How to Make An Ironing Board (without needing power tools!)

ironing fabric on ironing board

This ironing board is quite literally a board pimped out for ironing. I think it’s a great addition to any sewing space. I used large boards for ironing when I worked in costume shops and have admired them in some friends’ private sewing spaces. Having the extra ironing surface area is so nice for ironing yardage and provides some peace of mind that my cat won’t knock over the iron when she tries to jump up onto my rickety folding metal ironing board. You don’t even need to have a lot of extra space for an ironing board like this, just a table large enough to set it on, since it can easily be tucked aside when not in use.

supplies needed to build ironing board

You need:

sheet of plywood

Decide how large you want your ironing board to be. I know it’s hard to get scale from the photos, but mine is quite large at 30″ x 37″. Buy a half sheet of plywood (which is 48″ x 48″. Generally plywood is sold in full sheet or half sheets). When you go to the lumber yard, they are usually quite happy to make a couple of cuts into the plywood for you to cut it to size so you don’t need any power tools at home. Plywood comes in different thicknesses. After talking to the crew at the lumber yard and trying out a couple of options, I strongly recommend 3/8″ or 1/2″ thick plywood. It comes as thin as 1/4″ but I would be nervous that it couldn’t take extended abuse at that thickness. The thicker your board is the heavier it is so any thicker than 1/2″ and it will start to get prohibitively heavy. If you have a bit of sandpaper (or a random orbit sander, my favorite power tool of all time, about which I could wax poetic, but I’ll spare you), I would give a quick sand to the bottom of the board since it will be left raw and you don’t want it to snag on anything later.

lay cotton batting on plywood

Lay 100% cotton batting on your board, letting it hang off of all the sides by an inch or two. You will want to stack several layers of batting – I used 5. This is a great chance to use up the odds and ends of batting left over from quilts. Of course if you’re not a quilter (or if you don’t have a mom who is and who lets you steal supplies from her) then you can buy a new bag of batting. Make sure that it is 100% cotton so you don’t have to worry about using your iron at any temperature.

piece cotton batting

You can patch together odds and ends of the batting without any worries. Just make sure that you abut the pieces of batting without overlapping them because overlaps will be felt. I suggest making your very top layer a solid sheet with no piecing.

cover ironing board with piece of fabric

After laying down your multiple layers of batting, lay down a layer of 100% cotton fabric on top. Again, 100% cotton is important so you can use your iron at any temperature. I pinked the edges of the fabric so I never have to worry about raveling.

flip ironing board over

Now the only tricky part is to flip over the board without disturbing your layers. I didn’t find it too tricky to do on my own because the batting kind of grabs whatever it is next to, but you can ask a friend for help at this step if it’s too hard for you to do on your own.

grade the cotton batting

Grade down your batting. You want to minimize the bulk that will go on the bottom of the board but keep the wrap around the edge smooth, so grade from very close to the board with the layer closest to the board to about an inch away at the layer closest to the fabric.

trim corners of cotton batting

Take a square out of each corner to minimize bulk at the corner.

staple fabric to back of plywood

Now you staple the fabric to the back of the board. Pull it taught with one hand and press the staple in with the other. If you haven’t worked with a staple gun before, read some safety information first – they’re easy to use but you really don’t want to shoot a staple in to your finger. I recommend wearing safety glasses and hearing protection for this step as well.

distribute staples across fabric

Starting on one side, start in the middle and work your way out to each end. Leave fairly large gaps between each staple and then go back and fill in the gaps.

finished back of ironing board

After stapling one side, staple the opposite side. It’s really important to pull your fabric as tightly as you can when you staple the opposite side because you don’t want any wrinkles in the top of your fabric. (If you do end up with wrinkles or your fabric stretches with use, you can always pull out a side of staples and re-stretch it).

staple corner of fabric

On each corner, pull the fabric away from the corner tightly, put in a couple of staples, and trim off the end.

hammer in staples

After putting in all the staples, go around and hit them each in with a hammer. (Do it on staples that stick out a little and ones that look like they are all the way in). This will help secure the staples and make sure that the bottom of your board doesn’t snag on anything. If you end up with a staple like the one on the right that really doesn’t go in all the way, pull it out and try again since trying to hammer it in that far will likely just smush the staple.

finished ironing board

Flip the board over and you’re done! You have an awesome new ironing board!

Comments 6

  1. Thanks! I love this idea and may even have all of the tools and supplies around the house. I never pass up a chance to use a staple gun!

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  2. Hi Erin! Great tutorial.
    I’ve been working on my own ironing board for yardage, but I started with 1/4″ econo foam, and am planning to top it with cotton as described. Before I finish it off, I wonder if there are other advantages to using the cotton batting (other than its temperature friendliness which the foam should share and the advantage of having it on hand – which I don’t)? In any case, great post, wonderful resource, and I’m so happy I came across it by way of Helen’s blog in a timely fashion!

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      Glad you find the tutorial helpful!

      The major reason to use the cotton batting is that there is no need to worry about heat. Since foam comes in a lot of different densities, the only other caveat I can think of against using foam is that you don’t want your board to be squishy. Layers of cotton batting have a little bit of give but no squish.

  3. Today I made an ironing board, with your help! I’m hoping to attach it to the wall using a long hinge, so that it can be pivoted up and out of the way when I want to cut out, and then swung back down when I want to iron things. Thanks for the tutorial!

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