Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IITBS-- Margareth of Maggie Made Bags on how to Press for a Professional Finish

Today's guest blogger is Margareth of Maggie Made Bags. I became a fan after seeing all the GORGEOUS bags she shares over on Instagram. I am always blown away by the professional looking bags that she creates and how quickly she can put them together!! I'm so honored that Margareth agreed to guest post for the series, and that she chose pressing. A crisp pressing job can make your bag go from homemade to WOW in just a few minutes. Check out some of Margareth's gorgeous bags:

Thanks again Margareth!!


Hi there! I am Margareth and I caught the bag-making bug some six years ago. Since then I have sewn a shedload of bags and tested many bag patterns for some very talented designers. You can find my makes on Instagram @maggiemadebags
I’d like to thank Cyndi for inviting me to write my first ever blogpost! I feel honoured to be included in this awesome Bag Maker series.

Today I would like to talk about one of the crucial parts of bag making: pressing.
Yep, I wrote it down in bold. I know it’s not sexy and possibly one of the boring parts of bag making. But, pressing your bag is vital to achieve a nice, professional looking product. After all, considering the effort and hours we’ve put into prepping and sewing, we don’t want to end up with a frumpy looking bag! And, pressing is important in all stages of bag making, starting right off before you even cut into your material.  Pressing helps with flattening bulky seams and correcting small pucker and it will make your bag look sharp.
By the way, pressing is not the same as ironing I learnt! When ironing, you slide the iron back and forth in a smooth motion. Ironing can stretch your fabric, which is probably not the result you’d want. By pressing you move the iron in a rather up and down movement instead of back and forth.

So, what will you need? Apart from a good steam iron, I use some handy dandy tools to press my bags: a (cotton or linen) kitchen towel and a bath towel! The kitchen towel is my ‘pressing cloth’ and a rolled up bath towel acts as my ‘pressing ham’.  Of course, you’re free to use the real McCoy here (or even make the ham yourself), but the towels work fine for me. I like to use the pressing cloth on top of the wrong side of faux leather and vinyl, you really don’t want to press straight onto the right side of these materials. Also, if my fabric tends to go shiny when pressed, I use the pressing cloth.

Now, start by unfolding your material and giving it a good iron (this is the stage where you may iron the fabric!) with some steam. Steam is your friend when using quilting cotton! Try to get those pesky folds and wrinkles out, yes I know, it will all be wrinkled up again while sewing and turning the bag inside out. However, a smooth surface will help you achieve accurate parts when cutting your fabric. I may even use some starch here.

Next, if you’re using fusible interfacing, you will press that onto the wrong side of your fabric.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions on the best way to adhere the interfacing to the fabric. I think it’s important to let your interfaced parts cool off before you start sewing. Usually, I will cut and interface later in the day or in the evening and let the pieces cool off and continue sewing the next day. I’ve found that if I don’t let the interfaced parts cool off enough, the interfacing tends to come off again while sewing.

Then go ahead to the fun bit and start sewing your pieces together. Now ideally, you would press every seam that you’ve stitched. However, I am both lazy and impatient, so if I can get away with finger or nail pressing at this stage, I’ll certainly opt for the latter! It is important to always press pockets and flaps and in general any part that will need topstitching. Pressing your seams will make them nice and flat and you can even press away small puckers. Use the tip of your iron and some steam.

I press my seams open to achieve crisp defined lines and to make sure that the bag exterior and lining pieces will fit nicely together. Sometimes you should press to a certain side instead of open, particularly if you will be topstitching that seam. I feel that topstitching looks nicer if it’s done on top of some ‘bulk’. A good pattern will always give specific instructions.

The seam is pressed to reduce bulk and to prepare for topstitching.

Finally, you have finished sewing the last seam and turned your bag the right side out. So onto the most crucial part, pressing your bag into shape! Sure, you could just give your front and back a nice press trying to get the last wrinkles out. What you should be doing though is properly shape your bag. Again, I like to use lots of steam to set the shape.

Pull the lining out of the bag and press out the wrinkles. Push the lining back into the bag, put your hands in and push the lining into the bottom corners and smooth it straight.  Actually, put your arms up while doing this, gravity will help the outer bag fall nicely on top of the lining. Next, place your iron into the bag and press the side and bottom seams.
Then press your exterior front and back. To shape the bag further you will need to press the exterior side and bottom seams. If your bag opening is too small to fit the rounded end of the ironing board in, place your pressing ham (or rolled up towel) in the bag against the seams and press. Be careful not to burn yourself while doing this.

My bath towel was too large for this pouch, I used my rolled up ‘pressing cloth’ as a ham. Press the bottom using your pressing ham in the pouch.

For a lot of bags this should be sufficient, but if you want to create a sharp and crisp shape take it one step further. In the next photos you will see how I shaped a more rounded pencil case into a crisp rectangle.


Notice there is no stitched seam that I could follow, so I manipulated a fold.  Shape the pouch with your fingers in the desired form, lay it down on the ironing board and press the fold with steam.

Continue shaping and pressing around all sides of the pouch , by either following seams or creating folds. It is important to use steam to help set the shape. Use the tip of your iron and take care not to place the entire iron on the fold. This can cause creases where you don’t want them.

Before and after. Left: The larger pouch is more rounded and not pressed into a particular shape. Right: Both pouches are shaped into a crisp boxy form. (Pattern by Sew Sweetness affiliated link

Here is an example of a weekend bag I pressed into a boxy shape. The bag has only a few seams that I could follow, but by manipulating and pressing folds I achieved this boxy appearance. (Pattern by Sew Sweetness affiliated link

And another pouch I just had to press into its boxy shape! (Pattern by Aneela Hoey)

Well, I hope you found these tips useful and I’d like to thank Cyndi once again to include me in her Bag Makers series. Do come back tomorrow for more handy tips on how to better your bag making skills and do come and say ‘hi’ on Instagram

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