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Sewing Table

birdlady1 | Posted in General Discussion on

My husband bought me plywood many years ago and legs to attach it so I could have a table to work on cutting out my patterns.  It is rough on the surface and catches on my fabrics.  I was thinking of having him sand the plywood down.  I want to resurface it in order to cut my fabric and as well, if I want to create a pattern, be able to pin my pattern paper down.  Does anyone have any ideas on what I should put on top of the plywood in order to use it for various things?




  1. starzoe | | #1

    You need a smooth surface, and sanding isn't going to do the job. I would suggest that you buy something like heavy duty plastic tablecloth or treated outdoor patio fabric to completely cover the table. Allow a generous measurement to turn under to staple to the underside and make sure the corners are without pointy edges.

    You could also put a thin padding over the wood and cover that with a heavy, smooth fabric stretched tightly - the surface would then be like that of an ironing board.

  2. joyfulneedles | | #2

    I worked with a lady years ago who had a dressmaking/alterations business.  She had a sheet of plywood covered with batting and then some tight woven fabric that was wide enough there was no seem, maybe wide muslin quilt backing.  It was stretched and stapled to keep it smooth.  It was great for laying out patterns and cutting them.  Her husband even had a shelf underneath so she could store all sorts of things.

  3. birdlady1 | | #3

    Thank you for your input.  If I do use that type of material and want to cut out fabric from the table, am I not in danger of cutting the surface of that material?  Also, if I want to create patterns or want to keep them on the table, I would have to use pins to keep them stable, would this material be pinable?  What type of material would you suggest in order to use the table for pinning and cutting?

    I hope to hear from you soon.

    1. KharminJ | | #5

      I see several very different requirements for a "work table", here. There's layout (needs to be firm and maybe pinnable), cutting (with scissors? or with a rotary cutter? different surfaces for each), ironing/pressing (adds "heat resistance" and "cushioning" to the specs).You need to answer the question: "What exactly do I want to do on this surface?" first, because some ideal coverings are mutually exclusive. BTW - I'm jealous! My sewing room is only 10' x10', so there's no way a whole sheet of plywood would fit!Bright Blessings! Kharmin

    2. Tatsy | | #8

      Everything I can think of to cover it would be more expensive than buying a brand-new formica-covered cutting table ($100-$200).  If you can find a free piece of lineoleum somewhere (Talk to floor installers who sometimes have leftovers) that would be a great option.  Using scissors to cut out patterns should not harm the linoleum. If you prefer roller blades, a medium-sized cutting mat should take care of most problems. If your cutting table is stationary, you can slip the cutting mat behind the table when not in use. I have a tabletop ironing board for use on the cutting table, which also slips behind the table when not in use.

      If you can't find the linoleum free or cheap, I'd load hubby up with lots of kisses and a good meal and have him drive you to the sewing center to buy a new one for Mother's Day.

    3. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #10

      OH Drat! My DH came in and pulled me away before I could post my answer to you earlier. Now I have to type it all out again...:(Kharmin had some good points she covered. The best working table I have ever seen was made from plywood, covered by an old wool blanket and that was covered by heavy muslin (unwashed). The wool blanket wrapped around the edge as well. The fabric was pulled taught, and stapled down securely on the underside. It was then steam ironed it so it lay very flat and tight as it shrank. This way, the table could be used to cut and pin fabric on, and could be used to iron on as well.
      You could pin into the fabric like a shallow bulletin board, but the fabric was tight enough, that scissors would not catch if you were cutting. You still have to be careful with scissor points, but it does teach you to slide your shears properly! A cutting mat is helpful on top of this for a solid surface for writing and marking.
      It is great for pressing as you go, and for pressing large projects as well, as they do not hang off the edge, as they do on ironing boards, and you can leave things to cool without having to move them. Hope you find this helpful. Cathy

