Regular breaks, cushions lengthen sewing career

Set up your room so you have to move around to stave off aches and pains.
Dr. Colleen McDonough of Salem, Ore., is a chiropractic physician who specializes in ergonomics and biomechanical rehabilitation. She also happens to love quilting.
A few years ago, McDonough discovered some of the aches and pains experienced by sewers and quilters. They stem from arthritis, repetitive motions and from sitting for a long time. She initiated simple changes to help people in their surroundings, and found a few helpful tools, too.
Here are some examples:
Sewers, quilters and knitters tend to stay in one position. McDonough suggests taking breaks every 45 minutes or so, with a drink of water each time.
Set up your sewing room to ensure you get up and move around, not just swivel in a chair.
When hand sewing or quilting, try an inflatable seat cushion for greater comfort. (One brand is called Ergosew Dynadisc.) Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your knees should be level with the chair seat or slightly higher.
Be sure your sewing area is well lit, since poor lighting can lead to eye strain and fatigue. Lamps that give true light directly onto your work station are especially helpful.
For handwork, try using a hoop that enables you to keep your arms close to your body. This will help eliminate stress and discomfort in the wrist and elbow. To reduce the pinching effect on thumb and second finger, use a gripper to pull your needle through the fabric.
If you lack strength in your hands or experience pain when hand sewing, try a hand exercise ball to help regain dexterity. They are at medical supply stores.
McDonough's business, called Ergo Sew Inc., is devoted to "changing the way the world sews." She has developed special exercises and tools, available locally at Viking stores. Exercise, correct posture and general fitness must become a significant part of the daily sewing routine, she says, for sewers to enjoy their art long-term.
XBarbara Gash writes about sewing for the Detroit Free Press. Write to her at the Free Press, P.O. Box 828, Detroit, Mich. 48231, or send e-mail to compusewaol.-com. Letters cannot be answered personally.

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