Monday, January 21, 2013

Sullivan's Craft Table: The Worst Table I Ever Loved

After moving my sewing room into a smaller space in our house (to allow my teenaged son to take over the larger, colder basement), I needed to find a new cutting surface. My previous cutting table was definitively too large for the new room.

It wasn't hard to find ways to agonize over the decision. One thought went like this: "What a first-world problem. You have both a dining room table and a king-sized bed in adjacent rooms. Would it kill you to carry fabric to those surfaces to cut things out? Sure, it's not ideal, but a lot of things in life aren't ideal."

Another agonized thought: "I hate cheap disposable furniture. I should wait for a nice high-quality collapsible cutting table to show up on Craigslist within driving distance, no matter long it takes."

Those objections put me off the purchase of the Sullivan's craft table for nearly three weeks, which might be some kind of record. Two considerations finally sealed the deal: I already had the rotary cutting mat that is sized to fit this type of table and I realized that the way I work really depends on access to a cutting surface all the time. For better or for worse, I very often cut throughout the duration of a project. The dress I'm working on now is a good example. I cut all the body pieces, but wasn't sure exactly what sort of sleeve I wanted to use. As I assembled the body, I had plenty of time to think through the pros and cons of the sleeve options and to come to an unhurried decision. The same thing happens with interfacing. I might only cut one piece of interfacing at a time, fuse it, sew it up and then assess how I like it. If it's not what I want, I haven't cut a whole garment's worth of pieces out.

So generally I will have a project out on the cutting table the whole time I am working on it. When it's done, I do clean up before moving on to the next project. Having to cut everything all at once, or to clean and set up the dining room table each time I want to cut a piece, was certainly cramping my style.

So, off to Joann's to buy the Sullivan's Craft Table. There are many reviews for this table online. The consensus seemed to be that it's about what one might expect for the price (from $99 to $149, approximately), but there the agreement ended. Some folks felt that it was so unstable as to be unusable, whereas others found it wobbly yet indispensable.

I turn out to be in the latter group. Putting the table together was not too difficult. I happened to have a folding table in the room, and used that to lay out all the pieces. Much easier than crawling around on the floor. The directions were complete and clear. Even turning the finished table from its back onto its feet was not too much for me on my own, due to its relatively light weight.

The online reviewers were very correct, though--the table is quite unstable, and it moves around a lot even under the light load of rotary cutting. I don't find it too bothersome, but it wouldn't be the table for anything heavier-duty than garment sewing. If you have small children, or if the table would be located in a high traffic area, well, the unsteadiness could be a real problem.

In my little nook, in my little room, it's working great. The light weight means I can move it around very easily, so I can create space on either side as I am moving around the fabric. Positioning the table against the wall makes it somewhat more stable.

My final worry about the table was that it might be fume-y, as so much particle board furniture is. I am really sensitive to fumes, and it's often impossible to tell in a store what is going to irritate me once it's in my home. I haven't noticed any fumes or odors at all with this table, which in itself is a huge recommendation.

Another wonderful improvement in my sewing room is that I was finally able to fix a problem that had been plaguing my Pfaff 130 for the past several weeks. The top thread kept breaking. I worked on the needle tension assembly, the hook and the bobbin case, without success. I was pretty sure that the hook timing was not the problem but, in desperation, I pulled out the service manual to find out how to check it. In the course of looking up the timing instructions, I came across a troubleshooting chart, which listed one of the causes of needle thread breakage as roughness on the needle plate. Something I hadn't checked! Visually, it looked as though there might be a nick, so I smoothed all around that area with emery cloth. Thank heavens, that did the trick and the Pfaff 130 is back in business.

I love my modern Juki F600 for its many strengths, but when I use it consistently or for a lot of long seams, my neck gets completely out of whack. The Pfaff is faster, more accurate (because it is set into the industrial table) and more powerful (because it has an industrial motor), and I can sew with it for long periods with no discomfort. Sadly it has no knee lifter, or else it would be perfect, but it is still my machine of choice for sewing seams.

The Juki excels at specialty stitches, precise edgestitching and topstitching and its fabulous buttonholes. It has great lighting and it does a wonderful job on difficult fabrics (actually, the Pfaff does, too). But for just plain sewing, the Pfaff is the best machine I've ever used and I missed it so much when it was not working. I would have even taken it to a mechanic, but it's not so easy when the machine is in an industrial table. I figured my favorite mechanic would be able to rig up a home motor to it, but he is always backed up nine or 10 weeks--too long!

Everything seems just right in the sewing room now. I hope I can stay content and not think of new things I "need".


  1. I received the exact same table as a Christmas present. I put it together on the floor and found it's quite a puzzle to get the folding legs in the right place, but worked out how it should go together quickly. I'm very happy with it for the intended purpose of it's design. The table is not good for any other use, and that might also be a plus!

    1. Good point, Tom! No one will be tempted to steal your table for another use, because it's really not good for much else. Can't say that for those oh-so-tempting sewing scissors!

  2. I would love to have a dedicated cutting table, even if it is slightly unstable, and as long as it works for your needs, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about it!

  3. I have that cutting table too. but I don't set it up to it's full length, I only have half up. I make quilts & it seemed useless to have it fully extended anyway. It was very flimsy when I leaned into cutting. My solution was to put some stacking plastic containers under it. They were not the perfect height so I put a short little 2X4 under it. Sounds ghetto, but it worked perfectly. Fast forward from that set up to now. I was gifted a small dresser/chest of drawers and it fits PERFECTLY under the table end. Of course it's a win/win situation as I have additional storage. You can see my mess here:

    Found your blog by surfing for Pfaf 130's. Hoping to get my first one for upholstery.