My ‘Little Hottie’ Vintage GE Iron… an unexpected review


Irons are the best, aren’t they? There’s nothing like a hot iron to make your sewing project look amazing, even with a few imperfections. This little hottie is my new favorite – it’s a vintage GE iron!

This 1950’s GE F-49 Travel Iron came to me with a bunch of other sewing stuff that I bought from someone who was switching hobbies. When I found her I thought she was a broken relic and stuffed her in the back of a cupboard.

At the time I was pressing and ironing with a beautiful Panasonic 360 Degree Freestyle Iron. It has a ton of features… it’s cordless, a marvelous steamer, and it never drips. But it turns off. After just 10 minutes. When you’re sewing 10 minutes goes by SO fast. I’d be turning around to press pieces of a quilt block and my iron would be cold. Again and again and again.

One day in desperation and curiosity I pulled out that little box and plugged in the vintage iron to see if it even worked. And she did! She got very, very hot. Almost smoking hot, but she’s on the highest setting, lol!

I couldn’t believe how wonderful it was to see my seams so flat. All that day I sewed and pressed, sewed and pressed, and my iron never turned off.

She does have some faults…

This is the water tank for steam.  You fill it up and screw it on the side. I’m not sure if I’m installing it correctly because it spits and leaks. But I don’t use steam when I’m quiltmaking so I don’t care.

And, of course, I have to be very careful not to leave my little hottie plugged in when I’m done sewing. Irons didn’t have automatic shut off in the 1950’s.

Lastly, she ruins all of my ironing board covers. They gradually turn scorched and yellow. This is only after a few months. It’s really annoying because I like to use my ironing board to take pictures, and this is not pretty.

Even with all her faults, I love this little thing. She’s just so good at what really matters… heat! My husband loves the Panasonic so we’re always switching the irons back and forth. He’ll set up the cordless one to iron his shirt, and then I’ll trade it out for my little hottie after I take the kids to school.

I wish I could tell you the best place to get a little iron like this, but the only place I’ve seen them online is eBay. And they’re super cheap. Who knew? But if you get one and you burn your house down because you forget to turn it off, don’t blame me! I gave you all the facts right here.

What do you think… Which iron is better, old or new? Tell me in the comments. 🙂


Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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  1. I rarely comment on blogposts anymore unless I have something really good to say so …
    Meet the best of the old and new worlds- Black and Decker: The Classic. Look it up.
    It does have auto-off but it’s about 20 minutes. Hot as can be, heavy-heavy and has a hinged-long cord!
    What I’ve used for the last 10 years. I’m on my second one but, the first one was a hand-me-down from grandmom, when she died. So, I have no idea how old it really was.

  2. Sheila Perl says:

    I love your new little iron!!! I used to search and search for irons that wouldn’t turn themselves off, because I quilt too, so frustrating to turn to a cold iron!
    I used to go through a domestic iron about every year because they were on so much 🙁
    One thing I do to remind myself to turn off the iron is I have a small lamp plugged into the same power bar as the iron, if the lamp is on then so is the iron!! Of course, hubby likes to turn the iron off on the iron and neglects to turn off the power bar!!! Those hubby’s!!!

  3. I have that iron that belonged to my mother back in the day, I used to take it when traveling before they started putting irons in hotel rooms. Works like a charm and I love it.


  4. RUTH HAMPSON says:

    I bought exactly the same iron at a thrift store last month and love it for all the same reasons you do!! Ruth-Sassy

  5. So my Mom for years and years had an old iron at the cabin, it was heavy clunky, and yes didn’t turn off. That iron not only stood the test of time (we only replaced it because it fell), and it ironed beautifully. Part of that is that it’s heavy, so it weights the item down. Today’s irons are so light that you have to press hard into the item to get any press to it.

  6. I would be the one to burn my house down. I often get pulled away from sewing only to go back to sewing the next day with the iron blinking red.

  7. I have been using old irons for years because of the weight. I don’t need to press down, the iron actually does the job! I buy mine at the thrift shop or goodwill. I have a big collection of vintage irons, my favorite at the moment is an " American Beauty " no steam, very heavy and just glides so easily over my fabric. As for your ironing board, I use a piece of muslin over mine. You might try washing your cover. My husband makes a mess of his and I wash it with some oxyclean and put it back on damp, everything even scorching comes out.

  8. SONJA HANSEN says:

    Ruth, do you mind sharing what you had to pay at the thrift store. Just wondering what we are looking at. Thanks.

  9. Karen Sopjes says:

    I have a new Black and Decker that does not turn off I love it.

  10. I have a Norelco that I bought at a garage sale and it also gets super hot, doesn’t shut off, and it steams but lately I haven’t been able to get it to steam. Great for retreats and paper piecing and small blocks. I paid $3 for it!

  11. tee actie says:

    I use the Reliable 3000IS 3/8-Gallon Professional Ironing System, Made in Italy. I purchased it on Amazon. It is top notch!!!!! I wish I could find an old Black and Decker steam iron for travel. It is a true workhorse. A friend has one and I love it. I purchased one a few years ago and although it looks the same, it didn’t perform the same.

  12. RUTH HAMPSON says:

    In answer to your question, I paid $3-$5 for my iron from the thrift store. ALWAYS unplug your appliances, such as toasters, coffee pots, irons which contain thermostats when not in use! (Learned that from my volunteer firefighter husband!) As a reminder to do that, keep a scrunchie or a bracelet on the cord or handle of the iron and put it on your wrist when "plugging in". We once turned around while traveling to a wedding because the iron was still plugged in. Peace of mind and we didn’t miss the wedding!!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    For a more modern version of this, they sell a smooth plate, dry iron on the Vermont Country Store site. I love it for when I’m piecing.

