An Honest Review of Wool Pressing Mats

A wool pressing mat can be a wonderful tool in quilting. Portable, lightweight, and made of only natural fibers, these mats can also help iron fabric in half the time! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quiltingtools #sew

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.

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!

A wool pressing mat can be a wonderful tool in quilting. Portable, lightweight, and made of only natural fibers, these mats can also help iron fabric in half the time! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quiltingtools #sew
A wool pressing mat can be a wonderful tool in quilting. Portable, lightweight, and made of only natural fibers, these mats can also help iron fabric in half the time! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quiltpattern #sew

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A wool pressing mat can be a wonderful tool in quilting. Portable, lightweight, and made of only natural fibers, these mats can also help iron fabric in half the time! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilt #sew

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. 

A wool pressing mat can be a wonderful tool in quilting. Portable, lightweight, and made of only natural fibers, these mats can also help iron fabric in half the time! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilt #sewing

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.

A wool pressing mat can be a wonderful tool in quilting. Portable, lightweight, and made of only natural fibers, these mats can also help iron fabric in half the time! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quilt #sew

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??

A wool pressing mat can be a wonderful tool in quilting. Portable, lightweight, and made of only natural fibers, these mats can also help iron fabric in half the time! suzyquilts.com #quilting #quiltpattern #sew

78 thoughts on “An Honest Review of Wool Pressing Mats

  1. Martha Adams says:

    Yes, I have a wool pressing mat. I also used to have a LOT of sheep long before sheep’s wool was ever used for making pressing mats. Yes, when wool pressing mats get damp from the steam coming from your iron, they smell like wet sheep. It’s a small price to pay for having a great pressing surface. It also takes me back to those years of owning sheep.

    • Maureen says:

      A great source for cheap wool mats measuring 30”x30” is State Line Track. Search Mustang wool mat. They cost about $25 each. They are a tan color. They are pads used under saddles. They work just as well as the expensive grey mats. Neither the grey nor the tan mats have ever smelled when I use them.

      • Heather says:

        I just got a wool mat and made a kid quilt using it. The manufacturer said to only use a dry iron, no steam! So without steam it took longer to iron. Good to know steam is ok? I prefer this to my ironing board.

        • Suzy Quilts says:

          My wool mat has no warning on the label about avoiding steam. Based on my knowledge of wool, I don’t know why steam would be a problem (aside from increasing the smell.) The only thing I can guess is that some wool mats are felted with other materials that would not react well to steam. My mat is 100% wool, however, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

        • Mea Cadwell says:

          I’ve had my wool mat for awhile now and have used steam…even though the instructions say not to. I haven’t had a problem with melting or odor.

      • Tammy Hardt says:

        Such a great idea and they are USA made! Wonder if it could be cut in half though? I don’t need that large of a mat.🙂

  2. Diane says:

    I have had a wool mat for a year now. It has not smelled at all. I think it depends on where it comes from. I keep my covered w a pillowcase as I starch & this way I can change the case when needed. I’d be lost without the mat

    • Betty says:

      I also use a pillow case on mine. I wondered if the wool mat might stain and transfer over to my quilt material eventually if it wasn’t covered and changed once in a while??? We change our ironing board covers when they are stained as I have had some transfer over to a piece of material.

  3. Sonia says:

    I like the wool pressing mat because it is handy to have right beside my machine, but wool needs a lower iron temperature than cotton so I have scorched it in a couple of places!

  4. Savannah Morgan says:

    We actually raise sheep! We have been keeping (and milking) dairy breeds for several years now, and just recently added some other breeds to the flock! The milk is excellent for yogurt making 👌 and I am *hoping* to get some good use out of the wool this year from our new wool bread sheep! Dairy sheep have wool, but it is very coarse (i.e. wouldn’t make a nice soft yarn). Hmmmm… a homemade wool mat??? Perhaps? Oh, and they smell bad, probably worse than your mat. It isn’t something you notice outside… just when the milker comes in with a pail of fresh milk and smelling… um, not so fresh. 😁 (Male goats are worse, much worse, so no complaints about the sheep. You can smell a buck goat belonging to the neighbor down the road. 😤🤢)

  5. Laura Faulconer says:

    Yes I have a wool mat and love it. I have it on one end of my cutting table for pressing my blocks or small projects. As for the smell, there’s only a oder when you use steam in your iron. In reading the label it tells you not to use steam. When in doubt read the labels.

    • Diane says:

      I have a large wool mat made in Ireland. Love it. I don’t use steam, therefore it doesn’t smell. I also use the wooden clapper and have good results as the combination compliment each other.

