Turning Up The Heat

I’m curious. What does everyone else do about switching their iron on and off?

We’re all told to press, press, press during the sewing process – and I do religiously. I try to be Green and switch my iron off inbetween pressings, when I go back to my sewing machine. But sometimes I’m sat at the machine for a couple of minutes, tops, before I’m back at my ironing board and pressing again. Am I using up more energy with my constant harassment of the ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch? Does it make more sense to just leave the iron on for that half an hour or so? What do other people do?

I’d love to know!

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33 Responses to Turning Up The Heat

  1. Frankie says:

    Hi Karen. I have been following your blog for a while now – love it!
    I used to turn my iron off between pressings, mainly for fear of forgetting about it and burning the house down.
    After getting my wedding dress made by a professional home seamstress who left her iron all the time I have been doing the same (while I am sewing).
    For the energy saving part, I think maybe the heating, switching off and subsequent reheating of the iron would cost just as much as leaving it on the entire time. I’m only guessing though.
    Frankie

  2. Felicity from Down Under says:

    I used to have an iron that turned itself off if you didn’t use it for a while – and I reckon it was more than a two-minute window. It’s vexed, though, isn’t it, like turning off fluorescent lights which are meant to be low energy if left on but imagine how much power they use if being turned on and off constantly.

  3. ooobop! says:

    I’m always wondering about this too! I think I have inadvertently managed to burn all family members by leaving it on when I’m back to the machine. So I am constantly shouting ‘Irons on!’ every two minutes while I’m sewing. Mine is so old fashioned it takes an age to warm up so I cant bear to turn it on and off. I assume that would take up much more energy in any case.

  4. lazystitcher says:

    Apparently my mum raised me to think that every hot appliance would kill me if I didn’t switch it off at the wall when I wasn’t using it (e.g. ovens, clothes dryers irons etc.) so I mentally can’t leave it on if it’s not being used (scarred for life, I know). However, to make it easier and quicker, I picked up a tip from a sew-along once which was to sew as much of the garment as you can before needing to press.
    So, for example, with the dress (Rooibos) I made this week I stitched the shoulder seams, darts (front & back), the facing shoulder seams, the pocket to the skirt side front, the side backs to the centre back, the hem extension panels together, all before heading to the ironing board. So long as none of the seams intersected it didn’t matter. The next batch, I attached the bodice facing, the midriff band,the hem extension and sewed the skirt panels together. Pressed. Then the final run was inserting the zip and finishing the hem. Final press. Only three trips to the ironing board, hurrah!
    :)Alana

  5. Louise says:

    I think I had the same mum as Lazystitcher! I try to sew as much as possible and then press a batch of seams, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t…

  6. Eugenia says:

    My iron, which is a Philips, turns itself off if isn’t moved for a while so even if I leave it plugged in I still have to wait for a few minutes for it to warm up when I want to use it. It’s mildly irritating but better than wasting electricity or setting the house on fire!

  7. mujerboricua says:

    Once I left the flat without turning the iron off. I was gone for hours. I gave myself a fright when I came home and saw the iron light still on. Since then I turn it off once I am done pressing no matter what. I’d hate to get distracted and walk away from it, leaving it on. So that’s what I do: turn it off every time I walk away. I am hoping to acquire a smart iron that turns itself off after a few minutes.

  8. swoosh says:

    I have a Phillips which can turn itself off. I think it does so after about 5 minutes and it has a blinking light to let you know that it is turned off but not unplugged. Fairly useful.

  9. Portia says:

    Mine is on for the duration that I’m sewing. (It drives J insane) Although judging by most comments, that makes me the naughty one! But then I am a slightly obsessive presser! I do think though, that constantly switching it on and off could use just as much energy as just leaving it on whilst I’m sewing.As long as I remember to turn it off when i’m finished!
    Px

  10. Suzy says:

    I try to think ahead and do as much sewing as possible and then batch press. If I can’t do it but know I need to return to the iron very soon I leave it on but if not I always turned off. I’m a bit like Lazystitcher and Louise, though not because of my mum. I’m just a wee bit paranoid with turned on appliances, lol.

  11. Nikki says:

    Yep, in agreement with Lazystitcher, Louise and Suzy. Stitch as much as possible and batch press. All that sitting around waiting for it to heat up again wastes precious sewing time! 🙂

    • I try the batch pressing approach too. But sometimes I forget so I turn it on and off. Yesterday I had to do it 3 times. My sewing instructor used to tell me he always has his iron on all day when working. In terms of energy consumption I don´t know

  12. Joanne says:

    Hi Karen, I’ve got an energy saving iron so generally leave it on quite a lot. But I can tell you exactly how much it’s costing as I work for a company that monitors energy wastage and costs so I have a kit that monitors my individual appliances’ electricity use. So for example last night I had the iron on for 41 minutes and it cost me 6p. To put that into perspective doing a 30 degree wash yesterday cost 4p. That seems fair enough to me given what I’m doing and how much pressing i need to do but I don’t know if a non-energy saving one is much more expensive. Hope that helps.
    Joanne

    • Wow, that’s amazing! I think we’ll all find that really interesting. I constantly have my washing machine on the go, so glad to hear it’s only costing me 4p a time.

      • Joanne says:

        Heheh no worries. We have some boffins at work who answer energy saving questions so I’ll ask them to work out the energy use of turning on and off the iron as that might be interesting to peeps who are wondering if it’s using more energy to do that. 🙂

    • Double wow! I’d love to know.

