Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fabric... Welcome to the Patriotic Quilter where I like to share all things quilty as well as red, white, and blue! Please feel free to look around and enjoy yourself! I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Island

Wow!  Thanks for all the positive comments yesterday!  It was a fun day.   The most interest had to be in the island, so I thought that would be the first thing I talk more about in depth.

I can cut on most any comfortable surface.  In my last room, I cut on the other end of the sewing table.  In the past I shared my space with the laundry room, and I used the top of the dryer.  The dining room table is popular, too.  But when I saw the space in this room, I realized I wanted something in the middle of the room.

My last house--in Hawaii--had a fabulous kitchen island.  When I had to deal with large pieces, I would take my mat and rulers downstairs and use it.  I loved the height (36")--I'm 5'9" so fairly tall.  Cutting on a table hurts my back.  I also realized fairly quickly that I could make that first cut with the rotary cutter and then instead of turning everything around to proceed in cutting strips, I could just easily walk to the other side of the fabric, ensuring everything stayed perfectly straight.  It was also really handy for pin basting quilt sandwiches, too.  So what I wanted in my new sewing room was an island.

My first instinct was to search Craig's List for used islands.  The results weren't good.  The next step was Google.  I had been searching for quilt room/sewing studio/etc. ideas for weeks.  One idea that I stumbled on was to use two dressers back-to-back with something for a surface on top.  I think the first one I read about used a door.  I liked this idea becasue I really wanted drawers for storage.  I did browse the kitchen cabinet section of the home improvement store, but the prices were higher than I wanted.  (Remember--the theme of this room is Cheap!)

So it was back to Craig's list, thrift shops, etc. to try to find some reasonably-priced dressers.  If you have never looked for two--sort of matching--used dressers that have functioning drawers, and don't smell, for a reasonable price, well--it isn't easy.  I did find inexpensive new dressers at Kmart, but they are pressed wood and they were around $70 each, so they were more than I wanted to spend.  Meanwhile, I was also investigating what I would use for a top.  I was settling for a sheet or two of MDF because I knew that a door may not be wide enough for the two dressers.  And then we went to my new favorite place ever!  The Habitat for Humanity Restore!!!  This is a place where they have new and used cabinets, furniture, building supplies, etc.  We looked at cabinets and furniture, and then we went around a corner and found used counter tops!  I planned to use a counter top for my sewing surface (I'll blog about that later) and was delighted to find a length of standard-width counter without the "backsplash" at the back.  This one was just a flat surface--exactly what I wanted.  It was $20 for an 8 foot counter.  Next to it was a matching, wider length (36")--like for an island!  This was perfect--just what I wanted.  It wasn't marked, but we took it up front anyways.  We were told that it was a dollar a foot--and it was 8 feet long, too.  It was $8!  Both counters were used and had some chips, etc. but the price was right.  Most of the damage was at the ends and I knew we could easily trim it down.

Now that I had a top, I really was trying to make a decision on the dresser situation.  I decided to go back to Kmart to look at those dressers one more time.  They were on sale!  They were down to $39 each, so it was an easy choice to get them.  My husband and Dad put them together one evening while my parents were visiting.  I knew that the dressers were only 31 inches or so tall, and that I wanted my island to be 36 inches tall, so the plan was to build a plywood platform to use as a base for the dressers which would bring them up to 36."  When I put the dressers back-to-back I thought they would be fine at the original height.  We couldn't work any more on the island until the next weekend, so I worked on a quilt during the week, and used the tops of the dressers for my mat to cut.  Boy am I glad I tried it out.  The 31" height was not tall enough!  So last weekend, we made the base with a sheet of plywood and 1x4s.  Once it was constructed, I painted it and the legs with white spray paint.

When dry, we took the base up to the room, applied felt pads to the bottom, then set it down and put the dressers on top. 
You can see the platform under the dresser.  You may be wondering why those side board are "hanging" out there.  I didn't want the base to stick out that wide--I would keep kicking it. 

One other step we did for the dressers was to measure the distance from the top of the drawers to the top of the dresser.  I found that it was about half an inch.  The counter has the over hang and the over hang was 5/8s of an inch.  If we put the countertop right on the dresser, the top drawers wouldn't be able to open, so we cut a piece of quarter inch plywood the same size as the dresser tops.  I didn't paint it, as it would be hidden under the counter.  I was so glad I thought about this step!  I would have been ticked if we got everything together and the drawers wouldn't work!

