In May of 2014, while finishing a quilt for a deadline, I pushed past the point of pain in one of my fingers pulling on threads through some rough fabric. I was on a deadline, and I had to get finished! The result was tendonitis in the tendon on one finger on my “sewing” hand. After letting it heal, I needed 6 weeks of physical therapy and exercises at home to gain enough strength back in that same hand. It was pretty scary for me, since I also needed that hand to type and do practically everything else for my day job. Here’s some tips for you in my video and some more tips below on how you can protect yourself from a repetitive motion injury.
Protecting your Hands
We hear all the time about using proper techniques with a rotary cutter so that you don’t injure yourself, and also we’ve heard about protecting our fingers and work from the wayward prick of a needle with a thimble. But how do you protect your hands from repetitve motion injuries?
Protecting your Wrists
Holding your work up while you sew is also straining your arm and wrist, and the pressure your sewing hand does when pushing down on the work can cause additional strain. Long hours of binding that king size quilt, and you’ll definitely feel sore.
Protecting yourself at the Machine
Long hours of machine sewing can mean a sore back and sore shoulders. Using gripping gloves to help push the quilt sandwich through the machine will help, along with a slippery sewing surface.
Here’s some tips to get you started!
1. Take breaks! For every hour of sewing, you should break and rest for 15 minutes. I cut that down even more. Inside of each hour, I sew for 45, and rest for 15 minutes.
2. Vary your tasks. Try doing another sewing project for a bit to let your hands rest. If you are hand sewing, do a little machine piecing to take a break and give your hands a rest.
3. Do exercises! You would not run a marathon without warming up first, so why should you jump into a marathon sewing period without doing a little hand warm up too? There’s tons of warm up exercises online for musicians and handwriting and artists, so check them out, and go easy!
4. Get a brace. There’s braces for your fingers and wrists available that give you additional support while you sew. When I saw my physical therapist for my finger, he gave me a support called an Oval 8. Check with a health care professional on how you can get one for your finger. It keeps me from over extending my thumbs while I sew. Wrist braces and support gloves come in many shapes and sizes, and you can find one that you like to help support your wrist and help support your work!
5. Posture is key. Your mom was right, don’t slouch! Not only is it terrible for your back, neck and shoulders, you will be able to sew for much longer periods of time with proper posture It might take you some time to train yourself to remember to sit up straight. Your sewing table and chair play a big part in how you sit to sew at the machine. You should check out the OSHA rules for setting up a seamstresses workstation, as it has great tips, along with the reasons why, for getting a proper set up at your machine. There’s also great links of sewing machine ergonomics over on Google.
6. Use tools to help you! This is so important. We are so lucky to live in a time where there are so many gadgets to make our lives easier. I discuss a few tools in my video, but be sure to look for things that will help you. Needle pullers, wrist guards, and machine gloves are great places to start. Use beeswax to wax your thread so it glides through your fabric. Use an anti static dust spray to make your sewing table surface a little more slippery so that you can slide your work around better with less drag. Cut a pool noodle to cover the ege of your table so that your arms are not resting on the hard edge.
7. Listen to your body. Pain is the indicator that you are overdoing (or may have already overdone) it. If you feel sore, stop. Rest. And don’t start back up if you still feel pain.
Little things will add up to make sewing a much easier and less painful task. If we want to keep sewing for years to come, these tips may help you! Of course, if you are in any pain, feel any discomfort, or need further advice, it is important for you to seek help from your medical professional. These tips are not a replacement for their expert opinions.
The fine folks at Dritz have given me this wonderful goodie bag of gloves and thimbles to get you started! One person will win this giftbag of goodies, and 5 others will win a randomly selected thimble! Here’s how to enter:
1. Leave a comment to enter!
2. Please only enter one time. Multiple entries will be disqualified. (Comments are moderated, so you won’t see your entry online right away.)
3. International entries are welcome!
4. You must leave me a way to contact you, so please leave your valid email address when leaving a comment.
5. The entries will be open until Wednesday August 12th at 5:00 PM CST.
6. The winner will be chosen randomly the evening of August 12th. Check back to see if you are the winner! GOOD LUCK!