Ask Jo: The Iron Edition

Hello, and welcome to another edition of “Ask Jo”.  I get many comments and questions from all sorts of places, the comment section here, Youtube, email, and from our Facebook group.  Sometimes I think others of you might want to know the answers as well so I answer them here on the blog.

Today’s question comes from Sue.  It ended up being a REALLY long answer so I am only answering one question today.  Here’s what she asked:

My question, is I am looking for a good, heavy-duty, and HOT Iron…Wondered if you can give a testimony on the kind you use, such as, do you like it? does it get hot enough? and given a choice, would you buy another one just like it, if something happened to it? Do you use Steam ??  Thank you, and will look forward to your answer…

This one has me laughing.  I’m not laughing at the question…I’m laughing at the answer I am going to give.

My current favorite iron is someone else’s reject.  Here’s proof.  See my iron?  See that sticker on top.  It says, “WORKS”.  My iron came from the thrift store.  I buy thrift store irons ALL OF THE TIME.  Two dollars usually buys an iron.

Typically I have a couple here and when one dies, I grab another. I prefer irons that do not have auto shut off but I didn’t have any on reserve so I did buy this one when I saw it.  My iron died, and I pulled this one out.  It turns out, I really like this one…even with auto shut off.  (I didn’t realize I should have dusted my iron off before taking a picture…ugh.  Keeping it real.)

I actually keep two irons.  One upstairs…one downstairs.  As I told you, I don’t usually buy new irons but with Covid, I’ve not been to the thrift stores and no longer have a stockpile of thrifted irons.  My downstairs iron died last April so I bought an iron off Amazon.  HERE is a link to the one I bought.  I looked and looked online to try to find the iron I loved best but couldn’t find one and this is what I settled with.

It’s a Shark brand.

It’s an okay iron.  Not the favorite I’ve ever had but okay.

Here is the story of my favorite iron EVER….This is a blog post I wrote back in October of 2011…

When we went to see Bonnie Hunter in Storm Lake our daughter Kelli and I set up an ironing station.  People used her iron and my iron.  Time and time again people would ask Kelli where she got her iron.  Everyone commented on how hot it was and how lightweight it was.  After all those comments, I decided to give it a try…..I loved it.


Kelli kept telling people that it was a cheap iron and she wasn’t positive where she had bought the iron at.  The line to use Kelli’s iron was always long….the line to my iron..NOT.

My iron was not a real expensive iron…maybe $40.  It has auto shut off.  It has a retractable cord…or did have a retractable cord.  It doesn’t work anymore.  The iron is only a year or so old….but I have never liked it.  It doesn’t heat up very hot.  If I have a truly wrinkled piece of fabric the wrinkles never come completely out.

Kelli has been coming home for sewing days.  Because she hates my iron so much, she has started bringing her iron.  The last time she was home she came with this….


an iron for ME!!  I love it!  We tried it out and boy am impressed with it.   The wrinkles are gone with just one past of the iron.  With my old iron I would almost push the iron down into the fabric and even then they wouldn’t come out.  Even though it’s bad manners, I asked Kelli how much the iron cost…she said right around $10.  It just amazes me.  The iron is super lightweight.  It heats up super hot and does an amazing job.

I didn’t believe that it was so cheap so after Kelli left I went on Amazon to check to see if she was joking or if it was the real price.  It would be just like Kelli to spend more and not tell me.  Here’s the iron she bought for me…Continental Electric CE23111 Steam Iron.  She was telling the truth…it’s $11.53.

I am hoping to give my new iron a little workout today.  I know for sure that from now on…no more turn themselves off irons.  No retractable cord irons.  No expensive irons…it’s cheap Continental brand from me from now on.”

So as I was writing this “Ask Jo”, I thought to go back and look up this old blog post.  I was THRILLED to see that I had included the model number of the iron.  I ended up going on eBay and happily they had a few with that model number.  I bought TWO!!  I’m going to take my current irons and put them on reserve.  I’m going to be ironing with the Continental irons again.  YAHOO!!

I don’t hate my current irons, I just really love the other ones.  Kelli did too.  In fact, Kelli called me the day her iron died as she was super sad.

This cheap iron was the best iron I ever had.  She heated so hot and was awesome.  It was super lightweight too.  It died after four years or so and I couldn’t find another one.  That’s when I went to buying thrift store irons.

