Learn what features and accessories are important to pressing well.
What Kind of Iron Should I Buy?
Choose an iron that can be adjusted to a cotton setting and can be used with and without steam. There are a variety of irons available, including some small portable models that work well for classes or for special purposes such as pressing bias strips or appliqués.
If you plan to use your iron with fusible web, be sure to place a protective, nonstick sheet between your fabric and the iron to prevent the fusing adhesive from sticking to the soleplate of the iron. Nonstick soleplates are easy to keep clean but might scratch if you're not careful. Or, consider purchasing a soleplate cover or second iron for use only with fusible web.
An automatic shut-off feature is convenient if you tend to be forgetful. However, you should still unplug when you're done for the day as a little bit of current still runs through the iron.
If you like to use steam, a water reservoir is a useful component. Many full-size irons come with them built in. Travel irons usually don't, but you can use a spray bottle with water. If you're really a steam hog, you might want to consider a steam-generating tool similar to what department stores use, but one that is geared toward the home sewer.
Keep It Clean!
It's so frustrating to begin to press your quilt block and then finding that something yucky is stuck on your iron! If you tend to use a lot of fusible adhesives, spray starch, or fabric spray, it's important to clean your iron frequently. Iron cleaning products are available at your local quilt shop or chain store. If you need something right now, try this simple solution.
Wipe off the iron with a damp cloth to remove dirt and dust. Remove as much as you can from the soleplate. Turn the iron on hot. Grab an old towel and rub the ironing surface over it until all the buildup is removed. When the iron cools off, wipe it again with a clean cloth. The soleplate will be as good as new!
And a little hint if you're using the same iron everyone is using at a class or retreat--always look first before you press!
Boards Aren't Boring!
Quilters have many choices in pressing surfaces, from the traditional ironing board with a tapered end to portable pressing surfaces/cutting boards in one. There are products available that allow you to create a pressing surface on a table, and there are large rectangular boards that fit over the traditional ironing board.
Cover the pressing surface with a purchased cover, or make one with batting and flannel or extra cotton fabric. Do not choose a silver-color, teflon-coated cover for your pressing surface, as it reflects the heat rather than allowing steam to pass completely through your fabric pieces.
Adjust the height of the board so it suits your body. If it's too low, you'll be bending over your work, making your back hurt. Your board should be at least waist high so that when you press, your arm is bent at a right angle. If you use a tabletop or small ironing board at your machine, don't forget to get up and move every hour!
Lavender Linen Sprays for Quilting?
Some quilters enjoy the calming scent of lavender when they quilt. Linen sprays are sold in many shops, but if you'd like to make your own, here's a recipe you can try. Keep in mind that the recipient might not appreciate the fragrance if you're giving your quilt as a gift.
Lavender Linen Water: Mix 100 drops of lavender essential oil with 1/8th cup high proof vodka. Blend well. Add oil mixture to 20 ounces distilled water. Put into a spray bottle and shake well before using.