      1. birdlady1 | | #11

        Thanks to everyone who gave me some ideas.  They were all very good.  I am going to speak to my husband about helping me fix the table so I can use it.  I normally use the floor to pin my patterns onto my fabrics and it can be back-breaking.  Also, I find that when I have to cut with scissors, the material is not straight on the floor.  I tried using my diningroom table but it is not wide enough and the material hangs over.  When I have tried to create patterns (when I was taking pattern making level 1) I had to work on a table that was not very big and wide.  That is why I want to complete this table.  My husband did buy me and screwed the plywood to the legs that I can fold up when I am finished with it.  I have no room in my house for it so it has to be put into the garage.  It would be great to be able to have the material they use at the design schools.  You can cut material and pin pattern paper so it does not slip.  I do not know what kind of material they use.  I was going to go back to take Pattern Making Level 11 but with the economy being as it is, they had to cancel a lot of classes.  Therefore, I am going to try and do more sewing at home until the new classes can be started again.  It gets very discouraging when you cannot have the equipment at your finger tips.  Having to go out to the garage to cut material and then come in the house and set up other things just makes you want to give up on it all together.  I do have my sewing machine and serger set up but not the other important things.  With limited space, it is pretty hard.  Also, my basement is always cold and who wants to spend time where you are freezing.

        1. Susan -homedecsewing | | #12

          Hi coming in late on this post, but in my sewing room, my double garage, I have 2 hollow core doors, covered in cotton batting with muslin pulled tight and stapled underneath. makes a perfect ironing surface. I have 2 large gridded mats over it for pinning and cutting and push them aside when ironing drapes, love it ! And its so light and movable. I have mine on old bedside drawers for storage underneath.

        2. sewelegant | | #13

          "upholstering" your table with padding and muslin (or other sturdy fabric) sounds to me like a wonderful plan.  Slippery fabric won't slide like on the smooth surfaces and you can always buy a smaller size cutting mat to use when you need it.  My biggest concern would be how do I keep it clean?  Hmmm.  I'm always wiping my table down because dust is an ongoing problem.  I like to keep the windows open so that may be why, but I'm wondering how that is addressed.  I keep a large terry towel over my ironing board to keep it clean for when I need it for ironing purposes.  Because it is always standing, it too becomes a handy catch all for hurried drop offs.  Maybe that is the answer... just throw a large sheet over the table that you can wash when it needs it.

  4. katina | | #4

    When I was a teenager, my friend's mother had a very large cutting table made of plywood - she covered hers with a piece of flooring material, something like linoleum, as I recall. It worked very well. We spent many hours sitting around that table, which seated at least 12 of us. We'd lift it up onto the wooden blocks when she wanted to cut something out. Perhaps you might find something suitable in a flooring department?


  5. sewelegant | | #6

    You did not say the dimensions of your table, but I have a purchased cutting table in my sewing room that I purchased the large gridded cutting mat for.  The table folds down, but the mat doesn't and that is a sore point.  However, I keep the table and mat up all the time because it is such a neat place to do all my sewing and crafting (usually after I have removed all the things left there because it was such a handy "catch-all")  You can pin into that mat with push pins.  The table and mat have been with me since the 80's and I would have to rank them at the top for handy sewing tools.  The newer mats may be more size friendly.


  6. byf | | #7

    Birdlady, years ago, before I had a real cutting table, my husband purchased an unfinished door to use for the top, which seemed to work quite well and wasn't rough. If I remember correctly, we reinforced the ends before attaching legs to it since it had a hollow core. As others have noted, though, if you wanted to use a rotary cutter on it you would still need a special mat, and if you wanted to be able to iron on it, you would still need to cover it with padding.

  7. Pattiann42 | | #9

    When my husband built my cutting table, he covered the top with stick-on vinyl floor tile.  He covered the edges of the table with nail-on trim, also for floors.

    The table is mostly covered with cutting mats, so the surface does not come into play that much for me, but it is good to have the rough edges covered.

  8. User avater
    dnjmama | | #14

    I'm late, but I redid my cutting table 18 months ago & tried to "have it all" in limited space.  Here are my goals and what I did--maybe something will be useful to you:

    Goal #1:  Pinnable surface large enough to lay out at least 6 feet of fabric minimum, 36" wide ( figured that would handle most needs, as fabric is usually folded for cutting)

    Goal #2: Cutting Mats to completely cover pinnable surface so I can use rotary blade.--also implies pinnable surface can't be too mushy, so mats are well supported & don't slide.

    Goal #3:  Be able to do some pressing on the surface.

    Goal #4:  Still be able to move around in my sewing area, and be able to get to all sides of my sewing table.

    Goal #5:  Keep costs DOWN.


