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October 21, 2020



My favorite little device is a "wooden iron" which I use constantly when working on smaller pieces. I don't have to get up and use the iron as much and my starched fabric has a nice crisp seam.


I don’t use that particular wooden block method, but I use a ruler with something heavy on top. I find it too tedious to do this after every seam, so I do it only with 1 completed large block or a group of 4 completed smaller blocks at a time.

I do a final press (with steam, but pressing up and down only! No ironing/driving around over the fabric, of course) of the open seams, then place the hot and damp quilt block on my desk, place a large 16x16 ruler on top, and then place something heavy on top of the ruler (2 jars of buttons, a big book, etc). I leave it like that until it’s fully cool and dry, which means at least 30 mins. I tend to do this right before I leave my sewing room to do something else because it does take up space. I have young kinds and rarely have more than an hour to sew at a time, so this is a method that works well for me because I’m frequently popping in and out of my sewing room. I learned this in a class on mini quilts, when seams must be even more precise, but I now apply it to blocks of any size.


What's old is new again...I got mine on sale for $3 a very long time ago. I saw Nancy Zieman use it back in the '80's.

Jane Eilderts

I am on the fence with this. I use a wool mat and feel like I get the same final product. I know Kimberly does not use a wool mat. After seeing your seams, I think I will pass and add more rulers instead! Ha Ha.

Rebecca Ball

It works best if left in place awhile. I have a big piece of plywood, about 16" that I use when pressing blocks. I do the final press, slip the block under the plywood, then keep doing it, laying the blocks on top of each other under the plywood. It is especially useful on star blocks. You can read a lot more about them in Judy Martin's spectacular stars book.

Nancy L Buennemeyer

I have a clapper and use it for some cottons that don't get as sharp a press. "Seams" to help! The combination of a wool mat and the clapper do a nice job. I've got an old fashioned tailor's ham and a holder. I bought both the holder and the clapper from the same shop on Etsy.


I think it works better if you've used steam to press the block and then lay the clapper on it while it's still hot. They're typically made out of a very hard wood that absorbs the moisture and keeps the heat pressed against the fabric. It's like keeping the iron on there longer, but without the risk of scorching your fabric.
Not sure if that makes sense :)

Terry Smith

When you press (not iron) those seams with steam and use a clapper, the clapper puts weight on the seam and also absorbs the steam which flattens the seams. When I don't use the clapper my seams they seem to want to start standing up on their own as the steam evaporates. The longer I can leave the clapper on the seam, the flatter it becomes.

Cindy Kuipers

I use one of these with a wool mat. I press the seam, place the clapper on the seam, and leave it there while I sew the next seam. Usually, by then the seam is nicely flattened.


I use one I had from garment sewing years ago. In my experience it makes the most difference on seams which are bulkier and if I use steam. Heat alone doesn’t seem to do the trick. I also find it works better without my wool mat, which is too padded for the clapper to do its job. Hope these ideas help!


I got my Dad to make me a couple of these in his shop. When I remember to use them I do so on a hard flat surface after pressing. Two is definitely better than one, so no waiting. I would suggest going to your local "lumber" shop and have them cut you a couple short lengths of HARDWOOD, and you can see if this would work for you. Cheap at a fraction of the cost. The main features are; hardwood, smooth, flat. If you know someone with a shop then they can round them up for you and contour the sides. EZPZ. Just saying


I've heard of a clapper...cousin of the ham...but have never used one. Lots of good suggestions from readers who have some experience using them. Thanks for bringing up the topic!

Karen Likens

I spritz my complete block with Best Press and then put a pressing sheet on top and then press with the iron for a minute or a bit less. The blocks are very flat when I lift up the pressing sheet.

Karen L.


I use an old square ruler - a brand I bought when I first started quilting. I leave it until the block dries. This was a suggestion from a quilt instructor a long time ago, and I find it does result in a very flat block.

Not sure I would use a good ruler, since I'm afraid the heat and steam might distort it.

Karen N.

You gave me a flashback to the days of home economics class. Remembering using one when making wool garments. Wasn't very impressed with them then. As I recall.....which was way too far back...ha ha......we used to hit the ironed, warm wool with the clapper to breakdown the fibers. Hope you get it figured out!! =:)


I've had one for years. Keep an eye out for them at garage & estate sales, or as Yvonne said - get a hardwood block at the lumber yard - not cheap pine as any knots can hold sap. Sand until smooth, don't add any finish. And they do work best to let it sit on the fabric until cooled. I always assumed a ruler would melt or warp.


I took several classes from Jan Vaine and she always suggested ironing smaller pieces on a wooden cutting board. That would probably work in lieu of a clapper too and would cost less.


I have avoided extra notions and still come up with quilts I like. It makes me wonder why we work to get everything so flat, and then take them to a quilter to puff them up.


Seriously, quilting should be a pleasure, not a work. So if this brings you joy to use, then Go for it! For me, it is too fiddley and time consuming. No pleasure is waiting by the iron. I use starch, steam and a wool mat. Done!


A friend sent me a wooden resin float that she bought at a big box store and it works like a charm. It has a handle and is about 14" x 3". It is not particularly heavy, but it did make my seams nice and flat. It cost around $11.00


As a Home Economics student, I learned to use a clapper in clothing construction courses during the mid 1960s at Iowa State University. One of my large clappers was hand made from beautiful walnut. I purchased it at a thrift shop for $1.00.

If you are low on funds or just want to try before purchasing, visit your local thrift shops.

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