That's it - that odd looking thing bolted to my sleeve board. They're clever little devices that let you easily press gathered seams, ruffles, puffs and the like without ironing in wrinkles. The idea is simple - an egg shaped metal element that heats, up over which you draw the fabric to be ironed - the opposite of running an iron over your fabric. The egg fits easily into the gathered seam. According to the instructions you can also use it to lift the pile on crushed velvet and block your dented hats. It's a great idea actually, sort of an iron and a pressing ham rolled into one. I decided to test the iron with a pair of antique edwardian sleeves I have. They are made of linen and gathered into the cuffs and were quite wrinkled as you can see below.
To begin with I plugged in the iron and turned it on. It took about 5 minutes to warm up.
Once warm I placed the sleeve over the iron and gave it a spritz with water, then lightly drew the fabric across the it.
It worked like a charm! I can't wait to try it for velvet.
It's a great little tool to have if you sew and nice for crafting too. A few caveats, however. If you want one be prepared to pay for it - at least on eBay. They're popular and usually go for $60 to $100.
They're also a little dangerous - they get very hot and, unlike an iron they don't face away from you when you're working with them. You run the risk of brushing up against it and getting a burn. For me, the benefits outweigh the risks and I'll be using my iron for many projects. If you decide to look for one, search for "puff iron" on eBay. They come up fairly often.
There are all sorts of possibilities for this little item. What uses can you come up with? Incidentally, look for those sleeves on eBay soon!