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Jul 3, 2011

The Dreaded Sewing Chore



Friends, have you ever needed to get something done, that you just put off and put off until you really couldn't put it off any longer -- and then you still put it off?

If so, let me tell you about my ironing board cover. 

Some background:  I didn't even own an ironing board until I started sewing two years ago, and then I just picked up a standard, middle-of-the-road ironing board at my nearest Bed, Bath & Beyond.  This served me well for about a year, when I needed to replace the by-now-stained-and-puckering ironing board cover with one of those cheap (though not the cheapest) replacement covers -- basically a layer of foam covered with some smooth-surfaced synthetic.

Even new it wasn't thick, but now, after nearly a year's use, it's so thin that when I iron, the criss-cross pattern of the ironing board itself comes right through the fabric.  Not good.

I can't wait any longer, readers.  I must replace my ironing board cover!  (And maybe the board too...)







I never would have considered making my own ironing board cover if I hadn't stumbled upon Sunni's tutorial over at A Fashionable Stitch a while back.  It looked like a lot of work, but within my skill set.  That was many, many months ago and I haven't done anything about it.

There are also some threads about making your own ironing board cover over at Pattern Review (in the "Patterns and Notions" part of the message boards).  A number of people there recommend using old wool blankets instead of cotton batting to pad the cover.

Needless to say, the ironing board covers for sale at stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond are pathetic and, for what you get, expensive.  (For better or for worse, I'm stuck using a collapsible ironing board; I don't have the space for anything larger right now.)

Anyway, I was at the flea market yesterday and I found an old plaid wool blanket for just $5, and I thought, this would be perfect to use as an ironing board cover.  The same person selling the blanket was also selling a lot of vintage cotton tablecloths made from that smooth, heavy vintage cotton they used back then.  And since they were scorched here and there they were cheap.  Couldn't I use one or two of those to cover the wool blanket?  I might pick up a few today.



Friends, what do you think? Would that be enough to make a serviceable ironing board cover?  How thick does it really need to be? 

I know it's none of my business, but what is your dreaded sewing chore?  Curtains for the family room?  Diapers for your newborn?

I've managed to avoid most unpleasant sewing in my life but I fear I can put it off no longer: I must address this ironing board cover situation post-haste.

Thoughts, recommendations, commiserations?

Have a great day, everybody!

61 comments:

  1. I always have a list a mile long of projects that I need to take care of. But the project I've put off the longest is baby quilts. My niece is a year old. I have the fabric, I've done the math and plotted out my pattern. I've drawn the diagrams and figured out just how many strips, squares, and triangles of what need to be cut. But guess who hasn't even pulled out her cutting board?

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  2. I can't see whether the fabric of your cover is wearing thin, or if the padding is just inadequate.

    If the fabric is actually fine, I'd consider putting the blanket under the existing cover to add padding. Less work for starters, but also the fabric of your cover appears to be a Teflon type which is heat resistant.

    Certainly a cotton ironing board cover is serviceable and would have been what was used prior to the higher-tech Teflon fabric, but it can scorch and burn.

    BTW - You can buy Teflon fabric from Nancy's Notions (probably elsewhere as well), but it will probably cost more than a new ironing board cover. And do you really want to waste your creative juices on such a boring project?

    I can't tell you how many covers are on my board right now. When I get a new one, I just put it over the old one(s). At this moment, I think my padding is pretty close to perfect.

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  3. Peter: They have stores for things like that! :-)

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  4. I thought the teflon covers reflected heat and weren't really recommended...?

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  5. I just safety pin an old towel around my ironing board. Washes up nice and fluffy when it gets flattened down and full of stray threads.

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  6. I recently replaced my ironing board cover with one I bought at Target. So far, so good. It seems adequately padded. The ironing board itself is collapsible like yours, but at least 20 years old (or older) and is definitely holding up better.

    My most dreaded sewing chore? Hemming. Hands down. Especially RTW that is too long. It is slightly less dreaded on items I've made myself.

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  7. I thought this was a post about Michael's suit...

