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Make a custom sewing table cheap!

Updated on January 28, 2012

Sewing table/desk or quilting table/desk

I built myself a table for sewing and quilting that fits my machine perfectly and gives me a flat, smooth surface to work on and I just love it!

If you can't afford the custom cabinetry or need something that can be dismantled and put in a closet in minutes, this is the ticket :)

I put up four videos on YouTube about this homemade table and ergonomics for sewing and quilting that show the basics.

UPDATE: I made an hour long video (that is available for rent on YouTube) and I wrote a book about this. Both the video and the book talk about ergonomics, chairs, tables and alternatives, step-by-step how to set up your sewing machine comfortably for you and many other tips. The book is 80ish pages and is on Amazon in print and for the Kindle. Here's the video link and here's my website THANK YOU for reading my lens! :)

Scroll down to watch and read more or: Click Here to see all my Videos on You Tube.

Custom Sewing Desk - Cheap

I don't have the room or the money for a huge expensive sewing cabinet so I created my own design for a sewing table and I call it my Quilting Desk.

I started with:

2 relatively inexpensive folding tables from SAM'S Club ($42 each in Anchorage, Alaska) that measure 2' wide x 4' long (get the ones with the adjustable height legs - it matters!)

4 sheets of rigid foam insulation

2½ yards clear vinyl (54" wide on a roll, cut to length, and comes in various mils thick) for sale at WalMart from $2 to $3 per yard, or from a hardware store for a lot more $$

I use 2 tables because I quilt large quilts and I cannot have any drag on the fabrics as I am quilting them - I need a perfectly flat surface for several feet, all around the sewing machine, to support the bulk of the quilt as I am working on it.

After setting up the tables, I put my sewing machine on the table top and measured the height from the top of the table to the top of the stitch plate. It measured at 3½".

I purchased 2 pieces of rigid foam insulation

1 piece of 2" thick x 8' long x 2' wide

1 piece of 1½" thick x 8' long x 2' wide.

I cut the length of both pieces in half, to make 4' sections, and then lay each 2"(thick) x 4' onto each table, then put the 1½"(thick) x 4' sections on top.

Here's how I made the cuts for the sewing machine to fit in. I cut the bottom piece of foam to match the base of the sewing machine and the top piece of foam to match the free-arm top part of the sewing machine (so the cuts don't match up exactly!) FIRST I set the sewing machine on top of the foam insulation and positioned it as far away from me as I could comfortably sew and quilt.

Quilters need a lot of support space in front of the needle, to support a heavy quilt as they are quilting it.

I used a pen to mark an outline of the sewing machine onto the blue foam and set the machine aside. Using a serrated knife to cut the foam, I cut out the space for the sewing machine from both layers of foam.

I started with a cut to just fit the sewing machine, but then went back and made it bigger because I wanted space to access the front loading bobbin area easily. Then I made 1 straight cut through the top layer of foam only, to create even easier access to the bobbin. (see photo above - this is only necessary if you have a front load bobbin)

When I need to change bobbins, I just slide this piece out a few inches, giving my hand access to the bobbin area.

Lastly, I layered pieces of the clear vinyl over the top of the foam and around the sewing machine. This vinyl is so slick that everything including heavy quilts just glides right over it - sweeter than sweet!

{I bought the clear vinyl in 2 places - expensive was at the hardware store where it is sold on a roll as storm window covering for a few $$ per foot

- cheap was at Walmart Fabric Dept. where it is sold as just a vinyl covering for dining tables, etc. for a couple of $$ per yard. At both places you have your choice of thicknesses - go with the thickest you can afford - it lays flatter}

I put the vinyl in place and then cut out an area just larger than the feed dogs of the sewing machine and then cut out an area for the tall part of the machine, so the vinyl completely surrounds the machine. I taped all 4 sides of the cut opening around the feed dogs that that my fabric doesn't get caught up on the edges.

I put a strip of black electrical tape (you can use masking tape or anything else you want) to mark the ¼" edge for quilting, that's why you see that in the pic.

