Sometimes when I’m browsing the internet, it seems like every quilter is pressing their blocks with a fancy, expensive iron. If you’re like me and are wondering if an inexpensive iron will do the trick, read on to see my thoughts about the Sunbeam Steam Master iron.
When it’s time for a new iron…
You know how you can have something for so long that you don’t even realize how busted it is? That was me with my iron that I bought at Zellers circa 1998. It worked well for decades, but over the last year it started leaking water from the handle. I ignored it, telling myself that it “wasn’t too bad to be ironing with a wet hand all the time” ?
Then I attended a workshop in Winnipeg, and I was able to see LOTS of different irons in action. They all worked so much better than mine! It quickly became apparent that it was time to retire my old, leaky Zellers iron.
As a quick aside if you’ve never heard of Zellers: it was a Canadian-only department store (much like K-Mart) that went out of business years ago.
Choosing a new iron
But how do you choose which iron to buy?? There are so many out there, and quilters seem to have strong opinions about all of them. I’ll admit that I was tempted to buy an expensive one like the Oliso, or a Reliable (a Canadian company!), but in the end I settled on the Sunbeam Steam Master iron that I paid $55 CAD for. And here’s why…
I’m cheap. The end!
JK – I don’t mind paying extra for a quality product. If something will last twice as long, I’m happy to pay twice as much for it. But I ALSO like to save money when I can. For instance, that Zellers iron I had for over 20 years? It was a Sunbeam that cost $30! And it pressed thousands of quilt blocks no problem. I kept that in my mind as I shopped around for a new iron.
I’ll admit that I was very drawn to the shiny expensive irons at first. But then I read the reviews and it seemed like none of them would work with my particular needs. Most of my iron-related-wishes revolved around water and steam, so let me just tell you about my special feeling about this.
Thoughts about water and irons
I know this can be a controversial subject (if things in the quilting world can really get “controversial”), so please remember that these are just MY preferences. It’s totally cool if you like to do something different with your iron.
Here comes the controversy…
I looooove putting water in my iron. It makes it nice and heavy, and I feel that the added weight helps press seams flatter. Constant steam is NOT my jam – I like to control my shots of steam and only use it when I feel it’s necessary. So I use the water-filled iron to steam stubborn seams. Whoa. Try to say that fast. “Steam stubborn seams” It’s hard!
Water hardness is a real factor!
When I first started quilting, I lived in Ottawa, which has the softest water in the whole world (or at least very soft water). I did not appreaciate this at the time and lived my life in ignorant bliss, always wondering what these CLR commericals were about or why people would even require such a product. I had never seen a hard water stain in my life! And don’t get me started on how healthy my hair and skin were. Sigh. In any case, I started my quilting journey by putting water in my iron, and got very comfortable with that method.
Then I moved to Mantioba, where the water is considered “very hard”. Ugh. The first time I put tap water in my iron I got calcium buildup on the soleplate and general nastiness all around. Since then, I’ve been buying distilled water and putting that in my iron. I tried putting tap water in a spray bottle and spritzing my fabric instead of using the iron for steam, but I found it super annoying. I’d rather wrangle one implement at the ironing board instead of two, thank you very much. So here we are!
Here’s how I feel about my inexpensive iron
I rrrrrreally wanted one of the fancy irons, but it seemed that they were all ruled out because of one feature or another (and also their $200 + price tags). So I returned to the brand that had served me well for 20 years – Sunbeam! I considered buying the exact same model as I had owned previously, but was swayed by the additional feature of a retractable cord.
What I love about it
There’s lots to love about the Sunbeam Steam Master iron! Here are some of my favourite features.
Who would even care about this, right? It seems like a silly feature, but I really like it! It makes it much easier and faster to store the iron in the closet when not in use (or when guests come to stay and I need to dismantle my sewing room).
PLUS, it means that it’s photogenic. I find cords in photos very distracting, so I try to retract it before I snap a shot. It’s a small thing, but I love it! I also get lots of comments on this if I post a picture to Instagram. People always ask “is this a cordless iron???” Haha, gotcha!
Did I mention that it was $55 CAD? What a steal!
Water + steam
I like how easy it is to fill this iron up with water – it has a large opening, and it doesn’t bubble up and spill water like my old one did. It also holds a fair amount of water, which means that I don’t have to fill it up as often.
The steam burst is powerful and I feel that it really helps get my seams flat. Combined with a wool pressing mat, I’m getting exceptionally flat seams!
I’ve used it with the always-on steam feature exactly once, but I can tell you that it produces LOTS of steam when you turn the dial to the highest setting. If you’re into that sort of thing, this is iron would suit you well!
I like that this iron stays on for a long time (15 minutes) before the timer tells it to shut off. Sometimes it takes a while to pin and sew rows together, and I don’t like to find that my iron has turned itself off in the meantime! It’s nice that the iron is still hot and ready to go after such a long time.
That being said, it does have exceptional safety features. It will turn off in 30 seconds if it falls on its side or is left with the soleplate down. And I’ll admit that sometimes I walk away from the sewing room and forget to turn the iron off. I feel a lot better knowing that it will turn itself off if that happens.
This iron (when hot) glides efforlessly over fabric. It made me realize just how beat up and no longer “non-stick” my old iron was. ? And as an unintended safety feature, the iron has to be fully hot before it glides smoothly. So I’m able to easily tell if the iron needs a few more seconds to warm up without having to touch it or do something else unsafe!
What I don’t love about it
Here are the few things that I’d change if I could…
The handle on this iron seems to be wider than my last one, and I find it less comfortable to hold than my previous iron. The first few times I used it, it felt the most uncomfortable, but I’ve been getting more used to it since then. Still, I’d love for it to be a bit slimmer.
I know I mentioned the cord in the “pros” list, and it’s true that I love its retractability. But one downside to this is that it means the cord can’t pivot. Because of this, the cord is sometimes in the way of my pressing. It also seems shorter than my last one, which has forced me to move my ironing board around in my sewing room. Not a deal breaker, but kind of annoying from time to time.
Would I buy it again?
Absolutely – look how happy it makes me! I saved hundreds of dollars on the cost of an iron, and I’m getting great results! It meets my needs perfectly, and did I mention that I saved HUNDREDS of dollars??
Only time will tell if this iron will last the 20+ years that my last one did. I’ll make sure to post an updated review if my opinion of it changes.
Who should buy the Sunbeam Steam Master iron?
I would recommend this iron to any quilter who is looking to:
- Put water in their iron
- Get powerful bursts of steam
- Make flat seams
- Save some money
- Take pretty pictures of their iron (wait, is that just me?)
If you have any questions about its functions or features, don’t hesitate to ask me below!