What To Look For In An Iron For Sewing

Irons For Sewers

Iron It Out

Photo courtesy of vivevans

What Is The Best Iron?

We use the terms interchangeably, but ironing is a wrinkle removal technique, while an accomplished presser with the right ironing system can actually shape and manipulate the fabric in a garment.  Most sewers are, or should be, pressers to some degree and need to purchase an iron that will suit their needs.  Here are some things to look for when you buy an iron.

Choose A Hefty Iron

While you may love your iron on laundry day because it is light in your hand and easy on your back, this is not the quality you want in a sewing iron. I once had a collection of antique irons that I used as bookends and doorstops.  I loved their quaint reminder of a bygone era and laughed art the idea of heating them on a wood stove and slogging them over linens and cottons.  As my sewing career progressed I realized at least one value of those pig iron dinosaurs–I’ll be they turned out gorgeous pressed clothing and draperies.

So give your iron some weight-seriously.  The heavier the better and upwards of four pounds will give a professional look to seams, tailoring effects and heavy layers of fabric.

The Sole Plate

Your iron’s sole plate is its soul mate.  You might like light weight aluminum, but the telling point in a good iron is it’s cleanibility.  You don’t want singed fabric sticking to the iron, especially if you use synthetics.  Make sure the iron cleans up well.  It should be able to handle mild steel wool or abrasive sponges without scratching.

Pressing Matters

Of course you need steam, but what kind?  If you are a serious, frequent sewer, consider one of the ironing systems available that generate and regulate their own steam unit for continuous, intense concentrations of steam.  They are closer to a professional steam iron.  Beware, though, when you are working with napped and other fabrics such as velvets and corderoy that can be flattened and destroyed by too much direct heat.  Keep a pressing cloth and light touch handy for these items.  Choose an iron that allows you to direct the steam with in short bursts.  This is also ideal when you have an item that is hanging but needs a touch of steam, such as draperies showing a crease you missed.  Make sure the water tank fills easily without leaking and know whether you need distilled or tap water.  What is the procedure for removing chemical and mineral buildup in your iron?  Add warm water instead of cold to a hot iron so it won’t spit at you.  These specialized steam irons may require longer time to heat, but will stay filled longer.  As with all irons, allow them to cool completely before storage, especially if they have a pressurized water chamber. For situations where you want dry heat, look for an iron that offers steam as well as works as dry iron.

Automatic Shut-Off Valves

It is hard to find a modern iron without a shut off valve that turns the iron off if it stands too long without being used.  But you will happy not to have to wait for the iron to heat up again while it is waiting for you to finish a seam and press it out.  If you don’t have children or pets in your sewing area (who can get tangled in cords), forgo this feature if you can for the convenience of always having a hot iron at your disposal.

Heating Up

Investigate your potential iron’s temperature settings to be sure it will reach and hold the temperatures you need.


Do you need a right hand or left hand cord, or both for other users in your home?  This user-friendly feature will save many a flaring temperature when something needs to be ironed in a hurry but the cord won’t cooperate with the dominant hand.  Is the cord retractable, easy to store?  Is should be.

An Ironing System vs. A Plain Iron

Think about an ironing system, rather than a simple applkiance.  While it is a large investment, if you amortize it out over several decades, which is how long these expensive irons and steam machines will last, it will more than pay for itself in convenience, time saved and beautifully pressed items.


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  • February 2018
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  • Header image, Two Little Fabric Cottages, courtesy of peregrine blue