Hello! I’m new here, so I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Keren Baker, based in Liverpool and I work freelance in the craft industry. I work for companies including one known for their famous orange handled scissors! More on that in another post.
I wanted to ask you a question; what pressing tools do you use and have any of you been eyeing up some of the latest ‘must-haves’? Are they essential or just gimmicks to wrench your hard saved cash out of your hands?!
Pressing anything was way beyond my comfort zone. Before I started quilting, the iron was just an ornament in the corner, ready for self-defence in case of a burglary (just kidding). It came out for my husband’s shirts or if an interview beckoned. Other than that, it might see the light of day for an occasional home décor project, but then, it would be for ‘ironing’, not pressing and seams would definitely be ironed ‘open’. I’m adding in some pretty fabric-y pictures throughout the posts simply to try and keep you from falling asleep whilst I talk about ironing related products!
Because I sometimes work at consumer and trade shows, I had heard whispers about three particular products and despite being horrified that I was ‘treating’ myself to anything iron-related, I did buy a super useful mini iron. However it was the wool pressing mat that intrigued me. It took a little searching and I found one on everybody’s favourite ‘marketplace’. I wished I’d taken more notice of its origins although I have some recollection it was made from New Zealand wool. I have heard comments that they smelled when using, particularly when sprayed with water but I’ve never had any issues. I’ve had it for over a year and honestly think I get much better seams. The only problem is that with one side it has compacted a little, but there are 3 more sides, right?! The idea is that the wool traps the heat and helps give you flatter seams and easier pressing. I haven’t done any scientific studies, but it definitely stays hotter longer than my ironing board, and what’s not to love about an easy to store mat you can stuff under your desk?!
I do use it in conjunction with an utterly fabulous tool; the Tailor’s Clapper. Even some of my retailer friends hadn’t heard of this one. Seamstresses / Tailors may have more of a clue as this was pretty standard equipment years ago and ensured the crispest of crisp seams. They are made from hard wood only; any softer woods will absorb the steam and end up splitting the grain. Finding one of these took a little more hunting. I spied one at a Couture Sewing stand at a show. I grabbed it (politely, and just slow enough to not appear grabby!) and the retailer explained that a local man was making them in his shed, so production was limited but high quality. Pressing with the clapper after steam ironing forces the moisture out and leaves a lovely sharp edge. Beating or ‘clapping’ the steam into the fabric is supposedly how it got its name.
I did try a little experiment, using my wool mat plus iron then wool mat, iron and clapper. You can hopefully see yourself the difference it makes.
We’re all about precision as quilters (well, that’s the theory!!) and not losing inches due to inaccurate pressing will make a difference to getting all your blocks and rows the correct size. This tool is probably my top recommendation if you were looking to add to your pressing arsenal. They aren’t easy to find, although Milward have got a good range out currently. If you fancy a…fancy one, check out Merchant and Mills. They’re a thing of beauty.
The Clappers are also really good at reducing bulk at seams and particularly good for ‘bashing things’ when you have to unpick a seam for the squillionth time 😉 I just press, leave my Clapper on top and press the next one, stacking each pieced bit as I go. It works really well. I just wish I’d bought a larger wool mat (buy the biggest you can afford if you fancy getting one!).
What’s the third? Well it’s the Oliso Pro Smart Iron. You know, the yellow one that stands up a little every time you put it down. I can see it being sooo good for those of us who like to leave little scorch marks wherever we iron. Some celebrity sewers adore it and I was tempted too. It’s easy fill and with some great features but you’re paying for them. I had a conundrum, iron or fabric ? Fabric or a new all singing and all dancing iron? What would you choose?
Fabric won. Fabric always wins. I might like my gadgets (and if anyone left said iron on my doorstep, I’d be delighted, of course), but I enjoy sewing fabric.
I’ll stick with my two pressing helps knowing that they really do aid my quilting. In the interest of research, I’d love to know your opinions on this pressing matter and whether there are tools I really need to look into (aka putting on my wish list!). One word of warning. If you have cats- they adore sinking their little claws into the wool mat. It’s easily smoothed down again, but do put it where your feline friends can’t attack it!
Thanks for letting me join you today. Looking forward to being with you again soon!