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  8. Why not just by a heavy drill (cotton) cover and put it over your blanket? I personally don't like the Teflon covers.

    My current cover is actually a press board (4" x 2.5") made according to spec's in Palmer/Pletch publications. You might not have the room for it.

    I'd just take the blanket (I'm sorry, but I'd gently WASH it first), trim it, cover it in drill (or use a drill cover), then lay (or pin) muslin over the whole works. Then the muslin can be removed and washed/replaced when it gets icky. And you know it will.

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  9. For me it is all the hand sewing things that have to be done to fix a garment or to finish a garment.

    As for making an ironing board cover, I normally buy one from Nancy's Notions. Good luck with making one, I am sure you will be successful.

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  10. I made my own here after I got annoyed with the towel I had been using. I used leftover pieces of quilt batting and pieced them together, and just quilting cotton for the cover. It was insanely fluffy for awhile and now it's perfect- and the cover is cute and makes me smile. I would use the blanket and maybe patch together three thicknesses, and then over time it will still not get too flat. It was so cheap and easy, I can't believe more people don't just make it. The elastic was a few bucks, everything else was lying around and it took maybe 45 minutes to make.

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  11. oops, here: http://mollysews.blogspot.com/2010/07/instant-gratification.html

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  12. I used an old wool blanket for padding. And I made 3 covers in good colors that go with my sewing room. One is made from a sheet. So now instead of an eyesore, my ironing board is beautiful. A dreaded chore is only dreaded as long as you don't do it. Bite the bullet and get it done and it will make you happy. And ironing is more pleasant.

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  13. Mending. Shortening and hemming jeans.

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  14. I was just thinking about doing this,too. Have you considered washing the blanket in very hot water a few times to felt it. It will be much more absorbant that way. I'd stay clear of stained tablecloths; even old stain can bleed at the most inconvenient times. Good luck.

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  15. I've seen some really nice tutorials out there, but haven't changed mine yet. I have this really nice one that I purchased in France while living there (ironing board, with cool cover) and I can't bring myself to take it off and replace it, even thought it certainly needs it.
    It should be fun watching what you come up with.

    OH, and my most hated sewing task, or project, would have to be fixing or altering clothing that I didn't make!! Even to hem store bought pants makes me mad!

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  16. I hate repairs and pretty much any homedec project.

    In regards to Ironing boards, we have a super wide Brabantia that can be adjusted to you can sit down and iron. Woo hoo! A little expensive, but definitely worth it. The wider the board the quicker you can get through the ironing. Also, a good reason not to bother making a cover is because you want one of those reflective types that bounce the heat back up rather than absorbing it.

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  17. My ironing board seems about as perfect as it could be. The "board" itself is an older heavy duty folding model. It is covered with several layers of cotton cloth, first some quilted cotton batting, then some layers of white sheeting and a table cloth or two..sewn on (chris-cross style like shoe lacing) under the board with some upholstery cord/thread. The final layer is a teflon cover. Sometimes I put a layer of muslin or sheeting over that....but almost never. The heat reflected back up by the teflon is actually helpful. Maybe an ironing board cover is a little like the patina on any well used article...it gets better with time, as you add necessary layers. I would add that having a sturdy board is essential....you don't want to invest a lot of time on a flimsy base, only to start from the beginning again, when you get tired of the jiggling and near tipping of your flimsy lightweight board when you actually start pressing. There are always lots of sturdier older ironing boards at the thrift store or flea markets. Watch for one.

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  18. Definitely use it for padding and put the cover back over it. Teflon is just fine, but check to see how it affects fusing interfacing if you use fusibles.

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  19. I think I have the same ironing board and mine desperately needs a new cover with padding too. I've been making new slipcovers for my (unnecessarily big) sectional for about 18 months now. I get a little nauseous thinking about welting now. Good luck!

