Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just couldn't leave well enough alone...

Remember when I shared my sewing room earlier this month and mentioned how I was thinking about redoing things? Well, I couldn't leave well enough alone...that process has gotten started, but thanks to my husband's work schedule, it is so exactly done at the moment. Still a work in progress.

Initially, I wanted a Horn sewing cabinet. Something with a custom insert for my machine, a big surface, drawers for storage, etc. After nearly fainting over the cost of those bad boys, I started dreaming of an Ikea hack of some kind. I'd seen several on Flickr and Instagram. After scoping out the build-a-desk area at Ikea, measuring things a zillion times at home, I wound up trekking to Ikea with the family on Saturday after I saw Amy's post about her Ikea sewing table. I usually buy furniture without much thought about what my husband thinks about it, but for this, I needed help and advice. I wasn't sure what would be sturdy and what wouldn't. Turns out he doesn't really either, but that's another story.

Lots of paper in the Build a Desk section plus cute little pencils meant lots of drawing for the kiddo while the grown-ups talked about furniture
The other thing I was really hoping to accomplish was to create an L-shaped workspace, where I could not only rest the bulk of a quilt that I'm quilting, but where I could maybe do my cutting and have my computer for blogging and pattern writing and such.

On my first trip (yes, there are more) to Ikea, I wound up with:
one 59" x 29" table top to put my sewing machine one
one 78" x 24" table top to set up perpendicular to the machine table
one set of drawers to use as a table base
six table legs

During the assembly, we discovered that we needed an extra table leg for the center of the super long table, and that one of the pieces of the drawer unit was broken, so back to Ikea my husband went.

On the second trip to Ikea, we wound up with:
one table leg
a new piece to replace the broken drawer piece

After lots of assembly on Saturday night, I was really excited to start to get things put away. I didn't even think about how the tables would behave when I turned on and used my machine. When I finally did turn it on some time on Sunday, it was bad. The table bowed and shook like there was a huge earthquake. I cried. A lot. I cried because my husband was getting ready to leave for the week so I was going to be stuck with a table I couldn't actually use, I cried because we'd bought all this stuff from Ikea and it just wasn't working the way  I needed it to and I was terribly frustrated. And I think more than anything, I cried because I wanted my dad. It's been nearly ten years since he died, and it's still painful. He was the fixer in my family. Cars, furniture, you name it, he made it work. Somehow. And in that moment, I felt like no one was going to be able to make all of this better but him.

I pulled it together, dried my tears, and sent my husband off for work, but being the good man he is, he called his parents (who have a much bigger car), and they came over to let me borrow their car to return the legs and top for the sewing table. I talked with the Ikea staff, and they recommended using a fully wooden table top as well as drawers for the bottom, to provide the most stability. My father-in-law, though, thought that these wooden trestles would be more secure. In the end, I compromised and did one of each, feeling completely unsure what would work.

On my third trip to Ikea, I wound up with:
a pine 59" x 29" table top for my machine
a wooden trestle table base
another set of drawers to use as a table base

I put the trestle and drawers together, and lifted the big wooden table top on top. It looked nice, but that didn't mean much of anything until I turned the machine on. So I did. And the table still shook. Nowhere near as violently as it did before, mind you, but it still shook. Argh. The husband suggested that I swap out the trestle with the other drawer unit that I had with the other top, so I lugged that bad boy over to the sewing table. That helped. But again, there's still some vibration.


The way things stand right now, the set up works, physically speaking. It's big, it's roomy, I've got drawers to store things in, but the darned machine table still seems to vibrate a lot when I sew. Part of me is thinking about putting my machine in my old table to try to compare the amount of vibration, because I seem to recall that it vibrated, too, I just can't remember how much. Does the surface you sew on vibrate??  Ultimately, we were planning on cutting a whole into the table to create a custom drop-in for my sewing machine, but I'm worried that will make things even less stable. So for now, things are staying as is. The husband will be home for the weekend and will hopefully have some ideas how to further stabilize the table.


In the meantime, I'm trying to get things settled and put away. I wrapped up a little block yesterday for Amy/Sukie to send off, and I'm getting ready to work on a lone starburst bee block for Brioni. I'm hoping using some super fun happy fabric will take my mind off all this desk drama. Thank goodness for fabric!


