Sewing again! Table toppers and a Portable Work Space that anyone can make

I was able to complete some UFO's (big yay!!!), a reversible table topper for myself, a reversible table runner that I am donating to a charity raffle, a small wall hanging for a friend and a workspace project that I have been working through in my mind for the last 2 years.
When I go to quilting workshops or work at a friend's place I usually bring my "Quilters Cut n Press". I find it a bit small for most purposes but it is really frustrating to have to keep flipping it over to cut or press. So I do not love this tool. It did however start me thinking that I could make something much better if I thought it through carefully enough. 
My "Portable Work Space ©2011 Linda Grover" is now a reality and I do love this. I knew that it needed to be easily portable yet large enough to be useful. I have to be able to move from one step to another easily and then be able to "close up shop" quickly when it is time to leave.

I am happy to share the instructions and process with you. Even better, it only cost me about $20 to make. Compare that to the $90 cost of the commercially made cut and press boards that are so frustrating to use.

Here are the instructions (because I like to share what I love):

Fabric: use 100% cotton  
  • Fabric A: 1 Yd. cotton for outer shell
  • Fabric B: ¼ Yd. cotton for pockets and tab (to complement or contrast outer shell fabric)
  • 1/2 Yd. muslin for pressing pad as well as stabilizing the hinge section
  • 4 Yds. 1 ¼” wide webbing for handles
  • 16” x 18” felt (good quality)
Batting: use 100% cotton
  • 2 pieces 14” x 20” for lining outer shell
  • 6 pieces 13” x 19” for pressing pad
  • Optional: 1 piece (13” x19”) insulated batting for top layer of pressing pad
Other pieces:
  • 12” x 18” Rotary Cutting Mat
  • 3/4” x 1 ¼” hook and loop tape
  • (2 pieces) 13 ¼” x 19 ¼”  1/8" or ¼” thick “masonite-type” hard board (Home Depot cut it to size for no charge)
  • 1 piece of 1/8" or ¼” thick “masonite-type” hard board cut to same size as cutting mat
  • 12” x 18” “Timtex” or other fusible rigid, thick interfacing to be used as base for pressing pad (cardboard is not suitable as it will not stand up to steam)
  • Glue gun/glue sticks or other water resistant adhesive for attaching the fabrics to the hardboard
  • Water and heat resistant contractor spreadable, low odour adhesive for porous & non-porous materials
  • Fabric A - 2 pieces 19” x 25” (exterior), 1 piece 5” x 39” (hinge)
  • Fabric B - 2 pieces 17” x 20”, 2 pieces 9” x 12” (pockets), 4” x 6” (tab)
  • Muslin - 27” x 23” (pressing pad), 5” x 19” (hinge lining), 2 pieces 9” x 12” (pockets lining)
  • Webbing - 2 pieces 60”
Sew matching pocket pieces along sides and top (leaving bottom open), right sides together; turn and press flat. *Be sure to poke the top corners out.

To attach pockets and handles, lay the large rectangles of Fabric A, right side up. Use a tracing pencil to mark vertical placement lines for pockets at 6” from each side 6 1/2” apart. Check to be sure that this is adequate for storing a 6” ruler.  Set long pocket in place bringing the raw edge down towards the bottom of Fabric A. It does not have to meet at the lower edge but needs to have enough  for wrapping over the edge and under the inside panel. Use the hardboard as template to check for centering and fold over width.  Lay the handle webbing over the side edge of the pocket, working from the lower raw edge; stop and mark at 3” from the top. The bottom raw edges will be caught and wrapped under the inside panel. Sew along both sides of the webbing, catching the pocket sides and securing the top of the webbing in place by stitching and an “X” before you return down the other side. *It is easy to use a glue stick to hold these pieces in place for sewing. 

Use the first rectangle to mark placement of handles to match on the second rectangle. The larger pocket should be placed between the webbing, just slightly under each side. Create a center pleat with the excess fabric width to allow for a fuller pocket. *Be sure that both pocket and handle widths match each other for placement and handle space.

