crafts · Sewing

A tale of two irons

Here’s the hard truth: if you take up sewing, you are going to be ironing.  A lot.  I once saw someone on the internet say that we might as well call this hobby “ironing,” since we do so much of it, and they had a point.  I’ve always found ironing clothes to be satisfying to a point (the point where my OCD tendencies take over, and it makes me crazy that I can’t get the shirt perfect!)  But I own very few items of clothing that need ironing, and I certainly don’t iron for my husband (if he doesn’t see a problem with being wrinkled, then I can affect blindness on particularly rumpled days.)

You may be tempted to make a go of pressing your seams with the travel iron your great aunt gave you when you went away for college.  I cannot recommend this path.  Your life will be much easier if your iron has: A. A decent sized water reservoir and B. some heft.  Those seams don’t press themselves, but it’s much closer with a heavy iron.  I’m a little obsessive about ironing seams – I iron each on flat, then open from both the wrong and right sides.  Darts get pressed over a Tailor’s Ham, and for long sleeves I use a seam roll (I got both mine at Joanns, and they are by Dritz.)

When my Mother-inlaw found out I was sewing, she bought me a Rowent Effective iron for a present.

It looks all unassuming there, but trust me… this baby is evil.  At first everything seemed fine – the iron heated quickly, and it is nicely heavy.  The steam vents are toward the front, so it does tend to burn fingers, but I also think pressing is a little easier with the steam close to the tip.  Unfortunately, the iron quickly showed the source of the incredibly bad reviews it has received on Amazon.  There is an issue with the auto-shutoff.  I don’t like auto shutoff anyway, but this one performs very badly.  It will actually trigger the auto-off while you are ironing!  And then you have to stand there and shake it around for awhile until it decides to come back on.  And then, one day, it decided to start leaking water out of the part where the cord is stored.  Yeah.  It wasn’t the cheapest iron, and I would expect better from Rowenta – but perhaps they are a victim of shipping their factories overseas as well (my iron was made in Mexico.)

So, completely angry at the Rowenta, I went back to my old iron.  It was a wedding present, and considering that I never ironed before, it’s basically new.

It’s a  Black&Decker Digital advantage.  It wasn’t until I tried the other iron that I really appreciated what a great all-purpose iron I had.  It has a few things that make it superior to the Rowenta.  First of all, the water reservoir has a cover.  On the Rowenta it would just leak on you if the iron was tipped sideways.  The tip is perhaps a bit more pointy, making opening seams easier.  It seems to hold more water.  The steam holes are toward the back, making me less likely to burn myself (in this case I will trade functionality for not being burned!)  It has a reasonable auto-shutoff, and it never senses wrong.  And finally, my favorite… the steam settings are separate from the temperature settings.  The Rowenta had basically no steam or “auto steam” which meant that you couldn’t, for instance, have a low temp with some steam, and you had no control over the amount of steam you would get.  Seriously, it was terrible.  So I totally recommend this iron – it wasn’t the cheapest, but it really performs well for me.  I can’t say how long it will last, but sewers are really hard on irons anyway.  When I wear this one out I might look into a gravity feed or something fancy, but I might also get another of these!

And my final tip for ironing… you need this stuff:

Mary Ellen’s Best Press is easily the best spray starch I have seen.  It never leaves flakes, and it smells nice.  I’ve only seen it at Hancock fabrics, but it may be available elsewhere.  I starch slippery fabrics to stabilize them, and finished garments.  I love me some starch.

So there’s my iron story!  Thanks for the emails wondering where I was – I had about 5 unfinished posts, but didn’t realize I hadn’t published them… so now I am back!

13 thoughts on “A tale of two irons

  1. Thanks for the iron review. I have a Rowenta and it too has started leaking from the cord. I will have to upgrade at some point. I also have to try the BEST PRESS as I currently use Niagra and it works ok but I would love a better smelling product.

  2. Wow – I must have lucked out with my Rowenta-No problems (yet).My daughter has a Black and Decker that she loves.

    Will have to check out the Best Press. Gives me a great excuse to stop by Hancocks!

  3. I wondered where you were, too! Good to see you back 🙂
    Why the starch? I never starch anything, what does it do for you? Does it really make a difference? It reminds me of my army days, trying to get sharp creases down the front of my pants and sleeves. Sometimes we even resorted to masking tape (applied on the inside of the pant leg, then ironed in half for stiffness!) Anyways, that was a bit off topic… does everyone use starch and I’m just missing the boat?