For inspiration and for fun, I slide photos, magazine pages and quilt patterns under the clear vinyl so that I don't always have to look at the blue foam :)

In about an hour I had a custom Quilting Desk that is completely portable and stores easily. The tables have folding legs and they can fit in a closet and so can the blue foam insulation. The vinyl rolls and unrolls easily as well.

My Quilting Website

My Blog

All My Books

The basics of building the table

Convert it easily for quilting large quilts - Just flip the foam over

Some other interesting stuff about the table

Here's more ways I use it and a mistake I made!

Books I've Written - For sale on Amazon.com

I am a writer and quilter who is on a mission to make quilting easier and more fun and that's what my books are about. My books have excellent reviews - I invite you to take a look inside....

Sew & Quilt in Comfort: How to inexpensively create and customize your sewing and quilting area to fit you perfectly
Sew & Quilt in Comfort: How to inexpensively create and customize your sewing and quilting area to fit you perfectly

Learn how to create your custom sewing and quilting area and perfectly fit it to your sewing machine, and your body, with inexpesive and easy to use materials. See how to quickly adapt the same area to make working on a large project, like machine quilting, easier. Available in print and for the Kindle Fire.

 
Crazy Shortcut Quilts: Quilt as You Go and Finish in Half the Time!
Crazy Shortcut Quilts: Quilt as You Go and Finish in Half the Time!

Learn this easy quilt-as-you-go technique that lets you make crazy quilts from fat quarter bundles and use the decorative stitches on your sewing machine to do the quilting! Available in print and for the Kindle Fire.

 
Finish (almost) Any Quilt: A Simple Guide to Adapting Quilts to Finish As You Go
Finish (almost) Any Quilt: A Simple Guide to Adapting Quilts to Finish As You Go

Quilt As You Go!! Popular, easy, proven techniques to help you convert existing projects or new patterns to quilt-as-you-go. Check out the video series on YouTube and start FINISHING your quilts today! Available in print and for the Kindle Fire.

 

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    • scrapquilter profile image

      Myreda Johnson 3 years ago from Ohio USA

      Thanks for sharing information about how you created a great table for quilting at home. You have probably helped a lot of people with this information. I will be getting your book for my Kindle.

    • profile image

      tina-lancaster-397 3 years ago

      You are a genius. I move around a lot and I never know if my next house will have an extra room or not for my sewing stuff. I have all ways used my kitchen table. So hard to quilt on. This is inexpensive and functional. I wish I would have thought of this. Thanks so much for sharing. - Tina

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Quilter LM: Thank you Margurita much appreciated!

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Virginia, I think that Kaye Wood has a good video on YouTube about borders using stencils and paper called "Bold Beginnings Quilting Stencils and Paper.mov". Not sure if I can post a link here, but will try - http://youtu.be/bltKdP71cIk

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Quilter LM: Thank you for your response Marguerita. Yes you explained it very well. Thank you. This is off topic but would you have a video on how to use stencils on the border of a quilt?

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Virginia, I cut out just larger than the stitch plate - that way I can take it off and clean the bobbin area without "undressing" the whole table. I am not sure if I understand your second question: I do literally just flip the foam over (the top of the foam becomes the bottom), after pushing the sewing machine back on the table, and then I have a *huge* area in front of the needle. Let me know if I am not explaining this right, okay?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us! Can you tell me on your vinyl do you only cut the area for the feed dogs or the entire stitch plate? If I were to cut the foam to butt up against the machine how can I flip it over if I want to have a larger area in front of me?

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi, I have not had any sagging, although with my heaviest old machine I did put a piece of 3/8ths OSB under the machine. All tables will vibrate when the machine is going at a super high rate, even my Gammill would vibrate. Adding wood to the tabletop adds weight, which helps dampen the vibration. After 5 years I still love my setups and won't sew or quilt without them. Even if you use a different table, make sure it's a good height for you and then just add the foam & vinyl. I guarantee that you will love it :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Have you noticed any sag in the table top or excess wiggling at high speed sewing. I have a little card table now and really want to upgrade to something more stable, no sag, and with more room. This looks like a great idea, but I'm curious how well the Sam's table holds up over time.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hi.. I bought a sewing table when I first started quilting it works ok.. Then I saw an extension table custom made for ur machine I bought that also which makes it easier to quilt larger quilt but now I'm trying to make a queen size quilt but I don't have enough room on my sewing table does buying another table like urs help just to add to my original sewing table..thanks so much