  14. Rani Self says:

    I had an old $5 iron from a thrift store that was big and heavy but boy, was it great! It finally died and I replaced it with a good Black & Decker that had a long cord. Now I have the Panasonic 360 and a cute yellow Oliso!

  15. deborah mazerolle says:

    I have one of these as well and it does scorch the pad as well. I do love the fact that it doesn’t turn off after a few minutes. My mom got it for me at a yard sale. I had one exactly the same but the handle would collapse and it would burn your knuckles, so I threw it out. Great little iron … I sometimes put a cloth underneath the block to prevent scorching.

  16. I have one of these and I love it for my travel iron. And, yes, it does get hot, which is just what I want an iron to do. Steam works great, too. My husband had this iron when he was in the Navy, way back when.

  17. I also have one of these irons and absolutely love it. Caroline, push down on the water bottle as you screw it in to make sure that it is seating correctly into the adapter. Also, make sure that the little hole at the top of the bottle is at the top so that the water doesn’t drip out when it is on its heel. This should help with the leaking. If it leaks, I unscrew it and try again to realign the bulb.
    Best little iron ever!

      1. katie peterson says:

        I have this iron too was my grandma’s. One other tip is when you are done pressing for the day remove the water bottle. I didn’t one time and it really dripped the next time I used the iron. I now have 2 since I fell in love with my first one.

  18. I definitely have to look into getting one – although I have become so accustomed to having an iron shut itself off. BUT I so miss a truly hot iron. My wonderful one broke years ago and the 2 I purchased to replace it only get warm and so many wrinkles remain. True, I haven’t scorched anything in a while, but I do miss truly ironed seams!

  19. I have one and I absolutely love it!! Got it on Ebay for $4.95!

  20. Stephanie says:

    Plug it into a power strip that has anon light…it will help you to see that you left it on.
    I have one that is my travel iron. Love it and yes, it gets hot. Works great.

  21. Patricia Hall says:

    I gave an older Hoover and it is wonderful as it stays on it is what I like to use . It is most aggrevating to go press and have to wake the iron up . No sleeping on the job for my iron . I have it plugged into a strip cord which I turn off before leaving the area.
    Patty H

  22. I only use vintage dry irons. Like you said, they get HOT, and they last! I have purchased 3 or 4 of them at thrift shops or antiques stores. My current one is a GE from the 1940s, it has a wooden handle and a thumb rest and it is my favorite. Crisp folds on paper piecing and the best flat fabrics now.

  23. I have an Oliso Pro which I really like. I also have a Black and Decker Classic – it is heavy and I like heavy irons (weird I know). I switch back and forth depending on what I’m working on. As I was reading your review, I thought "wait a minute….". Guess what I have displayed on a shelf in my sewing room???!!!! Just like yours, box and all. I found it in my mother-in-law’s home when we were cleaning out. I’ve never plugged it in. I will today!!

  24. Save your ironing board by put a piece of freezer paper on before you iron. It takes all the scorching….in my case errant adhesive mishaps. I’ve been doing it for years. I just change it when it gets grungy.

  25. Mary Grace Ronan says:

    I got one after you mentioned it a few months ago….I love it…as always thanks for telling us about this little treasure😇

  26. I bought a “little hottie” GE portable vintage iron like yours in the original box and in like new condition at a thrift store for $5.00! I love it because it stays hot and it’s perfect for quilt piecing. I keep it next to my sewing machine where I have a wool pressing mat.

  27. Brenda Jerles says:

    I have a vintage iron similar to yours. I can’t remember where it even came from. I don’t think I bought it though. I have used it to decorate in my sewing room but I haven’t ever tried plugging it in and using it. I will have to try mine out. It doesn’t have the steam feature but if it is nice and hot and stays on, that is all I need!

  28. Helen Tulip says:

    I have a tray for my iron. It is a small wooden box 12”*6” one inch deep made of 1/2” strips, lined with metal. I can set my old iron in it either flat or upright with no fears. I also plug it into a power cord which I can switch off and also have a lamp plug in too, so I can see the cord is still on if I forgot!, Helen

  29. I have one of these little irons that I got from ebay and I absolutely love it!

  30. Patti Jennings says:

    Vintage irons are my favorite. I have one like yours and another one too. I dont have the steam bottle with it. I can pour water in the other one just like a larger iron, but it sputters too. They get hotter than any iron I have.

  31. I’m like her Hubbie, love my Panasonic! Gonna buy another overpriced one for back up since I’m sure this one is gonna be dying soon since nothing made in the 20th century lasts for even months. I do wish we could expect anything to last forever anymore, un our Berninas DO! 🥰

  32. The old irons are terrific, just like old toaster. My only comment is please inspect the cord regularly to ensure it isn’t fraying or marred and be careful not to step on it. There isn’t much insulation between the wires so any damage to the cord can cause a fire.

    1. Thank you Janet M; I have old iron – will have to look at the cord….. Does anyone have any suggestions to get one re-corded??

  33. Bessie Ashby says:

    I like you had the same problem ,I just got tired of waiting for my iron to heat back up. So I went on line and ended up with a Black & Decker at Walmart for $9.97 and I love it . I also have it plugged in with a small lamp that I have by my board to help me see better when I am getting my seems to match. So I have no problem with it being left on because I always turn off the light.

  34. I‘ve got a little vintage travel iron that works wonderfully. No steam and I have only managed to leave it on once!

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