My cutting table is done! This was my birthday present from Aidan this year and took a bit beyond my birthday to get finished because making things takes time and he had to do the bulk of the work on it outside, which created a lot of natural limits—especially given the extra cold and rainy weather we’ve had so far this spring. I don’t know a lot of the specific details because it was not my actual project and I ceded most of the details to Aidan’s expertise. But I know that it’s a little over 6’x3’ and that it’s a bit taller than counter-height and on casters so that I can move it around easily. I think Aidan started with this tutorial from the Closet Core blog as a rough starting point but then made a bunch of his own design and construction adjustments.
It goes without saying that it is very nice to have a spacious work surface that I can use without having to bend, which was never good for my back but is especially hard after the combination of aging and having two small children have made my lower back a very creaky, fragile zone. But this table has had a transformative effect on my sewing space and, maybe more importantly, the way that I think about that space.
On a practical level, the table has given me space to much a bunch of my cutting tools so that they are no longer cluttering up the desk where my machines are, and where they are out of the reach of my 1.5 year old who has a special radar for anything sharp or potentially hazardous. I also don’t need to keep shuffling my cutting mats and my rulers from corner to corner or surface to surface because they have a place where they are designed to stay. The top of the cutting table can house all of that stuff and be a bit cluttered because it is meant to be an active work space, and that means that the other surfaces that need to be less cluttered stay cleaner.
But the table makes what we previously referred to as my “office” feel like a studio, which is what I want. I spent several years in two different apartments storing my sewing machine on a large desk where I would push my machines to the side so that I could do work at home. I hated that setup. Things got a little better when we moved into our house and I had the space to get a separate desk to house my machines. The big desk was then mostly available for me to use for work without having to disturb my sewing stuff, although I also used it as a cutting surface (and it also regularly just collected all manner of crap). This was where I did nearly all of my work while I was teaching online during the pandemic—a time when I also did almost no actual sewing.
And that experience taught me that I have zero interest in a home office. I do not want working from home to be a thing that I can seamlessly shift to. (Especially now that we’re in a moment where there is increasing pressure to just “go virtual” for every sick day and every snow day, as though there is no significant time or effort or skill that goes into shifting between modalities at a moment’s notice.) And the cutting table means that working in my sewing space is now no longer really an option. That’s not what it’s built for. It gets to fully be a space that is for my making and my creativity. And if I decide that I am not going to work in my office on campus, then I can settle for the kitchen table, which is precisely what I am doing today. But we will not be going back to a moment where work swallows up my creative life.