Tip #171: Ditch your ironing board.
I’m sure I’ve said it before: You don’t need much of anything small-space specific to get by in a small space. But sometimes having something specific helps.
Mostly, I’ve found, I need to find out what works for me and that finding out what works for me is usually done through a bit of trial and error, a bit of searching, and bit of just living in the space between for awhile. To be clear: I’m talking about the search for the perfect small space ironing board here, but lessons abound.
We gave away our ironing board just about a year ago. For the first time ever we’d gotten a window air conditioner and when fall rolled around, we needed a place to store it that wasn’t the window. We hemmed and hawed and played closet Tetris, and eventually we found a place to stash the A/C unit, but it cost us our ironing board.
James and I toyed with buying a small vintage ironing board—of the tiny arm ironing board variety. And we considered getting a smaller, exceedingly affordable model from Ikea. The vintage route felt precious but not practical. The Ikea route felt practical but still too bulky for the space we had available, which was approximately none. Mostly we didn’t iron anything for a few months. When we did, I put a towel on the kitchen table, which was fine, but a bit rumply. The story, of course, could end there. Making due with what I already have—rumples included—is the place I return to most often.
But in this particular case, I wanted to find a solution that better approximated the thing we’d decided to live without. Something firm enough to yield a nice crisp crease when the occasion merited one, but discreet enough to disappear when it wasn’t in use. I wanted something I knew I could use without burning the place down or ruining a bedspread or a table or anything else in my wake. Imagine my delight when on a cold March morning, I read Jolie Kerr’s piece about cleaning supplies in a tiny apartment and she mentioned a portable ironing blanket. I happily went down a rabbit hole of internet research which eventually got me to the small squares of felt that quilters use for ironing their quilt squares flat. Where the aforementioned portable blankets seem to be made with flame retardants and synthetic fibers, the quilter’s ironing pads were simple and small and made of nothing but wool felt. But they were also too small to feel practical for semi-regular use. So I emailed my internet-pal (and sponsor of this site), Angie of Byrd & Belle. We use her simple felt covers for all of our electronics and I wondered if perhaps she could supply a larger-than-average rectangle of felt for a small space ironing board solution.
Yes was the resounding cry and so here we are with a felt pad that lets me iron my fanciest blouse in four minutes flat and without needing to wrestle any kind of large squeaking board out of the closet (or back into it.) The point is: Sometimes you find exactly the solution you were hoping for. Angie made two small holes in the top corners of the mat and I hang the pad from nails in the back of the closet. The mat lies completely flat against an otherwise empty wall behind my dresses. Just what I didn’t know I needed. And just in case there’s anyone else with the particularly quirky need for a small space ironing pad, Angie’s made a few other large felt mats available on her site. (I have the mat cut from Oatmeal felt, but she’s also offering a gray option!)
Tiny apartment survival tips #1-171.
Anyone whose been around here for awhile knows that I get particular joy from filling my home with thoughtfully made goods from small producers. But there are some household essentials that are somewhat more difficult to find handmade version of—irons, and vacuums, and stainless steel straws, to name a few. To that end, I’ve put together a small Amazon storefront with some of the simple household essentials that my family relies on and that I’m often asked about. If you’re looking for a simple solution, you might find an answer there. Reading My Tea Leaves may earn small commissions from purchases made, which go toward keeping this space running.
Thank you, Angie!!!
could you please let us know when something comes from a site with a paywall? unfortunately, i do not have the budget for the nyt but do occasionally like to read an article from them. it’s frustrating to have my free articles eaten up without any warning.
thank you in advance from a long-time reader from france.
You can preview all links by hovering over them and looking at your status bar on the lower left of your browser! If you don’t have that installed on your browser, I’d highly recommend it!
I’ve also found that if you open NYT (or similar) articles in an incognito tab/browser that you can get past the monthly limit. Hope that helps!
I love this! Growing up we used the towel-on-the-table method, too, and since moving out on my own I’ve mostly just not ironed anything at all (whoops). This in between sounds absolutely perfect.
This is so timely! My husband uses our board once in a blue moon but for the those rare moments he needs it, he doesn’t want to get rid of it. This may convince him! Thank you!
This is brilliant! When my husband and I got married, we registered for an iron but forgot about the ironing board (which turned out ok because we didn’t have the space anyway) so I usually avoid ironing as much as possible, but when it must be done we’ve been using the old towel-on-the-table method.
What a great idea! How thick is the felt?
5mm! All the details here: https://www.byrdandbelle.com/products/felt-mat?variant=12679883554914
Thanks for the fast answer. I checked the link, but I cannot buy from the States (living in Denmark) without the taxes killing me 🙂 – so I will try to get it locally.
Good luck! I’m sure you’ll be able to find something similar!
I have something similar I made for my apartment–we also don’t have room for an ironing board! We were able to find natural felt (used for sound proofing) in thicknesses up to 1/2 inch at a local fabric store, and a yard cost us about $15. It isn’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as Erin’s, but it gets the job done. They had a few different choices of color (white, cream, gray, charcoal, etc). I just asked at my local fabric store and they were incredibly helpful!
What a cool way to access your recs. Surely I will be checking back. Thank you!
Erin, would you consider listing some (or all!) of your other recommendations ( for items that are not available on Amazon)? I like the “Products” info on Zero Waste Home. Would love to see something similar here!
