Friday, October 4, 2013

Sew Selfish with Ergonomics

Quilting, by its very nature, is just as dangerous to a body than other things we do.  I was so tired from quilting for myself this week and it wasn't just because I was outside my comfort zone. I was bending and stooping over to select fabrics, cutting, piecing. I had it all going on in a sort of frenzy.

Last night, my mid-back started aching, and then when I relaxed, I felt it all over my body. Clearly the joy, appreciation and simple pleasure was lacking. 

So this morning, I decided to research some mindful tips for quilting ergonomically, and see if I was doing it correctly or needed to improve my posture, and according to the graphic, was almost there.


I found a link/article specific to quilting in a March 2011 Quilting Arts magazine by Heather Thomas. Most of it I knew from experience or from hearing other quilters talk about in classes. 

She says: 
Sit so that you are up above the machine. Bent arms should rest easily on top of the table that your machine is sitting on. Be sure to tuck your behind firmly into the back of your chair. 
Place your machine close to the edge of the table, and sit as close to it as you can thus forcing your elbows back to your waist. 
Avoid bringing both of your elbows away from your waist at the same time. If you use your left hand to pull the quilt toward the back of the machine, then keep your right elbow at your waist or vice versa. In this manner, the muscles in your neck, upper back and shoulders are rarely, if ever engaged. It is the engagement of these muscles that causes all those aches and pains. 
Hold the quilt in your hands, lightly and gently, like a steering wheel at 10 and 2 (no flat hands making a frame!). This negates the need for gloves, sliders, or any other tool to help move and or control the quilt. This position will give you a dinner plate-sized view of the area you’re quilting and allows the quilt tosort of hover over the bed of your machine, thus making it easier to manipulate. 
Rarely roll a quilt. Rather, accordion fold the quilt’s excess bulk up against the inside of the machine then un-accordion fold it as you stitch in the opposite direction. This saves time and the need to haul around the weight of the quilt. 
If you have two tables, set them up in an “L” formation with the short arm of the L on your left and the long arm in front of you and butted up against another table or a wall. This keeps the quilt from wanting to droop off of the edge of the table.

I discovered another article providing even more useful tips I had not considered at  http://www.squidoo.com/SewingErgonomics  They spoke about good lighting, slanted work surfaces, and floor covering.

Next on my list was: http://www.askergoworks.com/news/19/15-Ergonomic-Tips-for-Quilters.aspx and they wrote about sewing with your body centered on the machine needle rather than the entire machine, and taking breaks to stretch, how to use a rotary cutter and laying out the quilt.

Each of the three sources had great information that a quilter can use when she is ready to quilt as pain-free as possible.

Even as I write this, I wonder how or why I allowed my body to embrace discomfort. Perhaps it simply escaped me in how I approached Sew Selfishly this week. Its not like I was making up for all the time I hadn't sewn for myself, but it took the phrase to get me to see what I was doing. 

I might make my own tips to remember, print them out and post them near my workstation as a reminder of self-care.

"Dreamtime" is put away now without another scheduled plan to work on it again. It felt good to start a quilt for myself and I know I will continue with it. I did go out and purchase a clear container that will hold "Dreamtime" and the ROWS OF THE MONTH project. Both are studies in dark and light for me.