Perfect Pressing Boards: A DIY Tutorial

July 25, 2013 2 Comments

Let's talk pressing boards.

The pressing board you choose to use, for your sewing and quilting projects, is very important. Maybe that's an understatement. It's vital.

When most of us start sewing, we often use the traditional ironing board for all of our pressing. Did you know that there's something better out there? Something that will give you better results with your finished sewing projects? There is!! Many years ago, my mom started making her Perfect Pressing Boards, and selling them to her students. Once they tried the board, they immediately saw improvement in their pressing. Today, I'm going to teach you how to make one (although, you may end up making more than just one).

You might be wondering what's "wrong" with the ironing boards that we've all been using for so long. First I want to say, that they're not "wrong", they're just not the best tool to use for our sewing and quilting projects. Most often, they are too soft, and made of polyester products. When your pressing surface is too soft, you risk getting distortion simply from ironing. Have you ever stitched the most accurate half square triangle, then pressed it and it winged out at the points? This is not your fault! It's the pressing surface! And I promise that when you start using a hard pressing surface, your blocks will be more accurate. Have you used, or heard of, a "tailor's ham"? It's a pressing tool for getting accurate darts and curved seams in clothing. These things are hard, with a "grippy" covering, which helps give clothing a more tailored finish, and accurate sizing. This type of pressing board works much like the tailor's ham, but for quilting.

Most store-bought pressing boards are made of polyester products. Polyester doesn't disperse the heat of your iron as evenly as cotton. It actually reflects the heat back, which is good for pressing your everday clothing, but not for quilt blocks and other sewing projects. You'll find that you'll get sharper creases and more accurate pressing when you use a cotton covered surface. This is why we will be using cotton batting and canvas for covering our board.

Making your own pressing board is quite simple, but it does require a few tools. Here's what you'll need:

  • 100% Cotton Canvas (Duck Cloth)
  • 100% Cotton Batting 
  • **Approx. 1/2" OSB or Sound Board, cut to size of your choice (can be found at home improvement stores)
  • Sand Paper, or Sander
  • Felt (this can be polyester; fusible felt is optional) 
  • Staple Gun & Staples (3/8" staples)
  • Hammer
  • Rotary Cutter/Scissors & Ruler
  • Craft Glue
  • Spray Bottle of Water

Tools of the Trade 
Step 1: Getting Prepared
The first step is to cut your OSB or sound board to the size you want your pressing surface to be. The most common sizes that I cut are 14"x19" and 10"x13". Of course, you're not limited to these sizes.

Once cut, round the corners with your sander, or sand paper. Having rounded edges will protect the corners, and prevent them from wearing out.

Cut your canvas 3 or 4 inches larger than your board, all the way around. You'll need plenty of slack for folding it to the back and stapling down.

Cut your cotton batting the same size as your board. It can be a tiny bit bigger, which will give your edges a softer look and feel.

Cut your felt an inch smaller than the size of your board. If your board is 19"x14", cut your felt to 18"x13". You can use fusible felt, if you prefer. If you do, you won't need the craft glue.

Top to Bottom: Felt, Board, Batting, Canvas
Step 2: Layer Upon Layer
Next, let's get our layers ready for stapling.

Place your batting on top of your board. Smooth it out, and get it all the way to the edges, and over the corners. The sound board is quite grippy, and the batting will hold on nicely, without sliding around.

Then, turn it over, batting side down, and center it on your cut piece of canvas.

Now, we're ready for stapling!

Step 3: Yes! Power Tools!
Let's get this thing assembled!

Get your stapler ready, and loaded. I prefer to staple all four corners down first, then the sides. If you've seem my mom's video, you'll notice that she staples the sides, then the corners. There's no wrong way to do this part. Just be sure to pull taught as you go. We want that canvas to be flat and smooth.

Basically, I pull a corner up and over, like wrapping a present. Pull slightly taught, and staple down.

Once all four corners are secure, staple one side at a time, starting in the center and working your way out, to the corner. Keep pulling taught, as you go. Please pay special attention to the corners, and be sure to secure the multiple layers of canvas well.

If you notice any staples popping up a bit, go ahead and give them a little whack with your hammer. (Secretly, this is my favorite part. ;) )

Step 4: Finishing the Back
Once the top of your pressing board is all stapled, you can choose to finish the back with felt. The felt gives your board a finished look, and protects the stapled edges. Also, the felt on the back will provide a bit of grip, to keep it in place when you're using it on top of another table.

If you choose to use fusible felt, simply center on the back, and press it in place (according to the product instructions).

If you choose to use use regular felt, draw a line of craft glue (I used Liquid Stitch) all the way around the edge of the felt, and a few lines in the center.

Turn it over, and place it in the center of the back of the board. Secure it in place by giving it a little rub with your hands. Let dry, with the back facing up.

Step 5: Final Touch
When you take a look at the top of your fabulous new pressing board, you might notice a few wrinkles, or maybe just a tiny bit of slack. Tightening up the canvas will smooth them right out.

To do this, spray the top with some plain ol' water, or spray starch. Get it slightly damp, and rub it around a bit. As it drys, the canvas will shrink a bit, and tighten up. No need to use your iron, here (but if you do, it's okay). This is a great way to give your board a nicely finished look.

Good job!! I hope you enjoy your new Perfect Pressing Board!

Other Uses:
You can also use this method for covering wooden TV trays, and turn them into your own portable Perfect Pressing Board.

These boards are perfect for taking to classes. It's so nice to be able to press and sew, without getting up to walk around a classroom, or having to wait in line.

As I mentioned, you can make these any size you wish. This makes them perfect for design walls. Because the sound board is so light weight, you can easily mount it to a wall.

In the past, we've used OSB board for the main part of the board. Once my mom discovered using sound board, she was hooked. It's light weight, durable, and you can pin right into it. It's wonderful stuff. Being able to pin into it (without bending all my pins) makes using it as a design wall even more wonderful. It also makes a great surface for blocking your quilt blocks. You can block onto the table top board, or even the design wall.

I have covered my entire work table with this pressing surface (I used OSB, because it's an actual table top). This gives me a HUGE amount of pressing space, and when I need to cut, I lay my rotary mat right on top. Since the Perfect Pressing Board surface is hard, I can cut with my mat on top, and get accurate cuts.

If making your own board isn't your preference, I have pre-made boards ready to ship right to you. You can choose from 14"x19" or 10"x13".

Thanks for stopping by! And Happy Quilting!!

**A note about the sound board: It is a light weight drywall product that is fire retardant and safe for use in homes and schools. It is absolutely safe to be used as a pressing surface.

Update: 3-4-15
This tutorial is intended for personal use only. Please do not make and resell these boards without asking first. This is more of an ethical thing, than legal. Asking first shows respect, and is the right thing to do. At this time, I have not been asked by anyone, but I have seen a specific online store selling boards like mine. The owner learned directly from me, and never asked if I was okay with her selling the pressing boards. I see credit to me in the store, which is nice, but asking first is more respectable.

2 Responses


April 22, 2020

Thank you so much for this tutorial. I will be trying this. I need rather a large board as I want to make a tshirt quilt so I need a surface about 18-20 inches square! I really appreciate you sharing your idea.

Gaynell Gallagher
Gaynell Gallagher

April 22, 2020

Loved this tutorial. It taught me a lot. (Which makes me think to mention that the word “taught” is the past tense of “teach.” The word for pulling something tight is spelled taut. Sorry —can’t help it. I was an English major. LOL)

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