  6. Dawn Voegeli says:

    It definitely smells more when you are using steam or spraying with water or starch– not so much when ironing dry. I guess I’ve gotten used to it. I do love how it works. I saw that one reader above mentioned keeping a pillowcase over it. I might try that and see if it still works as well. Thanks Suzy!

  7. Nancy Batchelder says:

    I thought the information that came with the wool mats was to not use steam or any starch sprays. Just a dry iron. My mat smelled fine until I recently used some steam. I’m letting it air out and using steam w/a regular ironing surface for now.

  8. Aidan says:

    Mine had a bit of a smell, an I will admit to giving it a light misting of Febreeze. Twice. And it worked. If I could, I would cover an Ironing board in wool matting. I love pressing on it.

      • Carmen R Wyant says:

        I bought mine at my local quilt shop and it was $89.99, which I figured was a VERY reasonable price. Others may (and do) charge more.

  9. Ginger says:

    I got a wool pressing mat for christmas and when I used it all those little fibers stuck to my iron. I was using the cotton setting on my iron. Now I have a black mess on my iron I need to clean. However, I love the mat. I think I’ve going to do what another review had done and put a cover on it. Curious if anyone else has had that issue.

    • Shawnna says:

      I had the same black mess on my iron, and some of my fabric the first time I used my new wool mat so I have never used it again. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one with a bad experience!

  10. Sarah L says:

    I like my wool mat but I wasn’t thinking one day and put it on my cutting mat while I was ironing. The heat/moisture went through the wool mat and warped my cutting mat. Moral of the story–beware of the surface under your wool mat!

  11. Linda White says:

    I find the cost of these mats prohibitive for my very limited budget. I have heard of some people ordering wool horse blankets and cutting them into various sizes to press on. Anyone out there who’s done that? Thoughts? suggestions?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      That’s an interesting thought. Are wool horse blankets that much cheaper? The one con I can think of is that a horse blanket probably isn’t that thick. You would still need to drape it over an ironing board so it doesn’t wreck your table.

      • Shawn Duray says:

        Yes, they are that much cheaper! You can get a wool saddle pad, 30x30x1/2″ for just over $30.00! The ones I found were $31.99. Search for wool liner saddle pad.

      • Wynema says:

        After a bit of searching, I found. Eco Plush pads sold at rugpadusa.com. thicknesses of 1/2″, 3/8″, and 1/4″. Eco Plush pads are 100% recycled felt made from new unused carpet fibers and yarn, non-toxic, and eco-friendly. Plus, made in USA. You can pick your size from 1 ft x 1ft to 16 ft x 24 ft. They are having Easter Sale.

    • Mae De la Rosa says:

      I bought a wool blanket and my local army/navy store just for this purpose to save money. I folded it several times to fit my ironing board and made a cover to fit over it. The cover was necessary because it sheds. So when I used it, the fabric got a lot of fuzzies from the wool blanket that were difficult to remove. But the cover solved that problem. I like having the wool because it gives a nice cushion on my board which I found to be to hard, even with the soft cover that came with the ironing board. With the flooded wool blanket underneath it is so much easier to get a good result when ironing. It only cost $20 for the wool blanket and it covers the entirety of my ironing board. I recommend it this DIY solution.

    • Amanda Shipley says:

      Someone at our Guild went to a carpet shop, explained what she was looking for, and got wool carpet padding. She had them cut it into various sizes and they have various widths. It was much cheaper than the mats they sell at craft shows/websites.

        • Judy says:

          I ordered a large cutting mat for my ironing table 48×24 from a carpet padding shop that deals only with eco friendly products. Anyway it sheds on my fabric so I covered it with a layer of cotton. works great but sometimes does smell, it is getting less all the time but I love steam!

  12. Phyllis Jones says:

    I have a wool mat next to my sewing machine and I love, love, love it. I have not noticed a bad odor and really like the convenience of not having to go to my ironing board to press each seam. Makes piecing quilts even more fun and faster too.

  13. Dawn says:

    I read you shouldn’t use spray starch or Flatter or Best Press with a wool mat as it builds up and will eventually ruin the mat……if there’s a smell to the mat it will dissapate but the spray starch won’t.

  14. Andrea says:

    I bought a heavy weight 100% wool blanket ($50). I split the blanket with a quilting friend (cost now $25). The half that I have fits my big board (24×60) doubled. Works very well at a fraction of the cost.