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  20. How timely! I've been thinking about doing this myself as the cover that came with my cheap ironing board is lacking adequate padding (like yours, I get those dreaded crisscross lines). I have some wool batting from a time when I thought I'd learn to quilt and I think it would work really nicely with three thickness.
    As for dreaded sewing tasks, I recently realized that I no longer dread cutting out the fabric. Earlier this year, I would put off sewing just because I didn't want to cut something out. It was tedious and I would inevitably cut inaccurately. Somewhere this year, that dread just went away! I love it when that happens.

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  21. Funny... on a holiday weekend I would get stuck thinking about my ironing routine?... especially pondering the role of a teflon ironing board cover... yea or nay? I believe absolutely that the reflected heat is good, but it seems like the teflon also keeps the steam where you want it, instead of down into the layers of padding?
    My most dreaded sewing chore? Easy. I hate having to rip out something where I know I tried a "short cut" or the fast lazy not recommended method. Worse yet, NOT ripping out something that isn't quite right, only to suffer imperfect results when the project is done. Stupidity staring you in the face like a circus mirror.

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  22. I have always thought that the ironing boards made like yours (with a "mesh" type base) would always create, eventually, a mesh imprint on items ironed; and have avoided them. For that reason I would think that you would need to do one of two things; replace with a new ironing board that had a solid base with small steam holes, or place a hardwood top on the ironing board and then cover (or if you could find an ancient ironing board made entirely of wood). From my experience, I would think the optimum would be a hardwood base on top of your ironing board.

    I use both an ironing board and a cutting/ironing surface that is 4X5 hardwood covered with one layer of wool blanket and white cotton drill (love, love, love it but wish I had room for a 4X8!) The hardwood and wool blanket absorb the moisture from steam pressing while offering a fairly firm surface, which is necessary. I use white drill so that there will be no color transfer. It is attached to the board with velcro, which keeps it taut and easy to take off and launder.

    IMHO There is nothing quite like hardwood, wool blanket and taut white drill!

    My dreaded chore is cooking although I love to eat and am not half bad at cooking. To me it is just another mess to clean up when I would really rather do something else....either that or I am just lazy. I need a Michael in my life.

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  23. Silly me! Wool and hardwood does not absorb the moisture, just the opposite! Which is a good thing.

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  24. Peter, I don't know if you've seen the tute over at my blog for the ironing board cover I made; but I can tell you that the wool blanket I used was worth every penny!!!! Ok, ok, it was a yard sale freebie, but still...

    Wash the blanket & dry it....HOT water....more than once....and cut it so that you'll have 2 or 3 layers. It's the PERFECT underlayer for steaming the heck outta your fabric.

    As far as the cover, the one you have might be OK; if not, a heavy cotton (a friend used denim on hers)

    BTW, my ironing board has that mesh pattern, but you wouldn't know it anymore .... have I mentioned how much I love my wool blanket layers?

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  25. I despise doing alterations, and hems the most. For the amount of man-hours involved (woman-hours? LOL!) I take the blasted dress pants to the tailor at the dry cleaner. Best $7 ever spent! ;)

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  26. Two years ago I purchased a wide Rowenta ironing board, 19 inches across at the widest part, a really heavy duty one...but the pad it came with was not satisfactory. It had foam as the padding and was allegedly washable.
    I got my hands on some heavy wool coating and cotton drill. Turned the board upside down and drew around in on the drill. Cut it out. Add a 4 inch strip, doubled over to make a two inch pocket all around with opening at the base end. Serged the pocket in place. Snaked some butchers twine in the pocket and cinched it on top of two thicknesses of the wool coating. Total time well under two hours. Works like a charm. Wool absorbs two to three times it's weight in water. Now after a heavy pressing session I don't have water dripping off the board.

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  27. This is one of my dreaded chores! My ironing board is covered with about 3-4 old bath towels that have compacted down nicely over time, they are cut to shape and laced together underneath. There must be no wrinkles and you need to treat the curved end like a sleeve head and ease it perfectly! Wool holds the steam better apparently. On top I have a cover, I usually make a few up at a time from calico, old sheets, etc, as long as it is smooth and untextured. I cut it to shape and make a casing, thread elastic through, pull tight and knot. I throw the cover out when it starts getting ghastly, or at least I am supposed to - I'm not very good at getting around to making new ones, so usually make several at a time when I do!

