Iron Faster: Make A Custom Ironing Board Shape
A Shape That's All Your Own
Iron Faster, Play More
Why Make a Custom Ironing Board Form?
Why build this tool? Because, let's face it, ironing is SO out-dated and boring, even if it is still necessary.
Plus, these boards are easy, cheap, and fun to make and they take up very little room (stash them with your regular ironing board, behind a dresser, on a hook in your laundry room...). To use them, simply place them on top of your regular ironing board and iron away.
A custom ironing board, such as I'm about to describe, helps you iron your most-common clothes faster and easier (and, in some cases, even better), leaving you more time to do other things.
If you have different-sized family members, such as kids, or if you iron items that are of a different shape, from draperies to handkerchiefs, you may want to make several of these custom ironing boards. A sleeve ironing board like this is next on my list to make—one where I can slip the board inside long sleeves, iron the sleeves, then take the board out to quickly add the "seam" look to the outside edge of the sleeve.
You could always buy no-iron, wrinkle-free clothes, if you don't mind all of the chemicals they include in the cloth to make them stay sharp and if you ignore the reports that those chemical additives cause cancer or other diseases.
You could always go without ironing—I know people who think I'm silly for ironing because they just skip that step, and they're even proud of that fact. (FYI, yes, it's painfully obvious to everyone else just who neglects to iron their clothes.)
You could steam-iron your clothes, but that's better left to the professionals—it still only provides mediocre results for those of us amateurs with non-commercial steamers, and it's easier to "burn" the fabric with a steamer than it is with an iron.
Also, conventional ironing allows you to use starch to smooth the surface of the fabric and helps prevent wrinkles throughout the day by providing a mild stiffening effect (and a pleasant, homey scent).
A Quick Poll
How long do you spend each week ironing just the shirts for your family?
How to Complete this Easy, Rewarding DIY Project
Don't worry if you're not a do-it-yourselfer (DIY-er)--this is one project that most folks can handle with no or minimal assistance from others, and I will go into great detail to make sure you are happy with the results and not frustrated with the process (leave a comment or contact me if you get stuck along the way and I'll help you).
I'm told that this process is also intuitive and obvious, and it's equally obvious that there are many different ways of achieving these same results. Please leave a comment to share with others if you've done something similar and had good results.
Tools and Supplies You Will Need
Note: When it comes to tools in this list, I strongly suggest borrowing anything you don't already own from a friend or neighbor--it is much cheaper and easier than driving to the local hardware store/lumberyard and buying them.
- Clothes or other items that are good representations of what you want to iron using your new custom ironing board (3-5 examples of, say, "T-shirts," is my recommendation).
- Something to draw your pattern on, such as: newsprint (blank, not newspaper), large craft paper, a piece of flipchart paper (or two taped together), OR a large-enough cardboard box cut down flat.
- Something with which to cut the pattern out (desktop scissors for paper patterns, heavy-duty scissors for cardboard).
- A thin board (NOT made out of pine, which oozes sap especially when heated--such as by your hot iron) approximately 1/4" thick and big enough to accommodate your custom board design.
- Something to cut the thin board accurately (such as a jigsaw, electric or hand-powered).
- A staple gun (electric or hand-powered) with plenty of staples OR lots of very small nails and a hammer. I really recommend the staple gun, however, because you'll bruise your fingers trying to get the nails in.
- At the fabric store, get quilt batting equal to twice the size of your custom ironing form (the quilt batting goes on both sides of the ironing form). This should be fairly thin and dense material--look at the "stuffing" under your regular ironing board cover or ask the associate at the fabric store's cutting table what they would recommend for your project or to double-check what you already picked out.
- Also at the fabric store, get some plain, un-dyed cotton cloth, again equal to twice the size of your custom ironing board. Again, ask for help from a store associate if you need it. You want a material that is thick enough to be sturdy and withstand many ironings, and it must not contain dye of any kind (because the dye could transfer to your clothes). Plain, unbleached (slightly off-white) cotton muslin is what I used.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you pre-wash the cloth cover material to remove any sizing before you begin.
- Sewing pins (a small box of them)
- A sewing needle and optional thimble or, optionally, a sewing machine.
- If I had it to do over, I would have definitely also purchased another layer of material to provide a removable "cover" (like a pillowcase or top layer of the ironing board cover) that could be removed and washed, thereby extending the life of my custom ironing board form. I may yet make such a thing...
- Another thing I would do If I had it to do over: Add a layer of tinfoil.
- A pencil to draw your design.
- Good sharp scissors; ideally you'll want to use good sewing scissors or a seamstress's cutting wheel.
- A large, flat, clean place to work, such as a dining room table.
- Patience—20 minutes to an hour of work today will probably save you many hours over the coming months, let alone years.
- Optional but very helpful: a helper (the offspring-kind counts) to help hold things in place as you work.
