finished table with cutting and ironing tools

Fabric cutting and ironing station (Ikea Hack)

I’ve been reading lots of sewing books lately, and one common theme is to have a cutting station that’s counter-height to ease back strain. This makes sense — my back has been pretty achy from leaning over my desk to cut fabric. And my ironing board is rather wobbly and really un-fun to use, so I wanted to incorporate a pressing station into the cutting station.

A quick search online for ideas led me to craft room Ikea hacks and lots of promise. Since we already had two Expedit (now Kallax) 2×2 cubes, that sounded like a good direction. I particularly liked this trio approach and this 2-cube approach. Rather than purchase an additional cube that wouldn’t quite match my two older Expedit shelves, I settled on the 2-cube design.

For raising it to counter height, I could either add legs to the bottom of the shelves, or raise the table top like this. I chose to raise the table top to keep the base more stable, and it buys me a bit of storage between the top and the shelves.

My husband helped me put together this hack, although the table top was lightweight and one person could do this alone if needed. Two people makes it easier.

I wanted the top to be easily removable and the whole setup to be easy to move and reassemble. One thing I don’t like about Ikea furniture is that once it’s put together, you’re pretty much stuck with full-size furniture if you ever want to move it around. We decided to glue inverted legs to the top of the shelves, positioning them toward the front of the shelves since the top doesn’t reach from front to back, and affix industrial-strength Velcro to the feet base (which is now the top because they’re upside down) and the bottom side of the table top. Then we tacked down a layer of cotton batting on the underside of the table top, and finished by tacking down unbleached muslin.

There are a few inches of empty space at the back of the shelves where I intend to put some narrow storage bins. The Velcro appears to be working great, and if it loses its sticking power we can always cheaply replace it with new pieces.

One improvement I would make in the future is to finish the edges of the fabric cover so they don’t hand down sloppily once the top is in place and it looks more finished. But hey, like my husband says, it’s a hack. So I’m not too concerned about it. My top priority is how it functions, and it appears to be a great solution.

legs glued to shelf base
The leg plates were glued to the shelf base with Liquid Nails
bases with legs in place
Bases with finished legs in place
finished table
Finished table, with an extra cute addition to the top
storing tracing paper roll under work surface
There’s enough space under the top to store a roll of pattern tracing paper

Supplies list:

  • two 2 x 2 Expedit shelves (already owned)
  • 2 packs of Besta legs (4 total legs): $20.00
  • Linnmon table top, 59 x 29 1/2 in.: $25.99
  • Drona storage box for shelves (1): $5.99
  • Velcro Extreme, 1 in. x 4 in. 5-pack: $4.87
  • Liquid Nails glue: $3.57
  • Unbleached muslin, 2 yards of 44-inch wide (had 50% off coupon at Joann): $2.99
  • Natural cotton batting, 1 1/4 yards of 96-inch wide (had 50% off coupon at Joann): $9.37
  • large white furniture nails, 25-pack: $2.49

Total cost: $75.27 + tax

I’m so happy with this table because it gives me a nice large space for cutting fabric in my sewing room, and provides a large pressing surface. And the most exciting part is that it was a frugal DIY solution for my specific needs.

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Seasoned cast iron skillet

Seasoning the cast iron skillets

We bought two cast iron skillets for camping a few years back, and I had basically relegated them to “not good enough for the kitchen”, except for cooking homemade corn tortillas. But then I got a double-burner griddle which took over tortilla duty.

During a kitchen deep-clean last week (which started with an oven window that was completely caked with gunk and useless) I did some investigating and learned that a properly seasoned and cared-for cast iron skillet can be a wonderful thing. Some cooks rank it at the top of their equipment lineup, so I wanted to see if I could get mine in good working order.

After seeing the photo of eggs in a cast iron skillet on this guide I was sold. My eggs are a disaster in anything but a nonstick omelet pan. I followed the cleaning and seasoning instructions, and though my house smelled like a deep fryer for a day, I’m really happy with the results. I’ve used it for a few things and have a new respect for the even-heating ability and how food is nicely browned and released.

One of the test recipes I made in my skillet was White Beans and Cabbage from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. The first step was to brown small diced potato in some oil/butter. I fully expected to find a crusted mess when I went to turn the potatoes, but the perfectly-behaved little bits effortlessly released from the skillet. The next step was lightly browning onions and white beans, and there was a tiny bit of sticking with them, but with a metal spatula they released without much trouble or damage. In addition to the nice skillet experience, this is a delicious recipe.

Another thing I tested was grilled cheese. The bits of shredded cheese fallout came right up even though they looked really cooked on the bottom of the pan, and sandwich basically skated across the surface.

To clean day-to-day, I let the skillet cool down, then it gets rinsed with water so I can scoop out any bits. Then I dry it with and lightly coat with vegetable oil for storage.

Simple canvas ticking apron project

Canvas Ticking Apron

Sewing is one of those things I come back to every now and again. And after recently watching a wonderful class on Craftsy.com called “Sew Ready: Machine Basics” it got me amped up to sew something, specifically something useful.

I’ve had to bust out the stain remover lately because of the way I like to make pizza sauce — by squeezing out the seeds and juice from canned tomatoes before breaking them into small pieces. Inevitably some of that juice ends up on my clothes, making an apron the perfect sewing project.

When searching for good pattern options, I came across the Adjustable Unisex Apron tutorial from The Purl Bee. It looked like the absolute perfect match for me: straightforward, unfussy, and classic. Often times when I sew, I try to rush through the project and just get to the end. But this time I went slow and stead, paying close attention to the craftsmanship. I found I enjoyed the whole experience a lot more.

That is, until I finished the project and tried it on. I found the neck strap unbearably uncomfortable. Which I should have seen coming — it’s probably why I’ve gone this long without an apron. They always hurt my neck.

I did some research on solutions, and discovered that a good match for me might be a smock-style apron. I’ll probably make one of those at some point to compare. But I’d come so far with this one and wasn’t ready to give up on it, so I did some prototyping for a few days and landed on a soft, wide, fabric band that buttons on one side. It’s much more comfortable, although the body of the apron is a fairly heavy fabric, so I’d definitely consider a lighter-weight option for the smock project.

I learned that the automatic button foot on my sewing machine doesn’t work correctly, or at least I couldn’t make it work. I fought with it for an entire evening and was reminded once again that when something isn’t working right, especially at the end of the day, sometimes it’s best to just walk away…I wasn’t able to fix the buttonhole foot, but in the light of a new day embraced the alternative of sewing the buttonhole manually and it was just fine. Happy to have this project completed and ready to wear!

Basil and oregano in pots

Indoor herb garden

I’m starting my indoor herb garden with basil and oregano. I love fresh basil on Italian dishes but hate paying the high cost of a little clamshell of fresh basil at the store. And while I’ve never cooked with fresh oregano, I find myself reaching for the dried oregano often for salad dressings and sandwiches. We already enjoyed a few leaves of each on last night’s pizza.

They’re situated near a south-facing window that’s been letting lots of light in as we get into autumn. I just hope I can keep these little guys alive despite my lack of a green thumb.