Morning you brightly colored koi! Your little cousins, the goldfish, were here yesterday. You guys sure are a lot more flashy! I think it’s super cute that you come when called.

Yesterday’s project was my pressing board! I’ve hemmed and hawed a lot about this project a lot over the last two weeks, and ultimately, what I ended up making was different from what I had my little heart set on. But it’s done, and we love it!


OK, so my planning process was a little whack. I started off on the wrong foot as I was copying the excellent cutting table from Diary of a Renaissance Seamstress and she wrapped her entire cutting top with batting and gingham for a permanent pressing surface. I wanted a REMOVABLE pressing surface so I could use the hard top for rotary cutting, but I had it stuck in my head that I had to have the ENTIRE 36 x 69″ cutting table covered with the pressing board.

I had four main concerns while plotting the pressing board. First, 36″ x 69″ is REALLY big! Whatever board I used had to be light enough for me to lift off and on without Mr. Bug‘s help doing it for me. Second, I wanted the surface to be stable – I had visions of it sliding all over the place! Third, I was worried about protecting the melamine cutting surface from the steam and heat from the iron. Fourth, I wanted to upholster it, and it seemed that the staples that hold the upholstery fabric in place were likely candidates to scratch the heck outta the melamine – not nice.

When we headed out to Home Depot to get supplies my plan was to use 1/8″ thick hardboard as the surface with some 1×2’s to build a frame and some Insul-Brite hot-pad type batting to protect the melamine. After looking at the materials and listening to Mr. Bug’s thoughtful analysis of my plan I realized that it might not work out as brilliantly as it had in my head. The whole shebang would likely break after a use or two AND while I probably could have lifted it, it still was pretty awkward! We considered a bunch of other options – floor underlayment, OSB, pine sheeting… a system of old-school door hooks to make a two part surface that I could lift but wouldn’t fly apart… giving up sewing all together and learning to cook.

After wandering around the lumber section for what seemed like an eternity I realized that one of my initial premises was flawed – I didn’t NEED to cover the entire surface! We ended up buying 3/4″ MDF. It comes in pre-cut pieces of 2′ x 4′, which is pretty large! I decided that if I really loved the boards I could always come back and have the nice Home Depot people cut me two 3′ x 3′ MDF boards from a giant 4′ x 8′ sheet – enough to cover the whole surface, but WAY more pricey! Start small, that’s my new motto. Remind me of that later. Relived to at last make up our minds, we left Home Depot with our piece of MDF and a package of 3/8″ heavy duty staples.

Whew! On to making the #*(&$) thing!

Upholstering the top

Here’s a partial photo of supplies I used.

  • One 2′ x 4′ piece of 1/2″ thick MDF – I liked the MDF because it’s FLAT!! Regular plywood and OSB doesn’t always lay completely flat!
  • Staple gun & 3/8″ staples
  • Wool batting
  • Ticking
  • Scissors
  • NOT pictured! Hammer, pliers for pulling out mis-fired staples, a spray bottle of water, rotary cutter and mat, various rulers
  • NOT used! The little package on top of the ticking is that bottom-of-the-foot grabby material for ‘jammies! I thought it might help on the bottom to keep the board from sliding around, turns out it wasn’t needed

First I laid out my fabric. I started with 2 yards of 32″ wide ticking that after pre-washing had shrunk SIGNIFICANTLY! I like to super pre-wash and dry the fabric for ironing board covers, so I figured I’d do the same here. I wanted enough ticking to wrap about 3″ to the back of the pressing board. For the batting, I just wanted enough to cover the top of the board and wrap a bit around the top edge so it wasn’t sharp and pointy.

We have wool batting at the shop, so I used that as the padding – I’ve seen a lot of recommendations to use wool blankets and I figure this was close enough. ALL recommendations are pretty adamant that the padding and the fabric be all natural – wool or cotton for the padding, 100% cotton for the fabric. This picture is a bit misleading – the batting isn’t really all that fluffy!

I’ve really liked having ticking on my ironing board – I use the lines all the time to make sure hems are straight, etc. I wanted the same for the pressing board, but that did add the extra headache of having to make sure I got it on the board straight! After I laid out my fabric and batting I set the board on top and tugged and straightened, using the lines on the fabric to ensure that the board was sitting nice and straight on the fabric.

Staple time! I stapled slowly and evenly, starting at the center of one side, then stapling the center of the other side, then the ends of each side, etc. I checked with each staple to make sure the stripes on the fabric stayed in line with the edge of the board.

After I got the sides all stapled up I flipped the board to make sure everything looked straight, then I stapled up the ends – I left about 5″ unstapled at the corners so I’d have room to make them tidy.

The first step on the corners was to pull out the excess batting. I wanted the corners padded, but there was a LOT of batting in there from the two sides meeting up!

Next I pulled the center down nice and taut (but not too taut! I didn’t want to poke through the fabric) and secured with a staple.

Next I folded over one corner, starting the miter-type fold. The more fabric you can smooth up towards the edge, the flatter everything gets. I used a ruler to help me get the fabric smooth. Once I got it close enough I secured with a staple in the general vicinity of my thumb.

Do the same with the other side! This looks a bit bulky in the photo, but it’s really nice and flat, so no worries about the board rocking or anything. Also, I (of course) would have been happier with a PERFECTLY MITERED CORNER, but I think I would have had to trim to do that and that seemed as if I’d be asking for trouble!

