Friday, March 18, 2016

9 Steps to a Happy Cutting Table

9 Steps to a Happy Cutting Table by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The cutting table can be one of the most stressful places in your sewing room. This is where things can get dangerous (watch out for that blade!), frustrating (why didn't I double check the measurements?), and downright messy (hello, piles of fabric). It doesn't have to be that way, though. Here are nine steps to a happy cutting table...

1. Get the height right.

I’ve found that the height of my cutting table is directly related to how much pain reliever I have to take after a sewing session. For years I cut my fabric on a low desk, and my back paid the price in a big way. Being just under 6 feet tall, I found that it was impossible to avoid this problem without looking for a different piece of furniture. I finally invested in a 39” high pub table that I bought through Amazon, and the difference was incredible. If you’re experiencing a similar problem, try looking for other options. In my experience, if the top of the table comes to your waist or even a bit higher, it will probably be a good fit. It also doesn't hurt to keep an adjustable stool tucked away under the table for those moments when you want -- or need -- to sit down.

2. Lighten up.

Trying to cut your fabric in poor lighting is like driving at night without your headlights...a very bad idea. I've tried several lighting options, and my favorite by far is a simple task lamp. It's brighter than most table lamps and adjustable so that I can point it where I need it.

3. Invest in a few good rulers.

I used to do all my cutting with a single 8 1/2 x 12” ruler. While it’s possible to get by with just one, it’s worth investing in more. My 2 1/2 x 18” ruler is fantastic for cutting binding strips. I also recommend getting at least one small square ruler for fussy cutting. I’m a huge fan of non-slip versions. It can be helpful, depending on the type of projects you do, to add tools that will help you cut special blocks like flying geese, circles, or dresdens. You know if this is something you need or not.

9 Steps to a Happy Cutting Table by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

4. Go big with your cutting mat.

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to cut fabric on a mat that's too small. I keep a 12 x 18" cutting mat right next to my sewing machine for trimming blocks, but all my preliminary work is done on an 18 x 24" mat, which is the largest size I can fit on my cutting table.

5. Take care of your tools.

Over time, even the best kept rulers can get chipped or cracked. If you notice damaged tools, be sure to replace them because they can affect your accuracy. There’s no concrete rule on how often you should replace your rotary cutter blade, since it all depends on how often you use it. When I find that I’m having to place an uncomfortable amount of pressure on the cutter to get the results I want, it’s probably time to switch blades.

9 Steps to a Happy Cutting Table by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

6. Try a desktop organizer.

A typical desktop supply organizer makes a fabulous corral for cutting tools. I have an inexpensive wooden version with just three sections to it. The large compartment in the back holds my biggest rulers, the mid-sized section in front is for my smaller rulers, and the smallest slot is for my rotary cutter and extra blades. It couldn’t be more perfect if I’d designed it myself for the task.


7. Use a fabric weight.

It’s helpful to have a weight or two on your cutting table to hold fabric in place while you cut it. This also keeps the fabric from sliding or falling off the edge of the table when you’re working with a bigger piece of yardage. I use a small vintage iron, but anything heavy, from a paper weight to a mason jar full of sand, should do the job.

9 Steps to a Happy Cutting Table by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt


8. Know where everything goes.

The cutting table is usually where the mess begins in my sewing room, and it gets out of control fast. Having a place for everything to go when you’re done with it is the best way to head off the clutter before it begins. Fabric that lands on my cutting mat will wind up in one of five places:
  • my sewing table: fabric going into the project
  • the return basket: fabric going back into storage (I sort the contents of this basket back into my color coded fabric baskets whenever it gets full.)
  • the scrap basket: scraps and selvages
  • the pretty bowl: special pieces and thin strings that are just too pretty to throw away
  • the trash can: everything else
Whenever the cutting table scrap basket gets full, I hand it off to one of my daughters, who love to sort the pieces into my color coded scrap buckets.  

9 Steps to a Happy Cutting Table by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt


9. Fold it now. 

I have a rule that I never put fabric into the return basket without folding it first. Those 10 seconds spent folding now save me half an hour of folding a mountain of fabrics later on.

Do you have any special tips for the cutting table? Share them in the comments below!

33 comments:

  1. I have a full spectrum compact fluorescent bulb in my task light. I find it really helps put colours together, even on dull days.
    Now I need to get a basket for a return basket. Thanks for the tips.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is excellent, Heidi! I'm going to link to your post in my next newsletter. And I love the idea of a return basket. Note to self!

    ReplyDelete
  3. So true. A clean sewing room is a happy sewing room. My cutting table is adjustable with pegs that allow me to set it at 4 different heights, lwhich works great when I have a sewing day with friends and it's not my turn to cut fabric strips. My husband also put pegs into the end for hanging rulers on. It makes it so easy to stop and reach for the right tool, rather than trying to make do b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What brand and style is your sewing table. It sounds perfect for my husband who is a quilter, vet, and now has special needs. Where did you purchase it?

