic Sizing, but it builds up on the iron and turns the ironing board cover brown which can stain the fabric.

Alrighty, I am picking up some Best Press at the Hancock’s this weekend.  Working on a First Communion dress in an embroidered cotton lawn . . . Sounds like just the thing.

Fabric softener mixed with water works well on cotton fabrics for pressing out wrinkles.  I prefer unscented fabric softener for this, unless you are fond of those artificial smells.

Well, now I can weigh in on my own question.  I tried to find Mary’s Best Press Clear Spray Starch Alternative with no luck here.  I saw it online, and it’s pretty pricey.  So I looked online for recipes, and lo and behold, someone sent in a recipe for Mary’s.  I bought the ingredients and tried it out.  It’s fabulous!

1 cup filtered water  (I actually used distilled, because by the time I got to the store, I couldn’t remember what it said!)

1  oz (1/8 cup) vodka  (think potato starch!)

Mix and put into a spray bottle.  (I used a small spray bottle and only made half of the recipe.)

Cost:  1-oz bottle Vodka .99

 1 gal distilled water $1.29 (will last for a lot of ironing) Spray bottle  .97  (reusable)

So that’s my two cents, culled from my savings!

Whoa!  That seems simple enough.  I wonder if my husband would mind if I used our vodka for ironing instead of martini’s? 🙂

Dear Karen,
Vodka is great stuff — I make my vanilla with it and vanilla beans.

It makes sense that vodka recipe would work – aren’t most starches traditionally made with a vegetable starch (particularly potato starch)?  Isn’t that what our Grannies might have used?  Although, I have read that these kinds of starches should not be used on fabrics that will be placed in long term storage, as it draws bugs that can harm the fabrics.

The vodka recipe sounds interesting, and I bet it would make ironing a LOT more festive.  I can see “ironing parties” becoming popular in many sewing circles.

Hi, Everyone!
Boy, HOWDY – does this stuff work!
What I did: bring to a boil 2 cups of water in a small pan. I used 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch, which I dissolved in a bit of water and shook to mix in a shaker.  Then, I poured the liquified cornstarch into boiling water, whisking it over the heat for an additional 60 seconds.  I added three drops of Lavender oil and allowed the mixture to cool.  (There was a light skin over the top, which I think came from the oil and I skimmed it off.) Well,  a little bit goes a long ways and I over sprayed the first piece I ironed.  It was TOTALLY STIFF!  But, I sprayed it exactly as I spray with Best Press, so that was interesting. This stuff totally Rocks – I am SO impressed!  I can’t smell the Lavender, so that may be a waste of time. I am not sure if it builds up on the iron or stains the ironing board cover though.  Time will tell.  I also don’t know how long this stuff lasts, so I will let it sit to find out.  One article said to add 1/2 tsp of Vodka to act as a preservative. O.K. – Who’s trying the Vodka & water? ~Linda

I’m (hiccup!) the one with the (hic!) vodka.  Still works well after about a week. ~Heidi

Well, the starch and water turned into a gravy after a few days, so it would seem that one needs to be made fresh with each use. ~Linda

My concern with the cornstarch and water recipe is the possibility of residue on the fabric.  I wonder if it would attract bugs if it remains on the dress for a long time.  Someone mentioned that about the vodka, but I think the alcohol would kill them or at least dissuade them.

We’ll have to see where this gets us.  Maybe we can make our own brand — The Seamsters Union.



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3 thoughts on “Pressing Matters

  • Chsarlene Tennison

    Thank you so much for this article, I often wondered how others who washed their fabric ended up with crisp looking dresses while mine looked whimpy. I’ll have to try these suggestions. I’ve used Magic Sizing before but, like Linda said it would often build up on iron and ironing board cover.