Daily Archives: November 7, 2009

How to iron a shirt

On Tuesday, rather stuck for an idea to post I mentioned my task of ironing.

Alice from My Wintersong has challenged me to give instructions for ironing a shirt.  I warn you I do it exactly like my mother did!

Way back… when I was little more than the height of the ironing board, I was taught to use the iron.  First it was the handkerchiefs. it was back in the days before boxes of tissues became the norm.  From that I graduated to my brothers pyjamas!  A pyjama jacket was in fact a dress rehearsal for ironing shirts.  Back then shirts were worn by all men and boys; all day every day.   They were white, heavy cotton and difficult to keep in pristine condition.  Collars and cuffs needed to be starched and that was an art in itself.

In the early days of Black & White Television, the Newsreaders wore light blue shirts.  “Why?”  I hear you ask.  A white shirt came over on screen as a dull well worn greyish colour, while the light blue shirt appeared to be as white as the driven snow.

So to the task in hand…

Is the ironing board cover clean?  Have you been using it to press blue jeans?  The colour does transfer eventually.  Turn jeans inside out before washing and pressing and any fading will then be on the inside.  The same applies to all black items, it certainly slows down the greying process.

Nowadays most of us use a steam iron.  When did you last vacuum yours?   OK!  OK!  I hear you laughing, but it is important.  Any water remaining in the iron at the end of a pressing session should be emptied and the iron allowed to air and dry.  Now we all know that water leaves stains… the shower will verify this fact.  When the iron has been sitting for a few days, take the vacuum hose to the sole plate and vacuum the water holes.  It will remove the dried out rust specks that remain when the water evaporates.  Those same specks are what leaves rust or dirty marks on freshly ironed clothes…. and as we all know they love the front of a blouse or shirt!

So we have the ironing board set to a comfortable height, and the iron heating to the required temperature.  The little label down low on an inside seam will give you that answer.  Even so, always check the dial and press an inconspicuous part of all garments before ironing for the first time OR if someone else has used the iron before you, they may not have returned the dial to where you want it.

So now we need the shirt…

This should be fun, trying to take photos with my left hand as I iron with my right one!

The pin tucks should tell you that this is a dress shirt.  I always begin with the buttonhole band, underside up and holding it taut I apply a little pressure and work my way from the tail to the collar.  Then I repeat this process with the button band, with the buttons facing the board, then there is no chance of removing them with the iron.

Step two is the collar.  Place the collar front side facing you.  The upper fabric is marginally bigger than the stiffening layer to allow for a neat fit as it bends around the neck.  The most common problem is that some people iron from one side to the other in one movement and end up with a mini bulge at the seam.  Unfortunately this error shows up at eye level…. not something you need when attending an important interview!

So begin with I press the neck band before going back to one edge of the collar and press with a little pressure to the centre and then from the other edge to the centre.  This way you get a crisp professional finish.

Then it is on to the yoke; slip the shirt carefully on to the ironing board to fill out one shoulder.  Press from the shoulder edge to the centre careful to avoid adding further creases to the fabric.  Remove and do the same from the other side.

Now it is on to the sleeves.  I admit to not using a sleeve board for everyday shirts.  I do have one and make good use of it for other items.  I straighten out the sleeve along the underarm seam and press from there to the center shoulder line and work my way along the sleeve to the cuff.  Thankfully I have never needed to press a shirt for a member of the PSNI a regulation shirt requires not one crease line but two creases, equidistant along each arm of the uniform shirt.

Now for the final stretch… The body of the shirt.  Begin on the left front and work from the shoulder end down the front to the tail.

Then move the shirt until the side seam in near the back of the board ans slowly iron your way to the other side seam, and continue to the right front working from the tail end to the shoulder.

And Voila:

The finished item.

This description seems to make a major task out of ironing, but it really takes only about five minutes to complete one shirt.  Thankfully my days of ironing fifteen or more shirts in one session are over.  In those days the finished items were folded and looked like they were just out of a package.  Nowadays I just hang the freshly ironed shirt on a hanger and place in a wardrobe when fully aired.

You want to see the shirt on me now?  Sorry I need to find my bow tie first, so it will have to wait for another day!