Protecting the Quilter

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Protect Your Future Quilts By Protecting the Quilter

What better way to protect your future quilts than by protecting yourself so you will have a long, healthy, active life? These were my very thoughts as I read "Rx For Quilters: Stitcher-Friendly Advice for Every Body" by Susan Delaney Mech, M.D.

This book is packed full of practical advice specifically geared toward quilters. Here is a summary of some of the valuable information in this easy-to-read book.

Keep Your Back and Neck Pain-Free

Protect your back by taking frequent breaks. Avoid sitting at your machine for marathon work sessions. Avoid sitting absolutely still. Gently sway or shift your weight occassionally. Dr. Mech writes, "Sitting puts enormous strain on your back. This is why sedentary women are the second most frequent back pain patients."

If you need to stand for long periods of time, at the ironing board or a long-arm machine for instance, place one foot on a 6 to 9-inch high stool. Watch your posture when you are standing or lifting, keeping your spine as straight as possible. This is important when sleeping, too.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Quilters can easily develop this repetitive strain injury. In fact, ten percent of quilters will develop carpal tunnel syndrom. Cradling the phone between your ear and your shoulder, and using a keyboard for extended periods of time will increase the risk. Dr. Mech warns, "If you do not change your quilting lifestyle, the damage to your wrist will continue." Quilters can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by having good posture, using an ergonomic workstation, varying their hand quilting techniques, and taking frequent rest breaks.

Treat Yourself to a Ergonomic Workstation

It is extremely important to create a work area that will not put unnecessary stress on your body. Make sure the chair and table you use is the right height for your body. When you sit, your feet should be flat on the floor, your legs should form a right angle, and your lower back should be supported. Too often the sewing machine is placed on a table that is too high and this causes additional strain on your back, arms and wrists. Chapters 3 and 16 explain how to determine what the right chair and table height is for your body.

Give Yourself a Break

"Your productivity will be increased by 25% if you take a 10-minute break every hour." No matter what deadline you are facing, you will actually get more done and prevent possible injury if you take a short break each hour. Get up and walk around a bit. Stretch. After ten minutes of light exercise, go back to your quilting. Be sure to vary your quiltmaking activities, too. For example, rotary cut for a few minutes, switch to machine sewing, and then iron for a while. The different activities will use different muscles and prevent overuse of any one muscle group.

Protect Your Eyesight

Don’t forget to protect your eyesight. Have plenty of good lighting directed toward your project so your eyes are not strained. Many quilters are surprised that their need for adequate light increases as they get older. Chapter 5 outlines how much additional light your eyes need when you are 40, 50, or 60. Also, be sure you wear your glasses and every few minutes look at something across the room or out the window. This gives your eyes a chance to refocus. Lastly, remember to drink plenty of water so your eyes can stay well lubricated.

Nutrition, Weight Loss, and Fitness

As much as we love quilting, we need to admit that it is a sedentary activity. It may stretch our imagination and feed our soul, but it will not exercise our bodies. Dr. Mech says, "Weight control is the number one health concern of quiltmakers." So, this book also includes a common-sense approach to weight loss and establishing a realistic exercise plan.

No Affiliation

I have no affiliation with this author or publisher. However, I highly recommend this book, especially if you are addicted to quilting like I am and you want to quilt for the rest of your life.

Book Information

“Rx for Quilters: Stitcher Friendly Advice for Every Body.” Mech, Susan Delaney. © 2000. Published by C&T Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1-57120-092-4.

If you would like to ask Dr. Mech any questions or make suggestions, she welcomes your email at

Graphic and quotes are reprinted by permission from C&T Publishing from the book, Rx for Quilters: Stitcher-Friendly Advice for Every Body by Susan Delaney Mech, M.D. Available at your local quilt, fabric, or book store or order from C&T Publishing at 800-284-1114 or