      • oonaballoona says:

        i’m imagining the boffins brain trust that will answer this question. for some reason, they’re in a low ceilinged room, holding mugs of coffee made from chemex beakers.

        i leave my iron full on (i’m a constant presser), so i’m looking forward to the answer!

      • Joanne says:

        I have a response from our boffins! Here’s my question and their answer:
        Q: As a seamstress I have to use the iron a lot when making clothes (you have to press every time you sew a seam). I’m not sure if it’s better to keep the iron on for (typically) an hour or whether it would be more energy saving to turn it off in between. But say for example over the course of the hour I have to turn it on and wait for it to heat up maybe six or seven times… is it better just to leave it on for the whole hour?
        A: Interesting question! The way to find out the answer for sure would be to find out how long it takes to warm up from cold, and then how long it takes to warm up when it’s already fairly hot (you can tell by listening to it click on and off).Our estimate, based on the data we’ve seen, is that turning it on only when needed is probably slightly more efficient, but it probably won’t make a huge amount of difference. Running a typical iron for an hour costs about 7p, so the amount you’d save by turning it off for some of that time is probably only about 1p. So if it makes life easier to just leave it on, it’s probably reasonable to do that, and look for other ways to save more significant amounts of energy!

        Hope that helps everyone! Joanne x

  13. Kirsty says:

    Interesting question. I’m generally a batch presser too! If I am back & forth between the sewing machine and ironing board than I tend to leave it on, unless it’s really hot in my studio then I turn it off as much as possible.

  14. Kelly says:

    My Rowenta stops heating after a few minutes of non movement, and then I also have it plugged into the wall outlet that is controlled by my wall light switch. So, as long as I flip the light switch off when I leave the room, the iron gets turned off as well. Very handy. (-:

  15. Vicki Kate says:

    Ooh, interesting. I turn it off after each session because, well I do! If I’m doing lots of pressing or there’s short intervals between pressing then I leave it on.
    Hmm, ironing cheaper than washing?! What’s with that? Would love to know if leaving it on or on/off all the time is more eco though.

  16. liza jane says:

    I leave mine on. It has a shut off switch and goes off after about two minutes. I don’t worry too much about it because it is directly beside me while I’m at the sewing machine. Not sure I’d leave it on if I had to get up and cross the room, though.

  17. Leah says:

    I live at home and was constantly getting yelled at for leaving the iron on and the ironing board up. eventually I got fed up and just bought myself a cheap iron and little ironing board for my bedroom now I have it on most of the time when I’m sewing and only go downstairs if I need a really hot iron.

  18. Stephanie says:

    I used to switch mine on and off…… because it was summer. In winter, I leave it on. I sew in our kitchen and it gets really cold there (one part of the wall is little more than wooden boards and that is where I sew). Nice little extra warmth. But I think I’ll get into the habit of leaving it on as I hope to sew more and waiting for the iron to reheat in the dead of night when I have time to sew just seems a waste of time.

  19. romney says:

    I can’t figure out how leaving the iron on would take less electricity than turning it on and off when you need it. People have a similar thing about it being better to keep the car engine running for instance when waiting at a train crossing and that’s definitely wasteful.

    I turn my iron on and off, and do a batch of seams at one time. It heats up quickly and even if I think something will only take a couple of minutes to prepare, it usually takes way longer. Or I get distracted with something else!

  20. cherrie says:

    I’m was very bad with my iron. I left it on for hours when sewing until I decided to do something better about that. I bought a power board that had switches for each plug hole. If I keep it up near either the sewing machine or the iron I can switch the iron off quite easily without having to bend down and fiddle around trying to find the switch. It solves my mental apathy problem and my iron seldom stays on for long if I am not constantly using it. However, if I am sewing then ironing then sewing then ironing, etc I will leave it on and just keep a jug of water handy to keep filling up the water well. Cherrie

  21. Geogrrl says:

    I’ve never had an iron with an “On/Off” switch. My old ones just stayed on. My newest one shuts itself off after a period of non-use.

    • LinB says:

      I think that all the irons sold nowadays in the US have that automatic off feature — no choice. Mine turns itself off quite frequently while I am in the act of pressing. Very annoying to have to bend over, unplug and replug, then wait as it reheats. I have left irons on for days, though, in the past. So I understand why manufacturers of irons have to protect us from ourselves. For short seams, when I am in a hurry — and for all flatfelled seams using the Threads magazine method — I fingerpress and sew, then press (bad form, I know, but it has worked out fine so far).

  22. MrsC says:

    I leave it on, always have. 33 years, child and woman. Never burnt myself or anyone else, never left it on by accident, burnt a hole in the carpet, nothin’. Please let this not be famous last words! 🙂 I plug my sewing machine, lamp and iron into the same power board, so I switch them all off at the wall at the same time. It’s a good system 🙂
    BTW I don’t batch press. I press as I go – the constant getting up and sitting down is good for the body ergonomic thingy. 🙂

  23. Liara says:

    Like ooobop, I leave my iron on and am constantly yelling “Watch the iron!” Mine does turn itself off after a certain period of no movement, but the plate doesn’t cool down all that quickly. Usually I start pressing before the iron tells me it’s ready, because it’s still hot enough. I am glad it turns itself off though, because it makes horrible cracking noises as it heats up, so maybe if it stayed on too long, it would just fall apart.

  24. mooncalf says:

    I can’t wait to find out what the boffins say. This niggles at me constantly when I’m sewing.

    Thank goodness for boffins!

  25. Joanne says:

    Hi guys, have posted the boffins response further up as a reply to one of the comments.

  26. Pingback: The Boffin Speaks! | Did You Make That?

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