THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

July 20, 2008

Table Talk

This photo from last year’s New York Times slide show of the Christian LaCroix workrooms is inspiring. A simple wooden table, a portable machine underneath, a stool. What more could you want?

The cutting table is your most basic tool. Raise your hand if you are not cutting on a table at waist height. 2 points off if you are cutting on a cardboard mat on your bed. An additional 4 demerits if you are cutting on the floor. I know, I know. You don’t have the space, or the money to have a dedicated cutting table.

When we first moved to New York City, my dear husband and I were poor as the proverbial church mice. We had one room in a shared apartment. So we built folding saw horses, and put a piece of plywood on top, and that was my table. But what a table! It was painted an elegant matte black, and for the saw horse hardware I used gold metal cuphooks and window hanging sash chain to fix the width between the legs. Saw horse tables are easy to make, and can be put up and down with ease.

Check out Ikea’s version, the Artur.

Now to me, the width of the table top in this photo is not nearly wide enough…and I am not sure I want a glass tabletop. You can use a different tabletop with the Artur legs though, which are adjustable from 28″ to 36″ high. My table is 36″, as are most commercial cutting tables. Here is a nifty link for folding sawhorse plans. This other plan with a simple hinge is closer to my NYC sawhorses, but with the cross piece at the bottom higher up the leg. I had a some boards I could sling underneath to make a shelf that sat on top of those cross bars. Can you guess that my table was more or less a permanent part of our bedroom? For those who might like to trade up, check out the Ligne Roset Trestle Table. My DH could totally make this elegant version of the sawhorse table!

Seriously though, your table can have a huge impact on your results. From not being able to get the proper angle for cutting those niggling little curves and notches, to dreading cutting because you break your back every time, there are a hundred reasons why not having a proper table can hurt your results. This is true not only for cutting, but for having a place to lay out your work in progress. All kinds of garment sewing require large surfaces at waist height, and most particularly when working on home decorating projects.

What matters? Not only height, but width, and, tables are not just for cutting!

The main thing for home dec is to have a BIG PRESSING TABLE.

One of the biggest revelations I ever had was walking by a design shop in Paris, up near the Sacre Coeur and watching thru the window as they laid the curtains out on a huge padded table at waist height to press. Light bulb moment!

I now have a layer of padding I can roll out on my cutting table to turn it into a pressing table. I also got 2 giant pieces of ½” thick foamcore and duct-taped together for a folding mat to make it 60” wide if needed. (had to do that for the taffeta of the recent prom dress.) You can see it here propped up in the corner.

I can think of nothing more helpful than a large table at the proper height for any curtain or bedspread wrangling. I even put the portable sewing machine up on the table and sew standing up for the big wide jobs.

This commercial set-up for a drapery workroom is interesting on several levels. I love the little skirt in front that looks like it can be extended to allow the fabric to fall in to it to keep from dragging on the floor. Also, check out the table-top pad. Now there is a really smart idea, to put elastic around your pad, sort of like a fitted bottom sheet for the bed. I just have some layers of flannel sheet and gigantic beach towel that I roll out, but this is worth a try. I am definitely going to adopt this idea for my table.

Also see this clever portable folding cardboard cutting table. Not widely available yet, but congrats to the person came up with this idea.



  1. OMG – a track system for my gravity feed iron – brilliant!

    Comment by phyllisc — July 20, 2008 @ 7:58 am

  2. I work in a textile design studio and our cutting tables were custom built on top of cabinets with doors on both ends. Great extra hidden storage. The other bonus for the 36″ height is the fact we can unroll the fabric to where it just brushes the floor and have a perfect yard to send to our customers!

    Comment by kheli — July 20, 2008 @ 9:17 am

  3. I use my dining room table for cutting more than I do for eating. It was made in Indonesia and then shipped here (long story) but they made it about two inches higher than normal dining table height. It was too much of a hassle to bother about it. So, not so great for dining but not so bad for cutting out patterns!

    Comment by LindsayT — July 20, 2008 @ 9:27 am

  4. Amazing synchronicity! Just yesterday I bought an interior, solid-core door from Home Depot and 4 of the telescoping legs at Ikea and assembled a very nice 36″ worktable. I’m so excited about it. Still need to do a little sanding but otherwise I’m good to go.

    Comment by Cathi — July 20, 2008 @ 12:26 pm

  5. My first cutting table was a Sew-fit one made out of cardboard.
    Its made out of 3 triangular pieces, and could hold a lot of weight. It does not wiggle and folds flat into 3 pieces.

    Its drawback was the amount of space needed for it, with no storage underneath. I still have it.

    Comment by Susan Claire — July 20, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  6. I love the idea of the padded cover for a cutting table! My DH made a table for me from a set of telescoping legs and frames from Ikea. You can see it here, and there is a shot of the underside so you can see the legs.

    The tabletop is a 4X8 sheet of melamine coated board. It’s the perfect height for me, and I have lots of space to work so fabric doesn’t go sliding off.

    I also love that cardboard cutting table, especially the warning that you should never let it get wet!

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — July 20, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

  7. I bought my cutting table over 10 years ago. It is a drop leaf style that is just not big enough. In the next year, I hope to put together a studio and will be running as long a cutting table as I can, down the middle of the room. I am a spreader so I need as much room as I can get. LOL

    Comment by Linda T. — July 20, 2008 @ 8:51 pm

  8. Love the track for the gravity feed iron!
    When I padded out the tables for my drapery workroom I went to a moving supply house and bought some movers pads – this was 20 years ago, before they started using those blue non-woven things they use now in some places. I then wrapped them around the edges of 4×8 sheets of plywood and covered with heavy muslin.
    Now for my home sewing studio, to create a large pressing surface, I cover my commercial high cutting table – the cheap laminate ones you can buy at Joanns – with a heavy grid patterned knitting blocking board. The blocking board has 3 layers: a tightly woven cloth layer, a needle punch moisture/heat absorbent pad, and then the heavy canvas that is printed with a grid. It fits the cutting table exactly and is ideal for as much as I need it.

