Pressing quilt blocks is a blend of technique and technology. Using the correct quilter's tools and following a few essential preparation steps will make pressing quilt blocks easy.
A general purpose iron, an ironing board, and some fabric starch are the basic tools needed for pressing quilt blocks. Some quilters also use a "mini-iron" (readily available at fabric stores) that can press up into tight corners and along smaller seams.
Keeping the iron scrupulously clean is crucial in preventing the marring of your quilt blocks with old starch.
Ironing boards should have firm covers. For pressing quilt blocks, avoid a foam-backed ironing board cover. Choose one that is more like a mattress pad. When pressing quilt pieces, it is best to use an ironing board cover which is made from cotton, since the shiny metallic ones scorch more easily.
Make sure that you have prepared your quilt fabric before cutting and stitching your blocks. Wash, press, and starch your fabric before cutting your quilt pieces. This will give the material a crisp finish that is easier to cut and machine sew. The quilt blocks will also be more uniform in size, which makes sewing and pressing them a snap! Note: do not starch if you are going to make a completely hand-sewn quilt.
Select the appropriate fabric setting on your iron. If your quilt block is made of mixed fabric types, choose the lower fabric setting. Avoid using the steam or spray features to prevent the misshaping of your quilt blocks. When pressing, use a plant mister if you need just a touch of diluted starch or water.
Now you are ready to press!
Traditionally, both edges of fabric in a seam are pressed toward the same side. This makes the quilt seams much stronger but may make the top of the quilt slightly ridged. Many modern quilters press their seams fully open. Seam strength may be somewhat sacrificed, but the block will have a smoother and more attractive appearance.
Press the seam an inch or two at a time, moving the iron in an up-and-down motion. Never move the iron back and forth. This can pull the fabric out of shape, distorting your quilt blocks.
When folding both edges to one side, press both edges toward the darker color. When pressing the seam open, carefully place your fingertips just above the point of the iron to keep the seam flat.