“How many tables am I going to have to buy you?” asked my husband as he lugged my birthday gift into my upstairs studio.
In the week leading up to my birthday I had made the topic of after-dinner conversation the cutting tables on sale at a local sewing store. I may or may not have also cut out the exact advertisement and left it in my husband’s car along with a coupon. It should, therefore, come as no surprise when I admit my husband’s query is totally justified. We’ve purchased four tables in the year we’ve lived in Florida – three of them specifically for my studio. And believe me, I use all three.
The first is the Vika Fintorp from Ikea (sorry kids, looks like they aren’t selling it anymore). I wanted this stainless steel beauty because of its size: 29.5 inches by 59 inches on which I could spread out patterns and projects with room left over for my sewing machine. WRONG. The size is fabulous and I do spread things out on it. But those things are not so much patterns and projects as accounting paperwork and various types of correspondence. Oh, and my computer lives there too.
This past spring I discovered the joys of garage sale-ing. During one treasure hunt I scored a vintage sewing table for $10! I got it home and prepared to mount my sewing machine into the smart little flip-top design. FAIL. My machine is portable. It doesn’t mount. Oh well. Even with the flap folded over the table is the perfect height for sewing so I love it despite my idiocy.
Until my birthday I had been doing all of my crafting, cutting, ironing, and gluing on top of my ironing board. It was a pretty precarious system that resulted in many spilled beads, a number of burns, and one ruined dress shirt (sorry, honey).
But now, I have a cutting table. A glorious, 35-inch high fold-out number perfect for cutting, crafting, and gluing. But not ironing. That kind of foolishness leads to a warped cutting mat.
Am I happy with my three tables? Yes! Am I done buying work tables? No.
Truth be told, my studio started with a small three-drawer desk, an end table from our living room, and a wood lateral file that had been converted to a desk. Before that I used a 37-inch high craft table that I’ve had for some years. I received that table as a gift after admiring it in the Pottery Barn Catalog for a year or so. (I believed it would be the perfect sewing table because it had a sewing machine perched atop it in one of the photographs. Sadly, the deep drawers and a trestle make it impossible to comfortably sew in a sitting position.) Over the years I have also used various dining room tables, coffee tables, kitchen counters, and, of course, the floor.
What are you to make of this haphazard timeline of work surfaces? To start, history tells me it would be foolish to think my table needs won’t change.
Also, work tables are a deeply personal thing.
I like to spread out. Way out. Papers and supplies are scattered across various surfaces so I can see what I have to work with. I need three tables so my stuff can be out but still contained. Right now, my Ikea table contains paper notes, pens, and various utensils for measuring and marking. The cutting table features my cutting mat and all sorts of blades surrounded by a mixture of fabric scraps and uncut yardage related to my current craft project. My sewing table is currently missing the actual sewing machine. Instead it is displaying my box of thread, a few jars of buttons, and a bag of Terra Chips.
Cut to my friend Alison’s sewing room and you’d see four tables being put to use, only one of which is less than 36 inches tall.
You’ll also note that her tables have drawers. Lots and lots of drawers because Alison keeps everything in its own discrete home. Her tools are mostly out of sight and out of her way. (Trust me, you do not want to get in this woman’s way). I’d love to think I want all my stuff as organized as Alison’s, but I don’t think I could actually work that way. At least, not for long. As for the height of her work surfaces, Alison is a head taller than me. And four tables? Well, her work room is close to mine in size but the placement of doorways and windows is totally different so she can fit four tables. She also has a decade or two of experience arranging an efficient studio so that a multitude of tables is advantageous instead of cumbersome.
My point is: even people working within the same craft can have very different preferences.
I can only imagine the sort of table(s) web designers, scrap bookers, and metal smiths can work at comfortably.
What do you do and what sort of work surface do you require?