A Game of Irons (Quilter-Style)

~ by Molly

irons header

Chapter 1. Qualities and Characteristics to Consider when Purchasing an Iron

Anytime I am making a purchase I like to do research, gather as much information as possible, and make an informed decision. After talking to everyone in the shop, and spending much time utilizing Google, I have created a list of criteria to consider.

  1. Wattage: With higher wattage, the iron heats up faster and maintains temperature well, making the process fast and efficient. The downside is that higher wattage also equals a higher price.  In some units, there is only one heating element and in others there is a wattage listed for both the iron and the boiling element. Most of the top rated irons, whether single or dual element, have a total wattage of 1700W to 1800W.
  2. Heat Settings: In order to use our iron for everyday tasks in addition to quilting projects the iron needs to have a variety of heat settings. Setting can be rated low, medium, and hot; on a number scale; or by the type of material you are ironing. This is personal preference, unless you don’t have a good understanding of what type of fabric goes with which temperature.
  3. Controls: Dials, slides, and digital controls are all options.  Controls should be clearly marked and easily adjustable. Consider the location of the steam options related to your hand during the ironing process!
  1. Dry Iron and Steam Iron Options: Steam is a wonderful thing! It can set our seams in exactly the place we want them…or it can shrink and warp our fabric. As a result you need to have both options. The dry iron can be used to press seams while sewing, and the steam features can be used to set finished pieces and eliminate wrinkles.iron steam
  2. Steam Settings: They should be variable, so you can use none, a small amount, or a large blast. Some irons even have steam burst option for extra stubborn wrinkles.
  3. Horizontal and Vertical Steam: Horizontal steam is released from the sole plate and into the item between the iron and the ironing board. Vertical steam options  enable you to release steam when the iron is upright, giving you the option to steam drapes, curtains, or clothing items on a hanger.

iron plates

  1. Sole Plate: The sole plate is the actual ironing surface. The quality helps to determine how smoothly the iron will glide and ease of use. These come in a variety of materials including ceramic, stainless steel, and ‘non-stick’ aluminum. Ceramic plates give the smoothest gliding and resist staining, but are pricey. Stainless steel is a close second to ceramic and is much less expensive. Aluminum sole plates come on lower end irons, are covered with a non-stick surface, and are not as efficient or effective.
  2. Holes in the Sole Plate: The number and placement help to distribute steam and heat evenly and effectively. The higher number and more even distribution increases efficiency by utilizing the entire surface of the iron, which means less work for you. Lots of smaller holes covering the entire plate is much more effective than several large holes spanning only a small portion of the iron.
  3. Detailer Tip: A nice point at the tip of your iron allows you to reach all the small spaces in your dress shirt, or tiny blocks!
  4. Water Reservoir: The size of the reservoir varies in different styles and if you are going to be doing a lot of steaming a large one means less refilling. The reservoir should also be clear or have a gauge to help determine water level. A select number of irons have detachable reservoirs, making them easy to fill and decreasing spillage.  A cover for the waterfill opening can also be helpful to prevent leakage and any foreign substance from accidently making it into the reservoir. (For example: the fly you have been hunting for a week decides he is thirsty and goes for a swim!)
  5. To Cord or Not to Cord!
    1. To Cord: Length should be a least 7ft long to allow room to iron, but another foot or two is very helpful. 360 Degree swivel cords helps to keep the cord out of the way while ironing and reduces stress on the wiring. Retractable cords are great for storage.
    2. Not to Cord: Cordless Irons are available, allowing for lots of free motion ironing! The downside is that they only stay warm for so long before they have to go back in the hot plate or heating element. With smaller intermittent projects these can be great.  Consider how long the iron will stay hot, and the amount of time it needs to reheat once placed back in its station. However,  if you have large jobs or are fusing a twenty T-shirts for a quilt, this may not be your best choice.
  6. Auto Shut Off: This feature is helpful if the iron is left on or in unintentionally tipped over. When left motionless for a certain amount a time the auto shut off will kick in. This varies widely by iron from 8 minutes to 20 minutes. If you are going to use the iron continuously a short shut off time is not a bother. Often quilters alternate ironing and sewing allowing the opportunity for your iron to turn off on you. A select few irons do not have this quality at all, giving you the freedom to iron and piece without having to wait for a reheat every time you need to press a seam.
  7. Bells and Whistles: Additional extras and qualities that can be extremely helpful but are not required include
    1. Antidrip
    2. Indicator light: Communicates when desired temperature has been reached or when auto-off has been taken over.
    3. Anticalcium: Reduces sediment buildup and helps prevent clogs
    4. Auto-clean
    5. Beep Indicator: Uses a different number of beeps to indicate temperature and auto-off.
    6. Spray/Mist
  8. Handle size/Comfort: Is it too big? Small? Heavy? If you are going to use the iron with regularity it needs to be a comfortable fit in your hand.

Last but not least…..

  1. Cost: Once you have chosen the features that are of the most importance to you, pick your price range and get the highest quality iron you can for the amount you are willing to spend.

I know that was a lot of information, so thanks for staying the course and making it to the end!!

Up next: A Review of the Steamfast Home and Away Iron.

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2 Responses to A Game of Irons (Quilter-Style)

  1. Marilynn says:

    Great article Molly! Lots of good information.

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