A pressing problem concerning bookmarks

Well, not really – but as it involves bookmarks and ironing it was too good (or bad, according to your definition and taste) a pun to miss. My two bookmark testers did their worst, and they (the bookmarks, that is) bore it all with fortitude; even the one with the weak spots did not go to pieces under the strain, and the stitching stood up to it all beautifully, without so much as a cut end poking out at the end of the test period. The only mild criticism from both testers was that the bookmarks are relatively chunky, which could be a minor problem when used in very light, thin books.

Far be it from me to suggest that everyone should read only thick, heavy books, and although the felt will probably compact a little with use quite naturally, I wondered whether it might not be encouraged to do so a bit more quickly. In other words, I planned to iron them. Felt being what it is, my theory was that ironing them at a higher heat than wool would normally find comfortable might cause the fibres to fuse, making the bookmark both thinner and stiffer. Time, then, to heat up the iron and put my theory to the test. There would have to be a layer of some sort between the iron and the bookmark or I’d probably end up with a ruined iron (not to mention the bookmark), so I confiscated one of my husband’s older and tattier hankies to sacrifice to this great scientific experiment.

Next was the question of when to iron the bookmark; that is to say, at what stage of production. I chose to try it both at the tasselled-but-otherwise-untouched stage and at the stitching-attached stage. Ideally I would like to use the first method as it means I can pre-iron the bookmarks in the kits; however, if by ironing them they end up so stiff and/or solid that attaching the stitching becomes a problem, I’d have to add a note to the kit instructions about ironing the bookmarks after making them up. Not an insurmountable problem as most people have an iron kicking around the house, but nicer if they don’t have to.

Because the felt I use is handmade, no two bookmarks are the same thickness. For this experiment I chose two of the turquoise bookmarks, which seem to have come out a little thicker than the other colours on average. Here they are pre-ironing, a front view and a side view.

The two bookmarks, one with patch and one without, pre-ironing A pre-ironing side view

Using the handkerchief as a buffer between the iron (set to “Cotton”) and the felt, I got to work. Nothing much happened. The bookmark looked a little smoother, and a little thinner, but there was no fusing. Perhaps this is what I should have expected from pure wool. I tried ironing a bit without the handkerchief. No fusing, no bits of bookmark sticking to the iron. More ironing. The bookmark got a little flatter and smoother still. After a while we seemed to have reached maximum compaction, so I stopped.

So was this experiment a success? Well, the fusing and stiffening I had rather hoped for didn’t happen. On the other hand, the bookmarks are definitely thinner and smoother, and they as they didn’t stiffen it is fine to iron them before attaching the patch. This is a definite plus as the one I ironed with the patch already on it came out looking just a little, well, flat. The stitching looked a bit lifeless and had lost some of its 3D quality. The enhanced smoothness doesn’t show up very well in the picture below, although it will at least give you an idea, but the side view does show the bookmarks to be thinner than they were.

The two bookmarks, one with patch and one without, post-ironing A post-ironing side view

As the bookmarks definitely looked better ironed, as well as being a bit thinner, I decided it would be worth ironing the ones already in kits, as well as the ones I’ve got ready tasselled for my charity stitching. And as I was on a roll, I then did the two small stacks of untasselled ones I have in stock as well. Out of curiosity I decided to measure the stacks; both were 6cm high. Post-ironing one was 4.5cm high, the other 4.8cm – a 20%-25% reduction in thickness! It’s always nice to get confirmation that you’ve done the right thing smiley.

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