Last month a small parcel from Ikea completely changed my sewing life. Below you see the before picture. Can you spot the difference?
Apart from a few bits and bobs (and way more fabric) the set up is still very much the same as when the room was featured in Love Sewing Magazine two years ago. I absolutely love the two Ikea Melltorp tables. Stable and indestructible with iron legs and a melamine top that is moisture and stain resistant. During projects I write little reminders about seam allowances or top stitching directly on the table top, knowing it's all easily removed when I'm done. So far tracing wheels, scissors or other tools haven't caused a single scratch since I started using the table twins five years ago. Why two identical tables? One is holding my sewing machine and overlocker while the other one is used for everything else.
Planning new projects, pinning, basting, hand sewing, tracing patterns and cutting fabrics.
So far I didn't have a cutting table. What I do have is a herniated disc. Usually it's not causing me much trouble but certain movements can cause severe pain in my left leg. Or worse, numbness and muscular weakness. Tracing patterns and cutting fabrics on a regular height table is certainly a trigger. Sometimes cutting out a coat means walking like an employee of the Ministry of Silly Walks for the rest of the week, battling with a leg that's making unpredictable moves. Luckily I'm not a speedy sewist, so most often there's enough time to recuperate before I reach the point where I have to cut out the next project.
In December I cut out several patterns with only a few days in between. Things were spiraling out of control and I knew I had to find a solution before the pain was killing my sewing joy.
A few years ago I saw a picture of someone using bed risers to raise an existing table. I experimented with cans of beans and tuna to see if that would work, only to find myself limping for the rest of the day. Apparently crawling under a table with canned food was another trigger. I did post a picture on Instagram of my temporarily raised table and Christina, a sewing architect from Norway, suggested to look into Ikea's sit/stand desks. Which I finally did, 110 weeks later. Yes, my wheels turn slowly.
I checked the Ikea desks and really liked the Skarsta, which can be easily adjusted in height by turning a crank handle. It comes with a 120 x 70 cm particle board top, finished with paper and acrylic paint. Bummer. I was not ready to give up my melamine Melltorp top, which was also slightly larger (125 x 75 cm). That may not look like a big difference, but when you're cutting 150 cm wide fabric on the fold it is!
After studying the assembly instructions mounting the Melltorp top on the Skarsta legs seemed possible, although the pre-drilled holes would be useless. Enter Mr Foxgloves, my beloved engineer in residence!
When not in use the crank handle slides under the table top. In a few seconds the height can be adjusted from 70 cm to 120 cm. Even at maximum height the desk is still very stable. This type of desk is also available in a larger size (80 x 160 cm) or with a motor if you prefer to adjust the height electrically. I can see how that's a nice feature in an office setting, where you'd adjust the desk multiple times a day to change between sitting and standing. In my sewing room I'd rather use the crank. Piece of cake, no strength required.
I'm very happy with the new multifunctional desk. Most days it is functioning as a regular table, like in the top picture. When I'm cutting fabric or tracing a pattern I raise the table to a height of around 98 cm. Cutting at an ergonomic working position makes all the difference in the world! I can really recommend the Skarsta desk. When your sewing space is limited it could double as sewing desk/cutting table, while only taking up the floor space of a regular size desk. Legs and table top are sold separately so when you're willing to do the maths and drill a few extra holes you can mix and match or keep an existing top.
Total cost of this improvement: 169 euro. Result: priceless.