      Delete
  4. Thanks for the great tips. Being just under 6ft myself, I use my kitchen counter that we eat at. Nice height. Love the return basket!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I too us the counter, My tip would be to close the rotary cutter anytime you move or turn your fabric. I was turning a piece of fabric and the cutter was knocked off the cabinet. Thank God I had shoes on, it cut through the new pair of shoes and socks but stopped there. Just some food for thought.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The right height cutting table is so right on! I've read that a lot, but recently got a table from a neighbor that comes to my waist. I can't get over the difference it's made. I want to cut all the time! It doesn't hurt at all. It's really changed things for me. Thanks for your list.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the great tips... I am linking up with our quilt guild blog. Old Capital Quilt Guild

    ReplyDelete
  8. Return basket: what a great idea! I have return piles, loads of them, anywhere that's sort of vacant at the time. I'm off to look for a suitable basket on Monday!

    ReplyDelete
  9. thanks for these tips! look at the return basket, too!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yeah, a few years ago, I went for a meeting with the caterer of my daughter's wedding, walked into that house and sat at her Pub Table.
    I thought "I want one of these"
    Well, I never did get one, but I did make my ironing table higher using two book cases and a board from Home Depot.
    So that works. I also have a good cutting area but it is even a tad bit lower than kitchen table height. It is just a huge piece of furniture my old neighbor gave us, you put your tv on it. It weighs a ton.
    The only suggestion I can offer is to have a scrap bin velcroed to the side of the table or front to shove the little scraps in.
    I used 3M velcro tape and a crazy looking piece from an old refrigerator haha the little shelf on the door that you put your butter in, you know with the clear open close door. (from the old broken fridge)
    LOL anyway, it works for me
    Your ideas are great. Thanks for sharing them Heidi!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love this list! I like to cut flat, ironed fabric. So, my cutting table doubles as an ironing surface. That way I can stand and iron fabric first and then carve it up!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I bought an inexpensive set of bed risers at the container store and they lifted my IKEA table to the perfect hight for me!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I bought a second 18 x 24" mat when I had a gift certificate last Christmas. Now I can store the "good" mat under my original or butt the two together for extra long cuts or garment cutting.

    ReplyDelete
  14. At just over 5 ft a regular table is still too low for me and my back kills me after cuttung for hours. Will look into pub tables, thanks. The return basket is a great idea too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just use bed risers. They're cheap and do the job. If your table has metal legs, you can cut PVC pipe to the exact length for cutting and/or ironing.

      Delete
  15. Great tips and I could certainly be more organised when doing a big cutting session. I use our kitchen island unit. The great advantage is that you can walk round it if you need to take a cut from a different angle. In my dream studio - am I the only one that fantasies about having the perfect sewing room? - it will have a high large table you can walk round oh and an adjustable stool.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I love your return basket! I really need one of those but what I would like to use it for is for my new fabrics that I just can't bear to put away! It would be my basket of inspiration. Great ideas, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Good ideas! And love it that I use a vintage iron too to weight down fabrics!! Like minds....

    ReplyDelete
  18. I love the scrap basket idea, I pretty well use all of the other ideas already. I cannot work in chaos.

    ReplyDelete
  19. i love your idea of a return basket!!! excellent suggestion!!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I had been in the market for a good cutting table for a long time. I found one on a local selling site, it was actually an architect's drawing table on wheels. It has a laminate top, a half shelf and it's height is adjustable. I can roll it out into the center of the room so I can walk around it for easier cutting. When I'm finished, it goes back in the corner and out of the way. My rulers are from art classes I took in college, they're metal with cork backing. They don't slip, chip or warp. Just make sure the rotary blade is next to it and not hitting the edge or you damage your blade.

    ReplyDelete
  21. all fabulous tips ! I like the fold as you go tip - I'll be using that one now !!

    ReplyDelete
  22. These are really great tips. I'd love if you'd share at my linky party: http://quiltingmod.blogspot.com/2016/03/lessons-learned-linky-3.html.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi Heidi, love your organizing ideas. They are inspiring me to get back to sewing more. PS Miss you and the girls here in SoCal.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Lots of great ideas! I confess, I hate folding fabric and always put it off. If I do get it folded, I love being able to see all of the fabrics that "go together" , though, after taking the time to do it.
    Susie

    ReplyDelete
  25. Great tips. I especially love the return basket idea. Mine get tossed on the floor in a pile. Fold first, return basket next--this will help me immensely!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Great post, thank you. My only tip is that I buy a few packets of rotary blades when I go to our big annual show - so there is always a new one in the draw and never an excuse for cutting with a dull blade.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I can't find my sewing machines!! I've put everything in the corner of the 2nd floor landing in my house (because he took my sewing room for storing his stamps and books to be sold on eBay) and there is too much stuff......looks like I need to reorganize again so I can make doll clothes for the granddaughters for Christmas!

    ReplyDelete

Aren't you the sweetest!! Thanks for making my day by leaving a comment!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...