When I started the craft of quilting, I soon discovered how frustrating it is to get up from the sewing machine every time you need to press some seams into place. Every time you get up, you interrupt the flow of your work and everything takes longer. Since my craft room is too small to accommodate a full-sized ironing board, I made a portable pad that I could place to the side of my sewing machine.
Being very thrifty minded and wanting it in a bit of a hurry too, I opted for an easy no-sew way to make my mini board using only items I already had to hand. This included a couple of large place mats which were no longer in use, an old towel and a couple of kitchen dish and tea towels for padding and some pretty cotton fabric for the top cover.
You can substitute the place mats for a sheet of plywood, chipboard or even several thick sturdy cardboard pieces stuck together. You need a base which is nice and firm but not too heavy for you to pick up when you need to move it.
1: Materials and Tools for this Project
- A couple of large-sized place mats or alternatives for the base
- An old clean bath towel
- A couple of clean kitchen dish tea towels
- Piece of clean cotton fabric for the top cover
- A glue gun and scissors
As mentioned, I had two large place mats going spare which were just the size I wanted for my mini ironing mat and ideal for ironing small patches of quilting. These made for a really nice and sturdy base. If you don’t happen to have any place mats, you can make the same project by using a piece of thin but strong plywood or chipboard cut to the exact size that you want.
Alternatively, a very low-cost option is to use some really thick cardboard (such as the type you get with box packaging) and stick several sheets of this together until you make your own very sturdy base. This option will be nice and firm to press your quilting and other projects on once covered.
2: Using a Glue Gun instead of Staples
Some people like to use heavy-duty staples for projects like this but I prefer to use my glue gun. It is possible to substitute the glue gun for staples. The only point you need to note about using a glue gun with this project is that you should always be gluing on the back of your board only. Make sure you do not add any adhesive on the front where you will eventually be ironing your projects. 
If you happen to have glue on the front of your finished pad, even if it’s underneath padding or fabric, you may reactivate this adhesive by placing a hot and steamy iron on top. So all glue must go to the back of the project on the underneath of your finished mat.
Bearing in mind that you need to place adhesive on the back, smother lots of glue on the middle of the place mat (or your base) and stick it on your bath towel. I had my bath towel laid out in front of me vertically and lined the bottom edge of the place mat with the bottom edge of the towel. I stuck the middle area first before turning over, lifting up each edge of towel and applying the glue to firmly stick the sides down as well.
3: Trim the Padding to Size
Trim all the towel away from the sides and the bottom edge of the base. Do not cut away the towel at the top because you will wrap it around again over the top of your base and then wrap it back over to the reverse side. Then you can glue it again to fix the towel securely in place at the bottom. Cut away any excess towel from the sides. If you have enough towel to spare, you can wrap it around the mat again and glue it at the back to increase the padding.
4: Pad the Board out More
Once you’ve finished with the towel, you can add a couple of thick kitchen dish towels over the top of your base and glue them at the back. Here I’ve stuck one on and am trimming off the excess fabric from the sides.
5: Finish the Padding
Wrap the second kitchen dish towel over the front so that it will cover over the cut edges from the first one. This makes some nicely padded sides for your pretty fabric cover to go on top.
Glue this second towel in place at the back and trim as necessary. Note how I’ve laid mine with the pattern facing down so my pretty fabric cover can sit over the top without any designs showing through from underneath. If you have plain white dish towels, this is not an issue.
6: Covering the Mini Ironing Board
You need a piece of fabric for the cover of your ironing pad which is enough to go over the front and be glued at the back. I choose a cotton fabric which was easy to stretch over the sides. I glued one side at a time and stretched the fabric over the corners to the back before fixing in place.
The back will look a mess but try to keep it fairly flat. This is where the second place mat came into play because I stuck this on the back to finish it all off nicely. It covers over the fabric at the reverse side and gives you a totally flat back with a nicely padded front. If you are not using place mats, you can finish your backing with a piece of faux leather cut to size, some linoleum or even a piece of thick felt. It finishes the ironing board off perfectly and you are then ready to start ironing your quilt projects.
Here’s how my finished mat or board looks. It is large enough for me to press quilting seams on smaller projects such as patchwork just as I am showing in the photo.
A Portable Ironing Pad is a Great Addition to Your Sewing Kit
I love my finished pad as it’s just the right size for ironing my patchwork, my quilting and other small projects. It allows me to press seams into place while not having to get up from my sewing machine. Having it right beside me saves a lot of time and it means that I can sew and iron all in the same room. The board is small enough to store away when it is not in use and light enough to move around the home as needed. Now it has become an essential piece of my sewing kit.
Image Credit: all images on this page belong to the author of this article, Marie Williams Johnstone