Yesterday I described my current quilting workspace and my machine quilting woes with my domestic machine. After determining I would struggle less if my machine was flush with my table and further over to the right, I asked my handy husband to cut a hole and build a frame in which my machine could sit. The $250- $350 cost of a hydraulic lift was too expensive; a fixed setup would have to do for now.
Here are some photos of the process. The first step was to mark the location for the hole, leaving at least three inches around the machine. I marked a spot on the far right hoping for maximum space to the left to support the quilt. Fortunately, I used a pencil because the machine had to move further to the center due to a large metal brace underneath. The photo of the table shows the patient being prepared for surgery. The shiny plastic with black things on the table is the remains of an old broken acrylic table we hoped to salvage for the table insert, but my husband was unable to cut it himself.
After setting the table on the floor, my husband used a jig saw to cut the hole. This is a solid, heavy table; you can see the thickness of the wood. Since sewing machines are heavy and vibrate a lot, I would recommend using a sturdy wood desk or folding table from an office supply store, not a plastic folding table from a big box store. The support for the machine was constructed of 6" long 1/4" bolts, with nuts and washers on top and underneath the table. The holes on top were countersunk to keep everything flush. The shelf was a 5/8" piece of laminated plywood. The depth of the support shelf can be adjusted with the nuts and bolt to make the machine even with the table top.
After carefully measuring the hole and machine, I drew a pattern and had a table insert cut out of 1/4" acrylic. I cut a hole in the tablecloth and vinyl covering since it was important to keep them in place. I had the insert cut 1/8" smaller around the perimeter to accommodate the extra thickness when I tucked them under the edges of the hole. I chose opaque white acrylic so the supporting brackets would not show. The brackets are made of 90° metal "L" brackets bent once more into an "S" shape and secured with screws that came in the package. Small felt pad cushions were added on top of the bracket.
Ta-dah! The machine is now set
the table and even with the top. Now it works great for piecing and quilting. Instead of hundreds of dollars for a new table or cabinet, the total cost was about $20 for
the machine support and $55 for the acrylic insert. Now I have extra
money for new fabric! Just kidding. What I really want to do is to save
money for my own long-arm quilting machine.
With the ironing board removed, I have room to spread out a quilt for quilting. The vinyl table cloth surface is slippery which helps.
The realization that I now had room to baste a quilt top was an unexpected bonus! Binder clamps on the edges and tape elsewhere work well to secure the quilt for basting.
P.S. I also had an insert, without a cutout, made with white opaque acrylic so the hole could be used for a light box. Three battery-operated, touch-sensitive LED lights didn't work for a light source (insufficient and too focused). Does anyone have a suggestion for a removable light source to set inside the frame and under the acrylic? It should not give off heat because it may set the ink in a marking pen. I would appreciate your ideas!