Ergonomic Quilting Tips from Dr. Hartman!

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Today we have a special guest blog post from Dr. Julie Hartman, DC. She will discuss proper ergonomics for sewing and quilting, which will help us take care of our bodies so we can quilt longer and enjoy it more by not having to deal with sore muscles. Dr. Hartman will also be joining us this afternoon at 4 pm, prior to UFO Night at 5 pm, to discuss ergonomics and stretching to a greater extent, so be sure to come to learn more tips regarding taking care of our bodies!

Proper posture requires the 90-90 rule

Sit back and enjoy your quilting!

Has your latest project literally become a pain in the neck? Are you finding you can’t work as much as you would like to because your body is sore? Are you limiting your project sizes and complexity because you physically can’t do more? Sooner or later most of us who are involved in crafts and handwork find ourselves feeling the effects of pushing our bodies to the limit in order to finish up one item and move right on to the next. As a chiropractor, I see people who are constantly contorting their bodies and abusing themselves while working on sewing projects. Why must we do damage to our own bodies while working on projects that, ironically, are oftentimes given as gifts to others? With a combination of lifestyle changes including stretching, nutrition, and ergonomics, my patients can continue to create beautiful works of art without causing permanent damage to their bodies.

Ergonomics is a term most people associate with someone who has a desk job and spends much of their day inside a cubical typing on a computer. Ergonomics actually applies to everyone who has to use their body to do work, and whether or not you consider quilting a way of working out, it is still a physically demanding hobby.

There are many aspects of setting up a proper workspace to ensure that you are in the most efficient position for your body. Proper lighting is a must to avoid eye strain as well as provide proper color and hue of fabric. Adequate room to press seams and a suitable surface for cutting fabric are just as important. However, the most important item to focus on for someone who sews is having the proper chair.

The first thing I teach about chairs is that there is no one perfect chair for everyone. People routinely ask me which chair I recommend they get and I tell them, “One that is adjustable.” Everyone’s legs are different lengths, so modifications will have to be done to every chair to make it perfect for the individual sitting in it.

These are the steps I teach my patients about making a chair comfortable and safe for the person sitting in it:

90-90 Rule

When you sit in a chair, your back and your legs should make a 90-degree angle at
your hips and your leg should bend so your knee is at a 90-degree angle as well. The seat pan, or bottom of the chair, should support you comfortably and should not cause you to slouch, but should also not be so rigid that it is uncomfortable. Your feet should be resting comfortably on the ground, and most of the time this does not result in a 90-degree angle at the knees. Usually something for the feet to rest on is needed and old phone books make a great foot rest. By keeping the hips and knees at 90 degrees, a lot of pressure and strain on the low back is released.

“Seat” Your Shoulders

Usually when you sit in a chair, you focus on your lower back and legs, but you need to
remember that your shoulders and arms need to be ‘sitting’ comfortably as well. Most of us sit with our shoulders up too high and hunched too far forward. This helps us to lean over our work and get right down on our project, but leads to sore arms, shoulders, necks, hands, headaches (the list goes on and on). When sitting down, after you
are certain your lower body is comfortable, you need to position your shoulders
correctly. First, bring your shoulders up (as if you were trying to touch them to your ears), then roll them back (as if you were trying to touch your shoulder blades together), and finally lower them (as if you were dropping your arms). This will keep the posture of your upper body relaxed and help reduce stress on your lower back as well.

These tips take some time to master and will feel a bit awkward at first. Gradually your body will adapt to your new position and you will find it easier and more comfortable to work on your creative masterpieces! Stay tuned for future posts about stretching and other lifestyle changes to help keep you comfortably quilting!

Dr. Julie Hartman is a doctor of chiropractic medicine. She graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic – West in 2006. Prior to her relocation to Wisconsin, Dr. Hartman was in private practice in Ohio. In addition to treating patients, she has also instructed Anatomy and Physiology at the post-secondary level. Dr. Hartman has been sewing since Elementary School and quilting for approximately four years.

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