Maybe one day! I can imagine it’s nice to have everything in one spot, but the work of cataloguing it all is a little daunting! For now the Simple Stuff series has some other favorites!
I rarely iron my clothes, but on occasion I need to, and this is one of the options I’d consider doing! The other is a portable steamer.
Natalie | http://nataliesalchemy.wordpress.com
Yes! Our iron doubles as a semi-effective steamer, and both are helpful!
Erin, thank you for the Amazon store! Also, if you have time — which little brush is that in the closet picture at the top? My ironing board is going to be donated (it’s vintage); ironing mat, here I come! Thanks so much.
You’re welcome! I hope it’s helpful! There’s a little brush like it in the kids’ section but we got ours at Acorn Toy Shop in Brooklyn!
My husband irons dress shirts on a weekly basis. Our ironing board just broke, and I suggested getting something similar to this but he expressed concerns about difficulty ironing on a flat surface without the ability to utilize the edges of an ironing board (for sleeves and things). Does that make sense? Do you have any insights or feelings on that issue?
Totally makes sense! I just do my best and try not to worry about it!
Hm, if your husband uses the board weekly and space isn‘t an issue for you, I would stick to a proper ironing board. It‘s a tool that gets used and therefore earned its place in your home. Dress shirts are a real nuisance to iron, I couldn‘t imagine ironing mine without, especially on a regular basis!
I have never owned an ironing board, and most of the ironing I do is for sewing. but we always do it on the bed., we just pull the covers up and we have an ironing board!
I’m flummoxed as to how a piece of felt 5mm thick costs $80.
Alt-ironing board experience that cracks the budget. I’ll try shopping for some felt by the yard that closely approximates this, punch some holes it the top for hanging and forgo the feeling of being slightly foolish.
Hey there! I’m sure Angie could break down the true cost of 100% wool felt for you if you were interested!
perfect timing as i’ve been trying to figure out a non ironing board solution too…bummed the site is already sold out but will be sure to get one soon. thanks for sharing!
Wondering if you have considered a steamer? I tried one after an enthusiastic recommendation from my brother a few years ago and I will never go back! I got a compact travel model that is smaller than my iron and it is wonderful – it gets out wrinkles in no time, is way less fussy than an iron, and is great for small spaces as you can just hang the garment on the back of a door while you steam. (The only reason I still have the iron is for flattening hems for sewing -otherwise I would get rid of it!)
Our iron can function like a steamer, but I still kind of like a good crease sometimes!
I love my little canister vacuum from metro vac. Made in USA, and they repaired it too!!!
Oh! This seems fantastic. I also do most of my ironing for sewing projects, so need a really firm, flat surface. (To the lady above who uses a bed, how do you press tiny hems? ♀️)
Another idea for folks who need something portable but maybe to be done on a smaller budget would be to Google “pressing board sewing” (without quotes) and you’ll find some DIYs involving wood, part of a quilt batting, and some light-colored fabric. A bit more involved than a nice piece of wool though!
For sewing I covered a square foot of scrap plywood with cotton padding and a muslin cover. The padding came from a recycled futon – the rest of the cotton ended up as yoga bolsters. And I do use a vintage folding sleeve board that I kind of adore cuz it’s just neat.
Your felt mat is lovely, Erin. I would be a bit worried about using it on a wood table because the steam could damage the surface depending on the age of the finish.
It’s thick enough that the heat doesn’t transfer unless it’s on the hottest setting! Using with care, but very pleased with the upgrade!
A gentle reminder that in spite of all the convenience it offers, Amazon in a corporate behemoth that grossly mistreats its employees and its third party affiliates, is conspiring to have far too much control over how we get our products, our food, and our news. It is the leading cause of the disintegration of “third places”, which make out communities vibrant. It is really hard to avoid, but I think really needs to become more of a focus for responsible consumption.
I understand these feelings completely and none of this is lost on me. I have really mixed feelings about Amazon and using their affiliate program, but for now it is a way that I’m able to earn income for this site and keep it running. I’ve tried to choose items carefully here and to direct people to the items that are sold through Amazon by the companies making the products themselves.
Love this! Also wondering where you purchased your beautiful wooden hangers?
They’re a hodgepodge from different places (here’s a longer post about hangers!), but I think most are from Ikea.
Oh boy, this brings back memories. We’ve always had an ironing board at home and I use mine all the time for things other than ironing – scrapbooking and other arts and crafts, sorting paperwork, folding clean washing. My grandmother however, never had an ironing board. I think it was a space saving measure for her too because she didn’t have a separate laundry room or closet suitable to store it easily. Her way was to use a folded woollen blanket with an old cotton sheet on top, all set on the kitchen counter or dining table. I learned to iron my grandfather’s handkerchiefs on that ironing pad, looking out the dining room window at the river and hills beyond. Thank you for your book and blog, which I’ve just discovered. I don’t live in a tiny apartment but your ideas resonate with me because I’m trying to simplify my home and possessions right now.
What a great solution! We previously used a fabric mat for ironing (it could be rolled up when not in use) from Real Simple’s collection for Bed Bath and Beyond. However, it was definitely synthetic and probably had flame retardants in it… Now we’ve switched to a travel-size steamer and I find it sooo much easier than ironing!
Just made my first purchase from your Amazon storefront. Happy to support this blog that has given me much inspiration and encouragement.
Thanks so much for your support and thanks especially for reading! So glad you’re here.
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