    I had a stand alone 2-door 2-drawer base cabenet that I purloined from general storage use in the basement, painted it white (for reflection) and had hubby put on a wheeled platform.  That also raised it to a good cutting height for me (5'8") & allowed me to move it around.  He then cut a piece of thick Plywood to overhang the base somewhat--the dimensions were choosen to match the size of a purchased cutting mat, selected for this intent.  This was not 6' long--only about 4', but it was my "phase 1" set-up for years before reaching the rest of my solution--keep reading.

    Cut 2nd piece of plywood to same width as 1st, but length matched a 2nd purchased gridded cutting mat, AND with a length that did not exceed the height of the table.  (After covering this per the following,  I had DH use a piano hinge to attach the 2nd plywood to a wood edge attached to the bottom of the 1st plywood for this purpose--adds strength.  I then cut legs from 2" PVC and attached a PVC end cap (sort of a "cup") to bottom of 2nd piece so I could insert a leg to hold up the extension when I needed to extend the table.  Now, when I need it, I can have a 6'6" table.

    Next, I bought cork (I layered to get 1/4 thickness--I would buy the right thickness if I had it to do over) and cut it to exactly cover the plywood, gluing it in place, and stapling in a few spots for good measure.

    Next, I recycled an old shrunked wool blanket and stapled 2 layers over the cork(it was kind of thinnish), wrapping over the edges snugly & stapling to the  underside of table.

    Next, I recycled some natural canvas/SUPER HEAVY muslin--like they cover manniquins with (preshrink!!) over the tables in the same way as the wool blanket.

    Lastly, I glued a "measuring tape" sticker along the edge of my surface so I could check dimensions easily--had it for years, think it came from Nancy's Notions, but I don't recall.

    I now have a pinnable surface, that I can leave my mats on for cutting.  I can use the grid on the mat for grain straightening. I can shift the table out into the room so I can get to any side (thanks to the wheels--BTW, buy ones that can be locked).  I can "add" to the length by extending the table when I need to, and I can press on the pinnable surface.(dry iron--steam could damage/warp cork, IMHO).  I also have storage underneath, and store my marking tools, etc in the drawers in the base (close at hand).

    I store the leg and extra mat in a fabric "sling" fastened on the underside of the 1st/main overhanging piece of plywook.  Naturally, I put the sling on the side turned away from the center of the room.  I generally leave the cutting mat on the 1st surface.

    BTW, my "room" is a corner of my unfinished basement, but I've painted the floor and walls, and put a rug topped with a plastic roll on chair mat near by sewing machine to "insulate" my feet from the cold cement here in Connecticut.   But frankly, if I had a room(with windows! <sigh>), I'd still want THIS table, it has served me that well!


    1. birdlady1 | | #15

      Thanks for all the advice you provided. 

      Thank goodness for "gatherings".  It is nice to know that there are people out there that can provide good ideas about certain things.  I really like the idea of the cork board.  In my pattern making classes and sewing classes, our tables had, I think, a cork board surface.  When we had to cut out material, it did not slip or slide and also when we had to create a pattern and had to pivot it, having the pins held the pattern paper from moving around.  I also think that getting a cutting mat will help.  I don't want to do any damage to the table when using scissors.  With respect to the cork board material, do you think it would be a good idea to put some batten on the plywood first then place the cork board material or would that cause a problem?

      1. Susan -homedecsewing | | #16

        cork on wood , or it will break from an uneven surface. then a layer of cotton or a wool blanket covered with muslin or canvas. I like cotton muslin cause its cheap and I recover once a year or so.

        1. Ralphetta | | #17

          What is the purpose of the cork under the blanket and batting?

          1. Susan -homedecsewing | | #18

             the cork is to accept pins .

          2. Ralphetta | | #19

            I guess i was thinking the canvas, blanket and batting would be so thick that pins wouldn't reach it.

    2. MaryinColorado | | #33

      Ooooooooooh!  Thanks so much for sharing!  What a dream table!  It sounds absolutely perfect...I would love to have one myself oneday and with your great info, I just might pull it off.  Thanks for explaining it so well.  Mary

      1. platexas | | #34

        I have a board my father made for me years ago: it's a hollow-core door covered in a wool blanket (I think he used two layers) then cotton drill cloth. I've had it for over 40 years and it has held up through lots of abuse. I just use some plain water with a small drop of Dawn and clean it every few years. I do keep it covered with muslin when not in use (to keep the dust and cat hairs off). The drill cloth has 1" grid marks -- like the Golden Hands cloth you can get through Atlanta Supply (I think that's the name). It works great for graining fabric because you can pin it down on cross and lengthwise grains and steam and pull as needed.When rotary cutters came in I put a mat on the hard/board side so all I do is flip it to get that surface to work on. Have never affixed the mat to the door; I just hang up the mat using those small clamps sold at Home Depot for wood workers.For support, I found some very nice, sturdy adjustable metal saw horses at Home Depot. Since I'm 5'10 they're wonderful because they adjust up to 42".Hope this helps; works for me!

