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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

How to make a lightweight, portable, flat pressing surface.

I almost always encourage you to use what you have.

So why a new pressing board? Isn't your ironing board good enough?

The simple answer has two parts.

  1. I suppose so... if you want your quilts to end up "good enough".
  2. Sure... if you don't mind standing over a hot iron.

Your ironing board is designed for pressing clothing. Contrary to what my daughter believes, clothes are intended to be worn by humans, not strewn about on flat surfaces. But I digress....

Your ironing board likely has a foam padding that makes it great for pressing clothes. You want those seams to have some flex so the clothes fit naturally.

I know, some people like starched, stiff clothes. That padding on the ironing board is the reason those folks send their clothing out to be pressed. (I totally just made that up, but I hope you get the idea.)

When you press quilts, the goal is to get two (or more!) flat pieces of fabric joined with a flat seam. So when your quilt lays on your flat bed, it will lay flat. (Want me to say "flat" one more time?) A spongy surface won't produce that flat result. Period.

And about the other thing: who want's to stand over a hot iron for any length of time?

Not me, that's for dang sure!

Prep for Seamless Piecing can be repetitive and requires more time with the iron than with the sewing machine. It's a great time to pull up a chair, put on a movie or audio book, and let the time fly by.

I use my pressing surface anytime I'm using starch... and occasionally as a coaster...

As you can see, starch burns and leaves marks.

The marks aren't from the starch you sprayed today, they are the residue from when you sprayed last week.

Do I want burnt marks on my cute ironing board cover?

No! I do not.

And I bet you don't either.

Yet another reason to have a designated pressing board for starch.

Let's make your lightweight, portable, flat pressing board.

You should know: The following photos are not of the board above. They were taken as I built a smaller, more portable version for this post. I'll note where there are differences.

What you'll need:
A board the size you want your pressing surface.
Tools for cutting the board
Spray adhesive
Cotton batting
Canvas, denim or duck cloth
Staple gun with staples shorter than your board is thick.

The Board (not to be confused with Bored...)

There are those, Sharon Shaumber specifically, who use 3/4" OSB board. And for good reason which she explains in her video. I recommend watching.

I chose a lighter weight board because I'm unable to lift the weight of OSB as large as the pressing board pictured above. HOWEVER, If I were to make a very large board, not intended to be portable, I'd use the OSB she recommends.

A large chunk of OSB will also require a large chunk of your fabric budget.

I got my board by re-purposing a drawer from Habitat For Humanity's Re-Store. It cost 2 dollars.

I found the least bendy drawer bottom I could. Look for thin plywood, not press board or paper board.
The board in the photos was a Christmas decoration at Joann's. It was 75% off  after Christmas clearance. The hub peeled off the die cut sheet metal that made the design. It's plywood, 10"x14".  $5.00

Round the corners of the board, then rough up one side with course sandpaper if needed. 
I was too impatient to wait for corners to get rounded on this one. Round is better.

trimmed batting

Meantime, while the hub was playing with power tools, I was prepping the next step.

Cut a piece of cotton batting, the same size as the board plus 1 inch on every side.

I trimmed the corners on the square board to eliminate bulk. Rounded corners don't need it.

Spray the rough side of the wood with spray adhesive.

Carefully lay the sprayed wood, glue side down, in the center of the batting. Turn it over and pat it all over to get good adhesion with no bubbles.

Canvas, Duck or Denim?

Any of these fabrics will do.

If you have the choice, go with white or natural canvas. Heavier is better.

Canvas because it has a tight weave that won't suck up liquid.

White or natural because you don't want any chance of color transfer onto your quilt fabric.

Back to the drawing board... or ... pressing board

Cut a piece of white canvas 3 to 4 inches larger than the board on all sides.
Prepping canvas for corners

To center the board onto the canvas, draw lines at the corners for reference.

If your board has square corners, these marks will be used again later.

Smooth the canvas onto a flat, sturdy surface. If there is a right side to your fabric, put it right side down.

Spray the the canvas with adhesive in a center section large enough to accommodate the board. Don't stress about any over spray.

Turn the padded board over and carefully lay it, batting side down, onto the center of the canvas. Make sure nothing shifts. You don't want lumps or folds on your pressing board.

Folding the Corners

TIP: Stapling while keeping the canvas taut. It's a two person job.

Fold the canvas to the back of the board and staple it. It simple with round corners: pull up corners and staple, then sides then 8 hospital corners. (Watch Sharon's video if you need a refresher on hospital corners.)
Folding square corners
If you have square corners, making the corners lie flat was more tricky. 
  1. Fold up the corner and staple
  2. Finger press along the drawn line (mentioned above) that extends from the long edge of the board.
  3. Pull the canvas from the short end to the back of the board, line up the finger pressed crease with the long edge of the board. Staple if you like.
  4. Pull the canvas on the long edge to the back. It will crease at roughly a 45 degree angle at the corner. Pull everything taut and staple.
  5. Pull the sides taut and staple.
Square corner
Round Corner

See why rounded corners are better?


The little overhang of batting will come up and around the edges of the board with the canvas. That's a good thing. Just make sure everything lies flat and smooth, with no weird lumps or pleats.

When the canvas is all secure, spray the canvas with water to shrink it. Put enough water on it to saturate the canvas but not the batting. You don't want to warp the board.
Shrink the canvas
 Let it dry overnight. Standing upright for air circulation if possible.

In the morning your new pressing surface will be ready to party wherever you want to go!

If you want the back to look finished and pretty, add a piece of felt to cover the staples.
I love my pressing surface and use it much more often than I use my regular ironing board. Partly because my ironing board requires me to stand. I can put the pressing surface on my work table (where I watch Netflix).

One last thing you should know:

The Pressing Surface is not heat proof. If you use a hot iron in one place very long, it will heat through to whatever you have under it. That includes your cutting mat.

Cutting mat + heat = sadness :-[

Let me know how your pressing board is working for you. I hope you love it as much as I love mine. If you have a question you can ask it in the comments or email me directly.


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Join me next week. I'm excited to share the Seamless Piecing method for working with Hexagons!

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