I walked up to Walgreens to get some index cards and there, on the office supply aisle, was a big pile of wooden TV trays on sale for $9.99. I saw them and thought, "I could use one of these to make a little pressing table to sit next to my sewing machine table!" but, for some reason, I resisted. I continued with my errands, but I couldn't stop thinking about the tables. So, before I went home, I went back to Walgreens and bought one.
When I'm working on repetitive projects, like making quilt blocks, I like to stay in one place as much as possible. I recently put one of my older cutting mats on the table under my machine, so that I can square up block components as I sew them. I like to keep my pressing board nearby too but, since it can't go on or near the cutting mat, I've been balancing it on a wooden stool. This is actually pretty dangerous and stupid because it's easy to knock the whole thing off the stool and onto the floor. (It's also not nearly high enough -- I'm constantly burning my leg with steam from the iron!)
Anyway, my idea was to make a mini pressing board that could stand on its own without being on top of another table. The top of the table I got at Walgreens is about 14" x 17-1/2", which is probably a little smaller than ideal, but I suppose that makes it all the more mobile. I would eventually like to get this rolling organizer from IKEA and turn the top piece into a pressing board before I assemble it.
Incidentally, it was not my plan to have cats in these photos. They just would not get out of the way!
Inexpensive Wooden Tray Table
Natural-Fiber Batting: 4 pieces, about 1-1/2" larger than the top of your TV table. I used scraps of Warm & White and Warm & Natural.
Home-Dec Weight Cotton Fabric: 1 piece, about 3" larger than the top of your TV table. I used a print from Denyse Schmidt's County Fair. If you want to use regular quilting-weight cotton, include a layer of canvas or twill underneath.
Pinking Shears or Pinking Blade in Rotary Cutter (optional)
Tack Hammer (optional)
Note: My table's top was about 3/4" thick. You may need more or less fabric and batting, depending on the thickness of the table you're using. However, it isn't necessary to be precise. You just need the fabric to be big enough to wrap around the table top and staple in place. Remember that it's always possible to trim away excess batting and fabric.
Because they will continue to be raw, I pinked the edges of the fabric I was using. This isn't strictly necessary, but may prevent future fraying.
Press fabric and lay it, wrong side up, on a table. Center your stack of batting pieces on top of the fabric.
Center your tray table, upside-down, on top of the batting and fabric stack. (It will be easier if you keep the legs open, as they would be if the table were standing up.)
Starting in the center of one side, pull the fabric to the underside of the table and staple it in place. If you find it's difficult to simultaneously hold and staple the fabric, ask a friend to do one while you do the other (much as you might ask someone to hold ribbons in place while you prepare to tie a bow).
Move to the opposite side, pull the fabric to the back, gently pulling to make sure that it is stretched, but not strained, across the table top. Staple in place and repeat, alternating sides and moving out toward the corners, until the fabric has been pulled to the back and stapled on all sides.
Tables like this (including mine) are often made of very hard wood, which can be difficult to staple. Apply pressure as you staple. If you find that your staples aren't going all the way in, use a tack hammer to pound them in.
At this point, your corners should still look something like this.
At each corner, pull the fabric toward the table bottom, stretching but not straining it, Staple in place.
Now, fold each side toward the table bottom and staple in place, as shown above.
Once all corners are secure, make a quick inspection of your stapling. If there are any large stretches without a staple, add more until there are no staple-free stretches of more than about 1-1/2" If necessary, trim away excess fabric (ideally with pinking shears).
That's it! Your pressing board is done and ready to use.
One benefit of making a pressing board from a TV tray is that is can fold up for easy storage.
I hope this was helpful to someone. I encourage those of you who are are accustomed to alternating time between the ironing board and the sewing machine to give something like a try!
ETA: I fully expect using my steam iron on this pressing board will eventually destroy the finish on the top of the table underneath, but I don't expect that doing so will be hazardous or that it will cause appreciable warping to the wood itself. If you're concerned about airflow, you could always drill some holes in the top of the table before you cover it.