        1. MaryinColorado | | #35

          Thanks, those hollow core doors do make great tables!  I have one with heavy duty metal legs that we use when we have large gatherings for dinner too.  The problem for me, was the height was always too high, I like my sewing tables around 29-30". 

           Then I went with formica countertops bolted to the wall and supported every 2 feet. 

           Now I think I finally have just the "right" thing for my serger and sewing/embroidery tables with the industrial work tables with adjustable height and locking wheels.  I have no idea where they originated, but these were an "accidental find" and a blessing I am thrilled with.  For large quilts, I will put my wide ironing board or folding cutting table behind one, so even that works out well.  I feel like one lucky gal!  Happy stitching!  Mary

          1. KharminJ | | #36

            Great suggestion for the wheeled table, Mary! Oh, and they're "stylish", too. (Oh - Maybe that was *last year* - even better, you can find one used?) A very likely source to buy new would be a restaurant-supply house - these are very common in commercial kitchens. Don't forget to be sure the wheels lock! Bright Blessings! (wink) Kharmin

          2. MaryinColorado | | #37

            I already have them, they were free!  I hadn't locked the wheels yet because there is still one piece of furniture to move out of my studio.  I started free motion quilting a new wallhanging yesterday and today.  Guess I better get those wheels locked just to be safe.  I had to quit now, can't see, my fingers are stiff, so will have to wait till tomorrow to finish it, darn! 

          3. KharminJ | | #38

            Oh! Yay! Free is Good! Happy Quilting! K

  9. User avater
    brighteyestish | | #20

    I wouldnt cover the wood with any fabric or vinyl because it can get cut. I would sand it very well and the edges. You can get large cutting mats that quilters and seamstresses use. I even use a rotory cutter for a lot of garments, to cut them out. Hancocks and Joanns carry the large ones and they are white. You could use maps pins to hold down your patterns to cut out.

    I hope this helps

    1. birdlady1 | | #21

      I thought about sanding down the plywood table top.  If I was to put down those mats, I was wondering if the fabric you lay out would slip all over the place.  I want the fabric to stay steady because when I have cut out fabric the edges on the fabrics where not too straight.  I need the material to keep pretty sturdy as I am cutting.  I thought about gluing the cork material to the table top for steadiness.  With the cork top I could use pins to hold things down if I needed to and I thought would make the material more sturdy.  Has anyone used the cork material on their table tops? 

      1. Susan -homedecsewing | | #22

        Hi Birdlady, Just wondering if you have a bird, or just love them as I do ? About the cork, I think it may depend on your space, and how much  room you have. I have worked in several diferent sewing shops, awning, boat covers, tuxedo store, bridal store, drapery store. And for each there are different needs and table tops that work best for diferent aplications and fabrics. as for cutting mats, a rotery is a wonderful thing when you have arthritis, they are so nice to cut with. I just use scissors for tight corners. I have a padded surface with cutting mats on top. The cardboard folding covers from JoAnns should work instead of cork if you need to pin to it.I think the cork may chip after a while and with the glue a bear to remove. I love my firm padded table and a green rotery mat. I slide the mat under the area I'm pinning, and scoot it away to iron.

        1. birdlady1 | | #23


          I do raise birds.  I want to have a material where my fabric will not slip and slide.  When I try to cut my material on the floor, the edges of the fabric (when I have folded them over each other as we have to when cutting out our pattern pieces) do not cut out evenly.  The bottom half of the fabric is shorter than the top one.  They appear not to be flush with each other after cutting.  Also, if I want to create a pattern, you need to pin your tissue so it does not move around.  I use this type of table at night school where I have been learning how to create patterns and sewing.  You can use those tables for both cutting and pattern making.  I use my ironing board to iron my material and place my interfacings so I do not need that table to iron things. 

