Sewing should make you feel happy, productive and totally in the zone. What it definitely shouldn’t do is kill your back. But without a sewing-machine table that fits your body, all that hunching forward is eventually gonna cause some misery. You need a table that gives you support in all the right places.
Start by checking out the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s ergonomic tips for sewing tables; these suggestions are aimed mainly at industrial garment workers but are just as useful for home sewers. Then, when you’re ready to go table-shopping, keep these five key rules in mind:
1. Your Table Should Keep Your Work at Elbow Height and Your Wrists Straight
If your sewing-machine table is too low, you’ll end up hunching forward and straining your back, neck and shoulders (ouch!). If the table’s too high, you’ll have to raise your shoulders to work — not so fun for your neck and upper back either. Your work should be at elbow height when you’re standing. (Same is true when you’re at a cutting table, by the way.)
The size of your work surface also matters: It should be large enough to comfortably fit your machine, plus any task lighting you need. Oh, and let’s not forget your legs: There should be enough room between your thighs and the table so you can easily work the foot pedal without feeling like you’re being crushed.
2. The Perfect Table Width Depends on the Type of Work You Usually Do
If you sew a lot of full-length ball gowns, you’ll want a wider sewing table than if you’re dealing with kids’ clothes. Either way, you don’t want to be leaning way over or scrunching up.
3. Your Sewing Table Should Work With Your Height
Since everyone has a different elbow height, a custom-made sewing table is ideal, especially if you’re on the tall or short side. If custom isn’t an option, see what’s available at your nearest craft store. And you don’t actually have to go with an official sewing table. A regular table can be perfect for sewing or cutting, if its dimensions make sense for your size and project needs.
You might even find a small kitchen table that works perfectly for you. If you want to furnish your sewing room on a budget, scour garage sales and thrift stores to find a table with the right dimensions to fit your size — and make sure you take a tape measure along when you’re shopping.
4. The Chair You Use Makes a Big Difference
When you’re sitting in your chair, your feet should rest flat on the floor and the work surface should still be at elbow height. If you get an adjustable height chair, you’ll have more leeway in getting the perfect fit and making tweaks if you need to.
5. A Simple Adjustment May Be All You Need
If you find a sewing table (or chair) that feels right— or almost right — try altering it so it’s spot-on perfect. For example, can you cut the table legs down a little. or use wooden or cinder blocks to raise them a bit? The table you’ve got your eye on may be just one quick fix away from an A+ in ergonomics!