Anyway, in honour of such, I'm going to nominate my favourite sewing tool:
|Other brands of iron are available... :-)|
I know it looks ridiculous, but it's true. I just can't sew without my iron, board and press-cloth. I have this set up right next to my machine all the time, preferably with minimum moving distance between the two.
Advantage: Lazy lady doesn't have to move more than 2ft to get to the iron.
Disadvantage: Numerous close shaves relating to knocking the hot iron off and scorching my feet, or worse: the carpet.
In my opinion, it ought not to be called "sewing", but rather "ironing", as I spend more time pressing my seams than I do sewing them. I feel it's absolutely key to getting a professional finish. I know some find it a pain to always iron, and while I sympathise a little (household ironing is indeed tiresome), I find sewing ironing completely different. It gives you some thinking space before the next step and time to appreciate your work so far. Plus, subsequent seams always seem to work better if the first lot have been pressed.
In my forays into quilting and tailoring, I read that one ought not to sweep the iron from side-to-side when ironing, but rather "press" downwards, then lift the iron before moving it. This stops woven fabric distorting, and means your patchwork or garment pattern pieces do not stretch oddly. Since making that change, I can personally vouch for what a huge difference this makes! Suddenly my carefully cut pieces all match!
As the photo suggests, I have a cheapo iron with a stainless steel sole plate. I find it quite adequate for my needs, so long as it can do a good steam shot for tailoring. You can get those fancy-pants constant steam ones with a separate water tank and generator; while I found one good for thick wool coat fabrics and quilting cottons, it was a disaster when trying to press delicate silks. So on balance I would opt for the £20 one over the £200 version any day.
A final note on sole-plates. You can get nasty whiffy sole-plate cleaner that looks like a glue-stick which you can rub on your hot stainless-steel soled iron. It makes all the fusible interfacing glue that was stuck to it go away and your house will smell horrid for hours. But at least you have a sparkly new looking iron, and a new-found love for your press-cloth in the future. I've no idea what you do to clean a ceramic one.
A tangential note: My iron photo looks like it wouldn't be out of place in Barbie's house- argh! If only the pink iron hadn't been the best value. Also, have you noticed that a size "M" cleaning glove fits an average woman's hand, while a size "M" latex glove for the lab fits an average man's hand? Women: know your limits! ;-)