Research for my workshop at the East Bay Heritage Quilters bi-annual show revealed plenty of resources on ergonomic furniture for quilting studios. However, I did not find much addressing the most important piece of equipment in your studio – your body.
Quilters spend endless hours designing, cutting, piecing, sewing, pressing, and quilting their creations. The results can be visually stunning. But this relatively sedentary craft can also lead to discomfort. Here are a few prevention tips:
1. Do not ignore pain. Pain is information. It is telling you something is wrong. Continuing to use the same muscles and joints when you are already in pain can lead to permanent injury and loss of function. In plain English: you could lose the ability to quilt. Stop doing anything that makes the pain worsen. Go to your doctor or find a physical therapist.
2. No matter how ergonomic your studio, you need to take regular breaks. Move away from your work area and do something to change the position of your body. Even a one minute break helps.
I know it can be difficult to remember to take breaks. I posted this “quilt” above my desk as a reminded to take breaks when I work at my computer. I suggest you make yourself a beautiful reminder to take care of the most important piece of equipment in your studio – you!!
3. Sitting and standing with good posture—using your core muscles for support— will reduce the likelihood of repetitive strain injury.
4. Distribution of movement = distribution of force. Make good use of your breaks by mobilizing your spine. Gently arch your back, rotate your torso side to side, and bend to each side. You probably don’t need to practice rounding forward, but try stacking your vertebrae from bottom to top from a rounded back position.
5. Practice balancing. Keep your postural muscles toned, prevent falls, and impress your friends by becoming proficient at balancing on one foot. Gradually reduce your reliance on a nearby counter or chair back as you improve. Work up to one minute on each leg. (I like to balance while using my electric toothbrush. It even has a timer.)
6 When you aren’t quilting, try to get out and move your body. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as it gets you moving—take a walk, go dancing, swim—the trick is to find something you like to do and do it, regularly.
Wishing you many years of pain free quilting!!