  1. I had a machine that shook quite a bit and found that setting it on an old cutting mat helped. Maybe a small bath mat or the rubber they put under rugs to keep them from slipping might help?

    My set up is similar to yours but I used the conference tables with the fold down legs. They are very sturdy.

    Good luck with your redo. :)

  2. Awww... sorry for all the trauma! I hope it works out! I set mine of the foamy cabinet lining stuff and it helps a great deal! Good luck! Can't wait to see those blocks!

  3. My table vibrates a bit too and it is frustrating! It's funny how mourning can hit at the most unexpected times, eh? I lost my dad nine years ago and it often hits me when I'm driving because we spent a lot of time in the car driving places. Safe, eh? ;) I'm sure you'll find a solution that you are happy with!

  4. Well at least it looks great!! I love it. I did have a machine that vibrated waaay too much, and one that hummed along beautifully. I wonder if the table top needs to be anchored down with screws. The other suggestions of something cushion"y" underneath sound like good ideas. How about that nonslip stuff you can get for drawers, I think that is what Linz is talking about. Or even a soft placemat with some batting underneath? janelle/Emmaline Bags

  5. Oh man, what a huge pain! I would be crying too. I'm glad you were able to return the first set of stuff. I sew on a farmhouse table so it's solid (it's our old dining room table but we don't have a dining room in this house). But when we are up at the ILs place in MI, I sew on a folding table and the vibrating is horrible. I have to go SO SLOW.

    My mom sews on this from Ikea, and it is very very solid - no vibrating.

    Liatorp Desk

  6. Very pretty set up! Wish there wa an Ikea near us - but alas - they're not in the heartland. I've heard quilty friends say that they set their "shaky" machines on a mat like others have recommended.

  7. I have a 20 year old folding table with metal legs an a laminate top that looks like wood. Not pretty, but it doesn't vibrate when I sew. I have a heavy machine (Bernina 1260).

  8. I think most tables would vibrate especially on a high speed (if your machine has a speed setting). Are the drawers attached to the table top? If they are not and can't be attached it may help to put boards on either side of both drawer sets to help stabilize the top more, or you can use liquid nails to attach the top to drawers. Good luck with your planning. I love the clean look of your new table.

  9. The space looks great so hopefully you get some good suggestions here to help with the shaking...padding the surface sure seems worth a try!

  10. Elizabeth, my sewing table is similar to yours and I don't have a vibration problem. I wonder if you have any type of pad under your machine -- I use a rubbery type of shelf liner (I think it's from Rubbermaid) under my machine, wonder if that would help?

  11. It LOOKS like a great place to sew so I hope you can make it work for you.

  12. Ahhhh, I understand about missing your daddy, even after 10 years. Mine died 26 years ago and it's still hurtful for me, too, and I miss him terribly. That never goes away. Your sewing room will come together. Hang in there, it will get done. And for now it looks beautiful.

  13. What a headache! I understand the sadness too--I miss my dad every time I go into Home Depot because it smells just like his cabinet shop did. Hope you get it all worked out.

  14. Okay you had a rough time! too rough!!! Get some chinese food and chill-lax!

  15. Sorry for the frustration, you will get it right, you have to, or you will always be bothered.... And sewing/quilting is too wonderful to be bothered....
    I have an old maple dinning table in my sewing room, it is the best, never any vibration...

  16. Oh I feel your pain!!! I have an Ikea table and legs for my sewing machine and it shakes like crazy. Hubby said he will mount the table to wall. I have no idea how he is going to do this, but I will send you pictures when he's done :)

  17. Oh, sorry for your frustration ~ know how that can be. I've got a dresser from Ikea that I've got to put together ~ got to take it slow.
    I lost my Dad 5 years ago ~ I miss him every day ~ he was such a stable force in my life. Sometimes I feel so adrift ~ thank goodness for my son and his wife and my kitties.

  18. It looks great. I have the first table you bought in white set up on 2 Vika Annefors table/shelf units. I have no problem with vibrations and have used it with 3 different machines. I've had the setup for 5 years and have noticed very very slight bow. I am wondering if you put those clear little plastic bubble things (don't know what they're called but they came with the table) between the table and drawers to make sure there are no gaps or movement of the table? I used them on mine as the floor is uneven..Just a thought.

