I’m sure you don’t know what this is. Go ahead and prove me wrong (if you can)

Back in 2012, I wrote a post on my blog expressing my excitement over a sewing gadget that was brand new to me and that Mr. Q referred to as the Cast Iron Crinkle Cutter. These ancient irons are known as fluting irons, and they are considered to be specialist irons.

Look, there it is, putting in work!

In spite of the fact that I had every intention of really making trim with my fluting iron, I have instead been using it as a door stop and a decorative object (in my sewing area, right next to my modern iron!). since I’ve been the owner of it. I am now working on a project from 1875 that has a pleated trim around the skirt, and I had the idea that perhaps instead of knife pleating, I should attempt a sample with my fluting iron! I reasoned that if I loved it and could figure out how to make it work, I would put it as a trim on the dress I was making.

An Overview of the Past

Since the beginning of time, people have employed the usage of specialized irons in order to make a variety of ruffles and trims. The fluting iron that I own, in addition to a great many other kinds of irons from all over the world and dating back a few thousand years, was among the numerous kinds of irons that were discussed on two websites that I discovered recently. This one provides a synopsis of ironing’s development throughout the years. This one focuses primarily on the many types of irons used throughout history. Additionally, this film from the Oshawa Community Museum examines certain ironing instruments that were used to produce late Victorian ruffles. Specifically, the video focuses on the many types of fluting irons that were available at the time.

In the process of gaining additional knowledge about fluting irons, I also learned that irons made of flat cast iron are referred to as sad irons. (I could have read that previously, but I don’t think I ever remembered the word, so it seems like new information!) They are not referred to as “sad” because of their disposition, but rather due to the fact that in the past, “sad iron” referred to iron that was solid as opposed to hollow (to be filled with heating devices, such as charcoal). The adjective “heavy” was also associated with the term “sad,” and a melancholy iron may weigh up to 15 pounds. This simply serves to further illustrate the point that doing laundry in the 19th century was backbreaking labor (hand scrubbing, transporting buckets of water to heat, maintaining the stove or fire, harsh soaps, continually renewing the washing water… laborious!). * This version of my explanation of sad iron is an altered version of the original. Check out this post, which was written after the one you are currently reading, to learn more about the origin of the words “sad,” “sad iron,” and “box iron” (the name for a hollow iron). It was published after the one you are currently reading.

Considerations about the pragmatic nature of beginnings

In relation to my fabric, I had the strips that I wanted to flute ready to go before I ironed them. This ensured that the fluting went well. I had finished sewing the hem on one of the long sides, and all that was left to do was push the other edge under (that would become the top edge). It’s possible that, given the crispness of the silk I’m working with, I could have gotten away with simply pressing under the hem and the top edge, but oh well. Long before I made the final decision to flute them, I prepped them and made sure they were hemmed.

In relation to the fluting iron, I carried out these procedures (or at least gave some thought to carrying them out):

Cleaning: I used dish soap and a toothbrush to really get into all of the grooves on both pieces of my fluting iron and remove the grit and filth that had accumulated over time (I don’t want those on my silk fabric!). Cleaning:

The process of drying: In order to avoid rust from forming, I carefully dried the iron, and then I also let it air dry overnight (even though I recognized that if I were to use it right away, the heat would cause all of the water to evaporate anyhow…)

Seasoning is a technique used to prevent rust from forming on cast iron cookware that has not been coated. I decided against doing it with my iron at this particular time. I have read that well-seasoned cast iron will not release oil into your fabrics, but right now I just wanted to get started on my experiment. I might do it later on, but for now I just wanted to get things rolling.


It is important to note that the cast iron becomes far too hot to hold with bare hands or to put directly on the counter in order to use it. Because of this, in addition to the two portions of the iron, I also employed a range of other kitchen items in this experiment.

I used the baking sheet, cookie drying rack, and cast iron frying pan that you will see in various photographs at various stages. In addition, I utilized the silicone baking materials that are displayed below, which include a heavy mitt, a small trivet, and a large trivet.

I also utilized a spatula, a tiny spray bottle, white vinegar from my pantry, and water from the kitchen sink. This helped me to have a better hold on the bottom of the iron when I was removing it from the frying pan.

Method #1 (the slow and steady way to heat the fluting iron)

When heating and using, I placed both halves of my fluting iron on a baking sheet and placed it in a regular oven to heat. Since I was unable to discover any directions that were explicit regarding the temperature or the amount of time, I decided to play it safe and start with 175 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. (This is partly due to the fundamental information that can be found on Wikipedia about the ideal ironing temperatures for various kinds of fabrics; however, you should also take a look at the picture of the tailor’s stove that can be found on the right-hand side of the page; having a stove that can heat multiple irons at the same time makes a lot of sense if you iron a lot, as tailors do!)

In tests conducted on my silk, this had very little of an effect. Therefore, I re-heated the iron pieces in the oven at 175 degrees Fahrenheit for another ten minutes. This worked slightly better, but the flutes still weren’t as tight as I had hoped they would be. The outcomes of the first 10 minutes of heating can just just be seen on the left, while the consequences of the second 10 minutes of heating can be seen on the right.

