Friday, April 4, 2008

This Is An Iron

I mentioned that a cranky home-ec teacher was the number one reason I opted out of sewing from the ages of 14 til around 40. Not sewing meant, of course, not quilting. But overcoming fear of seams was only one deterrent. Another huge obstacle was this: the need to iron.

I am not kidding when I say that, except for a tiny travel iron I had at some point (can’t even remember when), I just never had an iron. I also don’t have a TV, a vacuum cleaner, or a dishwasher. I like to “keep it light enough to travel,” as a favorite song lyric of mine goes.

But when I did decide to try out quilting, well, of course I had to get an iron. I remember this very well—I got a cheap iron and even cheaper ironing board and set these up in the living room. Two different friends, upon seeing these devices, had comments that went something like this:

Michael: I almost had a heart attack when I saw you bought an iron.

Jill: On, the iron is for quilting? Good. (sigh of relief) I was really worried you were going to start ironing your clothes.

I have seven sisters. I’m pretty sure none of us know how to iron. The topic came up last week when I went to New Jersey for my father’s funeral. One of my younger sisters was bragging that her husband was great at ironing. I don’t know if he had the skill before he met her or if he had to acquire it as a form of adaptation. But suffice it to say, while the Gillespie girls might accommodate their men on some counts, keeping their clothes crisp and wrinkle-free is not one of those areas.

We grew up learning iron-avoiding tips like: If you have an appointment in a half hour and your clothes are wrinkled, throw them in the dryer with a damp washcloth for a little while and they’ll be just fine. Or, if you have the luxury of realizing you have an appointment the next day, you can just hang the clothes on the shower rod and take a hot shower and the steam will do its magic.

I mean, really, we are totally allergic to ironing.

Many years ago, I began taking care of a kid with autism. He’s a young man now. After caring for him for eight or ten years, we lost touch and only recently reconnected. This friend of mine, he’s obsessed with ironing. He loves it. Once, I bought him the tiniest iron ever, a seam iron I picked up at a little quilt shop. He loves it.

Since I’m now in the process of contemplating my next quilt, I’ve taken out my iron and ironing board (models slightly better and more expensive than those I bought when I first entered the world of ironing at the age of forty). They’re just sitting there, waiting, with about ten yards of balled up fabric looking like some bad sculpture waiting to be re-crafted.

My friend came by a couple of weeks ago and I offered him a chance to iron. He jumped right on it. I only gave him scraps to work with but that was enough—he was happy to iron and re-iron them for a long time. I’m hoping his good attitude about the task rubs off on me.

And I will say, once I get into ironing, I don’t mind so much. I put on some music or an audiobook and I just iron and iron and never get all the wrinkles out but do the best I can. I hear Ricky Tims in my head, talking about “aggressive pressing,” a technique he first taught me when I attended a workshop of his (as a reporter, not a participant). Aggressive pressing is his solution to dealing with puckers when one attempts to flatten out curvy seams, seams I have no business using but, what the heck, I try, since when I ask Warren to design a quilt top for me to create, he—not knowing how hard curves are—thinks nothing of sketching something that’s curvier than the Venus de Milo.

Really, I’ll post pictures soon of my ironing progress. Soon as I get around to plugging the iron in.

1 comment:

Mel said...

To help with your wrinkled mass of fabric, I recommend Mary Ellen's Best Press. It's called a "starch alternative" and it really works. Good luck!

I'm looking forward to your next book.