A Cheap and Easy DIY Sewing Cutting Table


Kelly, tired of hunching over the floor while she works on sewing her uniform, asked me to make a cutting table for her tiny sewing room, which is located in a vintage 1920s shed in our backyard. Using the Garden Fork TV ethos, “done is better than perfect,” plus a time limit of one day, I set to the task.

Cutting table dimensions
A cutting table should be just a bit lower than your palm when your elbow is bent at 90 degrees. Architectural Graphics Standards suggests that work tables be in the 36-inch to 38-inch range. My parents met in a club for tall people and Kelly’s dad played basketball in college which means that work table height around our compound needs to be higher. I ended up going with 36 inches, since that’s the size of the bathroom cabinets I scavenged for the project. I may end up raising the table, at some point, when I’m in less of a hurry to get things done.

Opinions about width and length for cutting tables vary in the sewing community. At minimum, a cutting table should be at least 3 feet by 6 feet. Slightly wider and longer would be better but there’s not enough room in Kelly’s 10 by 12-foot shed.

cheapandeasyMaking a cheap and easy work table
When I built my workshop I discovered a formula for creating work surfaces. I used a similar process to make the cutting table.

Step one: go to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore or ReUse People of America and find two or more matching kitchen or bathroom cabinets.

Step two: get a sheet of melamine at the big orange store.

Step three: cut the sheet of melamine to size. To do that I bought a plywood blade for my circular saw (I don’t own a table saw). I clamped a scrap of plywood to the board as a guide and ran piece of masking tape along where the cut to prevent chipping. You could also get the lumber yard to do this for you.

Step four: attach the melamine to the cabinets with screws.

Step five: Apply iron-on edging tape to the melamine to cover the edges.

Step six: Pop open a beverage of your choice and call it a day.

Look closely and you’ll see that Kelly’s cutting table also accommodates 20 gallons of emergency water since that’s how she rolls.



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  1. Good work…here I am sitting on the floor like a savage for my cutting! 😉 (I cut out one of my Uniforms this morning–thanks for linking that great post, by the way). Happy sewing, Kelly!

  2. After spending my teens through thirties cutting on the dining room or kitchen table or my bed or the floor, I finally had a cutting table. It was an antique table with gate legs and one or two extensions. The size was perfect.

    For about ten years, I attended sewing classes at a local two-year college. I took no lessons, just used their commercial machines and the magnificent sewing tables. The table were the size of a sheet of plywood. The plywood tops were covered with batting and had muslin stapled underneath, providing the ideal cutting surface. The height was at least 42 inches, perfect for me at 5′ 7.5″. However, the shorter women were frustrated. Ideally, a person should never have to bend at the waist at all. The table may have been higher than 42 inches.

    If you want to raise the table, place 2x4s on top of the table crossways and put another surface on top of that. This will provide a narrow storage space for narrow items. Of course, how much you want to raise the table depends on what you use on top of the first surface to raise the height.

    A hard surface allows the fabric to move, whereas a soft surface allows the fabric to “stick” and stay in place. Plus, moving the scissors under the fabric and on top of a small surface moved the fabric less. The soft surface moves down a bit.

    We also used iron things that were 4×8 inches with a handle welded on top to hold the pattern down instead of using pins. So, pins never attached the fabric to the soft top. The welding shop on campus made those. We occasionally replaced the covers on the welded things so that metal did not sit on our fabric.

    Of course, some idiot always managed to cut the top of the table. One day, that idiot was me! We just mended it with iron-on tape. Seriously, we veteran sewers rarely cut the table, but cutting it only once was good for a person who used these table for about ten years.

    My sewing room had room for a dining room table with two leaves, but I realize people have to work within boundaries.

    How tall are the two of you?

  3. My craft table is two IKEA 2×2 shelf units (http://i.ebayimg.com/images/i/262475168054-0-1/s-l1000.jpg) and a discontinued solid, rectangular headboard from IKEA that cost me all of $20 because they really wanted to get rid of it. I put the plastic/rubbery non-skid stuff people use on tables & shelves between the headboard and the tops of the shelf units so the headboard wouldn’t move around much (plus, it’s heavy!), but also this way, I can still take it apart easily if I ever need to. And the shelf units are fantastic for books and boxes of stuff. Not the cheapest setup, true, and not recycled, but I kind of love it, it looks nice, and it’s held up to sewing and drawing and jewelry-making and other sorts of projects for about 4 years now.

  4. Very timely post! Tomorrow after my houseguests leave, I’d planned on pulling stuff back out of my craft closet in the guest room so that I could start working again, as I particularly want to get some watercolor practice in, but what to do about the sewing stuff? I currently cut out sewing projects on the kitchen table, but having a table in the guest room with storage in it would be lots better. Thanks for the idea!

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