A while back a friend asked me what I thought about wool pressing mats. Say what now? Unbeknownst to me, a wool mat was my friend's favorite notion. And I thought I knew her! Also, what is a wool pressing mat?
Quiltketeers, you know I love trying and buying new sewing notions, so of course I immediately snagged myself one of these fuzzy mats and after a year of using it I can finally give you an honest review.
If you like to sew, I can make a pretty accurate assumption that you love texture. You’re the kind of person who slowly runs your hands over your friend’s new velvet cushions and skims a finger across a pretty ceramic vase in a shop window. You can’t help yourself! To experience something you must touch it.
Even though we quilters love the feel of other fabrics and textures, most of the time we play it safe when it comes to the fabrics we choose for a quilt – lightweight cotton being the fan favorite. But what if I told you that you can have your cake and eat it too? Or, in this case, have your cotton and funky texture too? The fabulous texture I’m talking about is wool.
Get my wool pressing mat here! The quilt featured in this post is the Reflections Wall Hanging & Pillow Extension pattern. Get it here!
A Quick Detour Into Some Sheep Facts...
My wool knowledge is pretty baaaaad (as are my jokes) so I asked Instagram for fun facts about sheep and interesting qualities of wool. What I really wanted to know was WHY WOOL? Why would ironing fabric on a wool surface be any better or different than using the regular ironing board I’ve always used.
As for my sheep trivia, I’m now flush with knowledge. Did you know the wool of a domestic sheep will grow forever? In Australia a sheep was found roaming about and after being sheared, she was 89-pounds lighter! Since just ONE pound of wool can make 10 miles of yarn, that means 890 miles (or 1,430 kilometers) of yarn came from our fuzzy friend!
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What Makes Wool Special?
But what do these sheep factoids have to do with quilting, you ask? Honestly, nothing, but they were too good for me not to share! What is relevant are the amazing qualities of the wool that’s getting sheared off these sheep. Those qualities are why I think wool pressing mats might be worth the hype.
1. Wool pressing mats magically iron both sides of your fabric.
The main selling point of these mats is that they magically “iron both sides of your fabric at the same time.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I never iron both sides of my fabric, so this selling point wasn’t selling me. However, once I got a wool pressing mat, I realized what that meant.
Because wool is an amazing insulator, it absorbs heat and then quickly releases it. That’s how a mat is “ironing both sides.” Which, actually, is kind of awesome! If you have a wad of wrinkled fabric fresh from the dryer, using a wool pressing mat will cut your ironing time in half without scorching your fabric.
2. Wool is an insulating fiber which means a wool pressing mat cuts pressing time in half.
Wool is also able to absorb a lot more moisture than a synthetic fabric before it feels wet. This quality is really great if you like to come in hot with the steam setting on your iron. Remember that texture we all love? Well the fuzzy feel of these mats helps grip your fabric so it doesn’t slip around.
3. The mat's fuzzy texture grips your fabric in place.
Some may say that to get really flat seams, all you need is a hot iron and one of these wool pressing mats. However, I would disagree. I’m still a proponent of using a wooden tailor’s clapper to get the flattest seams.
Now you may ask, "Would it be overkill to use a tailor’s clapper on a wool mat?" Not at all! These wool mats give you wrinkle-free fabric, but a tailor’s clapper is still the best way to get crisp seams that stay crisp through multiple passes through a sewing machine.
Wool Pressing Mat Cons
It’s obvious these mats have their benefits, but what about the cons? I’ve got two. They aren’t deal breakers for me, but they are worth mentioning.
1. It's hard to find large wool pressing mats.
The first con is the sizes available. It’s really hard to find a mat large enough to press a standard yard of fabric. My mat is only 17" x 24". A big selling point for them is that they allow you to be mobile, but let’s get real, I don’t need to be that mobile. My sewing room is my favorite place on earth.
However, I do like to set this little mat up next to my sewing machine and then become very immobile...possibly for hours as I sit to sew and press. I actually recommend this product specifically when making the Grow quilt pattern because of all of the strip piecing.
Last week I filmed an Instagram LIVE video, and during that time I mentioned my disappointment with the small sizes of these mats. One of you piped into the comments that there is a company selling wool pressing mats large enough to fit a standard ironing board. Oh la la!
After some internet sleuthing, I found Project Wool. This company has 20" x 50" mats as well as customizable mats for sale. So now that I know where to get a large wool mat, maybe I just have one complaint then...
2. These mats don't smell great. In fact, they can get a little stinky.
My other con may seem silly, but it’s a turnoff – the smell. These mats smell like a barn floor. They won’t stink up your house, or even your small enclosed sewing studio, but when they get hot, and especially when they get steamy, they smell baaaaad.
Maybe over time my mat will smell better? Maybe if I continually use scented spray starch I can mask the odor? Only more time will tell, but I'm not that hopeful.
I’ll leave you with one last fact, contrary to popular belief, sheep are extremely intelligent. So if someone calls you a sheep for buying a wool mat, take it as a compliment!
Do you have a wool pressing mat? What are your thoughts? Does yours kinda smell too??