I’m on a mission, a mission to create those seams. You know the ones. The seams that lay so crisp and flat you could swear the quilt came before the yardage. Pressing on a folded towel with or without steam wasn’t doing it for me. I mean, I could get flat seams. But after a few minutes they seem to rise again like a bat taking off into the night. Ugh. Then I found something that seamed (lol) intriguing: a wool pressing mat. Reviews on Amazon looked promising. And it was cheap – only 12 buckaroos. If nothing else, it would be a welcome change from my pressing towel. But has the wool pressing mat gotten me any closer to my dream seam? Let’s test it out!
Before we get into the nitty gritty of seams, let’s talk about why a wool pressing mat is potentially even better than a normal pressing board (or stack of towels). First, wool is a great insulator. It’s why you wear wool socks in the winter. It traps heat exceedingly well. This heat that it traps allows you to, in essence, iron both sides of your piecing at the same time. This can save you a great deal of time. Or it can just help you do it in the first place. This excess heat then dissipates quickly from the mat, leaving a safely warm surface to touch and reposition your pieces.
But it’s heat retention abilities weren’t the only thing that drew me to it. It’s a self-contained pressing mat! Yeah, that might be obvious, but think about the implications. You don’t need a ton of space to set out you pressing board. Or, if you’re like me, you don’t have to fuss around with getting out wrinkles in 4 layers of towel. A wool mat comes in a number of different sizes to custom fit your pressing area. I quilt in a tiny space, so I found a little mat (17″ x 13″) that fits right next to my sewing machine. This means I no longer have to set up an ironing station in my kitchen and ferry pieces back and forth. I just have to turn my body to press.
On top of this, the wool pressing mat was only 12 bucks on amazon. Even for me, that’s a pretty cheap investment for 100% New Zealand wool. Just to get rid of my towels it was a steal. But how well did it actually work?
Testing the wool pressing mat
To test out how well the wool pressing mat works, I’m going to be using my handy dandy mini iron. Now, I typically prefer to press dry as I’ve found that’s really help prevent a lot of warping in my fabric. But for this experiment, I’m going test how well the mat works with both steam and without steam. I hate adding water to my iron, because it has the tendency to spill everywhere when I store it or leak out when I don’t want steam. So, I’m going to use a little squirt bottle and wet my project and press over that.
The seams with steam
As you can see above, crisp and fanciful, the seams look delicious. They are everything my heart desired. And as I complete my quilt top, I am as happy as a quilter in a fabric shop. But then I go to clean up…
As cleaned up, putting my wool pressing mat back into the closet, I noticed my sewing table was wet under the mat despite the top of the mat being quite dry. But that wasn’t the only thing awry. My quilting table wasn’t as brown as it once had been. Color had been stripped off along the ridges of the faux wood top and the wood bubbled slightly. Now, the state of my table doesn’t matter to me. It wasn’t the most expensive table, and I bought it for crafting. But it might matter to you. Also, water getting trapped under the pressing mat could lead to issue like mold with in the mat’s fibers.
Now I’m hesitant to use the steam with the wool pressing mat unless I place another towel underneath. But this kind of defeats the purpose of getting the mat in the first place, doesn’t it? With the size of the mat I bought, I have to use a hand towel underneath. This leaves a bit of excess peaking out from around the mat. The excess can get tugged up underneath longer pieces as I reposition them to press their entire length. It’s annoying to have to put down my iron to straight the towel back out.
And then there are things that the camera can’t capture. Like the smell. It’s hunk a hunk of animal fur. When it got wet it smelt vaguely of wet dog. Smells don’t usually bother me. This one wasn’t that strong, but it was definitely there. The smell didn’t transfer to my piecing, but it’s something to consider if you’re more sensitive to odors.
The seams without steam
The wings are up and the bats take flight! Ugh. Like a wilting flower dying in the desert, the seam allowance is droopy, but persistently trying to revive itself. Just die and lie flat already!
I had the iron on the same temperature as I did when I steamed. I also held each press for 5 seconds. Nothing helped. It was just like pressing on my towels. It was a major disappointment. I also didn’t notice any difference from just pressiing 1 or both sides. It just looked kinda pressed–depressed.
Despite the disappoint with my wings, the mat wasn’t all bad without steam. It didn’t smell this time. It also didn’t shift around much and was a sturdy spot for pressing. The wool also grips the pieces, so if you are pressing a long seam, it’s not constantly sliding off the table when you let go.
Is a wool pressing mat worth it?
To recap: steam pressing was impressive. Even after a couple weeks, the seams have remained nice and flat. But it didn’t dry press that much different from the stack of towels I had been pressing on.
Overall, I love having a compact place to press right next to my sewing machine. It makes the pressing less of a chore as I only have to turn slightly to the side to get it done. However, without steam, it’s no more impressive than any other method I’ve tried. With steam, It was a huge improvement, but moisture pooled underneath the wool and caused minor damage to my sewing table. I’m going to keep my wool pressing mat and continue to use it simply for it’s ease of use. For projects where I use steam, I will have to put towel underneath to try protect my table from further damage. I’m also going to keep an eye out for mold growth within the wool, as I am worried about moisture getting trapped inside. More to come on that!