Posted in sewing

Ikea KALLAX Cutting & Sewing Table Hack

Hey Franz!

First time I’m using ‘hack’ in a public space. I know language changes, but I kind of hate the word. Some people hate ‘purse’ or ‘moist’. I don’t really use “hack” or “make” as it relates to sewing.  ::shakes old lady cane and adjusts reading glasses::.  Long post to follow, but I also have construction photos, tips and video on my Instagram story highlights.

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

Today I present my sewing loft cutting table! My new sewing room is a loft on the third floor of our house. It’s long and narrow and my old, beloved orange sewing desk didn’t fit the room. I was also blessed (a word I do not take lightly) to meet and become friends with fellow maker Elizabeth, who works professionally as a commercial interior designer. She was generous enough to design a sewing room for me. Won’t lie, I was going to move the cutting table to a different part of the room. But, as I started to build it, it totally made sense where she put it.

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Skipping ahead, lol. Option 2 is my favorite. This layout from Elizabeth gives me a long sewing table for my four main machines (sewing, serger, coverstitch, blind hemmer). I also get a large cutting space and pressing staion (on wheels so I can move them out from the wall), and I still get two 4" wide storage units for my 17 bins (and counting) of fabric. I may look for an L-shape desk that fits this corner, shortening the longer side. And, since I'm now scouting used office supply stores I can perhaps get one with a built in memo board. This is the design I'm going for! Many thanks to my design guru friend @bluesatinstiches! I think it'll take me a good year to finish kitting out this room. I'm excited to have a plan to work from. #interiordesign #sewingroom #sewingroomideas

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I settled on the Kallax Craft Table hack from Family Handyman specifically because it could house my 10+ years of Burdastyle magazines. If this isn’t a consideration, check out Closet Case Pattern’s cutting table or Brooks Ann Camper’s or Rowley’s professional work table (with detailed instructions).

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

Lucky to have Liz and Jordan help me!

After some fantastic feedback on Instagram, I decided to use Homosate from Home Depot for a pinnable layer on the table top. At first I thought I didn’t have anything I needed to pin to my table top. But, folks told me all the ways they use the pinable layer and I went for it. It’s covered with butcher paper and just taped down with packing tape. I got this idea from Brooks Ann Camper’s blog. I’ve since done my first FBA and bicep adjustment with this pinable table and it is LIFE CHANGING.

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

Now, the knitty gritty of what I wish I did differently and what I was thinking in construction.

Early considerations:

I wanted my table top to be at least 45″ wide so I could easily have the bulk of the fabric on the table if I single layer cut something. I NEVER want to have to cut from the floor again. My back is 42, not 22 and it yells at me for days when I cut on the floor.

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

Storage is paramount. As noted above, I wanted to keep my Burdastyle magazines organized. And, I needed someplace to store longer bolts of things (muslin, batiste, linings, silk organza).

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

The table needed wheels because access to the roof is in the sewing loft and if there was a problem. I needed to be able to move the cutting table easily. I also wanted something I could walk around. So, I didn’t want it pushed up against the wall all the time.  My wheels are 4″ high. This also helps get the cabinet to a comfortable cutting level for me. Total table height is 39″ and perfect for 5’6″ me.

What I would do differently

I used three KALLAX in a row which comes to about 46″ wide and 58″ long. Pretty much exactly what I wanted the finished table top to be. Jasika suggested I determine my countertop finished measurements by what mats I’d be able to buy in stock. I did! But….

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

I didn’t account for toe clearance (thanks, Beth!) and I didn’t think too much about the countertop edge coming off of the base (thanks, Carly!). Apparently, you want 3.5″ to 4″ toe clearance so you don’t stub your toe when getting right against the table. And, you want that top overhang so you don’t bang you knee against the base of the table (mine is 3″). Once I finished assembling the base and these above issues came to light, I realized I was going to need to make a much bigger top to my table than I planned.

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

Yes, I could have used two cabinets and cut my top to to the size I wanted. But, I’d already assembled the three, so one wasn’t returnable. And, I *could* use the extra storage provided by the middle piece.

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

Because my countertop was now bigger than I planned, I had to buy more plywood than I budgeted for in order to cut pieces to the right dimensions.  If I’d known / thought about these things before, I might have stuck with two KALLAX as my base and made my countertop as wide as I wanted. But, with three next to each other, the KALLAX base required a top that was 60″x54″. That’s just too big to get out of one 4’x8′ piece of plywood. That added $50 to the project. Plywood comes in 4’x8′ sheets. Plus, the interior KALLAX was $60 more. And, now the custom self healing mat I need for this table top will be near $300. OUCH.

I will still be buying a custom self healing mat for my table. But, honestly not until next year. It’s going to be expensive and after this project, I need to sit on my credit card for a few months. And, my old cutting mat from Joann’s works just fine for now.

IKEA KALLAX cutting sewing table hack

There she is! I LOVE this table. Like, sometimes I come up to the room just to look at it. It’s so comfortable to cut on. Alterations are a dream with the pinable top. The width allows me to lay out fabric easily. The storage is EXCELLENT. Everything is at my fingertips. And, my beloved Burdas are in easy reach. Oh! That’s the MOSSLANDA picture ledge. I added it to have a place to hold scissors or pins — things I’m using at the moment.

I have a lot more work to do on this room. But, just this table and getting most of my boxes out of the room have seriously improved my attitude and mood. I was so depressed coming in here. I could never find anything and continually digging through boxes for thread, chalk, etc.

