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!

29 thoughts on “How to iron a shirt

  1. Ursula

    I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, Grannymar, as soon as I read your reader’s recent request to show an alien how to iron a shirt:

    Just as there is more than one way of skinning a cat (not that I have tried even one) opinions vary as to the order in which to iron the various sections of a man’s shirt. Naturally, conceited as I am, I believe mine to be the fastest, most practical and fool proof way.

    However, and I am sure you have found a sure fire method to send those aliens packing back to wherever they came from because it’s just one stretch too far: Vacuuming an iron???????????????? Are you sure you are not a side kick or maybe even the brain behind those two cleaning tournados Aga and Kim?


  2. steph

    OMG! Grannymar,

    You’re a hard task master.

    My tip for ironing shirts is to iron them the same day as they’re washed, preferably straight off the line.

    I only wash shirts on days when I hope to have time to iron as well.

    It makes the task so much quicker and easier.

  3. Grannymar Post author

    Rhyleysgranny – That cover was new…. in 2007! I bought it to use exclusively when I was making Elly’s wedding outfit. It has been in use ever since then with regular turns in the washing machine. Time to buy a spare I think.

    Ursula – If only you were brave enough to have a blog, then you could teach us all a thing or two on many a subject. 😉 Nowhere did I say it was the ONLY way and if you go back to the top on this post, you will see that I said: ‘I warn you I do it exactly like my mother did!’

    When you purchase a good quality iron and I ALWAYS do, the instruction booklet reminds the purchaser to vacuum the iron on a regular basis. Now tell me, who exactly are Aga & Kim?

    Steph – I actually put that shirt through a rinse programme and ironed it straight away specifically for this post. I agree, a little dampness in a line dried shirt makes the best specimen to work on. If I waited for dry days this year to do my washing… I would have a mountain of worn clothes in the to do pile!

  4. kenju

    I do it just like that, except I start with the collar. I learned how in Home Ec classes in high school. My mom had a mangle iron and she could iron a shirt on that just as well as with a hand-held iron!

  5. Ursula

    Well, Grannymar, you said to me the other day that you don’t believe me afraid of anything or anybody: So I am most certainly ‘brave’ enough writing my own blog if only I were so inclined. In fact I’d probably positively bask in my own gore. Though heaven knows where I’d take the time from to lash my tongue whilst still concentrating on the contents of other people’s blogs.

    Whenever people implore me to start my own blog – and my instincts rarely let me down – it’s mainly because they want to get me off their own. HA!

    As I said to Conrad yesterday: I think it a subject well worth of your consortium’s Friday musings to reflect on what blogging means to each of you, the satisfaction, the frustration, indeed no doubt the excitement, an outlet for the urge to write, to communicate, even a deadline to meet, etc etc etc. I take my hat off to all of you – as different as the members of the consortium are: If ever there was a diverse bunch (by the way, le craic is back from NY).

    Back to the ironing board, and this is the Irish for you: A good friend of mine carefully avoids all ironing in anticipation of her mother’s twice annual visit. Et voila: Two days later wardrobes are filled and you can actually sit down again. Anyway, as soon as I will have found the instructions to my steam iron (no rust spots yet) I shall see what they have to say on the subject. To be continued …

    Yes, Aga MacKenzie and Kim Woodburn: Grannymar, they are of the “How clean is your house” fame, a Channel 4 programme. Kim, her of a hairpiece, burlesque rubber gloves and a Parisian feather duster, being ‘bad cop’, and Aga ‘good cop’ the scientist who will send all germs, bacteria and your pets, children and any other wild life found on the floor of your house to a laboratory to be analysed, presenting you with result that make you wonder how human kind survived before the advent of Detol. Still, as cleaning your house top to bottom goes it’s cheap if you can live with the shame of airing it all in public. Where they find those horrendous households I do not know. But maybe – as you might point out to me – it’s all staged. I hope it is.

    They are, like you and me, wizzards with soda, borax, vinegar. And should your garden ever be overrun by snails and slugs please let me know.


