Giveaway Winner! & My Vintage GE Iron

Everyone, thank you so much for entering the Sew Better, Sew Faster Giveaway. Lisa G – from notes from a mad housewife won! Yay! Congratulations Lisa. An email is on its way to you.

And now, back to the business of sewing. A little while ago, my iron was on the outs. This is a common problem that seems to creep up about every two years or so. The hand held irons on the market today are pretty much crap. Seriously, crap. I’ve been through too many to be in the dark about this and I’ve been through the gamut of makes and models too. Irons ranging from $10 – $200 and they all give up the ghost at around the two year mark. Its more than inconvenient, its down right ridiculous. But as you know, such is the way of things these days. Everything is made with plastic and only lasts a few years before its time to replace it with more plastic and blah blah blah. Talk about planned obsolescence.

So its no surprise that I’ve been coveting a gravity feed steam iron. When Peter posted about this back in April I was very interested in what his readers had to say. Many were all for him purchasing one for his birthday but then I read a comment from Phyllis (CoudreMode) and knew that I was not yet in a situation where this iron would be the right purchase. I live in an apartment and like most apartments, I barely have room for my current set-up, let alone something that I wouldn’t really be able to take down and move and the whole she bang. So the gravity feed iron will remain on my list of sewing desires for now.

Instead I decided to give a vintage iron a try. When I was younger, I remembered going on a trip with a friend of my mom’s to a cabin in Colorado. Whilst at the cabin, of all things, I found a vintage Black and Decker iron (I think it was a Black and Decker, but I could be wrong) that was simply amazing. The thing still worked like a champ and the steam that it produced was nothing less than miraculous. It was like no other iron I had ever used or have ever used since. So remembering that, I decided to take my search to ebay. I found a refurbished old General Electric iron, from a reputable seller who stated that it was in working order, so I ordered it up.

The day it arrived, I put the thing to the test. The iron worked. More than that, it produces effortless steam and its something that you can always rely on having if you’ve got the button up for the steam and the iron is in the down position. I find this absolutely, without a doubt, amazing, because with irons that I’ve purchased in the past, I don’t always get steam, even if I push those stupid “burst of steam” buttons and even if the iron is in the down position. If the iron is heating up as it does often (you know, when the light is on) the steam is off (with the newer irons). Additionally, I’ve been having problems with my more modern iron not producing steam because its been plugged in for too long – like long after the “auto-off” has shut it down and then you have to shake the iron to get the “auto-off” to turn off and turn the iron back on – AAARRRRGGGHHH! You might have guessed that my vintage GE doesn’t have an auto-off. This is AWESOME! Now, of course, you have to be careful and not leave it plugged in, but at least you don’t have it shutting off every 8 minutes.

What else can I say about this iron? It has a full metal base with, what I’m pretty sure is a bake-lite handle. The cord is wrapped in fabric – the old school way. I really don’t have any idea as to how old it is. I was looking on Etsy at similar irons and several of the ads said that it dates back to the 40s, but I’m fairly certain its not quite that old. Definitely before the 80s. I daresay, it might even be from the 60s – definitely not sure though. The only thing that I would say is kind of a pain is that the iron gets really really really hot. I’ve never used an iron that gets this hot. In fact, the “linen” setting is too hot for linen! So I always do a little patch test on a corner of the fabric before I start really pressing or ironing away. And really, having an iron get too hot is better than not hot enough, which has more or less been my experience with modern day irons. You know that plastic, it just can’t handle too much heat. This vintage GE is also a good weight. It’s got just the right amount of pressure for tailoring, in my opinion. Plus with the steam factor, its a dream, a DREAM to press with.

I plan to give you an update on the iron every now and then, just to see how this old tessie holds up. I’ve been using it for about three weeks now – still running like a champ! What do you think? Do you think she’ll hold up or conk out at the two year mark? Do any of you work with a vintage iron?

  • EmSewCrazy - When I first started sewing I had a newer old one of these. It worked wonderfully well until I dropped it one too many times and the plastic cracked off the iron. So don’t drop it on hard floors.
    The only other thing to look out for is if your water has a lot of minerals in it. They can eventually clog up the steam valves but that can be fixed by cleaning the iron every so often.ReplyCancel

  • Melanie Elron - That’s a good point to remember, you shouldn’t use tap water in an old iron, I remember my mom being very strict about this. You buy distilled water at the supermarket and it has no minerals in it so should keep it clean and steaming without the residue.
    I was planning to splurge on a super-duper sewing iron, but am totally going to hunt for an old one now…thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - Hi Sunni! I loved this post, especially since I had just posted an item on irons this week on my own blog. The new retro model of Black and Decker has some toxic chemical in the wire covering I had read about, which is why I went for a new retro Hamilton Beech model. I do not use water in this machine but a spray bottle and pressing cloth.
    I loved your Craftsy course, and follow your delightful blog.
    Best wishes to you,

  • Natasha - You should definitely get one of those rubber heat protectant mats so you can leave the iron in the down position. Save some stress on your shoulders. And a teflon shoe of course.ReplyCancel

  • Sandra V. - Your iron is beautiful!
    My mother is collecting old irons. :-)
    Congratulations, Lisa.
    Sandra V. recently posted..CateringReplyCancel

  • Cherie - How cool (!) is that. I never would have thought of it. Brilliant!ReplyCancel

  • Cameron - I’ve just been thinking about irons! I used to have a great old iron that I picked up for a few dollars at a thrift store. It was reliable, very hot, and had light pink handles and features, but I decided to get rid of it right before we moved across country. Now I have a Rowenta, which is fine. I hate the auto-off, the steam is unreliable, I get calcium deposits, and it leaks water at seemingly random times. It hasn’t destroyed any fabric yet, but it seems bound to happen. Maybe it’s time to start checking thrift stores again.ReplyCancel

  • Sue - Oh, Sunni! I just wanted to say thank you for posting this topic about irons! I thought I just had bad luck with irons. My irons were breaking every other year! So, I checked out Ebay and found one that looked similar to yours. I bought the General Electric iron. Not sure if it was the F50.

    Anyway, it works great! I love this iron. I didn’t buy it for a $1, but it cost the same one as my new one. I’m not going back on this one! It’s just so heavy duty.

    Yeah, you have to make sure you unplug it, but I have it on an outlet that has a switch on it, so I just flip the switch off when I’m done with it. I had to press the red button down on the iron to fill the water tank. Duh, didn’t read the directions on the iron, so the water spilled out a bit. LOL

    Thanks again for the idea! So happy about my new old iron–wait, did I just get really excited for an iron? DH, is laughing at me again. Oh well, it’s those little things in life. :) ReplyCancel

  • Katie - Thank you for this post! I found a vintage iron with a bakelite handle on a Craigslist-like website at my university for only $5! The owner agrees with you in that it runs quite hot. Not sure if there is a working steam function, but I am excited to try it out.ReplyCancel