Sewing is a hobby with many benefits. You can have fun while stretching your creative muscles. Making and mending clothes for your family can save you a ton of money. And disappearing into the peace and quiet of your sewing room for an hour or so can be pretty relaxing.
But as many benefits as there are to sewing, there are also some hazards.
Here are some tips that will help you stay in good health while you sew.
Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs)
When you perform the same actions over and over again (like cutting fabrics, doing intricate stitching, or hunching over a sewing machine) you could end up suffering a Repetitive Stress Injury, or RSI. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which can affect the hands and wrists, is the most well-known type of RSI. But long-time sewers can also experience RSIs that effect their back, necks and elbows.
RSIs can sneak up on you. You might not even realize you have one until the pain starts. Many sewers try to ignore and push through the pain, which only makes the RSI worse. And, eventually, you might find yourself unable to do the thing you loved (in this case, sewing, that cause the RSI in the first place.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent RSIs.
When you’re on a roll with a sewing project, it can be hard to stop and take a break. But your body will thank you for it.
Every thirty minutes or so, stop what you’re doing. Get up, move around. Leave your sewing room for a few minutes. The break doesn’t have to be long, but stopping for even a few minutes will do you a world of good.
Some other things you can do to prevent RSIs are:
- Stopping every 10 or 15 minutes to shake out your hands.
- Doing wrist, arm, neck, back and shoulder stretches before and after working on your sewing project.
Poor Posture Can Lead to Pain
If you are starting to suffer from back or shoulder pain, poor posture could be the cause. Fortunately, this is a problem you can start fixing right away. When you find yourself stooping over your sewing machine or cutting table, make a conscious effort to straighten up. Over time, assuming the correct posture will become natural to you, and you won’t have to think conscious about doing it anymore.
Improper Equipment Positioning
If your chairs, cutting tables and sewing machines aren’t positioned properly, they can cause you to sit or stand in an unhealthy position for hours at a time, and lead to RSIs.
The ideal height of cutting tables, sewing tables and ironing boards will differ from person to person. For example, your cutting table should be taller than your hips, but shouldn’t be higher than your elbows. So someone who’s 5 foot 8 will need a taller sewing table than someone who’s 5 foot 2.
Do some quick research to find the equipment heights that would work best for you.
Poor Lighting and Eye Strain
Another injury you can suffer in the sewing room is eye strain. Eye strain can cause headaches, blurred vision, double vision, pain around the eyes, light sensitivity, and even a sore neck.
Make sure you have adequate lighting in your sewing room. Most sewers don’t, and trying to do intricate sewing work in poor, dim lighting can do a number on their eyes.
Use bright, fluorescent lights in overhead fixtures. You also make should make sure there is an adequate light source (maybe in the form of floor and desk lamps) over every work station in your sewing room, including:
- Your sewing machine.
- Your cutting table.
- The rocking chair where you do needlework by hand.
- Your ironing board.
If you’re sewing machine has lights of its own, chances are they aren’t bright enough. Fortunately, you can add brighter lights to the sewing machine yourself.
While you want the light in your sewing room to be bright, you also want it to be glare-free. If you have plenty of light in your sewing room, but still find yourself squinting as you work, glare could be the problem.
Give Your Eyes a Break
Looking at one thing (like the quilt you’re working on) for too long can also cause eye strain.
The remedy is to take frequent breaks. Every thirty minutes or so, stop what you are doing. Get up and walk around. Focus your eyes on things that are further away than that sewing project you were working on.
If your work station is near a window, stop every ten to fifteen minutes to look out at the trees, neighboring houses, or passing cars.
If your eyes are starting to bother you, you should probably stop sewing all together for the day. Put that sewing project away. You can always pick it back up again tomorrow.
Being aware of the possible health problems sewing can cause is one way to prevent them. And if you’re already suffering from eye strain or back pain, simple steps like taking more breaks, buying a new sewing table or improving your posture could keep those problems from getting worse.