    Comment by Marji — July 21, 2008 @ 8:57 am

    • Marji

      I have a wonderful table, but need to know where I can get the needle punch moisture/heat absorbent pad. I have the heavy canvas. Thank you
      Reta from Texas.

      Comment by Reta Day — April 30, 2009 @ 1:25 am

      • Hi Reta: you might try Golden Hands ironing pads. I use them on all my pressing stations.

        NAYY (not affiliated, yada, yada)

        Comment by Mary Beth — June 23, 2009 @ 8:28 am

    • Where did you get the “heavy grid patterned knitting blocking board”

      Comment by bobbi riley — June 22, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  9. Hi from Paris Stylish friend,

    as i noticed through your comments that you like stylish people, i just wanted to warn you before i go to bed (it’s late in Paris) : my last street style photos could make you fall in love with Paris and the stylish parisian girls ! lol

    i wish you a pleasant evening and hope that my com is not intrusive

    cheers from Paris


    Comment by STYLE AND THE CITY - PARIS — July 21, 2008 @ 6:25 pm

  10. My well-loved cutting table is the result of the demise of yet another sewing store: at their sell-off closing sale I bought 2 pattern cabinets ($15.00 each) that are 3 drawers high, topped them with a door and a large full width rotary cutting mat. It is the perfect height for my dear old back and totally cutting ready. And having 6 drawers for patterns and sewing notions is wonderful. Now if I can only keep it cleared off and ready for my next project…. Thanks for sharing all the good ideas. Very inspiring.

    Comment by JillsaQT — July 25, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

  11. Oh, Georgene, I am literally drooling!

    Comment by Gigi — July 25, 2008 @ 11:55 pm

  12. Fantastic! I have been staring at Ikea catalogues all weekend and thinking about the cheapest but practical and most stylish way to reinvigorate my guest room/ study/ sewing room and had been looking at these Artur legs wondering if they will be tall enough to make a comfortable cutting table! Great to see you suggest it too and talk about the height – fantastic! Will have to make a padded cover as well to make it a pressing table,

    Comment by Angela — August 3, 2008 @ 1:39 am

  13. […] Table Talk from Sewing Diva […]

    Pingback by A Sewing Room Of One’s Own « MOO I MADE IT! — August 4, 2008 @ 7:23 am

  14. I’m going to be re-doing a old shed we have into my own studio…hopefully this summer. Either way, my main priority is to get a proper cutting table. At the moment, I’m using my ironing table and the spare bed. Not good at all. I used to work at an interior design shop and they had a cutting table with ceiling tiles. The ceiling tiles had been fastened to the top of the table then covered with a thick canvas. It was just great because you could pin your fabric into the tiles so it wouldn’t move while you were cutting. Seriously amazing!!

    I can’t wait to get onto this project!

    Comment by katelynjane — August 5, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  15. I’m sorry I don’t know the exact website, because I just have it bookmarked, but if you google Cheryl Strickland, you will come to a professional drapery workroom website. If you click on the store area, you can buy a video on how to build a drapery workroom table. It includes just how to build and pad. It has a huge shelf underneath to store bolts of fabric or supplies underneath.

    Comment by Deborah Holland — January 7, 2009 @ 8:51 am

  16. The workroom table directions can be found at I own a drapery workroom, and I have 2 tables that I built, both 5′ x 12′. The tops (plywood) are covered with homosote, table padding, and canvas (the last 2 items are available from It is awesome to work on a pinnable/pressable surface. Though I would also like a masonite, or malamine topped table. I do think the canvas top grabs the fabric, causing it to stretch. I also have one of those irons (its a DoFix brand boiler iron) and the track.

    Comment by Barbara — January 23, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  17. Having the right equipment makes a big difference.

    Comment by big and tall — July 10, 2009 @ 12:39 am

  18. Hi,

    I can’t believe I found this website! There was a picture of my Genie!
    I love that machine. Bought it back in the ’70’s for $200.00 and it just won’t quit running. It has aged considerably but I will never part with it.
    I have a brand new sew machine (computer) and it gives me a lot of trouble. I keep my ‘Genie’ along side for trouble free sewing.

    🙂 Joan

    Comment by Joan Hayward — October 20, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  19. I have Cheryl Strickland’s video and I have constructed the table and the rolling bolt holder. The video gives clear instructions and it also has a paper materials list and schematic drawings of the table. I am at the point of putting on my R board and I am not sure if it should be cut square to the table or 1/2″ in from the edge. It looks like it is in 1/2″ on video but I cannot find the exact intructions for this. I seem to remember being told to cut it shorter so that the table edge is your square measuring edge. Does anyone know what is the best cut for the R board?

    Thank You,

    Comment by Linda — February 6, 2010 @ 11:34 am

  20. I could not live with out my Canvas Table Grid! We have been using the grid in our workroom Sew What Custom Home Decor and Slipcovers for many years and have helped others select the correct size and type of mat. Two years ago we discovered a need for the Canvas Table Grid in a 4ft x 8ft size witch is much more practical for the home sewer, craftier or for starting a new home based sewing business. The 4×8 grid also offers a special pillow template grid for pillows up to 30 inches. If you ever need help please contact Claudia.

    Comment by Claudia Buchanan — July 13, 2010 @ 2:42 am

  21. my mom is an expert when it comes to choosing dining tables, she is always after durability and style ,;`

    Comment by Combi Boilers · — November 14, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: