Pressing plays such an important role in producing great results when sewing. Unfortunately, many professional pressing aids are difficult to find and extremely expensive. They tend to be bulky and heavy which further contributes to the cost if you need to have them shipped. I’ll share some of my favorite tools and methods I use to make my own for very little cost. Warning: You need access to a few power tools or someone who has them.
I love this press buck for long, gently curved seams such as the back sleeve seam in jackets, hip curves for pants/skirts or center back seam with shaping at the neck and waist. I also works well for basting the canvas to the front of a tailored jacket.
This is about 28 inches long, 8 inches wide and 3.5 (measured from the bottom of the wood) inches high at the highest point. To construct this, you’ll need one piece of wood 8” x 28” x 3/4 for the base and one piece of wood 10” x 30” x 3/4”, two 4” high legs plus wood screws. Print out the file for Press Buck here.
Trace onto the 10” wide piece of wood. The pattern is for 1/2 the template, so flip and trace the opposite side. Cut out with a jigsaw. I used two unfinished short legs from Home Depot and attached them as shown. My legs had bolts at the bottom. I drilled a hole slightly larger than the bolt to allow the legs to sit flat on the wooden base. Attach the remaining piece of wood to the legs from the underside so the screws don’t show (countersink the screws so they don’t scratch or snag any surface).
I used a length of heavy wool and cut concentric shapes as shown. You want the thickest part on top of the right hand leg, tapering to nothing along the edges.
View from the top of layers. I cut a paper pattern the shape of the bottom layer and worked upwards. Cut a layer of wool fabric, trimmed the pattern down a little around the edges and continued until the shape was built up. View from the side. The thickest part is about 3.5 inches high including the wood. In other words, 3/4” thick wood plus 2.75” of fabric.
Cover the entire top with two layers of wool. Staple the wool to edges of the wood base.
I added a finishing layer of wool felt (available in the utility fabrics section at JoAnn’s), wrapped it under the edge and secured with double sided masking tape.
Ease the felt around the curves, stick to tape and trim the excess.
For the cover, add about 2.5 inches all around the pattern. Cut from heavy muslin. Cut a bias strip about 1 and 1/8 wide long enough to go around the outside edge of the cover (piece as necessary). Starting in the middle of the larger curved end, turn end of bias under and stitch at 1/4 inch. Fold end under when you reach starting point.
Wrap the bias around a thin sturdy cord and stitch, making sure not to catch the cord when sewing. The cord will act as a drawstring to tighten the cover. I’m nudging the cord against the fold and stitching along the seam line (badly in need of a manicure; COVID hands).
Place the cover on the press buck, making sure there is equal amount to turn under on all sides. Place a few pins to hold the cover in place while you pull the drawstring tight and tie.
Adjust the gathers and steam to smooth out any wrinkles. I’ve added a couple of lengths of twill tape secured with safety pins along the underside of the long edges to tighten up the cover in that area.
The sleeve board is made the same way except instead of multiple layers of wool, the surface is flat.
Cut a piece of acoustical ceiling tile using the same template. Glue it in place. Cover with thick felt and a muslin cover. The muslin cover should be about 2.5 inches larger than the pattern template to allow for the increased thickness. The combination of ceiling tile and thick felt makes a pin-able surface to secure the work when pressing.
Last tool is a point presser.
Cut 3/4 inch wood the shape of the pattern and mount from the underside. The base is 8” x 28.” Shape the point with a wood file and sand smooth.
I have more of my favorite makes coming: seam stick, pressing block and pin cushion which goes around the palm of your hand. I think it’s easier to use than the typical wrist location. Thanks for reading and enjoy making new tools.