In my world, the verb iron is a four-letter word.
You know what type of four-letter word I’m talking about – like darn or drat. Or even crud.
That type of four-letter word.
I’m not a huge fan of ironing.
However, embroidered household linens usually need to be ironed if you really want them to look nice.
And while I only iron my clothes when I absolutely must, I iron embroidered household linens – such as table cloths & runners, hand towels, flour sack towels, pillow cases, and so forth – whenever they need it. The satisfaction of seeing the pieces beautifully ironed outweighs my disinclination for ironing in general.
I also iron fabric for sewing or for finish work whenever I need to, and that kind of ironing is satisfying, too.
Since the question about ironing embroidered flour sack towels has come up a few times, I thought I’d show you my ironing set-up and tell you how I iron such things.
So, as many of you know, I sell a range of ready-to-stitch flour sack towels in my shop. These are great projects for learning embroidery, they’re wonderful when you want to have a relaxing and portable project on hand, and the finished towels make lovely gifts. I tend to stitch quite a few of them.
And I always iron them when I’m finished. That way, they’re ready to give away (or use), as the occasion arises.
Whenever you iron household linens that are embroidered, you want to do it in a way that preserves the look of the embroidery. The best way is to iron the piece upside-down, with the front or top of the item (the embroidered side) facing down, so that you’re actually ironing the back of the embroidery.
This saves the embroidery from being crushed or overly-smoothed by the iron. It maintains the texture of the embroidery.
But in order for this to work well, your ironing surface should be well-padded, and not necessarily just with the padding that comes with a typical ironing-board cover.
You can see my ironing set-up in the photo above.
First of all, I use a wide ironing board. This was the greatest revelation to me, ever, in the world of ironing! If you iron a lot, don’t settle for the standard ironing board width (which is usually 12″ – 15″). An extra 4.5″ makes a big difference! The one I have is 19.5″ wide, and I love it.
Once upon a time, I had an ironing table that someone had made for ironing larger pieces of fabric, but I found it very awkward to iron on. I prefer a standard wide ironing board to a whole ironing table. Plus, I can take down the ironing board and get it out of the way when I’m not using it.
Second, I always use a dry iron.
I never add water to the reserve in my iron. If I need steam or dampness, I spray it on with a misting bottle that releases a very fine mist. The reason I don’t add water to my iron is that I don’t want any surprises down the road. I’ve had too many irons go amuck and release water when it wasn’t wanted.
My favorite iron that I’ve ever owned is a Rowenta, but I think there are lots of good irons out there. The choice of an iron is rather a personal thing, I think.
It’s never quite good enough just to use the standard ironing board cover and pad that comes with an ironing board when you’re ironing embroidery. You need extra padding under the face-down embroidered surface, to give the embroidery something to sink into.
I used to use several layers of flannel folded in half, and then covered with a clean cotton flour sack towel as my ironing board padding. And this works quite well!
You can also just fold several cotton flour sack towels in half so that you have a nice, thick layer of them, and use that.
This year, I discovered the wonder of the wool ironing mat, though, and this is my go-to padding on my ironing board. I have a 13.5″ x 17″ wool ironing mat on my ironing board, which I cover with a flour sack towel.
Essentially, it’s just a half-inch-thick layer of wool felt. It provides good padding under the embroidery and it has enough give when covered with the flour sack towel to give the embroidery something to sink into.
I love this thing! It heats up so well, and it makes a noticeable difference in how efficient and effective the iron is. I’m not sure where this has been all my life. It works really well, too, if you like to use iron-on transfers for embroidery. It just seems to provide better and more even heat.
I’m even thinking about tracking down a nice big piece of thick felt, cutting it to the size of my ironing board surface, and making a cotton cover to go over it. It’s great to iron on.
And… it’s portable. If I need to iron at my work table, I can lay this thing on the table and iron. This is fabulous when I’m working on wee tiny things that I want to keep ironed for ease of finishing. I have a mini-iron that works perfectly with it in these circumstances. I know this is an approach that’s been used by quilters for quite a while, but I find it handy when I’m doing finish work with small embroidery projects, too.
I can also use the wool mat as a pinning and layout board of sorts. Fabric, lace bits, ribbon, and other trim don’t move around much when you put them on wool felt. It’s the same concept as a story board. It’s fun!
If you have never tried a wool pressing mat, you might want to! I love mine and I use it for all kinds of things, in addition to ironing.
So those are the things I use when I iron my embroidered household linens and the like. They all make a difference in one way or another.
The ultimate point to remember, though, is always iron over the embroidered parts from the back, with the embroidery face down on a padded surface.
If you’re looking for them, you can find the ironing mat, the wide ironing board, and the fine misting spray bottle all listed under “Tools & Accessories” on my Amazon recommendations page here.
Now go forth and iron Everything! You’ll find that ironing isn’t as bad as it seems.
It’s still ironing… and iron is still a four-letter word!
This article contains an affiliate link to my Amazon recommendations page, which means Needle ‘n Thread receives a small commission for any purchases made through that link at no extra expense to you. Thanks!