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      What a talented lady you are! Enjoyed reading your page very much.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Quilter LM: Thank you for your quick answer. I guess I will have a new sewing table tomorrow. I love it. And thank for the ergonomic video. Wow no wonder I have so many spasm my neck and shoulders are always sore after only a few hours of sewing. Great advise. Thank you

    • Quilter LM profile image
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      Quilter LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Iris, I have never noticed a lot of noise with mine, but whenever I have something that squeeks, I put a cushion of foam padding under or over it. The stuff that that WalMart sells for lining cupboards and drawers - it works like a charm :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I want to thank you for shearing your wonderful idea. I will like to ask you if the boards make a lot of noice when sewing. I find the noice of foam touching each other very annoying, not only that it bothers me a lot, how do you avoid that.

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hehehehe - thank you for your story! I won't tell her it was my idea if you don't ;) I am glad that you both found the info useful. 5 years after first figuring this out I still use it and would not change it for anything!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your great ideas - I was able to incorporate into a new quilting and sewing craft area in our home. All for a cost I could afford. You made me look like a hero to my wife but I full admit the ideas were yours. I just started to learn to sew and the new layout saved my back.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I made a copy of the plexiglass extension & asked my handyman husband if he could make it to fit my Singer Treadle Machine table. He went a step further & made an extension from a piece of scrap wood that he stained. Then he added the 18 x 24 plexiglass over wooden dowel/legs that were inset into both. He notched the board so it is secure to the table top, but is also removable. He did a great job and I love it. It all cost less than $25 unless you add labor - his was a labor of love. I'm so fortunate he is such a handyman! You can get great ideas on the internet. Thank you for sharing yours.

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: I use an office stye chair, with height adjustment and a pneumatic "bounce" to it - thank you for asking because the chair is just as important as the table!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      what chair do you use

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I am speechless. Your creation is ingenious. You website was mentioned by a member of the Quilted Paradise Newsletter.

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 6 years ago

      @anonymous: This is just awesome! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story - I really appreciate it :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you for the video and instructions. My husband and I got all the materials in a couple of hours Mostly at Lowes and the table at Sam's Club and I had the table ready to go in 15 to 20 minutes for just about $60.00. A table with that capability would go from $150.00 and up, trust me I researched it and had given up until I saw your video. What a God send. My machine ended up being 3 and 1/4 In. so I bought 3 pieces of foam. A 2in a 3/4 in and a 1/2 in. I also had to ancor the foam to my table with blue painters tape which won't stick and comes up easy.

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 6 years ago from Nashville, TN

      I love this. Thanks. I need a sewing/craft table and a drawing table. I may make some adjustments and create a good drawing table too.

    • Utsahan profile image

      Utsahan 7 years ago

      Just what I was looking for. Your lense hit the spot, thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thumbs up!

      Great lens... very informative. Thanks for the good read.

      -----------------------------

      Info Prodigy Review

    • dorotheajames profile image

      dorotheajames 7 years ago

      Thank you for the video instructions. It really helps to see the process. Great written directions too. Nice Lens.

    • davis66 profile image

      davis66 7 years ago

      These are great instructions for constructing a custom sewing table. Thanks for all of the really detailed and useful information. Very helpful lens.

    • Amelia77 profile image

      Amelia77 7 years ago

      I never even considered building a custom sewing table. Thanks for all of the great and detailed information.

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 7 years ago

      @dollum: Hi, I think it might be the vinyl that keeps them from slipping but also, the pieces of foam don't have very smooth surfaces. They really don't move at all unless I bump them myself. You could use shelf liner (I love that stuff & use it everywhere) if you really want to be secure. Or some gals glue the two layers of foam - I remember reading that somewhere in some comments. My vinyl drapes over the edges by at least 5-6" and that helps keep them in line too. I have several of these tables set up, some against a wall and some freestanding. Thanks so much for your comments and feel free to email me if you want to MMquilts @ gmail.com Marguerita :)

    • profile image

      dollum 7 years ago

      I am very excited and inspired by your cost-effective-do-it-yourself-custom-made table and can hardly wait to explore all your other posts. But first a burning question: it looks as though the foam easily slides on the table top. What keeps those foam layers secure especially when working the weight of a big of quilt? I'm guessing you position it against the right angles of a wall but still it seems to me there'd be some shifting.