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  28. Palmer/Pletsch say "Do not use a Teflon-coated ironing board cover. It causes shine and overheating and does not allow steam to penetrate when fusing. Cotton covers are best."

    You've reminded me that I need to recover my ironing board too :(! (That's gonna be my hated job - that and mending holes in jeans)

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  29. Thanks for this, I will use some of this advice to do my ironing board cover.

    Josette

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  30. A double layer of tightly woven cotton is fine, as Teflon eventually shreds and tends to burn fingers. I just run a seam around the outside, leaving a gap, turn it inside out, stitch a casing and there you have it.

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  31. Why is nothing ever easy on this blog? ;)

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  32. You've done jeans. You've done fitted shirts. You've done dresses, skirts, topstitching, fitting, and you've totally mastered a ton of techniques.

    You're going to let a simple little ironing board slap you around?

    Nuh uh.

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  33. This is exactly a reason I started the Make and Mend sew-along. I've taken care of so many small "I don't wanna" projects it feels awesome.

    As for the ironing board, I layered mine with some scrap cotton batting (I have a table top ironing board) sandwiched between two pieces of canvas. A nice soft pad for stuff. I then covered it with a drawstring cotton twill cover I made.

    Works great for me. THe thing is, taking care of projects that help you sew better will help you sew better. Then for weeks you'll be saying, "Man, I should have done that WAY earlier!" :)

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  34. My ironing board is a disaster (WalMart) and unfortunately that isn't gonna change anytime soon. However, what I really want is to see a picture of those table cloths you bought!!!! If they are at all salvageable they can be repurposed into many things (bags especially!) and I'd hate to see them wasted on an ironing board!

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  35. I have the exact same sewing chore. Our apartment is small and one of my roommates is a toddler (OK, she's my kid, but she almost NEVER cleans up after herself so it feels like a bad roommate sometimes) so space is tight. My ironing board is a half-size one, and the covering is some cheap synthetic that I have basically melted off (why would you cover an ironing board with a fabric that melts under high heat?? It makes no sense at all. Also: buying it makes no sense, but I live in Upper Manhattan and Bed, Bath & Beyond is 140 blocks away). I'll be curious to see what you come up with. Please share!

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  36. Strange you should bring up ironing board covers, last weekend I made new one for both my ironing boards and both sleeve boards (yes, as a matter of fact I DO need two of each), I have to make my own covers because neither board is a standard size and nothing sold commercially fits. I have mine padded with a custom collection of old padding, old towels and old wool blankets. I used pillow ticking fabric that I picked up for cheap at a thrift store some time back. They look pretty and work like a hot damn.

    The sewing chore I hate the most is cutting out fabric, I got a rotary cutter and mat, it helped a little, raised the table I cut on to a better height, helped a little more, but I still hate it. Unfortunately you can`t sew without cutting out fabric, so I do it anyway.

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  37. Yeah, my ironing board cover is pretty much in the same shape as yours... except it also has spray glue stencilled over it from the last superhero costume mask i made a month or two ago. But... http://www.rejectshop.com.au/assets/images/catalogue/large_43.jpg check out the ironing board covers offered this month at "The Reject Shop". Might have to get hubby to pick one up for me, as I'm bedridden for a while after minor surgery. (I can't SIT at my sewing machine, but I could probably STAND at the cutting table or ironing board!)
    On the other hand, I did read somewhere once that it's a good idea to get an ironing board cover that has a grid on it (maybe use plaid/tartan fabric) so that you can line up things evenly when trying to iron them... sounds like a useful idea to me.

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  38. I just put new covers (no pattern, no teflon, no shine) on over the old one. But, I have the space for a padded gridded board for construction pressing, so I don't replace my ironing board cover but every 5 years or so now.

    FWIW, my mother has got a plain white cotton sheet, folded multiple times, somehow strapped to her ironing board. It's stained and ugly at this point, but the steel gridwork does NOT dare transfer through the layers.

    My dreaded sewing chores: home dec (shoot me now) and altering RTW (shoot me yesterday).

