Irons—It’s Complicated

This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write FOREVER. Almost every time I turn my iron on, I say to myself, the most complicated relationship in my life is with my iron.

I am a heavy duty bit maker which means my iron gets a real workout every time we are together.  

thumb_IMG_7805_1024For many years, I used a version of  the Rowenta DG5030 Pro Iron Steam Station, but I kept burning them up. Almost every year, I would have to replace this iron, and even with a Joann’s coupon it was still a spendy endeavor. At least $125 per iron.

81vtnSFG0tS._SL1500_Next, I paid BIG bucks for a fancy dancy iron from a Sew & Vac. Such big bucks that I am not even going to tell you the amount. I can’t remember the brand—I do believe I have blocked it from my memory. What a shitty relationship that was. After sending this “repairable” iron to Oregon twice, I was told that my demands were too high. NO IRON would function at the level I needed is kind of exactly what I was told.

After that, I went through a long period of using vintage irons I would find on Ebay. These irons were mostly solid to work with, but I have to be honest I burned them up too–mostly by dropping them.

s-l1600I was good at finding quality vintage irons for reasonable prices on Ebay, but the shipping on these beast is almost always twenty bucks or more. And sometimes the seller might kind of sort of hide the condition of the ironing surface, or the cord, or the water tank.

s-l1600 copyA couple of years ago, at the International Quilt Festival, I purchased a Eurosteam 1000w. I paid around $200 and that included shipping.

At the time, I was making a lot of garments. I feel in love with this iron. I never had to change the temperature on it. From thick fleece to linen, it did the job without complaining. It was an excellent steamer.

And then I needed to make a very large quilt. I imagine you know what happened next. I burned the dang thing up.

Maria Shell HOMEThe quilt HOME is a incredible labor of love based on my amazing experience working with the residents of Moore Place. If you would like to learn more about this quilt you can by following this link

I once again, I went back to my vintage iron collection.

In the meantime, I was trying to figure out what was the best iron to use out in McCarthy where I work off the grid in a solor powered studio.

thumb_IMG_0267_1024I needed a low watted baby to iron with out there. After conducting some reasearch I happened upon this little cutie. It is a Steamfast portable iron and for 25 bucks it does the job.

I have two of them, and they are great. I have used them for several years now. Of course the water tank is tiny, but that is a drawback I can live with being that these things are solar compatitable. I highly reccommend them for travel. It is important not to over fill them AND do not try and iron until they are completely heated up. You can wait. It takes about minute.

One of the things I noticed about my vintage irons and the Steamfast irons is that they do not have a steam button. They have a steam setting which you turn off and on. It makes them sound like Sleestacks.


They go Hiss Hiss Hiss at a regular rate. It is a beautiful sound. Hiss. Hiss. Hiss.

You can make the noise yourself by placing your tongue between your top and bottom teeth and breathing. Hiss. Hiss. Hiss.

This got me thinking. I was going about this all wrong. I was looking for a new iron to meet my old iron needs.

I want STEAM but not steam that is delivered by pressing a button. I do not want an auto off. I finally had articulated to myself what it was I was looking for and new irons were not the solution.

Then I realized. I need more than one iron to do my work.

I need the little baby for McCarthy and travel.

thumb_IMG_0549_1024I need the Eurosteam 1000W for making garments. Yes. I bought another one.

thumb_IMG_9632_1024And I need an easy path to purchasing older irons that have the steam off on feature—NOT the steam button, and NO auto off feature.

thumb_IMG_0587_1024Recently, I was at Value Village, and I found these two retro irons. I paid $14 dollars for the pair of them.

thumb_IMG_0592_1024They had what I was looking for. They were Sleestack irons! They were old school Beaters with heaters.

I would love to hear your iron stories too.

thumb_IMG_0581_1024Happy Ironing!

This entry was published on July 11, 2016 at 5:39 PM. It’s filed under Thoughts and Opinions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

36 thoughts on “Irons—It’s Complicated

  1. pmgarrett2 on said:


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  2. lisa on said:

    Yes. I drop them or they star spitting or thermostat fails. I have started using water spray bottle to see if I could go steamless. I have heard good things about the dry irons sold by Vermont Country Store. You need to use spray water ….I have been spritzing before I tacke the ironing to see I could convert to dry iron. I use lots of strings & smaller scraps that need a little moisture & pressure to behave.

    • I wish I could train myself to go steamless, but I LOVE steam. And I don’t love spritzing, but you are right. When I made “To Agnes Martin, with Color” I worked with a lot of itty bitty vintage scraps, and the only way to get them to behave was to spritz. I am going to check out the Vermont Country Store iron. Sound like a good thing.

  3. Thanks for the great dissertation on our most valuable of tools.
    I have 2 irons – a dry one – a $50 Tefal from Costco that can last me anywhere from 3 to 5 years – until I drop it.
    And a steam one – ‘Reliable’ (don’t ya just love the name). I does only steam at 2 different amounts with 4 temperature settings. I have worked it hard for 2 years. Mr Iron technician said if I use filtered water and empty the tank at the end of each day it will last me a lot longer. I am being a good girl now and taking better care of it because I want it to keep going. The one major problem is it turns off automatically but it doesn’t take long to get back to the set temperature.

