Monday, March 26, 2012

How to glue your iron


Today, I covered my iron with glue. Twice.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give this idea no more than a 3. It misses the bottom score purely because it did come off and the first coating peeled away in a single layer, which was satisfying in a similar manner to popping bubble wrap.

This whole sticky scheme started with curtains. I feel I could be forgiven for not correctly predicting the outcome.

The main room in my apartment has a set of patio doors which lead onto a small balcony. In Japan, it is normal for every apartment to have a washing machine, but rather less common for them to have a tumble drier. People therefore hang their clothes out on their balconies which have built-in racks for exactly that purpose. If it ever stops snowing, I'll be able to give that a go.

Since I like looking at the city lights, acquiring curtains for these glass expanses has been low on my job list. The neighboring apartments near me are also not as tall, so I've been blithely waving away the possibility that my indecent state in the mornings can be seen by half of Sapporo. If anyone sees that the site '' has been registered, let me know. Nevertheless, the windows do look rather bare without curtains at least framing their perimeter and their absence is often commented on by visitors.

This weekend was not the first weekend I set out to correct this negligence. What had thrown my previous attempts asunder was the difficulty in acquiring the appropriate length of material. My measurements indicated I needed a 188 cm curtain, but the curtains on offer were either 178 or 200 cm. This was particularly perplexing because almost everything else in Japan is a neat standard size, so why on Earth couldn't I find the perfect fit in window outfitting? The architect for my building was clearly a rebel.

Anyone about to suggest I make my own curtains should finish reading this post first. You will then abandon such a notion.

After confirming that a 178 cm curtain would make my home look like a gangly teenager after an unfortunate growth spurt, I reluctantly purchased the 200 cm curtains. My bold plan was to hem these up to the appropriate length. Judging from the time it had taken me to raise the back of my trousers so they didn't trail in the mud, it seemed likely this project would be finished around Christmas.


Then I would do the second curtain.

On the look out for pet food, I found myself in a haberdashery. This happens when you can't easily ask for directions. Taking advantage of this discovery (since I had no idea what 'haberdashery' would be in Japanese), I hunted down some matching thread for said shortening project and then spotted a truly awesome solution: the no-sew tape for hemming. While I had never used this before, I understood the idea. You only needed an iron. I had an iron. It would shortly be covered in glue.

At home, I hung one of the curtains and pinned it to the length I wanted. I then examined the instructions with the no-sew tape. They were brief… and in Japanese. Still, it wasn't like I really ever read instructions even when in English. I looked at the picture. It appeared to show a strip of no-sew tape being placed just inside your desired hem and then this tape sandwich being ironed. Between curtain and iron there was a second wad of cloth, which I assumed was to protect the curtain from the iron's scalding surface. I shook out the pack and found the roll of no-sew tape and a separate bundle of cloth. This cloth was CLEARLY the curtain protector.

… or more no-sew tape in a sheet rather than tape form.

Sadly, the second option did not occur to me until I had pressed the hot iron down directly onto this second cloth. All layers of it.

For those not familiar with this product, it transpires it works by the finely spun tape or cloth becoming a glue when heat is applied. If it is correctly placed between two layers of material that need to be joined, it fixes them together. If it is in direct contact with an iron, it covers the iron in glue.

This was unfortunate. I unplugged the iron, ran it under the cold tap and began to scrub once it got cool enough not to melt my sponge. This had no effect whatsoever but the glue had been sufficiently thickly applied to form a pealable layer once cool. Pulling it off was a bit like removing dead skin after sunburn. Thought you'd enjoy that analogy.

Once the iron was clean, I went back to the task in hand. Since my curtains were made of machine-washable cotton, there wasn't really a problem with ironing them directly.

… Except for the fact that one end of them was also covered with glue from where the other side of the no-sew cloth had been resting.

Disappointingly, I forgot this until I pressed the iron to that area. We were back to square one, except this time there was much less glue so removal had to be achieved via elbow grease. This was annoying.

Fortunately, this second glue-your-iron experiment had burnt off the last of the outside glue. By the time I had reached the end of the first curtain (I had re-started on a clean patch after scrubbing my heart out), the remaining dregs were sufficiently dry to allow me to re-iron the failed beginning and seal the hem. The second curtain went much more smoothly. Ah, the great gift of experience

The end product is at the top of the page. Please feel free to add copious amounts of admiration below. And yes, that is a giant crayon in the right-hand corner. Why do you ask?


  1. And a fine job you did! Sounds exactly like the kind of things I get into when I try to become crafty! I will now never try to attempt this feat! It looks good though. Nice job.

    1. Thank you! To be fair, if I'd had a more thorough understanding of how this process worked, it would have been easier. And, in the end, it did OK :)

      ... so long as they stay hemmed...