  6. Nick

    Well, I’m not as painstaking as that but I end up with an ironed shirt that’s quite presentable enough! I think everyone irons their shirt segments in a different order. I do the front sections, then the back sections, then the sleeves and then the collar. Don’t ask me why. Your finished shirt certainly looks immaculate, I have to say.

  7. Magpie11

    Mm! Not far off what I do(did) …I’m rarely allowed to steal the pleasure from herself these days…if I dared to suggest I iron shirts I’d be accused of criticising….one of those you’re damned if situations.

    Of course there is the school that would have you believe that if you are not going to remove your jacket you only need iron the cuffs, collar and front of a shirt. That just feels wrong.

    One question…on shirts with breast pockets where in the sequence do the pockets come and how are they done?

  8. Grannymar Post author

    Judy – I think mammy started me with the button/hole bands so that I would not forget them.

    Nick – I am sure you turn up looking crisp and smart for every occasion.

    Magpie – I knew a young lad who arrived late into the office looking fine until he removed his jacket. I called him quietly aside and suggested he replace his jacket. As he was doing so I ask how his mother was She had been taken to hospital the day before, and his time was spent caring for his younger siblings. He only remembered his shirt at the last moment so quickly ironed the visible parts. I suggested that the jacket remain on no matter what customers he went to see, that way only he and I knew the problem. That evening when I returned to my desk, I found a bundle of reports neatly sitting on my desk with a paperweight on top. The paperweight was a bar of my favourite chocolate…. yes it came from that young man!

    I have in the past ironed a shirt with epaulettes and pockets. The epaulettes were pressed with the yoke and the pockets as I ironed the corresponding front. If the pocket has a button down front I undo the button and iron the flap, then the pocket I work as part of the front and finally give the flap an extra touch to keep it in place.

  9. Rummuser

    You have shamed me! That tip on cleaning up the iron is an outstanding one which many do not follow and pay the price as I did with an old iron recently.

  10. Grannymar Post author

    Ursula – I remember you told me when you first visited my blog that you had been barred from many other Blogs. Barring is not my way, unless deliberate offence is caused to other visitors here or to me. I don’t need to bar you, a taste of my humour will do that any day!

    You have so much to say both here and on many other blogs that you discovered from my blogroll, I feel your talents are rather wasted in short comments. Sorry, some of your comments are longer than many a blogpost here or in other places. Perhaps running your own blog would give you a different perspective on how a blog is run, the time it takes and the effort involved in actual thinking of topics, writing and dealing with comments.

    The ‘mother-in-law’ joke about leaving the ironing is an old one I heard it about 30 years ago and the person telling was not Irish but came from Kent!

    As for the two ladies, Aga & Kim… I thought they must be from TV. Most of my regulars here could have told you that by choice, I have no TV for nigh on eleven years and never miss it!

  11. Grannymar Post author

    Ramana, you slipped in there quietly as I was writing an epistle! You know I thought everyone would laugh at me because they already knew about using the vacuum on the iron!

  12. Rummuser

    No, I was very serious. I enjoyed a week end visit with friends a fortnight ago up in the mountains in the middle of a forest. I borrowed their iron to take out some wrinkles from my kurta which got crumpled in the suitcase with the jostling of the vehicle on a country road. I simply poured some water into the steam chamber and started off and ruined a perfectly white kurta with old rust. My friends living as they do in the middle of the forest, never iron and did not warn me about the iron not having been used at all for ages.

  13. wisewebwoman

    It takes me back, all the ironing, too many brothers like you.
    I showed my ex-husband how to iron (always the sleeves first as they are the hardest, I was taught) and he liked it so much he would do the girls’ cotton dresses. As he was a big strapping rugby player his friends did not laugh at him when they would pop into the house when he was up to his elbows in starchy dresses and shirts.

  14. Grannymar Post author

    Ramana – I am sorry to hear your white kurta was spoiled with old rust marks from an iron.

    WWW – Jack was no stranger to the iron, but I chose to look after that chore as I got satisfaction watching the creases disappear and the bundles of freshly ironed items grow.

  15. Ursula

    Grannymar, let’s keep the record straight and not stray into the realms of slander:

    I have not been barred from “many blogs” as you say. On 31/08/09 under your blog title “Murder” which you posted 28/08/09 I said “I have been seen off a couple of blogs which only encourage fawning of each other …”.