    • I like that you called it dissertation! I know you are probably right about emptying the tank. I do use purchased spring water at home because our water is very hard–full of minerals. I’ve going to look for a Reliable and see what happens. That Tefal sound good. I guess the morale of the story is that we are all still searching for that elusive perfect iron!

  4. For years and years, I got by with thrift store irons. Finally, I decided to treat myself to a “good” iron. After reading lots of reviews and talking to folks, I bought a Black and Decker that has been a workhorse. I love everything about it except that it shuts off every 10 minuters, or so, whether you are using it nor not. It heats up really quickly, so I put up with this feature because I really need the auto shut off. Otherwise I’m prone to leaving the studio to do something and not returning for hours (or days).

    • The orange and tan iron that I bought at the Thrift Store is a Black & Decker and so far it has done everything I have asked of it. It does not have auto shut off which I love, and the steam is excellent. I paid 6.99 for it. The white with blue iron is a Proctor-Silex and it is giving me iffy results. It seems to take a long time to heat up and if I try to use it before it has heated up it leaks. I am still experiementing, but if I find the right retro iron, I will be searching for duplicates everywhere. It took me a while–mostly my husband commenting on how I left the iron on AGAIN to train myself to never leave the studio without turning it off.

  5. Oh the wowes of irons! I used to have the top of a cabinet filled with my “Iron Graveyard”, all the irons that died on me durrong quilting years. Finally found a cheap iron that was decent and bought five to have backups. Why are irons such a difficult thing to make well!?

    • What is the cheap one that works? It is so frustrating that you pay big bucks and in the end you still burn them up! I am glad to find out it isn’t just me!

  6. Tell me how you use your Eurosteam for garments? Mine only lasts for 10 minutes of ironing and then needs to be refilled, which it must be cool to do. So, I just use it to iron my fabric after it is prewashed…a short, concentrated ironing time.

    • Janet- I want to say that your Eurosteam has a problem. Bummer. Mine steams for at least an entire garment. Is it a 1000W? I really like that I do not have to change the setting for different fabrics, but it is too delicate of an iron for piecing, at least the kind of piecing I do.

      • When you fill it, the water cup lines say 5 or 10 minutes, but I’ve never tried just leaving it on and pressing my garment as I sew. I’ll give that a try. Happy to see you will be in Houston. I hope to get a chance to say hello.

      • Glad to hear it worked Janet! and please let’s make a date for coffee in Houston. I love meeting by blog readers in person.

  7. debby on said:

    What a fun topic–LOL, and frustrating. I heard Freddy Moran one time recommend buying the cheapest iron you could find. Because they all wear out in the same amount of time. I’ve had a variety over the years. The steam feature is so inconsistent. Why does it steam sometimes and not others? Ricky Tims (and others) recommend just using a spray bottle. I want the iron to do the work, darn it! I’ve had a variety of irons over the years, usually in the $30-50 price range. I’ve bought a few of the super cheap, but I don’t like it that they are so lightweight, and returned them. I love your little Steamfast–its cute, a very important factor 🙂 I did have my grandma’s vintage iron for a long time, and it was very reliable, but no auto turn off, which as some commenters pointed out, is a necessity for me. Somewhere along the way, it has gotten lost, which makes me a little sad when I think about it.

    • Debby- I would be sad too. It was your grandma’s and it worked! I don’t like the auto turn off–who knew that was a point of controversy? I am with you. I want the iron to do the work! I used to think that I liked the old irons because they don’t shut off and because they are heavy–they feel like an iron. But now I am convinced that the steam off on button is the thing I love. It seems to me that one of these appliance companies should do their research and create the perfect quilter’s iron. Wouldn’t that be something?

  8. carolk33 on said:

    I’m loving this post Maria.

    I once had a Kenmore iron. It had a big tank and a long tube that went from the tank to the iron. The tube carried the steam. It was different and worked ok, not great, but ok. It looked fancy schmancy. Then we were burgled. Many easily sellable items were taken. They even had placed my sewing basket on the floor and had moved items out onto the floor. I suppose that is a hiding place for some thieves to find valuables. Anyway, they stole my iron!!!! So I bought my second Rowenta, because it looked like an ordinary iron. That theft may have been 20 years ago, but I still remember how I felt about having my iron stolen and my sewing basket riffled through. It was items in the sewing basket that the police officer focused on for finger prints.

    2nd story. The idea of using multiple irons and having more than one fired up is an old concept and a good one. I grew up in 3rd world countries with limited or no electricity. We had a laundryman who came to our house to do the laundry and ironing. He kept those old style real iron irons hot with charcoal in a well in the iron. He changed irons as the one he was working with cooled off. He had several.

    Carol K in Anchorage

    • Carol-

      Those are interesting stories. I think anytime we have things taken from us against our will really hurts. Your description of the launderyman is fantastic. I can see him working! Thank you Carol for stopping by and commenting.

