Monday, August 6, 2012

Make your own Ironing board pad

As a little girl I remember my mother sometimes ironing on a  doubled up towel over a table. The fact that steam and heat can really damage wood probably never crossed her mind since ironing boards were once made of wood. As a little girl, she would have ironed on a board like this, using a snazzy "Steam-O-Matic" iron like this one. Seems like everything was an O-Matic back then.
 
 Anyway, the point of my mother's method is that it's really hard to iron on a completely flat surface, so the board, whatever it is, must be padded. Too much or too little, and it's hard to get a smooth finish, and what is just right is likely a matter of opinion. Here I will show you how to piece and pad your ironing board and then you can take it from there.

 My ironing board has 3 layers of the standard "market" purchased padding, but let me say that this is likely the most expensive kind. You can cut your own using 100% cotton batting, the kind we put in quilts. Several thin layers will usually be better than one thick layer because the thicker batting has too much loft, or air. This will lead you down the road of  too much softness.

You might wonder, why cotton? Because it can easily handle any amount of heat and moisture from your iron without damage. Polyester batting will melt in high heat situations, it won't absorb moisture, and besides, they usually have too much loft. Commercial pads can be made of polyester, but they will have the addition of a heat retardant, like fabrics made for kids sleepwear. They still don't absorb moisture well.

 Let's take a look at these commercial pads to see what kinds of features you might like to add to your padding collection. Working from the board up, the first pad on mine is extremely thin. I would guess this is the pad that is original to the ironing board. What you are looking at is the muslin cover, made just like the top cover with a draw string. This layer is meant to be added protection from burns and water spills, but is totally optional. Should you like this idea, this muslin should be the last layer, going over all layers of padding, not the second layer as I have it! In my case, this muslin would be too small to cover all these layers so it will stay as it is.

Next you see two more layers of commercial pad. Another extra detail they both have is a cotton end pocket for you to slip your ironing board into. This feature is also totally optional, but helps them to sell the product for a higher price.
 Here is a close up of that pocket.
Another feature of this middle pad is a serged edge. Also completely optional. Makes the edge look nice I guess- but who is going to see it? You'll want to be careful that you don't stretch the batting while you serge or you'll end up with ripples.
 This top pad is a mix of cotton and polyester that has been pieced. This pad was probably the most expensive of the three for that reason. Because polyester can be made retardant, but never will absorb moisture, the manufacture decided to add a little of that spendy cotton batting just in the middle where the board gets most use. Cotton batting is expensive- so if you have a polyester pad that is damaged just in the middle, it would be very frugal to piece in the cotton just where needed. Or if you want to replace the whole thing, use cotton batting left over from a quilt project and splice those pieces together.

Here on the back side you can see they used a tricot (also a very meltable fiber!) tape to stabilize that pieced seam. I recommend a cotton bias tape pressed flat instead. Use a three step mending stitch, or even a zig-zag stitch across the seam, butting the ends, and centering the bias tape. It can also be done in two steps if you feel more confident with that. Sew the batting first then sew over it again with the bias.

Now that you have your pad fixed up and ready to lay out, how big should it be? Because the edges get a good amount of wear, cut it long enough that it will easily cover the sides of your board. Just trim it right on the board to fit. Together, my last two pads cover well enough. We like to use the end a lot, so my end is much longer than it needs to be. It goes well under, and as you can see I do not need and cannot use those end pockets. Yours does not need to be this long.
It does not need to be cut exact either. Just remember that your cover has to be big enough to handle all the padding that you give it!

Here is the link for how to finish the job right with a cover that is custom sized to your board:
http://www.sewchicpatterns.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-make-ironing-board-cover.html

Happy Ironing!