Learn to love your iron, and it will love you back
Seriously. Iron EVERYTHING. Iron pattern pieces so they're not all wrinkly and wonky. Iron fabric before cutting it out. Steam seams after sewing. Press open/over every seam. Seriously. Do it.
I know it sounds like a ton of overkill, (Especially to a beginner. I know, I resisted too!) but when I finally learned to give in and use my iron at every step, my sewing pretty much instantly looked better, with no new skill other than taking the time to use the iron. Don't fall into the trap of "oh, I'll press that seam open later"....it will never be as easy to press it now, before it's sewn into other seams. I promise! And that underarm gusset?? The best time to give it a good pressing is before it becomes an underarm.
Along with making friends with an iron, here are a few tips I've collected over the years: DISCLAIMER: This is what I have found to work well with my iron. I've never owned a teflon iron, so I do not know if any of the below will work. (obvs. the abrasive stuff is right out). So, proceed with caution.
- Keep your iron cleaned (inside). Nothing sucks worse than a big 'ole rust or hard water deposit spitting demon.
- Empty out the water reservoir at the end of the day. Don't let it sit!
- Use distilled water! A gallon jug in the corner of the sewing room doesn't take up that much room....
- If hard water deposits have built up, your iron won't steam properly, and can make a total mess. To remove deposits, fill up the reservoir most of the way (I do about 3/4) with white vinegar, and the rest with hot water. Heat up the iron and just steam into a folded towel for a while until all the deposits are gone. Repeat as necessary. If its really bad, you can use a wooden skewer/toothpick/chopstick to break up some of the stalagmites. An old toothbrush/sewing machine lint brush (mine is actually an automatic razor cleaner thingy I stole from Hubs!) help too.
- (Extra bonus: white vinegar also works to descale teakettles...I do this about 3 or 4 times a year on mine!)
- Keep your iron cleaned (outside). It happens - a yucky poly blend something melts to the footplate, a years' worth of scraping plastic pin heads, starch and all manner of sticky gluey gunk gets built up on the footplate. (That's the bit that is hot) There are commercial iron cleaners out there, but my package I bought years back has never been opened!
- The best way to deal with yucky gunk is to wipe it off immediately with a damp cloth - before it becomes a major problem. But if you're like me, you'll leave it 'until tomorrow'....until it just gets too bad to deal with any more!
- Really crusty gunk can be scrubbed off with salt. Dampen a rag, and liberally sprinkle salt over it, and run the iron back and forth over the damp, salty rag. For really yucky stuff, you (and by 'you', I mean 'I') may need to turn the iron over and really get in there with the rag-and-salt.
- A magic eraser can help for stubborn spots. For really REALLY bad spots, I have been known to use a very fine steel wool....but I would use this option sparingly, and with great caution!
Coming soon: Ironing and Ironing Accessories