    I will not bore you with the detail. Let’s just say that I still have a rather interesting and stimulating email exchange with both parties.

    Also, please do not be presumptious: Just because I don’t run a blog this minute does not mean I never have; I know exactly what goes into the making of a blog. Not least because it was the subject of one of my studies I ran over a couple of years. What I don’t know about blogs is not worth blogging about.

    It’s alright, Grannymar, I get the message. I apologise for taking up so much of your comment box space. People vary. Some welcome as much intelligent feedback as they can get, others don’t. I have tried – both on your blog and in response to you on posts of the consortium. One can’t force friendship so I formally give up.

    No doubt I have exhausted my word count by now and shall have to write one hundred times “Ursula talks too much”.

    What little I got to know of you, it was a (mixed) pleasure.


  16. Baino

    GAH Ironing I hate it. I remember when I first got married, loving ironing my husband’s shirts but the gloss soon wore off I can tell you. I do the sleeves last so that I can get a good crease across the shoulder yoke and I iron the back of the collar first just in case there’s a splutter from the iron. Now if you can tell me how to stop the cord getting twisted, I’ll give you a prize!

  17. Grannymar Post author

    Baino – I have the answer to you question about twisted flex. Ask a woman to design it! 🙄

    Patty – there seems to be no middle ground, people either like or loathe the task. I always found it comforting, the heat from the work, my own thoughts and some good music! I am a simple soul.

  18. Julia

    I just found your blog and I am pleased to find another ironing enthusiast. My friends are amused when I tell them that I enjoy ironing. They also question my sanity if I mention that I iron my bed linens. I will admit that this is more practical than aesthetic. Pressed sheets leave more room in the linen closet.

    I look forward to reading more of your postings.

  19. Grannymar Post author

    Welcome Julia to my ironing board of life.

    I agree about the bundle in the airing cupboard, but more importantly I love the feeling of freshly ironed bed linen around me as I try to sleep.

  20. Alice

    I’m speechless! You made it a wonderful, fun post. I iron almost exactly like you except I begin with the collar–my mom started me off on handkerchiefs too, but I admit I’m far too lazy to clean the iron regularly as you do. You put me to shame there! Thank you for rising to the occasion as you did and telling the world how to properly iron a shirt. Imagine how many people will be googling “how to iron a shirt”. Your hits will hit the ceiling. :Smile:

  21. Alice

    Oh I see that little smiley doesn’t show up in the comments here the way they do on my wordpress blog. That’s okay, I’m still smiling.

  22. Grannymar Post author

    Alice, I enjoyed the challenge… even if it involved washing a shirt in order to do it! 😉

    I am glad you are 😀 (I did that with a colon and D with no space) & 😆 (is colon lol colon again no spaces).

    Now I wonder what happens when I try your method 🙂

  23. bikehikebabe

    Wrong, Wrong! You don’t iron the yoke on the small, narrow end of the ironing board. You put it across the wide end & iron the whole yoke at once.

    I took a Home Ec. course in college. I needed a 5 min. demonstration, so I did ironing a shirt. I did it, like you do it, the way my mother taught me. The professor asked me where I got my info. From Mum, in Grannymar’s talk.

    I didn’t get a very good grade. I was suppose to have researched it in the library.

  24. Grannymar Post author

    BHB – I am surprised that you were marked down for your research source. Mother’s have been teachers since Adam was a boy…. even before libraries were invented.

    I have tried placing the yoke on the board like I did with the collar above, but it left a crease across the shirt that I was not happy with, so I went back to half and half method.

  25. bikehikebabe

    You’re so cute. Yes mothers know more than a book written for the library, (probably by a man).

    I didn’t say it right. No crease if you iron the yoke with the back of shirt at one time. Pull the back down over the length of the board. Don’t fold the back under the yoke.

  26. Grannymar Post author

    BHB – I tried that but alas got myself in a mess. The men in our house were all very tall and the bodies of the shirts were very long. Your way is good, but I am a stick in the mud when it comes to ironing. Now I have two toffees left from my task today… would you like one?


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