  9. I found a cheap iron ($30) that I like much better than all the expensive ones I’ve tried, called Shark Professional Lightweight GI468. At first I didn’t like the auto shut-off, but now I love that feature. I just have to tilt it and it reheats super quick. I feel so much safer, and I think it makes the thing last longer. As long as I am moving it around it will not turn off, so for long continuous ironing jobs it works great. the other thing I like about it is that it gets really hot, rated 1500 watts. Some others aren’t such high wattage. I might be wrong, but I feel like it would last longer if it’s rated for higher wattage, maybe can withstand the heat better…and maybe does the ironing job faster if it is hotter….maybe I’m just imaging that?? I use tap water and it makes decent steam continuously or with a burst when you push the button. I don’t like to spritz, because it relaxes the fabric when it gets wet, then when you press it, it stretches causing distortion. It’s better to iron dry first, then blast it with steam to set it where you like it. I’m on my second Shark, the first one lasted at least 3 yrs, which I think is pretty good compared to the expensive Row***** that lasted 2 weeks.

    • Good poinst about the spritzing. I hadn’t thought about that way and you are right. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I think I will have to try a Shark one of these days….

  10. Susan on said:

    Loved this post and the comments! We all have iron stories.

  11. Has anyone else gone to Big Lots and gotten a refurbished Rowenta? I have and they have been great! I have gotten 3 of them…never want to be without an iron so when I find them, I buy an extra. The prices are between $25 and $35 depending on what model you find. My latest buy was a Pro master and it is wonderful. Lots of steam and at 1700 watts, lots of heat and it was $35.

    I also found a Sunbeam that I had “hidden” in the laundry room…probably to keep my son away from it. I do remember buying it at Joann’s with a 50% coupon and seem to remember it was a bit costly. It is like brand new(since I hid it and forgot about it!) and I really like it. Heats up quickly and stays on as long as you use it within about a 10 minute period. It has a green light when it is ready and gold when it is resting., All in all, I am quite happy with the irons I have now.

    Thank you for this post. It was most enlightening(and entertaining). And boy, do I admire you for all that teeny tiny piecing you do!

    • Thank you for sharing your stories. This has been a great conversation. We don’t have Big Lots up here, but I will look for one when I am traveling. Good irons make for happy quilting!

  12. I used to have that Black & Decker one like you show near the end. I loved that one and had it for years. It finally died. Now I have a Rowenta, which has the auto off, which I don’t care for. I need to look in thrift stores and garage sales for another Black & Decker.

    • Oh that Black Decker is going to get lots of love from me. It seems it is solid model. Good luck on the thrift store search! May you find the iron of your dreams!

  13. Ha! I had the one on the left from your Value Village haul for YEARS. I bought it for $1 from a neighbor’s garage sale. It worked GREAT. I was sad when it started spitting rusty water and I had to retire it a couple years ago.

    I went down to the variety store and bought the 2nd cheapest. It works ok, not as good as that old reliable. I don’t like the selector at all. But hey, it does the job.

    I’ve been tempted by the siren call of the expensive irons, but they seem to all get such mixed reviews that I never quite pull the trigger.

    • Carrie- I have pulled the trigger and bought the big bucks irons a couple of times. You have done the right thing by not going down that road! I love the iron on the left. It is my new boyfriend.

  14. Sheila on said:

    Wow, I thought it was just me, that I was iron challenged. I’m not alone, whew! Unhappy company, unfortunately. I too have tried, fixed, dropped, given up, thirfted and resigned myself to less than what I want, need. I one time left the iron on for whole week (left on a trip with the iron on – yikes!) The next electric bill was over $1000! Turned out to be a gas meter issue, not the iron, but there was a period where I thought I’d really done myself in with this pesky appliance. Thanks for this thread. Misery loves company.

  15. magpiesue on said:

    So, I find myself in the market for a new iron (again, sigh). This post was a delightful tangent to the online search for information. My conclusion? The perfect iron does not yet exist. It may not be possible in fact, although I’m sure we have the technology. We just all have different requirements! I want no auto shut-off, good weight, and the option of steam (although most of the time I press dry). Obviously, a respectable price point is also desirable. I may have to go check out the Vermont Country Store’s inventory. I buy clothing from them; it never occurred to me to look for an iron there!

    • I have been meaning to check out the Vermont Country Store too. That is a great idea. Good luck on the search. That old Black and Decker I are started using the summer is holding out for me, and I have made about 20 new small pieced quilts this fall. Let me know what you find at the Vermont Country Store!

  16. I have a vintage iron that is making the same sound, but it does not have a steam setting or button. Have you experienced this? Thanks for your input.

  17. One of the best things I’ve ever seen on line is this thread. I truly thought I was the only one who went thru irons at a great rate and hated to auto off . And the steam that does/doesn’t work. Right now I have a Rowena and it’s pretty darn good but it’s less that a year old.

    • Ah! The age old saga of the iron. I am currently using a Beautural Iron that I got on Amazon for about 35 bucks. These are very good irons for the price! They steam like they are possessed and my first one lasted for two and a half years which might be a record. Thank you for commenting. I really should update this post!

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