Next we measured everything from the floor up--the total height was targeted to be 36" and it was!  The legs we found at the home improvement store were 36" so we didn't have to cut them down.  We trimmed the dmaged ends off the counter, carried it up to the room, attached the legs to one end, put the other end on the dressers, and then screwed from inside the dressers through the top and the 1/4 inch plywood and into the bottom of the counter.  Presto!  I now have a surface for cutting that is 36" wide and 7.5 feet long!  The total amount spent (dressers, counter, legs, plywood, etc.) was less than $200!  I was thrilled.

Then I noticed a problem.  We had just sat the dressers on the base, but the weight of the counter top was forcing the dressers apart at the bottom.  So we got some mending plates and used them to hold the two dressers together.
I didn't want to look at that seam with the patches on it, so I went to the craft store and got some cork tiles.  (They were 40% off!) I stuck them on the dressers to hide the seam.  And I get a bonus bulletin board!
You can see the side is now all "corked" in this picture.

The cut ends of the countertop were ugly pressed board--no laminate covering them.  I know you can buy bits of laminate and trim them, but that seemed like more money than I wanted to spend, so initially I just painted the ends white, too.  But as I was measuring with one of my yardsticks, I realized that a yardstick would make a neat trim piece!  I bought two for 69 cents each and have them tacked up.  I still need to round the corners, though.  I filled most of the open space underneath with the rolling plastic drawers that I had, and my trash can even fits underneath. 

I am now going to look for a stool or two at thrift stores becasue it is so large that several people could sit there working on different projects.

  I know this post was pretty long, but the hardest part of constructing this was finding the pieces and trying to decide what would be best to use--and then working through the steps of assembly--in other words, the thought process, so I ended up sharing that with you.

Here is the "back view" once more.  If this is a project you would like to undertake and have more questions, just ask.  I'll be glad to share!

Have a Great Day!


  1. This was fantastic! And what a deal! You win the award for Thrifty Shopper! I love being able to put something useful together with found or thrift items. I so much rather spend money on new fabric! lol

  2. Love the new sewing room! Thanks for explaining the process of the cutting table. I think it is important to share the process, so people don't think that you just stumbled across a great and easy solution. Showing us how hard you worked to get what you wanted, at a price you were happy with is a great lesson.
    And, now what I really want to know, is WHY do you have a yardstick collection? I noted that you bought new ones for the end of the cut countertop. Are the ones in your collection associated with special memories? I only have one yardstick--a freebie from a car show, and a four foot stick that I received one Christmas years ago when I first started quilting. Do I need a collection??? Inquiring minds want to know.

  3. I love how all the pieces (and the processes) for your cutting island worked out. I have to admit that I am very, very curious as to where you could possibly find yardsticks for 69 cents. I have two yardsticks from a fabric store--I must have had them for 30 years (and the small chain of southern fabric stores has been out of business for at least 20 years)! If you share your strategies for finding yardsticks, I'm going to go looking for some. I feared they had become a relic of the past!

  4. 1000 points for creativity, and 1000 more for cleverness! It looks like an awesome setup, and I wish I could be one of the people that get to sit on one of those stools and craft away with you.

  5. you amaze and impress me! we have one of those habitat restore places in my town. i've got to check it out. thanks for your incredibly detailed description because you really do have to think about the small things that will bite you.

  6. I think that your island is a genius piece! I love how your worked through it and built it yourself and how inexpensive it was, and how you used some reclaimed things. :o) Going to have to look and see where the nearest Habitat Restore is.. sounds like my kind of place to visit!

  7. Well done! ... And so thrifty too! I forgot to mention yesterday that I love your "N" and your sense of humour. I have a W but it is my initial...

  8. Great workspace! Thanks for sharing.

  9. What an awesome work space. You are so creative.

  10. Wow! You did a great job with this custom built cutting table! Love it!

  11. This is great! I love how you found creative solutions like the cork board and the yardsticks!

  12. I found your blog at the perfect time. We are building a new house and I plan on a large quilt studio in the lower level. I may borrow your island idea. It is fabulous! Thanks for sharing.