One of the most important parts of sewing has nothing to do with your sewing machine at all. It's the pressing process. The better job you do pressing your project, the more professional the result. We recently discovered a specialty pressing tool that has become a new favorite: the Steady Betty pressing surfaces. Originally designed for quilters, these boards are great for all kinds of pressing tasks. Their special surface gently holds your fabric in place, which means less stretching and distortion. And, they stay cooler than a traditional ironing board surface, but still allow enough heat to be delivered to the fabric. No more "ouchie" fingers when working with tiny binding folds or opening ¼" seams. Steady Betty has a wide variety of products. We took a look at their Original pressing board, the new Press & Pin board and a Pedal Betty, which keeps your machine's foot controller from creeping away from you.
The Original Steady Betty
Each board is a double layer wrapped in Steady Betty's special foam-type material.
We tested a 12" x 12" board. This Original style is also available in 12" x 16, 16" x 16" and 15" x 24". These are well-thought out sizes. They're small enough to work right on your cutting mat, which I thought was handy because I could quickly switch from cutting to pressing. But still big enough to act as a little design board to test out piecing patterns. Lay your pieces down in different configurations to determine the best look. They stay right where you place them until you decide to move them... unlike when I work on a cutting mat or table top.
The specially wrapped surface does indeed stay cooler than an ironing board, which is so nice when working with smaller pieces of fabric. It is very smooth to iron over. I thought the foam-type surface might cause the iron to grip and jerk, but that is not the case at all. The surface grips the fabric but the iron glides across. They do not recommend using steam with these Original style boards.
The Press & Pin Steady Betty
Our tester board was the 16" x 16" option.
You can also get 12" x 12", 12" x 16" and 15" x 24". It has a thicker foam surface than the Original, so you can pin into it. However, it's not super soft like a pincushion; sharper, stronger pins are your best choice.
This was a great surface to work on to pin narrow binding in place.
The thicker surface on the Press & Pin allows you to use light steam.
The Pedal Betty
One of my pet peeves is how a machine's foot controller can inch away from me while I sew. The Pedal Betty is a perfect solution. It's rectangular so it will fit both your controller and your foot.
Some shoes or rough floor surfaces can tear the Pedal Betty. I don't recommend high heels.
But I don't usually get dressed up to sew; my normal jeans and shoes were just dandy.
All the Steady Betty products came with a few care notes to prolong their life. If something is left on the surface, it can leave a little "dimple" behind. If this happens, they recommend simply misting the surface with plain water and then pressing with a warm iron. Do not try to scrub the surface as it can tear. A lighter weight iron is also suggested, which is what I happened to have anyway. As with any surface, leaving a hot iron on the Steady Betty may leave a mark. It doesn't usually affect the surface, but it certainly doesn't look very nice. Natural and artificial light can fade the color of the special surface fabric. Again, that's a cosmetic issue more than a performance issue, but storing the board flat and away from the light is a good practice.
You can find the Steady Betting products at fabric and quilting stores as well as online, including:
Fabric Quilt Shop - they had one of the best varieties we found