Next up: Thread racks on the wall and pegboard for tools! I also need to look into my sewing table / desk situation. But, want to work in the room a little more to figure out what meets my needs best. There are no ceiling lights in the room, which makes nighttime sewing miserable. Hopefully we sell our old house this year and I can get the electrician in to do some wiring for me. More to (slowly) come!

Posted in sewing

Simplicity Patterns Cabinet

Remember my interest in a pattern cabinet? Well, I found a very old one locally!

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Yesh. That’s truly a vintage Simplicity Pattern cabinet from goodness knows when. I bought it from Housewerks here in Baltimore. The guy told me it came out of an old uniform factory in the area. I wanted to haggle and bargain. He, did not.

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The outside though has seen some wear and tear. I’d love to get it blasted and powdercoat repainted. But, Jordan took delivery and he said removing the drawers was a huge PITA. And, I’ve spent enough money the last month that I can think about it another time. Plus, I’d want to keep the original SIMPLICITY there at the top. I think I could also have a new decal made.

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From looking on the inside I can see the original chocolate brown shiny paint. Which isn’t a color I would want anyway!

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So, the drawers are wonderfully split in to three sections, perfectly sized for all but McCalls and Vogue Designer of my Big Four. This also helped me pare down my traced off pattern collection. I probably pitched 30 patterns that never did work or were now way too small for me.

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There is one drawer that has a missing divider, and in there I’ve put my designer Vogue patterns and bigger envelopes like Hot Patterns.

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I also finally bought plastic baggies (thank you for the suggestions) for my Jalie and Hot Patterns. The larger Jalie are being stored in my filing cabinet. I still have two empty drawers in the cabinet. So, I’m thrilled!


Remember almost two years ago when my gravity feed iron short circuited? Well, I replaced it last month too.

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I was using my 13 year old Rowenta Sew ‘n Press (I friggin loved that iron). But, the temperature is unpredictable. And, Jordan used it to iron his suit (don’t ask. I told him not to iron suits). It scorched a few holes right into the wool blazer. So, he bought a garment steamer and I bought a new gravity feed iron.

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And, last update to the sewing room:

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I added a double (like 120) spool thread rack to my other two thread racks. If I run out of space now, I will seriously have a thread problem. I think I’m going to start buying larger Gutterman in bulk. Most of my prior thread accumulation came from trips to Panama.

Posted in sewing

Evernote It Is!

Thank you for all the terrific feedback on pattern cataloging. I’ve decided to keep my patterns for now sorted by brand. I like the symmetry of it. But, i have switched to Evernote. I was an early adopter of Bento for Mac. But, they discontinued it. Evernote, based on your feedback, seemed to give me the best of it all. I can access the patterns and pictures on my computer and my smartphone. And, I can print them out if I want to create a folder. Also, I could use the same program for fabric stashing (which is how I used Bento).

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I also like that for current patterns, I can grab and paste a ton of info into this:

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I’ve done 28 so far. And, um, 200 more to go. I’m also going to hunt for these Australian zip lock bags that fit the Jalie patterns. Seriously, I got to get a niece over here to do some work for me 🙂

Posted in sewing

Sewing Room Solution, Part I

Guys!! I was so inspired by your encouragement on the IKEA post I decided to stop by Baltimore’s Second Chance. Second Chance is a salvage warehouse that does workforce development and job training here in the City. When Liz and I went in, we were looking for kitchen cabinets that could be mounted. What I found, was this:

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Beautiful in all it’s formicaness, right? It was a custom desk that was there for $500. I’d mentally budgeted about three times that for my IKEA sewing room fantasy. This one has the wall cabinets I wanted (setting on the desk on the left), plenty of sewing space for my machines: sewing, coverstitch, blind hemmer, and serger. There’s also a ton of deep drawer space too. I was feeling REALLY good walking out of the warehouse!

I went home, measured my guest room. Liz helped my shove everything in to the ‘study’ including the twin bed. Yes, those are all my shoes in the left corner. They got kicked out of the second closet in my bedroom. My fabric that lived in the basement is in the bins.

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When they came to deliver, everything came in just fine. And, because of the orange of the walls and the tint of the floor, the formica isn’t nearly as offensive as I thought it might be!

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Except, for the L-shaped countertop. The countertop is nesting in my dining room for now.

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This 10 foot long long honker was not going up my steps.

The neighborhood handyman is coming out on Monday to mount the cabinets for me (they are setting on top of the desk on the left in the first photo). And, I’ll have him cut the countertop and reassemble it with glue and clamps upstairs.

The room will be a work in progress for a while.

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I *think* I will still put in an IKEA Expedit bookcase in this room for all my Burda magazines. Do you like how the one above used to hold all my sewing supplies and fabric back in 2008? HAHAHAHAHA! I’m happy to say I’ve easily sewn 85 percent of what was on the shelves. I actually only see three unsewn fabrics.

I now have about eight years worth of Burdas that fit perfectly in my Expedit storage system (the purple cubes) and don’t really want to give it up. I need to decide if I’ll move the one from the study (it’s also my desk) or get another one. Plus, I can use empty cubbies for all my sewing books that are in the study and basement.

The drawers pull out REALLY far, are super sturdy and very deep. I assumed I would not store fabric in there. But, after some suggestions on Facebook, I’ll be looking for cardboard that I can cut to width and store fabric upright — like files.

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I’ll need to store my cutting table somewhere too — probably the closet in the guest room. Right now it holds my formal dresses and vintage clothing. And, I might make one of the table tops an ironing station so I don’t have to pull out a separate ironing board. I’ll also want a peg board between the desk and the wall cabinets. So many things to think about! I’m really happy to make a real investment in my sewing space. Clearly, we’re not moving anytime soon! Stay tuned 🙂