Tab: fold small rectangle of fabric in half lengthwise and sew along long edge. Press seam open and roll to center of piece.  Mark a curve along one side, stitch, turn tab right side out and press. The seam will now be centered along the back.  Set the hook tape close to the curved edge and stitch in place. *Use a thread colour that blends into the fabric as the stitching will be visible on the outside of the tab. It can be hidden with a button or other embellishment.

Lay the 2 outside pieces side by side. Find the vertical center of the side edge of one piece and mark for placement of the loop tape. Place the loop tape at 1 ½” from the handle and stitch in place.  This will become the pressing board side. On the loop tape side of the fabric, mark a line vertically on the fabric approximately ½” inside of the fabric edge that will be folded over the hardboard.  This is the placement line for the felt. Sew in place with 2 lines of straight stitching. * The felt will extend outside of the pressing pad but the sewn edge will be folded under and glued in place under the pressing pad. Mark the matching spot on the other outside piece for future placement of the tab with the hook tape.  Make some placement marks for centering the hardboard on the other piece of fabric.

Fold the long piece of Fabric A horizontally across the width (5”), stitch across the short side, press the seam open and roll so that the seam is in the center of the loop rather than the end. Lay the matching piece of muslin in the center. Turn the piece inside out so that the muslin is now sandwiched.  Sew up both sides to secure the 3 layers of the hinge.

Pressing Pad:
Layer the batting pieces on the masonite board or rigid interfacing, fusible side down and smooth in place. Add enough layers so that the pad is at least ½” thick. If you have insulating batting, use this as the top layer. Place this stack (batting side down) on the muslin piece and bring the edges, tightly and smoothly around in the same manner as the outer shell pieces.  Press the edges in place on the fusible side to secure. If using Masonite, then glue the folded over muslin to the back.

Lay (19” x 25”) fabric A, right side down. Center 1 (14” x 20”) piece on the fabric. Lay 1 piece of the hardboard in center of this stack. Using glue, bring top and bottom opposite ends of fabric around to the top of the hardboard and glue in place, repeat for opposites sides. Pull corners tight and neaten the folds.  Do this for both hardboards, checking the handle placement matches.   *Working from opposite sides creates a neater edge. Be sure that the batting wraps evenly over the edges as you bring the fabric around so that there are no sharp edges.  This is the same technique as making upholstered boards or fabric covered book covers. Check that all pieces are smooth on the front, that the handle placement matches and the pieces are placed evenly parallel approximately 1” apart.
With both boards parallel, place the loop tape and felt piece on the outer side.  Lay the fabric hinge across the gap and securely glue in place.  Place the tab piece out on the other piece of covered hard board and glue. When these close together, the piece of felt will fold to the inside and the tab with hook tape will meet the loop tape to hold the workspace closed.   *Any glue gun bumps can be flattened out by using a hot dry iron with a protective pressing cloth before the final assembly.

 With all pieces lying open, spread the adhesive over the right side board, spreading to the edge. Carefully center the rotary cutting mat in place.  Spread adhesive on the left side board and center the pressing pad.  Use clamps to hold these securely in place until the adhesive is firmly set. 

Tip: you can use any size cutting mat. To adjust the board sizes: 1 piece of board (or Timtex) cut to match the size of your cutting mat, this will be the base for the ironing pad; 2 pieces of board cut 1/2 larger than your cutting mat - these will be the outside layer and base for the ironing pad and cutting mat.

I am going to use some of the same fabric to make a matching storage bag for my portable iron.
These instructions were written after I made my prototype. If something does not make sense, please send me a message or leave a question in the comments.
Enjoy your new work space!


  1. Thanks for posting the directions for your portable work space! Adding it to my list today, which doesn't mean it'll ever get done, but....

  2. Leslie Munoz11:14 am

    Wonderful idea Linda! Thanks.


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