The Best Iron for Sewing (One Quilter’s Opinion)

Best-Iron-for-Sewing

If quilters were cowboys, they would all have irons in their hip holsters. Sometimes I wish I could spin my iron around on my index finger before pressing wrinkles, but I think I might break a finger. Irons really are an essential tool when you’re working on precise sewing projects like quilts, so you should know what the best iron for sewing is! Which model should be your wrinkle weapon of choice? I’ll help you decide, partna.

First, some smooth talkin’.

Ironing Tips:

1. Just Do It.

There’s really just one major tip you need to know about ironing, and that’s this: DO IT.

Always, always iron before you cut. Whether you’re working with fabric from the bolt or a bunch of leftover scraps from your stash, just do it.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve regretted skipping out on pressing. But have I ever regretted doing it? NO. Not once have I been like, “man, I wish I would have never gotten the tiny wrinkles out of this fabric before taking a razor sharp rotary cutter to it.” Nope.

I can't speak for Scrappy, though. This is the look she will give you if you ask her to iron.

I-Hate-Ironing

2. Use A Little Water

The amount of heat and water depends entirely on the fabric you are ironing. For specific info on various substrates, check out this seres: A Quilty Adventure!

If you're an indie film-lover, you don't want to miss this revolutionary short film on ironing. Did I mention it's won awards? Like lots of awards. Soooooo many awards...I can't even list them all here.


Ironing vs. Pressing

Before getting into the best iron for sewing, we should clarify a couple terms. Now, you’ll notice that I have used ironing and pressing interchangeably so far in this post because...well...I don't really have a good reason. So that’s all about to stop, because there actually is a difference between ironing and pressing.

Ironing is when you move an iron back and forth over fabric to smooth it out. You want to keep the movements pretty constant so the fabric doesn't scorch.

Pressing it simply lifting and setting your iron down. It’s like the difference between painting, and using a stamp. You got it. Some pattern instructions (a-hum, mine) are pretty specific about this, so it’s a good little bit of knowledge to store away.

Before cutting and sewing fabric, you always want to iron it. Once you've sewn a seam, however, I recommend pressing the seam and not ironing it. Confused? Let me break it down:

  • You have just sewn two pieces of fabric together. Thus, you have a seam.
  • Take that sewn unit to your ironing board and set your iron directly on top of the seam you have just sewn. Don't move the iron around, simply press the seam. The reasoning behind that is it gives you flatter seams by setting the stitching into the fabric.
  • After pressing the seam for a few seconds, lift up your iron.
  • Either use your fingers or the tip of your iron to gently nudge open the seam. This is the step when fabric can stretch, so be gentle.
  • Now that your seam is open, press it again by directly setting your iron down.

Iron Features to Think About

The Cord. Before purchasing an iron, get a good look at the cord. There are cords made specifically for left or right-handed users, and also irons that offer retractable cords (which are really great. Get one of those.)

The Weight. Also, pay attention to the iron’s weight. Though we’re usually into light, portable products, you want a heavy iron, so you can get some power behind that press. (Have you ever seen an old-fashioned iron? They’re huge, heavy chunks of metal. They got the job done.)

Personal Disclaimer!

I must (simply because this is my blog and I feel the need to share my opinion as much as possible) add a couple things to this iron review from my own quilty experience. I have had A LOT of irons spit out too much water while on the steam setting – thus flooding my ironing board and, worst case scenario, scorching my fabric.

Since I wasn't going to drop a fortune on an iron any time soon, my solution was to get this shiny squirt bottle, fill it with water and never ever put water in my iron.

Fellow sewists, I think it's one of the best decisions I ever made as a quilter. Below you can see that I own the cheapest iron on the list and I love it. So my disclaimer is: I truly believe that if you just avoid steam from your iron and create your own steam from a squirt bottle, you can make inexpensive irons last a long time and work great for your needs. The end.

Oh wait!! Not the end. Sorry sorry. If you do put water in your iron, it's very important to not use regular 'ol tap water. Use distilled water or, at the very least, filtered water. The minerals in your tap water will form build up in your iron and drastically shorten its life.

Addendum: After getting a couple comments about distilled water, I am adding that you should read your iron's manual and follow the instructions specified for your specific make and model.

OK. Now the end.

And now, let’s take a look at the Best Irons in the West (or East… or North… or South.)

Buy-Best-Iron

The Best Iron for Sewing

Singer Expert Finish

This is my personal fav. Things I love about the Singer Expert Finish Iron: It’s easy to use (and face it, you’re going to want to use it more if it’s easy), it has 9 temperature and fabric settings, and it’s smart enough to turn itself off if I get really into a project and forget. Need I say more?

Price: $50 - $70

Best-Iron-Sewing-Singer

Best-Iron-Oliso

Oliso TG 1600

They call this baby a “Smart Iron” for a reason. This iron actually hovers over fabric, and lowers automatically with a light touch, so you don’t have to use those shoulder muscles to lift and drop it over and over while pressing. The Oliso also has a massive 12-foot cord, and a 360 cord pivot which makes a huge difference – you don’t have to reposition your board or fabric while you iron.

