Ergonomics

During the day I have a desk job and I sit in front of a computer, ALL day! Many people know, in the back of their heads, that ergonomics (the alignment of your body) are very important when you have a desk job or when you are sitting or standing in the same position for a long time.  This is also quite true for quilters/sewers.  My quilting teaching said that when you sew, you have to be careful to take many breaks and stretch your muscles. You should also work with your arms at a 90 degree angle. Well, most sewing tables (unless they are specifically made for sewing machines) do not put a person sewing at 90 degree angles.  She recommended using an office chair with the ability to raise and lower it so that you can raise your chair to the correct height.  You can also purchase two plastic door stops and put them under the back of your machine.  This will allow you to see what you are working on easier and prevent you from having to lean over the machine.  I have tried the doorstop thing, and it made it difficult for me to use the kneelift lever.  If you have never used your kneelift lever, I really encourage you to try it out. It takes some getting used to, but once you do you’ll never want to go back. It’s awesome!  My teacher also talked about the height of your cutting table and ironing board.  She told me something I already knew, that your cutting table needs to be higher to prevent back strain (usually 34-40 inches in height).  I knew this from experience, my current cutting table is just a former kitchen table. It is way too low for cutting on.  I always end up leaning my knee on a bench so that it can relieve my back a little when I am cutting.  But what I didn’t know what that when you are cutting, which usually when you are standing, the table should be high enough that your arms make a 90 degree angle.  This will allow the natural force of your body to do the work and not put so much strain on your lower back.  And finally, she said that for ironing, the table should be even higher than the cutting table.  This is because irons are usually fairly heavy (at least the pretty good ones for pressing are) and having it higher will relieve that pressure even more from having to lift it so high.  Some tips for proper ergonomics in your sewing room can be found here and here.  One of the recommendations is to sit on an inflatable ball called a stability ball or a Pilates ball. This is recommended on the second site link but the problem I see with that is that if you have to stand up to press something or cut something, which I find Ido often, I bet the ball will go rolling all over the sewing room and thus create a hazard.  I found an awesome chair at the Gaiam website. It is called the Blance Ball Chair. It is a balance ball, but on casters, which will keep the ball in one place if you need to get up to press or cut fabric.  I am just dying to get this chair because a) it’s on wheels which is a necessity in a sewing room, and b) it’s a stability ball which forces you to have better posture (or else you’ll fall off!) and a stronger core (tighter abs).  Now, maybe I am just easily sold, but a friend of mine who has recently been allowed to work from home says that she sits on her stability ball all day at her desk and she believes it is helping her posture. I, for one, know that I have terrible posture at my desk during the day because by the end of the day my back is killing me.  OK, sorry, I went off on a little tangent there.  In the end, your posture is what is going to allow you to continue to sew.  If you have poor posture, sewing is going to become painful and that is NOT good!  One other tip that my sewing teacher offered. If you are listening to CDs when you are working, don’t put several in a CD changer at once. She recommends just putting in one at a time so that it will force you to get up in between to change the CDs. This will give your back a chance to relax a little and your muscles a chance to stretch.  I hope that these suggestions are helpful. Until next time…

Happy and Healthy Stitching,

Anna L.

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November 9, 2007. Tags: , , . Quilting.

2 Comments

  1. Leisa replied:

    Hi Anna, One of the ladies that I quilt with was in Denver to visit her daughter and they were Quilt Shop, shopping and she found an inflatable cushion. It cost her around $50. It works similar to the chair you show. I have a chair that cost me around $400. I have a bad back and use to work in a doctors office before I retired. One of the doctors had been to a convention and purchased this type of chair. She brought it in for me to use. What a difference. I could keep working. The chair is called a Swooper. There is no back to it but I can’t tell you what a wonderful chair it is. No back pain at all. Check out http://www.painrelievers.com or just go to all the web. They also have a cushion for around $30. They didn’t have such a item when I got the chair. Good luck. Nothing worst than a killer back. Leisa

  2. AllenQuilts replied:

    I sit at a desk all day, also, and I think I am paying dearly for not paying proper attention to my posture. I have straightening of the cervical spine and a bulging disc. Don’t know what caused it, but I feel not having proper ergonomics has played a part. I am having bad muscle spasms today…just how I wanted to spend my Saturday. Not meaning to whine on your post…just wanted to pop in and emphasize along with you that it really is important to pay attention to that…might save you some troubles down the road!

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