Friday, January 24, 2020

~ Nifty Notions ~ Wool Pressing Mat -vs- Homemade Pressing Mat ~

Pressing fabric in the quilting world has started many debates over the years.  Press the seams to the side or open?  Steam or no steam? Starch or no starch?  Now we have a new topic of Wool mat or ironing board?  So when I received a small wool pressing mat in a monthly subscription box I was excited to finally see what all the rage debate was about.

But before reviewing the wool pressing mat I want to tell you about the new idea for my blog.  As you all know I've never been much of a gadget person.  But this year instead of spending tons of money on fabric that I really don't need I'm going to put that money towards new notions or new to me notions and review them here on my blog.  Not all the notions will be purchased by me some may be sent to me to review.  Free to me does not mean telling you a product is wonderful because it was free.  The product either makes my quilting process easier or it doesn't.  All of my product reviews will be labeled under Nifty Notions in the sidebar of this blog.  I may even at some point include a product review video along with the blog post.  If there is a new or old product you've been curious about and would like for me to review let me know by leaving a comment on any blog post or send me an email at

Okay, Let's get started!  Today I'm testing the Gypsy Quilter Felted Wool Pressing Mat.  This is a small mat measuring 5.5" x 9".  Since it so small it's only good for pressing smaller units or very tiny blocks.
For years I've used a homemade ironing station along with a smaller homemade pressing board for blocks and applique.  The truth be told I rarely use an iron on my fabric after it has been starched and cut.  The heavy starching allows me to finger press everything until the quilt top is complete.  Once I have a quilt top finished it is then pressed with an hot iron without steam.

Both my large and small pressing boards are made the same.  A piece of plywood wrapped in cotton batting.  Then wrapped in aluminum foil and topped with a cotton fabric.   When the cotton fabric starts to look yukky I just add another layer of fabric on top.  Every so often, about 4 or 5 layers of fabric, I'll remove the multiple layers of cotton fabric and start the process all over again.

For this test I'll be pressing HST's that will become pinwheels.  Each seam will be pressed for 5 seconds without steam and with no pressure on the iron. Which means my hand will be removed for the 5 seconds.  I almost never use steam when pressing blocks so I thought it only fair to stay consistent.  Over the years I've learned that steam and over pressing can cause some major issues, so I just don't do it.  I realize some of you always use steam and that's okay.  There are no set rules or quilt police here, I'm just telling you what works best for me.  And to be fair I've used a wool pressing mat before with my quilting friend Judy.  She received one of the larger wool mats for Christmas 2018.  We used steam.  What a mistake!  It smells like a wet barn.😦  For those of you that have never been to the livestock barns at the fair, a wet barn smells like old wet grass and manure.  Yep, no steam is best when using a wool mat.  Well unless you like the smell of a barn.  I've heard from other quilters that the steamy wet barn stink fades over time.

And here we go.  Sewing and pressing 5 seconds each.

They are both coming together nicely.  I'm more worried about whether or not my pinwheel centers will line up correctly.👀

Yah! Perfect centers!  I love pinwheels, so classic and cute.

Everything is looking good back here as well.

Now is the moment of truth.  Does the wool pressed block(on the left) lay flatter?

Lets take a closer look.  Well what do you think?

Now a  little closer.  Well, I can honestly say I don't think the wool pressing mat makes any difference.  I'm sure someone is thinking I should have used steam but again I almost never use steam.  If you decided to use a wool mat and use steam, make sure you cover the mat with fabric.  A hot iron with steam will scorch the wool and leave a residue on your iron. 

I like my homemade pressing boards better.  They aren't stinky, they don't require extra caution to use and the best part is if I scorch it I can recover them or wash the fabric cover.  Now if you really want a wool mat but have been putting it off due to cost, there's an cheaper option.  In several Facebook groups I've read quilters are buying wool saddle pads at a fraction of the cost.  My concern would be the wool might not be as clean and smell a little more.  YUK!  So there's my 2 cents on the wool pressing mat craze.  Hope you found this helpful or at least entertaining.  See you next Friday for another Nifty Notions!