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  39. I make covers for my ironing boards as well (one oversize one that adjusts in height, a tabletop one and a sleeve board). I pad them with old wool blankets from the charity shop and cover them with cotton duck. Done it for years and they work beautifully.

    Most hated? Home dec. Ugh. And I need to do a lot of it, very soon.

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  40. Some of us in the South are still ironing and pressing on the boards that belonged to our grandmothers, so it's not one of those metal mesh things, it's an actual wooden board, so even if the cover wears, there's no print from the board to show through. And there's a point that I've been meaning to bring up....there's a difference I'm told, between ironing and pressing. It seems that one irons out wrinkles but one presses open seams. I am no authority, but I'm just saying...

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  41. My most dreaded sewing chore is easily scout scarves. I spent last Sunday making 30 of them for my husband's scout group. Even just thinking about it makes me exhausted. :P

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  42. Peter, it looks like you have used your iron board extensively and i suggest to replace that soon. Otherwise it may be harmful for your costly clothes. I am taking care of my mt iron board because i used it for my dress shirts to iron and it's important that it should be very well fitted and clean from all the sides.

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  43. Ironing is a chore. I'm with you- I never really ironed until I started sewing.
    I do use a vintage tabletop timber one that I layered with some old cotton. Perfect.
    Sewing chore? The outside entertaining cushion covers. been putting them off forever- don't really know why- they will only take a few hours (!)

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  44. I'm buy these ones at my local market.

    http://www.sewroo.com.au/products-page/ironing-products/ironing-board-covers/

    If it is a chore, I say don't do it. Sewing time is so short, why waste it on a project you don't want to do.

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  45. Nearly 2 years ago I promised to make 20 cushion covers for my boyfriend's mum. I figured I'd just knock out some envelope back style cushion covers, which take about 20 minutes max to put together.

    Of course when she gave me the bag of material, she also gave me a sample cover which she wanted replicated - it has piping and a concealed zip down the side. Uh oh. Now the bag of fabric is sitting underneath my sewing desk. I can feel it looking at me accusingly. Cutting out 20 cushion covers and then having to make a ton of piping, and figure out how to put in piping and a zip at the same time... it's not exactly on top of my fun sewing list.

    Basically we never talk about cushions now. It is unsaid. I am sure she hates me for this. Christmas should be fun!

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    1. Get this off your guilt list! I bet she expected you to do this as a favor, right? Give the bag back to her, and tell her you had envisioned something very simple and you don't know how to do it ( and don't want to figure it out either!) Find some articles written by "the selfish seamstress" who has been published in Vogue patterns and has a blog ( and is a friend of Peter's)
      Holley in Roseville MN

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  46. I loathe ironing and I only do it in the service of sewing. And I use a thick old towel on my ironing board because the original cover is hopeless and thin. The towel just sits nicely in place because it's quite heavy, and if it needs a wash I grab another towel :-). Your blanket may also sit still if you're lucky. The other thing I find it hard to make myself do tailor's tacks... but sometimes they're necessary!

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  47. I'm down to just the padding, with towels showing up when it's time to iron.

    What happened to quality covers??

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  48. I must be weird, but I don't have a dreaded ironing project, I like to iron (but don't ask about vacuuming!).

    I'm sure that what you are proposing for your cover would work beautifully. Sounds like a lot of work.

    I guess I'm a little lazy, but I want to spend my sewing time making something to wear or sell, so I purchase the mid-level grade ironing board covers and replace them as they wear out. I usually get about a year our of one.

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  49. Ok, I am a weirdo too. I LOVE ironing.

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  50. Ironing board cover-- easy-peasy compared to many of the garments you have made. I don't know who "anonymous" is but the instructions are right on.

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  51. I made my own ironing board cover and I did my chair too, it's a nerdy way to spruce up your sewing area and doesn't take too long really. I did a little tutorial if you are interested: http://www.burdastyle.com/projects/ikea-hack-happy-sewing :)

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  52. This is a great tutorial on making your own ironing board cover: http://u-handbag.typepad.com/uhandblog/2008/01/super-easy-iron.html

    I basically followed this, but created a new channel and used elastic.