Once the corners were done I added staples where necessary -every 2 or 3 inches. Then I tapped them in with a hammer.

The ticking had gotten quite rumply from stretching and such!

No worries! I just used my iron to steam it out.

Upholstering the bottom

One of my main concerns was that the pressing board would scratch up the melamine cutting table. Part of the reason I wanted the super pricey MDF versus the cheap OSB is that MDF is so smooth and if the back was left exposed it wouldn’t scratch. BTW, as a price comparison: a 4′ x 8′ sheet of 3/4″ OSB (that’s the board that looks like woodchips all pressed together) is around $12.00 at Home Depot and a sheet of MDF the same size and thickness is around $36.00!!

ANYWAY… I could have left the pressing board as-is. The staples were very tight and smooth against the upholstery fabric, no potential for scratching. But I think you curious koi all know how I feel about finishing the insides of garments… I feel the same about finishing the back sides of pressing boards! I considered using some grosgrain ribbon to finish the edges, but I would have needed two rolls + the adhesive, so that would have added up a bit. In the end, Joann’s had 72″ felt on sale, so I only needed 2/3 of a yard to cover the back. I got that and some heavy duty fusible web to make a felt backing.

Note the continued use of white. It’s all about the hound fur, y’all!

I cut the felt so it covered up all the staples – again, using the stripes on the ticking as a guide.

Then I cut my fusible web. For those of you who don’t know what this stuff is, it’s the same as Steam a Seam, but you can buy off the bolt as well – the brand I see most often is Pellon Wonder Under and I think it comes in two weights. I got the heavy duty since felt is so thick. You can use fusible web to fuse any fabric to a porus surface such as wood (or presumably MDF!) It comes off the bolt textured on one side and paper on the other.

The stuff I used was about 18″ wide – a little more narrow than my piece of felt, so I had to cut into pieces to fully cover the back of the felt. Here it is ready to go.

I placed the fusible web textured side down over the felt, then ran my iron over the paper backing to fuse the felt and web together.

Once all the pieces of web were ironed on to the felt I carefully peeled off the paper backing, leaving the adhesive part behind on the felt. It was all very smooth, although it looks wonky in this photo!

After I peeled off the paper I trimmed the edges with pinking shears, mostly to make it look cute!

Next I flipped over the felt so the side with the fusible web attached was facing the pressing board.

Spritz with water…

…and fuse away!

Done! A nicely backed pressing board. I got a super gold star from Mr. Bug when he got home and snooped around. I think he was surprised by the finished project!

As a final step I flipped upright and DOUSED with water. In theory, this should make the ticking shrink up a bit. In practice, I’m not sure how much it did other than get everything all wet!

Revisiting my concerns… and how much did it cost??

Way up at the beginning I had four major concerns… let’s revisit them, shall we??

#1 – Must be light enough to lift: check! By shifting down to the 2×4′ board I can totally lug this sucker around! It IS heavy, but doable. I already had my first accident though, smashing the pad of my little finger between the board and a pipe. Hello blood blister!!

#2 – Stability (no sliding around) – I was WAY too worried about this! The weight of the MDF is more than enough to keep it in place, even with felt on the bottom. Really. I’m not lying. It’s not moving!

#3 – Must protect melamine from steam! – The thicker board provides adequate protection from steam – no worries there! Since I went with a board that doesn’t cover the whole surface I’ll be careful around the edges and not let the iron hang over too much, but really it’s fine.

#4 – Upholstering (enough thickness to hold a staple/staples scratching the surface of the cutting table) – When I was thinking about using the 1/8″ board, I couldn’t figure out how to upholster without the staples sticking UP through the batting and fabric! Going with the MDF fixed that. Also as I said above, the staples went WAY into the board and sort of ‘nestled’ into the fabric and were very smooth. The felt backing was really an aesthetic thing and not necessary to protect the table!

Obviously, I have a smaller board than my original vision. Unless I get into serious quilting or start taking in washing, I think the 2×4′ pressing board will be quite large enough. I sort of like how there’s extra ‘space’ around it to set my tools and iron while I was working. But I know that I can always go shell out $36 for the giant piece of MDF and get the two squares cut that will cover the entire surface if I get a bee in my bonnet!


(1) 2′ x 4′ MDF board $10

(1) package 3/8″ staples $2

2/3 yard wool batting – 96″ wide $11

2 yards ticking $14

2 yards fusible web $7

2/3 yard felt – 72″ wide $2.50

Total: $46.50

Sources… I searched the webs a bit using things like ‘making a pressing board’ – there are a lot of quilters out there that do this and have made You Tube videos, but I didn’t really pay attention to what I was scanning. The one post I read twice was Beangirl’s excellent duct taped version. Obviously, my pressing board is more, um, permanent. If mine gets too stained, I’ll just recover it. Beangirl’s solution allows you to actually WASH the cover!!

Next challenge: cutting mat. Again, I want one that COVERS THE SURFACE… or as close as possible. Go with the super pricey self healing kind? Or settle for the non-self healing kind that I use at the shop and am perfectly happy with, but it DOES have a groove at the 1 yard mark… Also, is it possible to trim down these mats? The self-healing one from Joann’s is 70″ wide – 1 inch too long!


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