  19. Oh man, that all sounds rather traumatic! My table doesn't vibrate, and I use a dining table from Ikea. Is your table top attached to the 'legs'? My cutting table is a similar set up to what you have, drawers at one end, trestle at the other, and it can shift a bit without much encouragement.

  20. Aw Elizabeth, it's so true about grief sneaking up on you at certain moments.

    I sew on a gigantic, super-heavy teak desk so I get ZERO shaking but when I'm on retreats we use those banquet tables that can really get going. I find that putting my machine toward one end vs. in the centre helps with the shaking.

    Good luck - you've got some good suggestions here.

  21. Too bad about the fiasco. My sturdy dining room table was great for sewing, but not too great for a "permanent" place to sew. My cheap Staples glass desk vibrates a lot, but I guess I've gotten used to it, but can't fully put the petal to the metal. Thrift stores have lots of old sturdy desks and often sewing cabinets that can be hacked for cheaper than a Ikea table. My first machine was kept in a great old hacked sewing cabinet. I've also heard of people using old desks with a top drawer then cutting through the top. Best of luck. I really miss my dad too (((hugs))).

  22. I sew on either a conference table with fold up legs from stables ($15 14 years ago) or an Ikea dinning room table. Neither vibrates, though the conference table is much sturdier and bigger. It looks like crap, but I never actually see the surface as it is covered with my cutting mat, sewing machine and fabric.

  23. My husband sounds like your Dad. He looks at something and just knows how to fix it. (Yes, I know I'm lucky.) He cut a hole in my table and built a shelf under the table for my machine to sit upon. It's sturdy, doesn't vibrate, it's level with the table top, and ergonomically great. Your husband could do this too, since you have a solid wood table top.

  24. Oh wow, this sucks! Sorry you're having such issues. I never sew in my actual sewing room anymore, because I want to be in the family room around the rest of the fam, so until I got my new machine I sewed on a folding card table that I bought for like $40 at Bed Bath and Beyond. Vibration would be a massive understatement with that one. LOL. You're first earthquake analogy would be the most accurate. But with the new machine I got the little table that goes with it and it is awesome, solid as a rock and fits easily in our family room.

    Have you looked into the Arrow/Gidget tables? They're like $100 and your machine drops into them. They're pretty small, but in combination with your bigger Ikea tables, they might work? That's essentially what I have now.

  25. I have a setup almost identical to yours, with the drawers on either end and I have almost no vibration. I'm on hardwood floors with those little rubber feet, so maybe that makes a difference? Also, as someone mentioned before, do you have the little rubber feet things in between the table and the drawers so the table doesn't move? I have the tabletop more similar to the white one - just a different finish.

  26. I notice your machine is centered on the opening, have you tried to move it to the right, so the needle is centered instead? Perhaps having the machine's weight over the cabinet may help also. Or move the cabinets a bit closer together. Or screw a 2x4 or angle bracket to the bottom, so it doesn't flex at all. You can buy lengths of aluminum angle stock at home improvement stores, it's easy to drill through.

  27. Oh my! I can feel your frustration. There are less expensive sewing tables that you might want to research. They might be smaller but you could add the tables that you have around it. I'm with you, I don't like the machine to vibrate. Don't think it's good for the stitches or the machine. You're smart! You'll figure it out!

  28. Wow that sounds very traumatic indeed! I hope you figure something out. Maybe your tables need more support underneath them to keep the table more sturdy.
    When I went to get a table I didn't even think about it possibly vibrating, I just knew exactly how I wanted it to look and found the perfect table.
    I don't really notice if it vibrates as it has drawers on one side and a shelf in the other. The space between them for the chair is fairly sturdy. =D

  29. Your space is fantastic so hope you can get the solution.Don´t give up, you can.

  30. Oh Elizabeth... so sorry to hear of your woes. My darling BF built me a custom made drop in sewing table for Christmas this year as a surprise and it works wonderfully with very little vibration. I do use a rubber shelf liner under the machine. He also was worried about sturdiness so he doubled up on the table top- it is literally 2 tops stacked and glued together and the table is very heavy- for the legs he used metal adjustable table legs he ordered on rockler- they are very heavy duty and conveniently adjustable so I could get the height for FMQ just right- it has really helped save my back. He said the whole set up cost less then $200- I would be happy to take a picture of it all so you could see it. The design works wonderfully. Hope you can get yours sorted out. Big Hugs!

