Applying HTV with your iron

Yesterday was the first day of school for my two oldest kids. Usually, I let them pick out their outfits for the first day of school, but this year, I was inspired to make them shirts.

Can you tell they're starting all remote?


I started thinking though about how much I enjoy adding HTV (heat transfer vinyl) to whatever I think can take it. A heat press is the best way to add HTV to anything, but even the "cheaper" heat presses cost upwards of $200, which is a lot of money to invest when you are just starting out with HTV.


The alternative is to use your home iron. It's not ideal by any means. An iron doesn't heat evenly, and you can't know what for sure what temperature you are getting. Also, a heat press applies pressure, which you will have to apply yourself with an iron.


But when you are dabbling in the fun that is HTV, an iron is a good way to start.

You'll need a few things, in addition to your iron, some of which you may already have from sewing. It's recommended to have something that will hold the heat behind the item you are pressing. I've used just my ironing board, and it's okay, but then I moved on to my wool pressing mat, and it works much better.


You'll also want a paper pressing sheet. Parchment paper works fine. I also use my cutting ruler. It's not strictly necessary for pressing with an iron, but it really helps with placement of the vinyl.

Speaking of placement, the best way to make sure your design is centered? Fold the item you are pressing in half, and press a crease into it. Don't worry, it'll come out when you put the HTV on.


Another reason to do this is that it's a good idea to preheat the item you are pressing, just a little. It helps the adhesive in the HTV hold a little better. By putting a crease in it, you've warmed up the fabric just enough.

Then take your design, and fold it in half (sticky side together). I am not so good at cutting perfect squares out of the vinyl, so I just try to line up the edges of the design as best as I can. Then you can line up the creases you put in the shirt (or whatever you are pressing) and in the transfer sheet (the plastic part) of the vinyl, and ta da! Your design is perfectly centered.

Here's where the ruler comes in handy. You don't want to put your design right smack dab in the middle of a shirt, you want to put it just a few inches down from the neckline. If you are pressing onto a tote bag or something, you may want it more centered, but you also might want the design a little higher.


Since I'm pressing onto a shirt, I don't want to put it right in the middle. This shirt is for my youngest, and since she's just a toddler, I put it an inch and a half below the neckline. For older kids, you could go up to two inches, and for adults, you may want to go all the way to three inches. You can always lay it out ahead of time and see how you like it.

Next, put your pressing sheet down and press! Make sure the steam is off, and set your iron to the hottest setting you think your item can take. I usually put mine on the cotton setting, which is the second highest out of five, and it works just fine.


You will need to press down on the iron, to apply as much pressure as you can, and hold it for 20 seconds or so. If your iron doesn't cover the whole design (like in the picture above), you'll need to make sure to move the iron after the 20 seconds to put heat and pressure on the whole design. Overlap as much as possible.

It's really hard to see, because I couldn't get my camera to focus on it, but can you see the fibers behind the vinyl? That's how you know the HTV adhered well.

Oh, little shirt, I am so ready for a school day too.

If your design is layered, you simply apply the next layer the same way as the first. Make sure to get everything lined up the way you want, and then press!

And pretty soon you'll have a beautiful new shirt (or whatever you are pressing)!


Do you like to use HTV? Share in the comments below!

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