Modern sewing is a dedicated task which, regardless of scale, requires the sewist to use special equipment, usually a sewing machine and its accessories.
This machine not only makes sewing easy and efficient, but it also allows the sewer to undertake complex sewing tasks, including decorative needlework and stitching ornamental patterns such as drawnwork and embellished cross-stitching. Likewise, the sewer needs to concentrate on the task at hand, and this calls for a dedicated workspace.[Check out our recent top 10 round-up of selected sewing machine tables and cabinets here.]
In this workspace, there needs to be a special worktable that provides ample working space dedicated to stitching work. Space expansion can be achieved using a dropleaf fitted to this table.
Likewise, the table must also hold sewing accessories, unfinished projects, and sewing tools (such as needles, threads, and cutters).
Another important function of this worktable is to securely hold the sewing machine in place and at an appropriate height (above ground) that allows the user to comfortably stitch while seated on a work chair. The table that provides for all these core functions is called a sewing table.
The sewing table can feature detachable storage attachments such as a cluttered bag or a cloth bag; or fixed storage compartments such as a pull-out drawer where sewing materials can be stored. This also allows for the organization of stitching work as tools and materials that are not needed immediately are stored nearby instead of crowding the tabletop working area.
Apart from holding the sewing gear, the sewing table needs to have a worktop surface that is scratch-resistant, waterproof, and heat resistant; and these qualities define the damage-resistance features of a model. Likewise, this surface must be easy to clean.
Additionally, these aforementioned qualities differentiate the sewing table from an ordinary work table, and also justifies its price; while its feature-rich attributes make it ideal for machine sewing.
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Parts of the table
The three main parts of a sewing table are the stand, skirt structure, and tabletop.
The skirt structure holds the tabletop and stand in place, and forms the frame onto which the tabletop rests, as well as provides space for insertion of drawers. This skirt structure is mounted on the legs or stands.
The size and number of drawers that can be fitted in a sewing table are determined by the size of its skirt structure. However, minimal design sewing tables lack this skirt structure, and the legs are joined directly to the tabletop.
The materials used to construct the table parts, as well as how these parts are joined together determines the build quality of a table model. The main materials used for constructing the parts are wood, plastic, metal, or composite materials.
Build quality and materials to look out for
Most heavy-duty, high-end models are built from quality hardwood derived from oak, walnut, and mahogany trees.
For commercial-grade models, the tabletop is usually made of wooden boards, thick plastic boards, or wooden boards overlaid with hard plastic lamina covers.
Plastic tabletops can also be overlaid with Formica, though most Formica sheets have poor water resistance, scratch easily, and can splinter when hit by a sharp object.
The stands or legs are usually made of wood or metal beams. Most metal legs are mounted on a flattened metal base so that they do not chip the floor.
The machine mount
The most important part of the tabletop is the machine mount where the sewing machine is placed and bolted, or screwed, into place.
This mount usually has a cutout where the sewing machine can easily fit in without falling through the table. This cutout allows the stitching surface of the machine bed to be on the same level as the work surface, and this creates a flat surface profile that allows fabrics to be smoothly slid, without creasing, between the machine bed and the pressor foot during stitching.
It is important that one checks the size of this machine mount, especially if it has a cutout, so as to determine if his/her sewing machine can fit well into the sewing table.
This can be done by measuring the size/area of the machine bed of the sewing machine, and checking if it corresponds with the size of the machine mount in the sewing table.
As expected, incompatibility of sizes means that one has an ill-fitting machine in the table, and this creates instability during machine operation as the sewing machine keeps moving side-by-side, and even wobbling if it is poorly secured into its mount.
Additionally, the size of the cutout in relation to the machine mount (size) determines whether a long-arm sewing machine can be fitted on the table or not.
Normally, a machine mount with an off-center cutout and a high mount-to-cutout area ratio is most likely to fit a long-arm sewing machine.
These are collapsible units that can be folded up into compact items that can be stored, or carried around the workplace. This also allows for easy repositioning of the table. Even so, they need to be lightweight; and this means that they cannot be as feature-rich as standalone tables.
On the bright side, fewer features mean fewer costs, including purchase price and maintenance costs, and they are therefore more affordable than non-foldable models.
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These are standalone units that cannot be disassembled nor collapsed without altering or damaging, its design-build. They are usually placed at a dedicated workplace where they stay permanently. They are more stable, heavier, and more feature-rich than foldable tables. They also offer more storage options as compared to foldable models.
The Sewing Cabinet
The sewing table can also be converted into a cabinet with the table serving as the roof of the cabinet, while the space under the table is fitted with cabinetry hardware to create casework. This cabinet must rest on a base. This base can be a plinth, bracket feet, set of legs, or height-adjustable feet.
The most outstanding feature of any cabinet is its (cabinet) insert hardware which forms the storage compartments. There are two types of storage compartments; shelves and drawers. Most sewing cabinets have pull-out drawers and enclosed storage shelves with lockable doors.
In sewing cabinets, the construction of the face of the cabinet determines whether the model is a frameless cabinet or a frame-face cabinet.