  31. just thought I would add my 2cents in
    with the vibration issue
    try. rubber feet on your machine and the shelf liner stuff works at retreats for me.. Just a thought

  32. You're going through the agony that I'm going through! We're in a new house here in Florida and all my sewing stuff doesn't fit. I bought TWO Ikea trestle legs, set them as high as I could, and put a covered board on top for pressing. For sewing, I invested in a Gidget II table with a custom insert. Well worth the money, and it's portable (with wheels) for taking to retreats. Still haven't found a cutting table, but I have my eyes peeled for a used kitchen island, on casters, that I can put another board on top of. I want the storage space that's in the bottom. It's all slow to come together, so I feel your pain.

  33. Hello! I read about your dilemma...and wanted to suggest that I had the same problem about a year ago when I purchased almost the exact table set up from ikea. I solved the problem by putting the foamy cabinet layer between the drawer tops and the table top! I also keep my sewing machine on a piece of the foamy stuff as well, because it helps it keep from sliding on the table. Hope this helps! :)

  34. I would have crumpled into a ball after all that building! My Dad is the one I build and fix everything with, it makes me sad that you can't call yours. But I'm sure you and your husband will come up with the perfect set-up! I think I may give a Gidget table a try...that may be a good solution combined with Ikea stuff. Because I can't sawzall a hole into the antique dining room table inlay :)

  35. Ugh, I hope you get this sorted out soon. I'm always tempted by the Ikea hacks, but I do wonder if they're too good to be true. I'm sorry this brought up such sadness.

  36. I have the same drawers and a table top and I get no vibration. The difference is in the construction of the table top. We bought 3/4 inch plywood and my husband laminated it. But he built a lip the same length as the table top and that was screwed to the wall and then the top attaches to that and is very secure while the rest of it sits on the drawers. Hope that makes sense.

  37. Oh what a palava. I agree with the others about putting something under your machine, I use a cutting mat or a towel may help?! It might not be perfect but your desk set up does at least look really lovely!
    I'm so sorry for your sadness, I think it's important to still let it out though and in a way so nice that he was able to fix so many things for you :) x

  38. I just redid my bedroom in Ikea furniture and I love it. Like you, I needed some kind of sewing table. I bought the desk that attaches to the bookcase and it's wonderful. I'm so sorry for your disaster.

    I had really wanted the desk that was shiny and metal on top, but the floor model was bowing in the middle, so I reluctantly changed my mind about it. The one I picked has wood that is a lot thicker. Sometimes I store my machine under the table, just so it doesn't bow. The book shelves are really handy because I can stick everything I need in them.

    Here's the desk I got: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S59861342/ IT's called the Expedit workstation. Just in case you have another disaster, I really recommend it. I don't have any vibration, and my machine is a basic Singer that sold for under $120.

    I also got the picture frame shelves to store my rulers and other things I need above the desk. They were super cheap, and called Ribba: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20126065/

    My dad installed a light under the bottom shelf so I can see better when I sew. The link I left you shows a white shelf. I went with black, bc the desk only comes in black. So is what my desk looks like:


    I'm sure you guys will be able to fix it. I love the layout! OH yeah, I bought that little plastic mat, and set it under the machine. Maybe the rubber absorbs some of the movement?


    It's only $6. That might help. Good luck!

  39. Hi, I have a fairly inexpensive set up for my table. I bought at a yard sale two lower kitchen cabinets. My husband put a plywood top on them they each have three drawers instead of doors. On top of that, I bought a miss cut counter top at the local building supply store. I got a 7 foot section for $25. That sits right on top of my cabinets. I have no vibration at all. If you want an L shape I am sure you can just use two pieces of counter top. I know that you can probably get the same amount of storage and table top for about what you are paying for the Ikea. Just a thought. I like that I can paint my cabinets. Right now they are lime green. They were dark brown when I bought them for $5.