          1. Susan -homedecsewing | | #24

            Hi , we have a new parakeet , he came to our feeder, so we put a cage out with a heavy thread thru the screen attached to the cage door and caught him after a few days of trickery. He still has his freedom as we allow him to fly free in the lani. He was so wild at first, but now he loves his cage and toys, and will get on our fingers for millet. Do you think we should get him a girlfriend? I've heard that its best not to give them a mate because they won't love you as much as the new bird.Have you found this to be true? And about your table I still think a covered table would serve you well. Plywood edges will be a problem catching and snagging your fabric, and the surface will not be slippery with a muslin cover.Just my opinion. Susan

          2. birdlady1 | | #25

            Hi Susan!

            I personally would not get him a mate.  Having him be the only one will be more beneficial for you and your family.  If he was to get a mate he may just ignore you and pay more attention to her/him.  I would also not put a mirror in his cage as that too can be a distraction.

            With respect to the table I am going to cover it.  I have the plywood right now that is rough and it does catch my fabric when I lay it down.  I still am not sure what I should put on the surface of it.  I want to be able to cut fabric and work on creating a patterns with tissue paper and be able to pin the tissue paper.  I also want them both to be sturdy.


          3. Susan -homedecsewing | | #26

            Thanks for the reply about the bird ! And good luck with your table, happy sewing ,Susan

          4. vwren99 | | #27

            You could use a layer of Homosote , (which is a very dense compressed paper fiber board [4'x6' sheets] used in construction-available at lumberyards.) Cover it with fabric, and yiou would have a firm pinnable surface. It can be cut with an utility knife blade if you don't have a saw available.  Just keep making shallow cuts until you get through. Upson Board is another possibility-but it is much thinner, and might not lay as well.

          5. ellaluna | | #31

            I'm so glad you mentioned Homasote, I was just about to! It's cheaper than cork and has such a nice thickness. I have a piece of plywood that's about 36"x60". I cut it to be the same size as my large cutting mat. I use a rotary cutter whenever possible, so I love having a full-size cutting mat on my table. It's also really easy to wipe up spills and random bits of glue or whatever, which I like.I also like that I can slide things under it -- like pattern pieces or transfer paper -- to get them out of the way when I don't need them. Of course things do tend to collect under there too. ;)I bought some iron-on laminate tape to seal and protect the edges of the plywood, and I painted it white because it makes the gridlines on my cutting mat easier to see.I have not yet purchased the homasote, but the last costume shop I worked at used it and I really liked it. We covered the tables with brown paper, and it was nice to be able to write on it - but we would also need to recover them about every 4-6 weeks, and I'm not a fan of that much waste. I'd probably cover mine with a heavy muslin. It's nice and thick, so you can really jab your pins in.

          6. jjgg | | #32

            My cutting/work tables (yes, I have 2) are plywood (1/2 inch) covered with canvas. This really helps when laying out slick fabrics. You know what they say about cutting out silky fabrics, putting down some tissue paper? well, tissue paper doesn't work - it generally has too many wrinkles and folds in it to lay flat nicely. Silky fabrics will behave very nicely on canvas. If I really need to, I can get a pin into the canvas to anchor something. When it's dirty, I can either get a lint brush, small hand held vacuum or a damp rag to clean it up. When the canvas gets beyond cleaning, it's fairly cheap to replace and re-staple to the bottom of the board.In my sewing room, I have one 4 X 8 sheet of plywood on top of several kitchen base cabinets that I bought at a hardware store. The side I spend most of my time standing at has space under it for my feet (I have smaller plastic bins stuck there for my patterns).For cutting out my tents I have in a different room, 1 1/2 sheets of plywood - I needed it 65 inches wide because the fabric is 65 wide. These are mounted on some plastic saw horses my husband picked up, they had to be raised up a few more inches to bring them to my height but it works very well.The tent business is going very well, you can see my new site

  10. ntharp | | #28

    I purchased a folding cutting board and stapeled it to the top of my plywood sewing table.  I had to cut it a bit in places for it to fit, but I works great.

    1. User avater
      JunkQueen | | #29

      That's such a good idea. Wish I had thought of it. Thank you.

    2. birdlady1 | | #30

      What is the material that is on the folding cutting table you purchased?  I am still mulling over what I want to put on my table.  I went to night school to learn how to do a suit jacket with lining and did not get a chance to study what material they use on the school's tables.  After I see what they use then I hope to decide.  I want to start sewing again.  I just got my sewing machine checked and cleaned and it is ready to go.

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