In sewing, it definitely pays to have the pressing equipment you need. Beyond a good iron there are many helpful pressing aids (more on that later!), but first of all you need at least one good pressing surface.
Ironing boards can take a lot of heat and wear and eventually need to be re-covered. New covers are widely available, but it's a fairly simple project to re-cover your board in a fun and sturdy fabric of your own choosing, like this fabulous pattern-piece print that Care gave me.
Since I have a dedicated sewing space, my own 1974 model ironing board is always up, and it provides an extra flat surface and a stable pressing area--but smaller, table-top boards work for smaller projects, are easily portable and storable, and maximize your sewing space. I needed one!
I often see table-top ironing boards at the thrift store, and I've been watching for one to use next to the sewing machine so I can I press small seams without getting up. I can also easily take it to sewing groups, and stash it away as needed. I found one with sturdy metal legs that fold flat, and rubber tips to protect the table.
It also had a (hideous) polyester-blend cover and polyester padding, so off they go! Here's how to re-cover your ironing board, small or large:
l. Materials: Pressing surfaces need to be 100% natural materials! Use a good quality, sturdy, 100% cotton fabric for the new cover. If the existing padding is good quality and in good condition, it can definitely be re-used. I replaced my padding with two layers of Warm and Natural batting, using the old padding for a pattern.
A sturdy cord, pulled through a casing, gathers the edge of the cover to the underside of the board and tightens it to fit. The cord in my existing cover is in good shape, so I'm re-using it. Otherwise, purchase a strong cord long enough to circle your entire ironing surface.
2. Cut: Use your old cover as a pattern--mine was a little skimpy, so I added a bit of width on each side. If your new fabric is directional, be sure to align it in the right direction!
3. Casing: There are two options for the casing--first, use a wider bias tape to encase the cut edge of the cover as above, starting and stopping at the center of the flat end of the piece. See my suggestions for working with bias tape, here.
Starting and ending at the opening, thread your cord through the bias casing with a bodkin, as above. The bodkin securely grips the end of a cord or elastic and pulls it smoothly through a casing. Get it on the notions aisle of your fabric store, it's a great tool!
Second, you could use a zigzag stitch to sew over the cord and make a thread casing, as above. This is similar to the finish you will see on most purchased ironing board covers, and can work well, but be certain not to stitch too close to the edge of the fabric or the stitches could tear out. If you have a cording foot for your machine, it will be helpful. Be careful not to stitch into the cord itself, or it won't slide through the thread casing!
4. Cover: smooth the finished cover over your padded board, and loop one end the cord over the other once, as if starting to tie a bow. Begin to pull the cord to fit, easing the fullness along each side to the pointed end of the board. When it's as tight and smooth as possible, knot it off--I used a pair of surgical forceps from my sewing tool kit to clamp the cord and keep it from slipping while I tied it off. They have come in handy more than once in sewing!
That's it! The little press board will be useful. Now, my ironing board needs a little attention. . .