Since the majority of my time in my studio is spent flinging paint at fabric in various ways, I have a permanent print table. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, let me babble at you about it. :)
When you do a lot of printing, you want a surface to do it on. It is inevitable that the paint or dye that you use when you're working will soak through the fabric and if the surface you are working on isn't properly prepped, bad things can happen. Complete opposite of Martha Stewart's "It's a Good Thing" mantra.
A print surface provides two major purposes: (1) it protects the table you are working on so it doesn't turn into a gooped up collection of paint marks and (2) it absorbs any stray fabric or paint so that it doesn't create back prints on the fabric you are working on.
When someone asks me how to make them, I always say to use three layers. The bottom layer is plastic, the middle layer is craft acrylic felt and the top layer is a heavy fabric like duck cloth or canvas. Magic formula, never fails.
The idea of the middle layer is that it adds some cushion for when you are printing. Which can be beneficial for a lot of different printing processes but after a couple of years of using it, I found I didn't really need it. (Discovered when I needed to change the layer out for a clean one and didn't have it.)
Many printers use a super thick middle layer like carpet padding so they can pin fabric down when they are working. Keeps it tight and secure, very wet printing processes need this. I've not found I need to pin fabric down so I skip it.
A print table doesn't need to be a spectacular piece of equipment. The one I put together is really simple. Want to see?
The actual table is this one from Joann Fabrics, it's the fabric cutting one. I got it with a 40% off coupon so it was a bargain and I tell ya, it's fairly indestructible. It has wheels so I can drag it about at will and since two sides are collapsible, it can adapt easily to when I need a bigger or smaller surface.
I sort of love it. :)
The layer on top is Multi-purpose Cloth from Roc Lon.
Judi Hurwitt sent me that piece that is across my table. It's the first time I've covered my print table in it and I think it's going to be a permanent addition. It reminds me a lot of curtain liner. Super absorbant and durable. (Doesn't like irons, though. Ask me how I know.)
I also like that it's wide enough to cover the entire table in a single piece. Seams in the top layer are a bad thing, they show up in your printing. Prior to the Multi-Purpose Cloth I used canvas from Joann's which also worked really well.
You'll notice there's no padding. My personal preference is that I don't need one. But it's really something you need to try both ways to know if you like it better one way or the other.
And the plastic I use is a trash bag that's been cut open and taped down to the table surface so it doesn't shift around. They last a surprisingly long time and are very easy to replace when the time comes.
So that's it. Nothing super fancy but incredibly functional. If you don't have space for a table like me, you can make portable table top version by cutting the print surface layers to the size of your work space. Pull it out when you need to work and roll it up to tuck away when you are done.
Print table bliss! :)