I absolutely love having a wool mat for pressing. When they first became popular I was very hesitant because I am a quilter who is all about steam and starch! Seriously, I will argue all day why having steam and starch is better in this world. The majority of your wool mats say to not use either, so I literally held off as long as I could from joining the world of wool mat loving pressers, and finally took the leap.
Once I got my first wool mat it was a done deal for me, I was hooked. Now…did that changed the way I pressed, and did I give up my steam and starch, NOPE! But there are a few things I adjusted to make sure my pressing surface was also protected. Now here is the downside to the world of wool pressing mats, they are expensive (and should be…wool isn’t cheap!). I spent my money on 3 name brand mats, 2 of which are about 18×24 and one that is the ironing board size. They are worth the investment! However, I have seen many say to use a wool horse pad (which is tremendously cheaper) and it would work just the same, so I’ve put it to the test, and here’s my results!
First of all, I did not go into my own tack room, and take the fabulous thick one I used to ride in with Major. That thing will permanently smell like a sweaty horse and be covered in his hair (which for us horse people smells like heaven). I also did not go to my local tack store to purchase one, because if I had been overheard saying that I would cut it all apart for ironing mats, they would have probably thought I was mad and thrown me out. So…I ordered in from Amazon. Here’s the link to the one in particular I ordered: https://www.amazon.com/Mustang-Square-Wool-Liner-30Inx30In/dp/B003LVNWSM/ref=sr_1_9?crid=MK4768L9UTWK&dchild=1&keywords=horse+wool+saddle+pad&qid=1617877431&sprefix=horse+wool%2Caps%2C154&sr=8-9
My main goal when purchasing it was to be able to cut it down to size to fit my two Martelli rotating mat and pressing boards. The pressing boards are probably around a 15-16″ diameter so I knew I’d be good with 1 wool pad. First step, mark off my boards for cutting.
I was very happy to see that both would fit just fine if I put them in diagonal corners. Big win there! Now let’s talk cutting! At first thought, I figured a razor blade/box cutter would be the winning tool….but I couldn’t find one around here. So next I went with the all purpose kitchen shears (no we don’t actually use this pair for food prep), and while they did cut, they didn’t cut well. Then I remembered the scissors of all scissors that should knock this job right out: Fiskars 9in Powercut Softgrip Shears. These things are a beast and cut through the 1/2 inch thick wool like it was a piece of paper. The edges were clean, I had 2 circles very quickly cut out to fit my boards, and a lot of leftover space to use.
So finally, I took my straight ruler, marked off some edges to make some square mats, and cut those out too. From one wool horse pad measuring 30×30 I ended up with 4 pressing mats and barely any scraps (one round is already tucked into my Martelli pressing board)!
So the final results, I’m pleased. Now, these do seem to have a little different smell compared to my other mats, but I did notice it fading quickly with use, which is a great thing. I still use starch and steam, you won’t ever take that away from me. To protect my surface, all the wool mats have been backed with some sort of wood to prevent them from sending the moisture directly onto the surface where the mat sits. This of course can easily damage the surface of your furniture if the hot moisture is left on the cabinet top. My mats are also covered on top for 2 reasons: 1. So I can easily change them out when they get stained. 2. Ella loves to sleep on my mats and use them as a scratching post if uncovered.
Would I pick these mats over the ones we see online and in our favorite quilt stores, not necessarily. They do seem to be a little bit less quality (I mean they are made for the purpose of a saddle pad and not ironing). They do still do the job, and it was a great option when I needed a unique cut and didn’t want to spend a fortune or couldn’t find what exactly I needed easily. Overall, it works for what I needed and I’m happy with that! If you go this route, but sure you have some heavy duty shears around, you’ll need them to save your own hands!
One final note on the smell of wool mats. I was asked once by my students who had ordered a mat online if it was supposed to smell. I responded with a “you mean while a filthy lamb who just came out from a rainstorm….yeah that’s normal”. I guess it doesn’t bother us farm people as much as it may bother others. I don’t find it offensive, it fades over time from usage, and I’ve never had the smell transfer into my fabric. All is good with time.