 #woolpressingmat #woolpressingmatreview #niftynotions

Just a little reminder that you can still gt 20% off you entire purchase at The Purple Hobbies website using the code PodunkPrettiesJan20  
Offer ends February 29, 2020.   Make sure when adding the code to your shopping cart that you click APPLY.  You can see my review of the BladeSaver Thread cutter here.  And the Third hand Binding Folder Clip here.

50% OFF Sweet Sixteen PDF pattern
sale ends 2-15-2020

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  1. Oh thank you so much for your review--I've been eyeing those and thinking geeze--lots of $$ and also I have an old cutting board that I could cover....I am bookmarking your instructions hugs, Julierose

  2. One thing nice about the wool mats - they are a bit lighter for those who travel, especially in the larger sizes. Saddle pads? I'll need to check that out next time if I need another size.

  3. I have a 10" x12" wool matt (different company)bought at 65% off and use it when traveling. I have an old wool army blanket that I use on my home large board. I was taught in dress making to always press against wool - even my dressmaker ham is wool - and I still use it (my great grandmother's). BUT, like you - I do a lot of finger pressing and usually don't do a full press until completion.

  4. Thank you for the review. I started seeing these last year at a retreat, and it did cross my mind... Should I get one? Is it worth it?

    Now I know the answer. I'm not that fanatical about having the latest-and-greatest gadget and I already have too much STUFF. What I have works just fine, thankyouverymuch.

  5. I bought a wool mat from a horse supply company. It's 30"x30" and was on sale for $23.00 plus $13.00 shipping. Regular price was around $35.00 and still a bargain at that price. I would never spend $80.00 or more for one of them. I am the best cheapskate around. But I am very happy with it. It presses my seams very flat and the size was the selling point for me. So that's my 3 cents worth.

  6. Thank you for the review. No thanks, I'll stick to my adjustable pressing board as it works perfect for me. I use it all the time. I press without steam, and no starch in this house! I'd rather buy fabric to the cost of a felted wool pressing mat! :) Love the pinwheel blocks.

  7. Thank you for your honest review! I was tempted so many times to try one of these wool mats...and now I'm glad I never did, because it looks it is not worth the investment. Another plus side to your handmade one, is that it looks pretty because of the fabric that's used! :-)

  8. I love my wool pressing mat I bought 2 years ago. It is Pam Damour brand I got from Amazon. Never smelled at all. Then bought a small size from Quilt in A Day (their brand). The small one is great for taking to classes, but when I put is beside my large mat it give me more space. These sit on top of a large covered board I made myself with that silver ironing material. I used foam stabilizer under the silver material because it can take the heat better than cotton batting, which flattens out all too quickly. So if I need a larger surface, I remove the wool mats and use the covered board only. I never use water in my irons because I learned years ago that even using distilled water the iron would spit and stain my material and irons just do not last long when you use water in them. So I use a beauty supply hair mister and that is so much better than a dribbly spray bottle. So far the wool mats have lasted longer than any covered board or ironing cover I have owned and they are still like new with no wear. If they save me $ from having to buy more ironing covers or make my own, then they are worth the price to pay right there! Plus wool doesn't burn, so it's a safety feature if you ever left your iron on the wool, no worries.

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  10. Thanks for the review. I bought a wool mat a few months ago and had the issue with the wool scorching a couple of time, now I know why. I like it but I think I will make a muslin cover for it so I don't accidently get the scorching effect again. I will bookmark your instructions for making one, might need it in the future.

  11. Thank you for the review. You have answered many questions. I also have appreciated the comments made by your blogging friends. I also have an ancient Tailor's Ham from high school days. It is wool on one side and muslin on the other.

  12. I have been on the fence for awhile now, so I found this very interesting. My ironing station is actually a 2'x4' piece of plywood with the edges rounded off. I covered with with a few layers of batting and used the silver ironing board fabric that comes from JoAnn's fabrics. I find using duct tape is perfect and it can be changed out when needed easily. Never did I think about using aluminum foil also. It's time for a new cover and I'm going to add the foil in this time too. I'm excited about trying it out. Thanks for your review. It's nice to get an all round vision from everyone.

