My counter height pressing table is one of the most useful things in my sewing room. It's wider and sturdier than an ironing board, and the plywood base makes it a much better choice for pressing patchwork seams.
I've gotten a lot of questions about how I put my pressing table together so, while making a new cover last night, I took some photos to write a little tutorial. Here goes!
Step One: Build the Table
My table is an inexpensive IKEA table top with Vika Kaj adjustable legs. This makes a great table base, but the fiberboard table top can't stand up to prolonged exposure to steam, so it needs to be covered with something more substantial. I used a piece of plywood that I had cut to the same size as the table top. The plywood is fairly heavy, so I just set it on top of the table without any formal attachments.
A couple of notes:
Even with the plywood top, the IKEA table top may become damaged over time. However, the plywood is substantial enough that this shouldn't disrupt the function of the pressing board.
I've been using the same table and plywood for years now without incident and have never felt the need to add steam vents or use heat-protection fabric. If you would feel more comfortable making modifications or even building your own table, don't hesitate to do so!
Step Two: Take Measurements and Gather Materials for the Pad and Cover
I use low-loft cotton batting to pad my pressing board. This allows steam to circulate and, in my opinion, creates a much better pressing surface than insulating materials like Insul-Brite.
If you plan to wash the removable cover, be sure to prewash your fabric. I recommend using a home-dec weight cotton or a cotton/linen blend. The fabric on my cover is a cotton/linen blend from Anna Maria Horner's Field Study collection.
You will also need a length of 1/4" elastic.
The amount of batting, fabric, and elastic you will need will be calculated based on the measurements of your table. Start by measuring the width and depth of your table top. Then, measure the height of the table top, as shown by the arrows in the above photo. If you have a piece of plywood sitting on top of an IKEA table, this is the combined height of both the IKEA table top and the plywood. My table top is 39" wide x 24" deep x 2.25" high.
Multiply the height of the table top by two. For me, this was 2.25" x 2 = 4.5".
Add that number to both the width and depth of the table top. For me, this was 39" + 4.5" = 43.5" (width) and 24" + 4.5" = 28.5" (depth)
Use these dimensions to cut 3 identical pieces of low-loft cotton batting for the pressing board pad.
Starting with the dimensions of your batting pieces, add 4" to both the width and depth. For me, this was 43.5" + 4" = 47.5" (width) and 28.5" + 4" = 32.5" (depth).
Use these dimensions to cut 1 piece of fabric for the removable cover.
The cover will be easier to make and fit if you start out with a very long piece of elastic. It doesn't need to be an exact size, but a piece of elastic that could, theoretically, wrap around the outside of the table top should work. To determine that length:
Multiply the table's width by 2. For me this was 39" x 2 = 78".
Multiply the table's depth by 2. For me this was 24" x 2 = 48".
Add those numbers together and cut a piece of elastic to about that length. For me, this was about 126".
Stack the 3 pieces of batting on top of one another. From each corner of the stack, cut a small square, as shown in the above photo.
To determine the size of the squares, subtract 1/4" (for seam allowance) from the height of your table top. My table top is 2.25" high, so I cut 2" x 2" squares from each corner.
Pin and sew the batting pieces together around the outside edges, keeping your stitching about 1/4" from the edges. The goal here is simply to attach the 3 layers of batting together, so your stitching doesn't need to be pretty. Just focus on keeping the layers flat and even.
The batting pad will probably become compressed and soiled over time. When that happens, I recommend replacing, rather than washing, the pad. You shouldn't have to do it too often though. I use my pressing table almost every day and find that I only need to replace the pad about once a year.
Cut a square from each corner of the fabric. To determine the size of the squares, add 2" to the size of the squares you cut from the batting. I cut 2" x 2" squares from the corners of my batting, so I cut 4" x 4" squares from the corners of my fabric.
Fold each of the raw edges a generous 3/8" toward the wrong side of the fabric and press. Fold each of the now-folded edges another generous 3/8" toward the wrong side and press again, creating a casing for the elastic.
Your fabric should now look something like the above photo.
Note: I did not finish the raw edges of these seams but, if you'll be washing your cover often, you may want to do so.
Sew around the casing, keeping your stitches close to the folded edge and leaving a 1" opening for the elastic. The opening will be stressed during the fitting of the cover, so be sure to backtack securely!
Use a small safety pin to feed the elastic through the casing. Take your time and keep the gathering evenly-balanced.
When you reach the opening again, pull the safety pin out of the casing and continue pulling on the elastic until the two ends that are sticking out of the casing are about the same length. (You want to have a substantial part of each end of the elastic to pull on when fitting the cover.)
Trim away the excess elastic, tuck the ends into the casing and sew the casing closed.