A very essential piece of equipment when sewing is an iron. Last week I started writing about how the iron was invented. Because the iron use to be so heavy and the heat source was unreliable, soot was picked up and it was cumbersome to use. A number of ingenious devices were devised to address these problems, such as irons with detachable handles. The introduction of gas supplies to Victorian homes for lighting soon led to gas-fired irons, another bad idea. Paraffin-powered irons also appeared in the late 19th century, but although they could be heated while in use, like gas irons, there was no way of controlling the temperature and they were still dangerous, dirty, slow and cumbersome. Other than that, they were great.
Electricity, the great selling point of which was its cleanliness and convenience, seemed made for the iron. The first patent for an electric iron was granted to Henry Seeley in the United States in 1882, but the first practical versions did not appear until 1892. The electric flatiron, which generated heat through a resistance element above the soleplate, was cheap, clean, and heated up quickly. Now those are qualities we are looking for in an iron.
By the mid -1920s Americans were buying 3 million electric irons a year, and in Britain 80 percent of homes equipped with electricity had on.
In 1927 the first thermostat-controlled iron appeared in America, and by 1936 the first crude steam irons appeared. Electric irons were also becoming lighter and the introduction of streamlined designs with steel cowls covering the whole iron meant that, by the 1930’s, irons had already assumed the shape we know today.
When you are sewing, always be sure and have your ironing board and iron set up next to your sewing machine. As you sew a seam, press a seam. It does make a difference and if you wait until you complete the garment to iron the seams, it won’t be the same. “I’ve been there, done that!”