I took the iron pieces out of the oven, raised the temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, and placed them back in for another ten minutes. This time around, I also chose to make use of vinegar in order to assist in the setting of the flutes. After filling a spray bottle with a mixture that consisted of half white vinegar and half water, I sprayed the portion of silk that I planned to iron. On the left, the sprayed silk is positioned to be fed into the iron, while on the right, the finished product can be seen emerging from the iron.

This worked much better, but I still had the impression that I needed more heat to achieve a good sizzle and press, so I raised the temperature of the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and left the pieces in there for another 10 minutes. This seems like the appropriate level of warmth! As a final product, there is a slight sizzle left on the silk from where the liquid evaporated, and the flutes are quite tight.

The following is a comparison of two different samples of silk. The one on the bottom utilized vinegar, and it was cooked at a lower temperature: 175 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit. The sample that was heated at 275 degrees Fahrenheit with vinegar was the one that is positioned on top.

In terms of rewarming, I discovered that the iron lost its heat really rapidly. After every five minutes of use, I rewarmed it for ten minutes in the microwave. Despite the fact that it was not the most effective method (I can really appreciate why you would have a set with numerous irons to keep them hot while not in use), the task was completed on a Saturday afternoon using this method. Approximately 4 hours were spent fluting 106 inches of fabric while experimenting with different temperatures.

In addition to using vinegar (which made a major difference in terms of creating crisp flutes! ), I discovered that it was rather crucial to slide the iron over the base in a very slow and deliberate manner in order to generate the flutes. Setting: A single pass through did not accomplish what needed to be done, and getting each and every flute to line up perfectly so that it may be done numerous times is much simpler to say than to achieve. I swayed the iron from one side to the other, making an effort to keep each little part in place for at least a few seconds before going on to the next one. I was able to split roughly two complete boulders with the iron before it became necessary for me to reheat it.

Method #2 (the much more efficient way)

Heating: After I had finished the first of three 106-inch sections of trim, a friend who had an interest in science suggested that I would have a much more efficient transfer of heat to the iron pieces if I were to heat them directly on my stove in a cast iron pan. This friend’s suggestion was made after I had completed the first of the three 106-inch sections of trim. This was a stroke of genius!

I began by setting my pan’s heat to a relatively low temperature because it is far simpler to get cast iron up to temperature than it is to bring it back down. Because this specific burner on my stove gets really hot, I maintained the temperature of the pan at about a two out of ten on the scale of heat. It is more difficult to explain to other people what I did, but I heated the iron for around ten minutes, or until I could feel radiant heat emanating from the base of the iron when it was removed from the pan and my hand was one to two inches away. A drop of water was yet another method that I utilized to examine the head. When it was dropped onto the cast iron at this temperature, it evaporated almost immediately.

When it came to rewarming, using the cast iron pan rather than the oven was a far more efficient option. After using the iron for about 5 minutes, I had to reheat it, but this time I only had to let it sit for 5 minutes before using it again. Because I wasn’t moving a pan into and out of the oven, it was much simpler for me to let the top part of the iron sit on the pan while I moved the cloth along the base piece of the iron. This made the process considerably faster. I was able to do three or four full rocks of the iron before having to reheat it. This was possible because the iron was warmer than it had been when I was using the oven, and because I had more experience using it. Because of this, the production of my second and third lengths of fabric measuring 106 inches took only approximately an hour each. This method is so much quicker than using the oven!

You can clearly see the crisp flutes that were achieved using this procedure.

Setting: In order to assist me in setting all of these flutes, I made use of a spray made of vinegar and water. It ought to assist in the fabric’s continued maintenance of this shape (short of me completely soaking the fabric). I tried a light spritzing at first, but the heat caused the liquid to evaporate very rapidly, so I switched to just make it pretty drenched instead. Sometimes I would even spray some on the fabric directly under the iron if it had evaporated before I got to that point in the rocking action.

Another perspective on the strip of fabric that is just halfway completed is presented here.

Reflections on the Experiment Completed

This was a lot of fun! Since I’ve worked out how to do it, using my fluting iron for further crafts is definitely something I want to do, and it should be much simpler now that I know how.

I will remark that practice makes a significant difference in terms of the speed with which one can flute, which is necessary to prevent the iron from becoming too cold. Once you remove the iron from where it was being heated, you won’t have much time left to ponder!

A final stack measuring roughly 318 inches in length of fluted trim! I’m intrigued by the prospect of figuring out how to sew this on. I believe that using a sewing machine will squash the flutes, and I don’t believe that I would want a line of machine stitches either, so I will most likely sew it on by hand, catching just the valleys in the fabric and avoiding the hills. It’s a good thing I enjoy sewing by hand!

During my search for information to help me get started on this experiment, I came across a few folks who were experimenting with vintage fluting irons. The following are some other practical experiments that you might want to look into, in case there are others who are interested:

In 2011, Katherine of The Fashionable Past tested out a fluting iron and wrote about her experience on her blog, which can be found here. She also included a video.

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