    • profile image

      WindyMD 7 years ago

      I was on the Threads magazine site and found your link. Never even heard of Squidoo. It's really cool. Thank you for the great idea. It's so easy and inexpensive. I love it and can't wait to try it. I am going to try quilting my own quilts now.

    • profile image

      WindyMD 7 years ago

      I was on the Threads magazine site and found your link. Never even heard of Squidoo. It's really cool. Thank you for the great idea. It's so easy and inexpensive. I love it and can't wait to try it. I am going to try quilting my own quilts now.

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 7 years ago

      @Louisec: Hi Louise, I use some old kitchen cupboards and counter top in my sewing area, and on the counter top I have space for my cutting mat and for a pressing mat that I made. I love having my cutting and pressing areas right next to my sewing table, it is so convenient :)

      I have a video on YouTube about making the pressing pad if you want to see it.

      Thanks so much and happy quilting, Marguerita

    • profile image

      Louisec 7 years ago

      I've been quilting for ONE WEEK now. It's something I've always wanted to do, and with the help of a wonderful woman who's been doing it a long time, I've started my first log cabin. I'm only on my second square (lame, I know LOL) but finding it theraputic, addictive and wonderful all at the same time! I saw your table and will try to duplicate it this week. I'm wondering if I should set up another place (table) for the ironing? I always have to leave the room and go to another room to iron, so it would be good to have everything at the same place. Do you recommend another table for the cut/trimming? Just wondering....thanks!

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 8 years ago

      [in reply to Jo Rice] Hi Jo, That's wonderful!! You are going to love the feeling of holding your finished quilts!! Thanks for your note & happy quilting, Marguerita :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I spent less than $20 US because I already have a table. I love it and hope to start to finish a box of quilt tops which are waiting for me. Thanks SO much for your videos.

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 8 years ago

      [in reply to Claudia] Thank you Claudia! I am so happy to help you finish your quilts!! Yay!!! I just love that!!

      Marguerita

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I have been worried how can I quilt this very large quilt I just made. Then I saw your suggestion on youtube. My husband went to the building supply and came home with the foam and I cut it. I now am half finished with the quilting on my very large quilt. I haven't struggled with it except for when I change the bobbin. Would be great to have a top loading bobbin. I had to stop quilting and tell you Thank you for being so cleaver and sharing!

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 8 years ago

      [in reply to Annie] Thank you Annie! I have two tables set up, and I just bought another (second hand) machine so now when someone visits me we can both quilt together - HEAVEN!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      this is a great idea!! I want to explore machine quilting without a huge investment. Your idea is cheaper than a plexiglass extension that I saw problems with from the start. And if I determine I'm not a machine quilter I have a table to use for anything, some insulation & a vinyl cover that can be put to some good use somewhere. Thank you for sharing!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thank you for the great idea!!! My husband and I built one for our daughter and she just loves it. I am still waiting for mine!

    • Quilter LM profile image
      Author

      Quilter LM 8 years ago

      [in reply to Rena Clark] Hi Rena, I live in Alaska and rigid foam insulation is available here at Lowe's and Home Depot as well as the Alaskan owned building supply stores. Be sure to ask for either "Rigid Foam Insulation" "Foam Board" or "Blue Board" [I have heard it called all three]. Also, I am trying to help a lady in Austin, TX find the board and she's going to try the local masonry contractors because they use it when putting in a cinder block foundation.

      I sure hope this helps!

      Marguerita

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Your idea is great...but where did you find your foam insulation. I have spent the last two days calling and going to our building supply stores. Can you help me?

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing such a great idea.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Looks like an excellent plan...

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      i really like this article. Keep writing.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      Pure Genious!! thank you