    And I have to say, having a nice ironing board cover makes pressing that much more pleasant...and there are so many fun quilting cottons out there!

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  53. I ALMOST covered my ironing board with gorgeous Martha Negley fabric featuring vegetables (having killed an old blanket first, doubled and cut just so it overlapped the top of the board). Then I came to my senses; it would barely last a week before being burned. So, I just slapped on the old burned cover again, but the blanket base is wonderful and makes all the difference.

    But you know what's worth doing? Your own ironing water. Just had my first crack at that and am a big fan. You save big-time on expensive store-bought preparations, and it's so much nicer (you use essential oils). I'll be blogging about that later this week. ;)

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  54. My parents didn't own an ironing board for many years. Instead, they had a thick (felted) woollen blanket, covered with a thin cotton sheet, laid on the kitchen table. Based on my experience, you should be fine!

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  55. i used sunni's tutorial to make an ironing board cover! it turned out perfect & really brightened up the (admittedly already bright)room. i used cotton batting & red cotton gingham :) the bonus: one of my friends wanted a new ironing board cover, so he bought the batting & let me have the leftovers as part of the payment for construction. so my cover only cost the price of the gingham! yesss!!

    i hate sewing home decor stuff. i always say i'm going to make new curtains or pillows, but i never get around to it bc i don't want to waste my precious sewing time on a stupid pillow. yet i also think it is ludicrous that the prices of that stuff is so obscene - $30 for a throw pillow? really? am i just a giant cheapskate or something?

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  56. It's so gratifying to see all these other sewers (sewists? seamsters?) who hate ironing as much as I do. And as much as I hate it, I've done it a few times now enough to know that it's necessary. Blerg.
    My other dreaded task? Cutting. I don't have a large apartment right now, so all of my cutting takes place on my floor. I can't WAIT until we move to a bigger place and I can add the leaf back on to my table and use it to cut again!

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  57. I hated ironing until I splurged on a top of the line Rowneta iron and ironing board a few years ago. The cover on the board is a heavy padded canvas like material. There is no way to explain how much easier it is with these items then it was when I was using a Teflon covered ironing board and my old GE iron; you just have to try it!

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  58. This is so weird to read this right after I have been making ironing board covers like a crazy person. I finally bought myself a new ironing board after 15+ years. It had gotten so rickety it rocked when I ironed. I splurged and bought a nice Michael Graves on from Target. It is so wonderfully sturdy, I may actually enjoy ironing now. Probably not.

    I have to say, a few years ago it began to freak me out how the ironing board cover would smell when I ironed a lot. It just could not be good. I finally ordered myself this one:

    http://www.lifekind.com/index.php/site_category_product/110/?from=

    I am very happy with it but it is not particularly pretty. I took the cover off that came with the Michael Graves board and made a pattern from it out of organic fabric. It was SO easy. I even made my own bias tape to use for the project. In fact, it was so simple that I ended up making a total of 6 covers in just a couple of hours. I even had the string on hand that I needed. I'm going to send one to a friend (who owns the organic fabric company) and then give the rest away as a freebie on my blog. However, I will send one to you if you like. Email me and let me know.

    Love your blog! Teresa

    greenbagladyteresa(at)gmail(dot)com

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  59. I don't really dread sewing chores although I hate replaceing zippers- but judging by the way my late grandmother reminisced over her un fun experience making a down comforter and quilting it by hand in a room in upstate NY in mid summer with the windows closed so the down wouldn't blow around the room while the sweat poured off her face- that I would dread-she never made another one
    Sarah C
    Love your blog!

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  60. I just have a purchased Teflon ironing board cover but when I've replaced them I've kept the padding so it has several layers under the cover.

    I procrastinate making clothing for myself! Odd. I tend to get excited, cut things out and lose my enthusiasm. Hopefully tomorrow I am gung ho making a vintage style apron for my niece's wedding shower on Sunday! Holley in Roseville Mn

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