So the things I look for in an iron:
-I prefer light weigh
-I prefer inexpensive
-I prefer no auto shut off
-I prefer a point at the end

I NEVER use steam.  I’ve never put steam in an iron.  I think they last longer with no steam.  Also if you’ve followed along with me on the blog, I iron very little.  If I can finger press, I do.  My personal belief is once I put heat into the fabric, the fabric has less give.  Remember I am the QUEEN of fudging and not sewing perfectly.  If I don’t iron everything so thoroughly, I can flip a seam.  I can tug the fabric a little to make the seam match.  I can relax the pressure on the fabric to make the ends meet.

Once the top is finished, I iron the heck out of it with starch…but until a block is finished, not much ironing happens in my world.

I know I am the rare breed with this and most people iron a lot more than do.  I also am really lazy…ironing takes time.  I’m content with the quilts I make with my lack of ironing.

I always think back to my grandma sewing with sad irons and quilting by hand.  I am positive she didn’t jump up and iron every little piece.  She made amazing quilts.  So I’m sticking with my Grandma and doing very little ironing.

I want to encourage you to make two quilt blocks.  Iron the heck out of one.  Use steam.  Make the next one and don’t iron as much.  Iron if you NEED to but ignore it when you can get by with it.  Only do a FULL complete iron once the block is finished.  Check the results.  See what you like better.  Take into account everything…time, accuracy…everything.  See what you like and whatever method that is, go with it!  For me, it’s not much ironing with no steam and using starch on the finished top.

I want sewing to be fun and enjoyable for you.  I want you to find YOUR method…not my method…not the method of some teacher you went to a class with.  Find yours!!  If you love steam.  STEAM!!  To make sewing truly enjoyable, I think it’s important to find what you love.

You can probably see why I initially laughed when Sue asked the question.  My answer is probably as unconventional of an answer as you’ll even hear.

I’d love for everyone else to let us know your iron opinion in the comment section.


40 thoughts on “Ask Jo: The Iron Edition”

  1. Great review! Why don’t you like auto shut off?? I’m always scared I’ll forget to turn it off and I’ll burn the house down. Thx!!!

    1. Susan the Farm Quilter

      I had that fear myself, especially since I live in the country with a volunteer fire department 8 miles away!! I got a power strip and plug my iron into that AND a light! I don’t leave lights on in my quilting room, so having that light on reminds me I have my iron on and I turn it off when I leave the room. I have never walked off and forgotten it…and the light really helps with seeing what I am pressing!!

  2. Me, too, Jo! I’ve spent so much money on irons … and never been thrilled with one until I bought an ancient one at an estate sale years ago. It has a frayed, cloth-covered cord. It’s heavy. The casing is broken and repaired with epoxy, and the heat gauge is peeled off, but it gets instantly hot and it gets the wrinkles out. I love it more than any iron I’ve ever used.

  3. I completely agree about using cheap irons. I only buy $10ish irons and they work the best for me. The more expensive irons just burn up quicker for me.

  4. I, like you, have usually always bought thrift store irons, many of them fancy Rowentas, etc.. because lots of people tell me they all have quit ironing. They just buy knits and wear everything out of the dryer. (And they don’t quilt.) But then I discovered Oliso Pro (Yellow) smart iron and I LOVE it. I am totally spoiled. NO lifting up and down. Little magic feet come and lift it up. Press, stop, up it goes. It does have an auto shut off, but heats up fast fast fast. I have even splurged on a spare just in case it dies. Just me, probably, but I had to put in my 5 cents. Like you, I don’t do steam. And I tried the tiny portable version without feet but really like the tiny Rowenta much much better as it does not get so hot.

    1. I have had a yellow Oliso for years and I love it! I don’t use steam (I did at first but quit) so my iron will hopefully last for a long time! I love the little feet and it does heat up really fast. I should probably buy a spare like you did!

  5. Just bought a Continental dry iron from Amazon. It’s my second one and I love it!! Bought my first one from Vermont Country Store and spent about $60. Found the second one for $27! Same iron. Thinking of ordering another so I will have a spare. I also went through a Rowenta stage and never again. The Continental is retro looking and quite heavy.