Frameless cabinets, also called Euro-style or European-style cabinets, have their cabinet doors directly attached to the sidewalls of the cabinet box. In contrast, face-frame cabinets feature a supporting frame that is fitted to the front side of the cabinet box, and the cabinet doors are attached to this frame.
The use of a supporting frame allows for the cabinet box to be compartmentalized effortlessly into drawer spaces and shelved compartments. Expectedly, sewing cabinets that have both pull-out drawers and shelves are mostly face-frame cabinets.
Contemporary designs feature intuitive cabinetry with non-standardized arrangement and orientations of storage compartments which allows the user to easily store unneeded materials while stitching.
These designs are oriented towards user-friendliness, ease-of-use, and design scheme (including color scheme) that easily blends with the décor of the craft room. Some feature ergonomic tabletops and caster wheels for mobility; as well as partition plates in adjustable shelves that allow for the creation of additional storage compartments.\
Legacy designs have standard pull-out drawers, open shelves, and closed shelves that have lockable hinged doors. They can also be wheeled.
Some cabinets come with a pneumatic lift for raising or lowering the machine mount (and sewing machine). This allows for the machine to be stored away inside a dedicated compartment in the cabinet box, and in the process, the cabinet tabletop acquires a flatbed profile that allows it to be used for other tasks or be cleaned effortlessly. Some sewing tables also feature a mechanical or an electric lift.
Sewing Table & Cabinet Buyer’s Guide
Now we will look into the specific considerations you should have in mind when choosing which table or cabinet to buy.
1. Size of table/cabinet
The sewing table needs to be placed at a designated work area in the craft room, and it is this area that plays a big role in determining the most appropriate size of the table that you need.
Next, you should choose a table whose tabletop covers most of the craft room as the larger the surface space, the more room you have to spread out the materials and fabrics that you are working on.
You also need to consider the quantity of work, with heavy-duty sewing tables being appropriate for heavy-duty, time-consuming work; while the medium-duty tables can serve well for both light-duty and medium-duty sewing tasks.
2. The type of workstation
It is also important to consider the type of sewing table that you need, though this can be determined by the work quantity with heavy-duty work requiring non-foldable, immobile heavy-duty tables that have been secured to the workplace, while foldable tables can suffice for light-duty tasks.
Next, you need to consider your allocated budget for the sewing table. This allows you to narrow your search to tables that fit within your price range. Also, it is prudent that you choose a table that is the most resistant to damages from your available options.
Relatedly, if your budget allows you to only purchase a smaller sewing table, then it is advisable that you look for one that allows you to attach a dropleaf. You can build your own customized dropleaf from particleboards, chipboards, or MDF (medium density fiber) boards, and then fit it to the sewing table so that your table surface space covers most, or all, of the workspace area.
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4. Quality & Strength
A related consideration is the strength, stability, and durability of the model. Your table must be strong enough to hold the weight of the machine and sewing gear, as well as stable enough to absorb the shocks associated with machine operation.
This stability not only ensures that the table or cabinet is not swayed by the vibrations caused by the sewing machine, but it also ensures that the joinery does not loosen to mechanical vibration. Tables are more prone to swaying during machine operation as compared to sewing cabinets because tables have a smaller mass and their weight is less spread out across the floor as compared to cabinets.
You must also ensure that your sewing table or cabinet matches with your work chair so that you can comfortably sit and work on your sewing projects without straining your back, hunching forward, raising your shoulders, or tiring your neck.
This requires your work surface to be positioned at elbow height so that you can work with your wrists straightened out. Likewise, there must be enough space beneath the tabletop where your thighs and legs can fit comfortably. It is for this reason that height-adjustable tables are favored over models whose table heights are fixed.
6. Customization and Function
You can also check if the table provides customization options such as adjustable legs, and the option to attach or detach a dropleaf. If you are purchasing a sewing cabinet, then the customization options to look for are adjustable shelves, height adjustment for the tabletop, and inclusion of work surface expansion using a dropleaf (which can be folded to a sidewall of the cabinet).
Moreover, if you are looking for a sewing cabinet with a contemporary design, it is advisable to choose the one with sliding shelves as it offers more storage options than models that lack a sliding shelf.
7. Storage options
Storage options are another consideration, especially for sewing cabinets which provide an array of options from open shelves, lockable shelves, pull-out drawers, and size-adjustable shelves.
Portability also needs to be considered if you intend to move around with your sewing table or cabinet. In most cases, lockable caster wheels are fitted underneath each leg of the table or cabinet; and they allow for mobility as you can wheel your cabinet/table from one place to another.
Also, for the table, foldability increases the degree of portability, as you can fold the table into a less-bulky (compact) unit that you can carry around, or store it away so that you can use the workspace for another function.
8. Assembly & Installation Process
During purchase, you should check whether the model comes fully assembled, or if it requires you to assemble it yourself, in which case, you need an assembly manual that takes you through the assembly and disassembly processes.
Consideration of the aforementioned factors, as well as consideration of the design of the sewing table or cabinet, allows you to select the best sewing table or sewing cabinet that best fits in your craft room, as well as suits your needs.
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