Besides the dress form, a cutting table is a necessary tool in a complete collection of sewing accessories. A home cutting table may cost around one hundred dollars (as of 2009), while industrial ones can range in the thousands. A proper cutting table makes life easier by speeding up the cutting process, making cuts more precise and adding a bit of storage space for fabric.
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A clothing cutting table is a table used to lay out fabric in preparation for cutting during apparel production. A cutting table is a clothing designer's fabric work space; the designer might also use the table to manipulate and alter pattern layout. The table may also have one edge fitted with a yardstick for fabric measurement.
There are two types of cutting tables, home and industrial. A home table is made for light to medium use and can also double as a craft table. An industrial table, on the other hand, is made to protect expensive professional apparel equipment as well as last through heavy use. Industrial cutting tables are hearty enough for high-powered rotary or laser cutters; some home models can stand up to hard use but must be reinforced with padding first to protect the cutting surface.
A home cutting table is usually medium-sized, measuring about 3 feet in length and around 5 feet in width. The Homespun brand of cutting tables comes with a gingham-checked top, which can be useful for measurement. A home table may also have a wooden bottom that is not optimised for storage. Home tables are often collapsible, because many home sewers don't have the space to keep a table up permanently.
An industrial table is a more utilitarian piece of studio furniture. The top may be padded slightly to protect expensive scissor blades, and the bottom is built for storage. Industrial tables are bolted together, and are never collapsed. Because many of them are custom, professional studio tables have a wide range of sizes, with some tables measuring many yards in length.
In an apparel studio, the cutting table takes up the largest amount of room out of any equipment present. Often, it'll be the cleanest surface, because the designer doesn't want to risk staining or damaging garment fabric. The table may have a metal ridge running down it at the 1 yard mark, or near the middle; this enables the sewer to make a clean, straight cut across the fabric. The cutting area is also very likely to be clear of chairs, since most people stand and walk around when cutting a garment.
The benefits of having a good cutting table are numerous. Without a cutting table, the sewer must do her work on a dining room table, or on the floor. This creates the risk of stains from dropped food, or accidental stabs from errant, dropped pins. Plus, fabric can bunch on carpeted surfaces and slip on wooden floorboards. In an industrial setting, there can be little or no production without the cutting table; samples must be precise and cleanly cut, so a flat surface is crucial. A clothing cutting table is the cornerstone to a complete domestic or industrial sewing studio.
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