  15. Lori says:

    I got a small one like yours about 4 years ago, loved it so much that I hunted around and ended up having another mich bigger one custom cut by The Featherweight Shop to fit a board I was already using as an ironing station. I actually cover it with fabric and change the covering periodically – LOVE IT!!! It goes to all retreats and sew days with me, I don’t care how big it is, I make room! Just saw they now have a Paca Pressing Mat, made from 100% Alpca…says it is great for those sensitive to wool by fiber or fragrance, and is 3 times more insulating than wool. Hmmmmm….I did not need to see that 😁

  16. Karen Quigley says:

    I don’t use steam at all, just a hot iron. Of course, my iron was so hot that it burned the wool. I didn’t get any residue on my iron but my mat has burn marks. If you don’t steam, check your iron setting before you use the mat.

  17. Kristi Wilson says:

    I love using a wool mat. However, twice now on two different irons, I’ve gotten some residue on the iron plate from using the mat. Had to work at getting the black goo off. I called the company to ask what’s up with that but no reply. (National Stay at Home orders in effect). Anyway, has anyone else had this problem? What can I do to avoid this?

  18. Francine says:

    I have two wool mats side by side on my tabletop ironing board to make a larger surface. I scorched my first mat and noticed an unpleasant smell when I used steam so I have a piece of muslin covering the wool. I can use high heat, steam, Best Press and not worry about the mat. I just toss the muslin in the washer when it needs it. I love the wool mats!

  19. Jude says:

    I don’t mind the smell… however my son stopped by one day to say hello. As soon as he got to the sewing room door he said “Hi, geez Mum, What’s that smell?” HAHAHA

  20. Esther R Trevino-Neasloney says:

    I love my mat. I don’t mind the smell but my husband came upstairs and opened my windows because he said it smelled. Ha Ha! I do use steam maybe I try ironing dry. I did scorch it a bit. Is there a way to remove that?

  21. Jeanie says:

    I was excited to receive my wool mat. I sew while standing at my island, so set the mat up next to me. After using the mat for awhile, I heard a big cracking sound. My granite countertop cracked from the heat! I got rid of it, needless to say. What a bummer- for me:(

        • Basil says:

          Wool is a wonderful heat conductor and granite is very fragile when heated! I assume what happened is the mat got so hot that it was heating the granite too much. You shouldn’t put any hot object on granite because there’s definitely a chance of it cracking.

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  23. Toni Guerrero says:

    When I started using my mat, I was horrified at the barn smell! So I picked up my mat, threw it in the dryer with my felted wool dryer balls and a febreze dryer sheet, and let it run. A second session in the dryer a couple days later, and my mat doesn’t smell at all. I love it! I bought a cheapie off eBay and am now looking into the ideas in the comments here for my full size ironing board. Thanks, guys!

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  25. Roxanne says:

    Just to keep your followers informed. I bought the 20×50 mat from project wool and it is only 1/4” thick. I didn’t see that on the page and was assuming that all Matt’s are the same thickness…. I am hoping this isn’t a problem.

  26. Rachael Carino says:

    Hi Suzy, this is a little off topic, but one of the quilt examples you used in this post reminded me of the Bright-Pink-Wall-Hanging quilt in your shop for the Reflections Wall Hanging pattern. Do you happen to know the names/manufacturer of those fabrics? They are so beautiful! I would love to make a quilt for my niece using those same fabrics.

  27. LeAnn Haggard says:

    Short answer, I made one since I’m just starting out. I was able to order 100% “Wool Felt Fabric” for in-store pick up. Washed it super hot and shrank it as far as I could. A double layer of the result is 1/2″ thick. I won’t lie, it was a process and I would do a couple of things differently. But it works great, smells wonderful, is “natural” cream color without any dye to bleed, and cost less than what I found online for a similar size.

  28. Peggy says:

    There are some irons that have a surface that have a tendency to collect a residue on the iron. My iron just has a silver surface and I have never had a problem. Others have problems with irons with non-stick surfaces. It could also be from high heat, steam, or whatever. Use something like Goo-gone or an iron cleaner. Then make sure to always put a cover over your mat. That keeps starch from building up as well.

  29. Carrie Woodworth says:

    I have a wool mat and like it…except for the smell incurred from steam. I recently got an alpaca mat. Like it too. Yes, they are very handy to have beside the machine. I think that is what they are meant for is small area pressing.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      It’s funny you ask this because I just had a quilting weekend with my nieces and we did this exact thing. Conclusion – yes, it does mess up your wood table. Ugh! However, if you layer a couple towels underneath the wool mat it’s fine.

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