- Possibly optional: sandpaper to smooth the wooden form after it has been cut. The edges don't need to be perfectly smooth, but you will need sandpaper if the edges are rough and ragged.
- REQUIRED: safety goggles for all persons who will be in the area when the board is cut to form.
The total cost of materials should come to under $20, probably under $10. As far as tools, if you don't already own something on this list, be green and thrifty and just borrow it from a friend or neighbor unless you plan on using it for many things in addition to this little project. I also find many great deals on "pre-opened" tools in the Sears Service Department, such as where they service vacuum cleaners.
Create the Custom Ironing Board Pattern
Now that you have all of your tools and materials, a clean workspace, and your optional assistant, you are ready to begin.
First, prepare the pattern:
- Lay your paper or cardboard box on the table.
- Lay out each sample piece that you want to iron using this board one at a time, tracing lightly with a pencil the exact shape (including sleeves, if applicable). If you want to get really fancy, create another ironing board on the bottom end of this one at the same time (2 for the price, space, and effort of one).
- Next, in darker pencil or pen use the overlayed sample marks as a guide, mark the exact lines to cut your board to, minus about 1/8 inch all along the way. Tip: Make sure the ink won't soak through to your fabric, because then it could soak through into your clothes as you iron them--let the ink dry or use a different type of marker (dark pencil lines work just fine).
- Now, using desk/everyday scissors (not sewing scissors), cut out your paper/box pattern.
- Make sure this is the shape you want by laying out your sample clothes (or whatever) one by one and then laying the custom ironing board pattern on top to make sure that the pattern completely covers each part of each item.
Cut Out the Board
This section is for ages 12 and up: Adult supervision and safety glasses are required for everyone in the room!
- An adult or older, well-supervised teen can now use the jigsaw (electric or hand-powered) to cut the wood along the line to match the pattern.
- Sandpaper might be needed to soften some of the edges when you are done cutting to remove any splinters or roughness.
Apply the Batting/Padding
This is a fun step.
- Cut out two pieces of the batting/padding material exactly to match the pattern you made originally. (One for the front side, one for the back side).
- Use a staple gun to staple the batting directly to the wood. CAUTION: NEVER point a staple gun at another person (including your fingers), and this step may require the strength of an adult to do because most staple guns require a strong grip and firm downward pressure to successfully get the staple through both pieces of material. Staple from the middle of the pattern up and then down, alternating sides, making sure you don't have any wrinkles in the material.
- Turn the whole project over and repeat the process, stapling the batting to the back of the wooden form.
- Cut off any straggling pieces of extra batting and fix any staples that didn't turn out right (either pull them out and replace them, or hit them lightly with a hammer).
- Optional: If you plan to hang this board from a hook, find a sturdy piece of seam binding or a strip of the muslin; 4-5" should be long enough. Staple one end of the loop several times on one side of the board and the other side of the loop on the opposite side of the board offset from the first side (so that the staples don't interfere with each other). The loop may not be carrying much weight, but you also don't want to ever have to fix it, either.
Sew On the Cover Cloth
Finally, sew on the cover cloth, either by hand or by machine.
- Turn the cotton muslin inside out and pin the right sides together.
- Cut V-shaped "wedges" (outside corners) or straight-line "feathers" (inside corners) to ensure that the covering fits perfectly over the board and doesn't bunch up anywhere.
- Sew as much of the cover as you can while still being able to get it onto the wooden form.
- Turn the cover right-side out, place the board inside, and hand sew the rest of the cover around your board form.
Now, you should have a sandwich with two pieces of batting firmly attached, one to each side of the board and, on the outside, the cotton muslin that you sewed together.
How long did it take you to complete this project? (Not counting the time it took you to gather the materials and tools)
Make an Outer, Washable Cover (Optional)
This is one step I haven't done (yet). Using the same pattern as before, make an outer covering, similar to a pillow case, for your custom ironing board that can be removed and washed as-needed. (As above, don't forget to pre-wash and dry the material to remove any sizing and ensure that it won't shrink the first time you wash it.)
You'll probably be able to sew most of it to fit (remember to allow a little extra space to make the cover easy-on/easy-off. However, in the case of the shirt ironing board, you'll need to use a bunch of metal snaps (so they don't melt under the iron) to hold the two halves together on one end. I haven't tried this, so I can't guarantee the results—you might find that the snaps get in the way of the ironing. If you make a cover, please let us know in the comments section below.
Hurray! You're All Done!
Now, go set up the ironing board, put your new custom form on top, and heat up the iron to test how much faster you can now iron these types of things given the custom form.
Now you ARE a "do-it-yourself-er" and the work was well worth it, right? After the first few garments, I think you'll agree this is much faster than trying to fit all types of ironing onto your fixed-shape ironing board, especially if you have extra little or extra big family members.
About the Author
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