    1. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I use starch when sewing because I find fabric nicer and easier to sew with sizing (but I always prewash out the original sizing!) I also think it keeps garments from wrinkling as much when you wear them. I use it on cotton and sometimes linen with great success!

  4. Great tip on the spray starch! I always use Faultless heavy starch but it definitely flakes like crazy. For a gift my grandmother bought be a Rowenta pressure steam iron that had a large base holding up to 4 cups of water. It was around $179 and worked great for about a year. Then it bit the dust. The warranty was unfortunately only for one year, how convenient, right? When I went to replace it I checked the reviews on Amazon for that same iron, thinking I got a faulty one. Nope, pretty much everyone else had the same problems. Now I have a DeLonghi pressure steam iron which has great reviews and a 3 year warranty. I am crazy about ironing too and do all my kids clothes and mine. Hubby sends his shirts to the cleaners. Men’s shirts have entirely too much fabric that needs pressing, especially when the cleaners only charges $1.50 per shirt.

    1. I’m glad you agree with my “no dress shirts” ironing rule! Fortunately, my husband works in a semi-casual office, and doesn’t really wear traditional dress shirts and suits. I would definitely send them out! I’ve read good things about that DeLonghi – maybe someday I will get one!

  5. Thanks for the tips! I’ve been wanting to purchase an iron and I’ve been reading similar reviews about the Rowenta and Black & Decker.

  6. Oh – glad to see you back! Been looking out for a post! I’ve never used starch before but I must say that I’m pretty intrigued to give it a whirl now!

    M xx

  7. Glad to see you back too!

    I can totally relate to the OCD ironing thing. There is a point where I have to stop myself and call an item “done” or I will go crazy. Thankfully I don’t have too many clothes that need ironing, and like Amanda, I’m all too happy for my husband to send his shirts to the cleaners.

    I wanted to ask you about your wardrobe project. I know you teach out of your home, so I am wondering if you wear the skirts and dresses you are sewing for teaching, or for other areas of your musical life? I prefer more dress up clothes myself, but only seem to be able to wear them to church these days (life has become mostly informal after working at home for five years). In the summer at least, I can wear skirts with sandals and not look too dressed up at the bike races we go to.

    Also, are you working on any new sweater projects? I’m wondering if you’ve started anything from A Stitch in Time.

  8. Just wanted to comment on the Rowenta iron you have. I have 2 Rowenta’s (I think they’re the Professional) and I love them. I used the first one so much I had to send it back for repair work and that was before my daughter was born and she’ll be 12 next month. I bought the second one only because the fabric store where I worked was going out of business and I wanted to be able to purchase one less from there than I would at JoAnn’s. Neither of mine are the auto shut off variety. Research the models that they make and you might find one that is better and more reliable than the one you have. Pressing is so important to making garments appear “handmade” rather than “homemade” and you hit the nail on the head about the weight of an iron.

    Good luck in your search!

  9. Too funny! I don’t iron. Don’t believe in it. My clothes are meant to serve me, not the other way around. But my husband is an obsessive ironer. We have been through probably five irons in 13 years. He’s hated them all. We finally got one he likes–it’s a Rowenta!

    And I have noticed the whole sewing=ironing thing. I wish someone had told me that before I started sewing.

  10. I’m a little late to the party, but wanted to share a couple things I learned about irons when working at a Bernina dealer (we sold irons too). The auto-shutoff is designed to protect the interior components of the iron. It doesn’t just get hot on the sole plate, it gets really ripping hot inside too, so to keep the parts inside from melting or becoming damaged, it shuts itself off, whether you are actively pressing with it or not. Most commercial irons are designed for light home use, not marathon sewing sessions, so inevitably we “burn out” our irons after demanding so many constant hours of use. When you shake it around to make it turn back on, it’s just cooling down slightly, enough to allow itself to be re-heated.

    I have an old iron that I use just for crafting, but it no longer steams because it got so hot it melted the o-rings for the water reservoir. It will only leak water if I try to fill it now, which could be what happened to your Rowenta. I have a really expensive Black & Decker iron that I love for regular home use, but stick to pretty inexpensive models for sewing with the knowledge that I will burn them out and have to replace them often.

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