Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Studio Is Drafty


Drafting table.  Drafty.  Get it?  Huh?  Huh?  -snort-

(Sorry for the mess, I’m still waiting for warmer weather so I can cover my banker boxes using spray glue… which means I haven’t really been jumping up to deal with the rest of the junk under the table either.)

Anyway, here's a little info on my pressing table, a.k.a. the Poor Neglected Drafting Table.  For many years I used it for both drawing and sewing. Once I started spending significantly more time sewing than drawing, I decided to convert it to a pressing table.  But I felt sort of guilty about it.  I mean, Poor Neglected Drafting Table and I go back, way back, and it seemed sort of heartless to just throw it over like that.  So I decided to make a cutting table that I could (sort of) easily convert back to a drawing table.  You know, in case I suddenly had the urge to, uh, draw something.  (I don't.  If you think I'm barely capable of completing something in the sewing arena with the Evil Monkeys on my back, you can well imagine my trying to do something that requires concentration... like drawing.  It's not gonna happen.)

The biggest feature of this project, then, was impermanence.

To that purpose, I decided that a piece of plywood 37.5" x 72" would be a totally and completely permanent fixture in any room I happened to be in.  Ain't no way that kind of weight would be moving under my power.  But what to do?  Cut it into two pieces of plywood, of course.  I can manage a 3'x3' piece of plywood moderately well.  I know this, because I fairly routinely have to take the outer covers off the boards to wash them.  CURSE YOU, EVIL HAIRY CAT OF, uh, EVILNESS.


But let's not jump ahead of ourselves.  To make this pressing table system you will need:

  • a table
  • 1/2" plywood, cut by your friendly hardware store employee to whatever shape and size is suitable, i.e. the size of your table (you might be able to substitute 1/4” masonite, if you can find any)
  • wool blankets, preferably of the Army Surplus variety and a minimum content of 80% wool
  • material for the outer cover, preferably something sturdy but with not a lot of texture (like duck or bull denim)
  • staple gun (and staples)
  • duct tape (because frankly, any project that doesn't require duct tape isn't a project I want to participate in and I'm sure you feel the same way.  Right?)

First cut your blankets the size of your board plus about 4"-5" extra width all the way around.  You should have two layers of wool if at all possible, so purchase accordingly.  For a 3'x3' board I got two layers out of one blanket.  Just.


Next, miter the corners (cut them) and then staple evenly around the entire width of the board.  This is just like canvas stretching, but requiring significantly less tension.  It just needs to be smooth and somewhat taut.


Once the wool layers are attached, cut your cover fabric slightly wider than the wool, but don't cut out the miters.  You just want a square. Otherwise it won't be washable and will fray and will generally be a total pain in the patootie to deal with.  Just sayin'.  I serged the edges of mine but I'll be honest, I only did this last night and I've had this particular set of covers for over a year and washed them several times already.  I just was lazy and never serged before. It's probably worth the extra five minutes of effort.

To attach the cover, I use Duct Tape: Tool Of Champions.  You could staple, but again that will make it really hard to take the covers off and wash them.  And you'll want to wash them a lot, trust me.  I had the idea last night that you could use a huge piece of elastic and make a snugged up cover that way, but really the duct tape works perfectly fine and is easy to replace.  So duct tape it is. Anyway, fold your corners into miters and tape everything down, pulling the fabric as evenly taut as possible.

CutTab4The goal is to have a perfectly smooth, very taut cover on the top and no bumps on the bottom (so the board sits flatly on the table).  This can take some practice and (in my case, at least) much swearing and cursing.  But persevere, because you'll be happy once it's done. 

Once everything is taped up, voila!  Removable pressing table!


I couldn't work without this thing.  Despite the slight gap in the middle, it’s highly useful.  It presses like a dream and provides tons of cutting and laying-out space.   However, I should note that this is not a cheap sewing accessory.  The Alvin Workmaster 6' drafting table retails for $550. alvin workmaster 5' table I got mine for significantly less (12 years ago), but $550 is the SRP.  Even at a discount, you're still looking at several hundred dollars.  Of course, you can use this system on any sturdy table (it has to be sturdy, however, because those plywood things are hea-vy).  Beyond the table expense, the 80% wool army blankets are pretty pricey as well.  Or they were when I bought them.  It used to be army blankets were dirt cheap, but either they're a lot more popular now or they're a lot harder to come by.  Regardless, they're not inexpensive when you need two or three.  Plus you have the cost of the plywood and of the cover fabric, which is probably the cheapest part of the whole thing.  Well, besides the duct tape, of course.

It is, however, TOTALLY WORTH IT.  Totally.


  1. Hubby and I still ogle drafting tables on a regular basis, despite the fact that the amount of drawing that has occurred in our household since the kids' births has been, er, negligible at best. /sigh. Since I'm still doing all my cutting on the floor, I will swoon over your table for both it's uses. /swoon!

  2. Very nice! I was just thinking that I need a new "ironing board" solution, as most of my fabric ends up covered in German Shepard, which is not a pleasing look. What a great workspace you've created!

  3. Anything that needs to be fixed can be fixed with duct tape and baling wire. I don't know why that shouldn't apply to pressing table covers, too. And if anyone wants to get all snarky and look beyond your lovely table tops at the underside, well, just clobber them with the other 3x3 plywood sheet. Problem solved.

  4. This is all fine and good, actually even better than that, but tell me how to fold it up and store it when I'm not pressing and sewing in my 41 square meter (135 square feet) apartment!?! ehhh?

  5. That was a lot of work in there, and it looks very handy. What's this? Two sewing room projects, consecutively. A change of pace.

  6. Okay - so now we know where you press and cut and how organized your fabric is - but watcha makin'? (Says the girl who's avoiding heading to the studio herself.) g

  7. I can't believe I didn't comment on this piece of genius back in the day. It obviously stuck in my head though, because I just spent an hour attaching an old army blanket to a door. With duct tape. I was actually thinking about elasticating the cover like an ironing board, but I'm afraid it won't be snug enough. Contemplating... I have more duct tape.


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