  40. I would definitely work on lowering the machine into the table, it is so much better for your shoulders & neck.
    For the vibration I would get some foam to go underneath, this often absorbs the vibration & can stop the machine from going walkabout.
    Good luck
    London, UK

  41. Lots of good comments, but I think JustGail's suggestion about the angle brackets is the best, giving more support to the entire structure. Or if the back board connected both drawer sections rather than just going half way across, that might add stability. Good luck - you have more advice than you can deal with, eh? lol

  42. I think the top just needs a little more support like a leg or the L brackets. I used to use a hollow core door sitting on two metal file cabinets with rubber cushion shelf liner between the door and top of cabinets. It didn't vibrate at all. I kept the weight of the machine more to the right.
    Now I use a solid wood desk I found for $30 at Habitat for Humanity Re-store. It weighs a ton but is 5 feet x 4 feet on the top. I have two of them. One is a little smaller than the other but they are wonderful and you can't beat the price.
    Bless your heart with the memories of your dad. Mine has been gone for 20 years and I still think of him when I wan't something repaired. He could build and fix anything. Smile and enjoy your memories.
    Good luck with your table. It will all work out.
    Please keep us updated on how it goes.

  43. Sounds like there are lots of good ideas here. I have one more suggestion. My FIL is a retired cabinet maker, and excellent at reattaching table tops and legs. So I recommend you wander over to a cabinet shop (you know the places that have custom cabinets made) and tell them your problem. See if there isn't a nice sweet guy who will come over and do a small side job and get the problem solved. It might require screws, wood glue, clamps, measuring, routing out a new who, inserts, lifts, etc. But those guys can do wonders. Just take a walk through your local resources. Set your price around before any work begins. Good luck!!

  44. HI,
    I can appreciate your tears and frustration AND your dad dying 10 years ago and missing him (I'm in the same boat)...oh and having a less-than-handy (but still wonderful) husband. So, onward. Leah Day's website had some advice on this - buying an inexpensive l-shaped table, etc....but for my machine, I just went and bought a table that had an insert for my machine (it was for my janome horizon) and it was worth every penny. No wobbles, no tears, etc...for supporting my quilts, I have a large, unused (old) dining room table that I roll over and back it against my machine table and for the left side, I roll over an old filing cabinet...I just didn't want to spend any more money...but hubby is happy as he didn't have to do any construction work. I like your drawers better than mine - mine are open wires - Elfa, I think is the brand - but hey, they work. So, good luck and I'm with you in spirit in more ways than one.

  45. What a frustration. I'm so sorry, especially about missing your dad. I bought one of those Sew-Easy tables and it works fairly well, not too much vibration, but I'm on a wood floor and maybe that makes a difference. Hoping you have a better weekend!

  46. I would like to share the best part of my sewing set up and it came from Ikea. I bought a table top to fit my cutting mat and adjustable table legs which attach to the top. I keep the legs at the highest height which is counter height which is about 4 or 5 inches higher than table height and a real back saver!
    Linda F.

  47. Adding another vote for something foamy to absorb the vibration of the machine. My table is a desk my dad made forever ago-the only reason it was noisy was my machine vibrating on it. It might just be my familiarity w heavy tables, but the top looks a little thin. A heavier wood (not laminate or other type) would help a ton. It photographs well-but that doesn't help you sew :) Good luck!

  48. I didn't read all the comments and someone might have suggested this..... it seems to me if you move the drawers a little closer together it wouldn't shake as much. That is such a bummer to have a plan and have it not work like you want.....

  49. My whole sewing room has built in cupboards, but the top is the kitchen melamine, which is thick, strong and sturdy. Maybe that would work on trestle legs?

  50. I was thinking of purchasing the drawer units and long table w/ a brace for my horizon and serger so this is good info...will watch for updates and read the comments. Thanks for sharing your trials...hope it works out for you.


Thank you for leaving a comment for me! I appreciate each and every one of them and try to respond when time allows. Your comments totally brighten my day :)

Welcome! I'm Elizabeth, mom to a mood teen boy and a chatty six-year-old girl and I sew for my sanity. Let's get to quilting, shall we?
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