  6. I have cut back on my ironing while piecing a quilt because you talked about this a while back. I need to be able to fudge too, and it does help not to iron so often, I don’t use steam because it eventually makes my irons spit. I do use an iron a lot because I iron my clothes almost daily, winter time I can get by with just ironing the collars since I wear a sweater on top. I used to hate auto shut off but too many times I have rushed back home to be sure I turned off the iron, Now I have a shark with auto shut off. It reheats instantly and gets very hot. It was not very expensive (35ish). Another iron I loved was a n old travel iron with folding handle, no steam vents. I don’t know the brand but got it at Goodwill.

  7. I love steam!! I like to iron some as I sew and then do a thorough job at the end of the piecing. I never use starch and hate Best Press. I usually just buy cheap irons at Wal-Mart, they last about the same length of time as other very expensive brands I’ve had in the past. However when I do paper-piecing I use my Sapporo gravity feed iron! I love it! I first used one a few years ago when I went to one of Judy Niemeyer’s quilt retreats at her place in Montana. She supplied them for the students. I hang the water container on an IV pole, I bought both the iron and the pole from Amazon. Highly recommend that type of iron for paper piecing.

  8. OMG! I sew and iron the same way. I have often been made to feel I was doing it all wrong. But, my end result looks equal or better than others. Works for me! Thank you for making me feel vindicated. I’m just going to keep doing my thing and enjoying my quilting process.

  9. That’s funny, after reading your blog tonight, I googled the Continental Electric CE23111 iron. Amazon and WalMart are both selling them for over $40. They must have caught on in popularity!

  10. I have been getting my irons from the thrift store when they die. Once I purchased a new one. It was so heavy it made my shoulder sore. I then went back and got a light weight one from the thrift store and am happy with it. No sore shoulder now.

  11. Using a dry iron at all times. Rely on a spritz of water as needed. Permanently borrowed my DH’s Solo 419 2-Liter One-Hand Pressure Sprayer because it can be adjusted to a light mist and does not have to be refilled often. To avoid turning the iron on and off all the time often all I need to do is lay a piece of fabric or a block on the ironing board, lightly mist, then place the dry iron over it or smooth the fabric a bit while I cut other pieces or do something else. By the time I need the block or fabric it is smooth and free of wrinkles. No heat, just a little damp-dry.
    Also prewash all yardage and take it out of the dryer just a bit damp. If fabric is a bit too dry the light mist and the need not to pump the spigot a number of times makes it easy and has been a real time saver.

  12. Tap water is what ruins irons. We’re supposed to use distilled water. ) as to brands I Iike steam irons that aren’t heavy. Name brands are not for me. I sort of do ironing your way Jo. I press if I have to.

  13. My iron is whatever brand was available at Costco when I needed to get a new one. The old one was a cheapie my husband bought at Home Depot (of all places!) clearance rack for $5. I appreciated his thoughtfulness, but that iron was so lightweight I felt like I had to lean my bodyweight onto it to have any chance of getting a wrinkle out. The new one does have auto shutoff, much to my relief. I don’t use steam, and I so far I have avoided using starch because of the mess. Your post and all the comments reinforce that we all have different preferences; different methods for different people!

  14. I have a Rowenta Steam Station iron & absolutely love it. It is the kind that has the iron separate from the water reservoir which is built onto the base where the iron rests when not in use. It is by far the best iron I’ve ever had, of course it’s by far the most expensive too but so worth it for us steam ironers.

  15. I had one iron I loved 30 years ago. Sad but true. I haven’t had a great one since but I still use the one I have now. Will look into the one you suggested.
    Love and prayers

  16. I bought one of those $300 irons from a quilt show that lasted maybe two years. I sent it back to have a new heater put in it. Cost $55. Lasted about 6 months and died. My husband went out and bought a black and decker $25 iron from Big Lots. It is going strong still. I never use steam but my son decided to use steam with it and it leaked all over everything. I said no more so husband went out and bought an iron just for them. Even though I had one sitting on the shelf. Mine has an auto shut but only after sitting for a while. I like that part. Because sometimes I walk out and leave it on all night.

  17. I use a Black and Decker iron that I buy from Wal Mart for $20 ish. It has an auto shutoff, but heats quickly when needed. It gets hot, steams nicely without spitting and it’s a nice weight. I use an iron a lot and these last a long time. The directions say not to use distilled water, so I use the filtered water from my refrigerator. The gallons of bottled water people use in their C-Paps works well also.

