Ergonomic New Year (Part 2)


Quilting is hard work. Fabric is heavy, and maneuvering the quilt around sewing machine is not easy. Even if you don’t have back or neck problems, you can easily feel the fatigue as you begin to work.

I read the book “Pain Free Quilting” by Carole LeRoy over the Christmas break. She is a nurse and quilter, and she has a lot of tips for pain-free quilting. Some of it boils down to keeping your body in a relaxed, natural position. She suggests having a friend take a picture of you quilting, then noticing the areas of strain.

For me, my shoulders immediately go up toward my ears as I start running fabric through my sewing machine. I’ve been making an effort to relax my shoulders and it has helped. Then I raised the height of my chair, which helped even more.  I know that some people have good luck by placing a towel under the far end of the sewing machine and tilting it toward you. (I haven’t tried this because I would be unable to use the attached table, plus all my pins would fall off as I’m used to laying them on the throat of the machine.)  However I think the secret to pain-free quilting is making a lot of little changes until your workspace fits you exactly.

Carold LeRoyealso covers the best way to use rotary cutters and scissors. Aside from using ergonomic rotary cutters, it’s important to keep the blades sharp. I know I’m a guilty member of the “dull blade” camp. Blades are expensive and I hate changing them. But there’s a lot less stress on my shoulder when I’m not pushing like heck to make a cut. Then, of course, there’s re-doing the cut because the edges are frayed!

When cutting, it’s important to have a table that is at the correct height. When I was a child, I remember my mom cutting out fabric on our chest freezer. She was tall too, and the extra few inches of height over a table or counter top made a big difference. Recently, my dad made me a sturdy cutting table that is the perfect height for me.  I have appreciated both the height and the sturdiness. My previous table, although tall enough, wiggled when I used the rotary cutter, creating additional stress on my shoulders.

Carole has some interesting tools to help take the strain off while sewing. I haven’t tried any of them, but I have to admire her innovation. You can see these products at

Her book is available at, as well as her website. As you can see from the images, it has a lot of cartoons and is an easy read. I don’t think any of her information is new or surprising, but there is value in having everything together in one book. Reading this book also gave me time to think about my work environment and changes that I could make.


2 responses »

  1. Sounds like a good book I’ll have to remember to look for it.

    The Dull Blade Camp, cute. Have you tried a rotary blade sharpener? I have the plastic one from Joanns, I think it goes for about $10-$11 when it’s not on sale (aka no coupon), and it works wonders. Starting a new project give it a spin and you’re ready to go again. I would guess my blades last 3 or 4x as long using one and if I’m in a hurry to sew I can just swap for a new one and sharpen the old one later for next time.

    • I’m so glad you posted this. Somebody asked about it at my LQS and the manager said they weren’t very good, so I didn’t buy one. Perhaps that is because they will reduce their business of selling blades (although I always buy them with 50% off coupons at Joann’s). I will try this and let you know what I think.

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