  13. Frankly, I don't see any different at all...I've never had or used a wool mat, nor do I want one. I bought one of those wool covered pressing hams many years ago, but that's it. I've been sewing for 60+ years and have used a few different pressing surfaces over time, some good, some not. Currently, I have one of those Steady Betty mats that works fine, although pricey and it turned dark rather quickly. When it wears out, I won't replace it, I'll just make my own as I did with my big pressing table: plywood, several layers of batting and cotton canvas on top-it works just fine. When the canvas gets dirty, I can remove it, wash it and put it back or just put on a new piece. I do use steam, but press carefully (as opposed to ironing). In addition, I wash my cotton fabrics first and use Best Press on them prior to cutting. So after washing, drying and treating with Best Press, it's done all of the shrinking it's going to do. I never use starch-it makes a mess on the fabric and the iron. Best Press doesn't and it gives the fabric a nice crispness that makes cutting and piecing a breeze. It's a bit pricey too, so I wait for a sale and buy it by the gallon.
    As you said, there are no "quilt police" (a surprise, I thought the only people who used that expression were in my quilting group!), and we each should use the method or methods that works best for us. That's just my 2 Cents on the subject.

  14. Thanks for the review!! I too can't stand the smell of that wet wool...reminds me of walking to school as a kid with wet mittens! Yuck. I have a large ironing board and an old padded ironing board cover on it and just put a new one overtop of me plenty of padding. I do use steam and my blocks are as flat as can be and I don't have another item in my sewing room to get in the way and saved the money :-).

  15. My husband bought me a wool mat and it fits nicely on a wood TV tray with a large bulldog clip holding it in place. As to a better press...well like you I don't see much difference but hubby bought it a really low price so I use it. I have it right next to my sewing machine for quick pressing of small block pieces. I like your blogs and have learned a few things along the way, thanks.

  16. Hello, I followed a link and learned quite a bit from your post and all of the comments! I try and keep my quilting costs down as low as possible, saving the money for quality fabrics, batting and now 14 years into quilting sometimes on new tools. I believe I will wait on the wool mat and continue using my regular ironing board and my self made cover. I want to thank you though for solving a problem I had and just did not understand and the people I asked did not know either. I had recovered a smaller ironing board with a flannel fabric and began using my new iron. Yes, with steam and within a short time a terrible brown color was appearing on my iron surface. I tried two types of iron cleaner and it did not help. I stopped using it after a third attempt at cleaning it with a natural cleaner recommended by a friend. Which did not help and I was so worried that it was going to at some point start leaving that stain on my fabrics. I am not positive, but with your warning/tip about steaming on wool, that this fabric I had used to cover my smaller ironing board must have had wool in it. I do like to steam. Thank you for sharing this great information! Have a fabulous day!

  17. I have a 30"x30" saddle pad that I cut into three pieces. One to fit my pressing station 30"x20", one to take to classes about 10"x18", and a small one 10"x12" that my iron sits atop a table next to my station. I have had no issue with scorching, I use steam, and can say I get the flattest seams with this scenario. Hands down, no contest, no question. So for those who use steam, the wool mats are a great method of pressing. The smell goes away, and as a knitter I am very used to wet wool smell from felting and washing my knits.

    1. This is the mat I purchased.

  18. I have heard that if you are an ironer vs a presser that the wool mat would be more like to keep your block in place and not stretch as much. I have one and I like it simply because it doesn't have the scorched look to it. I don't steam either. Never have. I

  19. I've had a wool mat for several years now and like it. But I do starch my fabric and then iron it before I cut it, so I've put a cotton dishtowel over the mat to keep the starch off it. And the smell is minimized that way too, and when I feel there is too much starch on the dishtowel, I just toss it in the wash. I like that it is smaller than any of my other pressing boards, so I can just have it on my table in my very small sewing room! :-) Love your reviews! Hugs, H


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