Quilting … oh the pain of it all!


With my obvious love of quilting, it’s tough to write “quilting” and “pain” in the same sentence. However quilters know that fabric is heavy, and a queen-size quilted sandwich is extremely heavy. It can certainly hurt our shoulders and necks as we manipulate the quilt  to push the fabric through the needle of our machine.

Longarming has its own challenges. There is a lot of standing and reaching. It can be stressful on your back, neck and feet.

Hand quilting isn’t always a piece of cake either. It takes strength and agility to make those fine stitches. I’ve seen many arthritic fingers who are still hand quilting, although I’m certain they pay the price of pain for their efforts.

And then there’s our eyes. It gets increasingly difficult to thread those needles!

Marathon runners take months to prepare for a 3 or 4 hour race. They eat properly, exercise, and constantly work on their techniques. We quilters — who often spend more than 3 or 4 hours at our sewing machine EVERY DAY — barely give a thought to our bodies. Until they start to hurt!

So here are some suggestions to prevent (or minimize) aches and pains:

  1. Make sure your sewing area has good lighting. Ott lights are wonderful and regularly on sale at Joann’s Fabrics. They are currently on sale for less than 50% off! http://www.joann.com/joann/search/searchall.jsp?qsearch=ott+light&keyword=_usrch%3Aott+light
  2. Invest in a good sewing chair. I finally settled on one from Horn of American and it makes a huge difference. http://www.hornofamerica.com/products.cfm?func=productdetails&productID=81
  3. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated does help.
  4. Get out of your chair regularly. I make myself get up to press seams, rather than having an ironing station next to my sewing machine.
  5. Stretch your neck and hands. (And legs, if you’re working on a longarm).
  6. Where good shoes. Many of my colleagues recommend Danko clogs for their longarming. http://www.zappos.com/dansko-womens-shoes~2z. Personally, I couldn’t find a comfortable fit and just wear New Balance running shoes.
  7. Seek medical help. I had problems with my hands this summer and a few months in hand therapy (along with a very painful cortisone injection) fixed me up. I’ve recently sought help from a pain clinic for neck and hip issues. The sooner you are treated … the easier it is to find a solution.
  8. Take frequent breaks. This is tough because you get so involved in a project and want to finish. I’ll force myself to leave my sewing room and pin seams in a more comfortable chair in my family room, just for the change of scenery. You can always check email or take a quick walk around the block.
  9. Make sure your tables are at the ideal height. Ikea has “make your own” tables with legs that go up to 40″ in length. I had my dad make me a wonderful, sturdy cutting table that is 40″ high and it has made a huge difference with my cutting.
  10. Keep rotary blades sharp. It will take far less effort to cut fabric when you have a fresh blade, thereby reducing the stress on your shoulders and neck.
  11. Use an ice pack (or heating pad) when needed. I frequently take breaks and ice my neck.
  12. Breathe. Seriously. Take a few deep breaths when you remember. It will clear your head and wake up your body.

Quilting and pain seems to be a popular topic online. A quick search of the web revealed these sites:





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