Price: $90 - $100

Oliso Smart Iron

Rowenta 6080 Eco-Intelligence

This is a good choice for all of my clean, green, sewing machines out there. The Rowenta uses less energy than other irons, but still definitely gets the job done. It also has a system to reduce calcium build-up around the steam ports, which actually makes your iron last a lot longer. The Rowenta 6080 has a rotary trigger which is great for both left and right-handed users, and will also shut off automatically to prevent fires (hooray!)

Price: $90 - $110

Best-Iron-Rowenta

LauraStar-best-iron

The LauraStar Ironing System

I got to play with one of these systems at Bernina University this summer and WOW. I don't think I would even call this an iron...it's more like a spaceship that makes wrinkles disappear.

If you’re really serious about ironing (or you find yourself doing it ALL THE TIME…) you should check it out. The system comes with an inter-connected ironing board, blower and vacuum, as well as a steam generator and a professional iron. This machine is FOR REAL. If you have an ironing system, I’ll totally step down during our iron stand-off (this town ain’t big enough for the both of us!)

Price: $1,500 - $3,000

I’ve been impressed by these four irons, but I’d love to hear what you have in your holster! I'm also curious if any of you have had similar issues with the steam setting on your iron. Let's commiserate! 😉

Best-Iron-Quilting

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29 thoughts on “The Best Iron for Sewing (One Quilter’s Opinion)

  1. Jean says:

    Hmmm, I’ve had no problems with my T-fal iron spitting steam. I agree that older irons needed distilled water to avoid scale and spitting issues, but I read in the directions of this newer one to use TAP WATER, not distilled, to avoid spitting issues! It has a simple method for descaling, too, so I suspect this is all part of this newer type of iron.

    I’d recommend reading the directions, and following them, for any iron you buy.

  2. Jen says:

    I got a little warm and fuzzy when I found out that the iron I chose for myself (and have been using for several years) was listed as your personal fav. 🙂

  3. Diane says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I reverted to a spray bottle and dry iron after my “expensive” iron flooded my ironing board for the second time. I couldn’t bring myself to toss it since I splurged to get it to begin with so just use it dry. Sad but I do like that it stays on for a long time before the auto shutoff kicks in.

  4. Denise says:

    I am a Rowenta fan. I like heavy irons with lots of steam holes. I find they last very well. I even have one I bought from my neighbors garage sale over 20 years ago/ still works but no auto shut off. (Yes I iron jeans and pillowcases). I like crisp lines. Lol

  5. Sandra says:

    Suzy, my favorite iron is made by Reliable. I use to buy a Rowenta iron once a year and they would always wear out in a year. Then I bought a Reliable iron 12 years ago and we have been happily ironing together since then!

  6. Sharon T says:

    My criteria for an iron is NO auto shut off, heavy, and great steam. After two months of reading quilter’s reviews, I purchased a Reliable Velocity iron and use distilled water as directions state. I could not be more pleased! I am a senior with arthritis in my hands and the extra squeeze of a spray bottle is out of the question.
    Thank you for your comprehensive review!

  7. Barbara says:

    A few years back I made the same discovery that you did. If you don’t put water in your iron it will never do naughty things like spurt out dirty water or leave a big puddle on your board. I went to walmart and bought a $9 iron. And now that I have read your post, I agree that weight is now what I am missing. So soon I will be purchasing a heavy weight and never put water in it. Great post thanks for your insight and great patterns.

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I think we must be part of a secret society of quilters who don’t use steam in our irons. I’ve never heard another quilter confess to it and I felt a bit like I was sharing a naughty secret when I wrote that. haha! Maybe now we spray bottle users can come out of the shadows and stand with pride. 😉

  8. Sharon says:

    I enjoy my oliso iron. The steam on that is amazing so far (knock on wood). Loved the video never thought of rolling up the fabric so I’ll have to try that next time. Do you do that with all sizes of fabrics or only the smaller sizes? Love scrappy! Ps the ironing board you have in your home looks wide what kind is that?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Even with yardage I typically start by lightly misting the fabric all over, scrunching the water into the fabric, and then ironing. I really get my scrunch on if I haven’t pre-washed the fabric. Creases off the bolt are set really well. And this is a mega cheap, double-wide ironing board from IKEA with an extra padded cover on top. I love the extra padded cover and highly recommend it. It even has a hanging side pocket for my spray bottle! Let me see if I can find the one I purchased…Found it!

  9. Susan R. says:

    Thanks for sharing this info – very helpful! They don’t make them like they used to and I’ve not been lucky with irons the past few years. Always nice to learn about something important us sewers need!!

  10. Pat says:

    my oliso is in a box to go back to the factory. those lifters I love got stuck in the lift position. I am sure I will get it back and it will be fine. but for how long.? I have only had it since February. I am using a kenmore iron in the mean time.

      • Kat says:

        This type of sprayer is pressurized. You pump it up and them hold down the trigger. When you’re doing yardage it saves the repeated squeezing of a spray bottle. Your finger ever get tired from all the squeezing? This is much easier on the finger. Plus I believe you get a more even spray on larger items. Not as much added benefit for small pieces.

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