  18. Continental also makes a non-steam iron with a smooth sole plate and no auto shutoff. This is my preferred iron. It’s also lightweight. I’ve been buying mine from Vermont Country Store online for about $30. I paid a lot for a Rowenta once, but never again.

    1. Christine is SO right! Jo is a treasure, a shero (a female hero), and an example to me of how to live generously and graciously. Jo rocks!

  19. Mom had the silver and black General Electric. Got mine at the thrift store, love it, no water.
    I went to a yard sale, got a black and silver Sunbeam, patent in the the mid 1950’s. It has a little more weight, both have the cord that looks fabric wrapped, not rubbery. I think the Sunbeam gets a little hotter.
    If you see one in the thrift store, give it a go. We all know NEW is not always better.

  20. What a great quilting topic..Irons! I have been so through so many irons, fancy and expensive to cheap. From the Fancy Oliso Iron to Rowena. I have learned that a $30 iron from Amazon (Sunbeam) will work for me. I think my problem is unique, in that the irons often die at my house since they live on my ironing board and inevitably one of cats will jump up on the ironing board and knock the iron off. After a few falls, the iron dies. There is only so much that a poor iron can take! I try to remember to put the iron on the floor beneath the ironing board, but I end up forgetting! So, for me I am constantly buying an iron every year. I had never thought of buying one at a Thirft store. That’s a great idea when you know that the iron you buy is doomed.

  21. I have a snap-on-bracelet that I hook on my iron handle, when my iron is being used it goes on my wrist.
    If I leave the sewing room and it is on my wrist then I forgot to turn my iron off. This has given me peace of mind when I’m sewing.

  22. I really appreciate the subject today, What iron do you use? I have owned some really costly irons over the years and none of them have lasted which was really frustrating. A friend recommended an iron that she got from Target for 12 bucks. In fact she had 2 extras set aside should they discontinue it. I bought mine about 2 years ago and I love it, so I bought one extra and tucked it away. Its a Rival, model GCRVSW-200. It has a pointed tip, is lightweight and about a 3/4 the size of a regular iron. It gets hot! and I don’t use the steam feature. The chord is nice and long and it packs quite nicely for retreats.

  23. My question is why the starch after top is finished? Does it make it harder to quilt through? Enjoyed reading all the comments :)

  24. The best iron I had was a cheap Black & Decker from the late ’80s or early ’90s. It got very hot and did everything I needed it to do. When it finally fizzed out, I discovered they didn’t make B&D like they used to, so I did a little research and ended up buying a Beautural 1800-watt iron from Amazon, based on the favorable reviews. So far so good! I don’t usually use steam until I’m pressing the finished quilt top. The new iron has automatic shutoff, but that’s okay because it give me peace of mind for those times I can’t remember if I shut it off (which happens more the older I get, lol).

  25. Shannon M in Texas

    My favorite iron is a low-cost something or other from Walmart. At least when it quits I won’t be upset about the high price. I used to have an Oliso and after awhile he (it was blue) would just randomly raise and lower his legs. I sent him away. Love this post.

  26. My favorite irons sound very much like yours. Very inexpensive as they come from the thrift stores, stay on and get good and hot. No automatic switch off does worry me some but so far I have not switched. I always unplug the iron when not in use as it just seems safer. Unlike you, all things being equal, my preference is for a heavy iron. Like you I do not use water although once in a great while I will use a damp press cloth. Again like you I have two irons since being a thrift shop buyer one must buy when the buying is hot. Also you never know when your iron might die.

  27. I love to iron. My mother used to pay me 5 cents apiece to iron my brother’s school shirts. I iron everything especially new fabric. It’s very therapeutic. I use bargain price irons from Target and need to get a back up. My ironing board is a tripod leg wood one that belonged to my grandmother. So sturdy. Still had the price marked on it at $2.98. A big bunch of freshly ironed anything….the ritz!

  28. Thank you for your answer so fast,,It has helped me…Also, took your advice on ‘not pressing’, until finished with the blocks….Tried that today, and yes,,,I agree with your thoughts, and will be doing that as well…

  29. Margaret in North Texas

    Interesting comments from everyone. You should look at the wattage of the iron. The higher the wattage –the hotter an iron gets . Anything under 1400 watts is not hot enough for quilting. I used to buy some irons that I liked best from drugstores.

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