If you are enjoying your embroidery hobby, then odds that you are spending a lot of time either at your computer finding resources and working on patterns or in your stitching space creating your projects. I’ve been reading about ergonomics lately and have learned a lot. I know it may sound strange to discuss ergonomics when I am talking about stitching but in order to enjoy your hobby you have to take good care of yourself. Having a comfortable area to work is a part of that care.
Your Aching Body
A musculoskeletal disorder is a problem with stiffness, swelling, or pain associated with your muscles and bones. We all get aches and pains from time to time. However, if you aren’t paying attention to the ergonomics of your stitching room and computer desk as you work, you could be making things worse. Musculoskeletal disorders can be caused by several factors. Repetitive motions, excessive pressure, and awkward posture can all cause you to have unwanted aches and pains.
Here are some ways to reduce your chances of developing a musculoskeletal condition:
Choose Your Furniture Wisely
Twenty or so years ago, I found an old chair that was sturdy and cheap. I covered it with fabric and it is still going strong. I also have a beautiful old vanity with drawers and a mirror that I love to use as my make-up desk. Unfortunately, my vanity was made at a time when either women were shorter or chairs were! My chair is about 3 inches too high for my vanity. So I slouch when I sit at my vanity desk. This isn’t a problem if I am just sitting for a minute but if I use my make-up desk daily or for any length of time, my back hurts.
Yes, I am guilty of using poor ergonomic design and suffering the musculoskeletal consequences. Because I love my chair and my vanity, I have chosen to keep both and adjust the way and amount of time I sit so that I no longer suffer back pain.
But truly, don’t follow my example. If your work surfaces and seating are not the correct height or are uncomfortable, change them. If you have the space, purchase an adjustable height sewing machine or craft table that is big enough to hold all the tools that you will want at your fingertips while working.
The sooner you make the change, the better you will feel. You will be surprised at how much more you can accomplish when you have a comfortable space for working.
Read more: The Best Sewing Machine Tables
Change Your Posture
As I mentioned above, sometimes a change in posture can fix your problem. It may be that your furniture is fine; you just aren’t sitting in it correctly. I am guilty of this as well. I tend to lean to one side when I sit in my office chair. The result is that as I get older and my body is less tolerant the hip that is continually taking that pressure now aches at the end of the day. If you find that you are hunching over your embroidery machine, favoring one side, or twisting to reach materials rather than moving your body it might be time to make some changes. Adding a cushion to your chair, raising the height of your computer screen, or even using a footrest can change your posture and make you feel better.
Evaluate how you feel at the end of a day of stitching. If you have aches and pains, maybe you can find the cause and eliminate it.
Shake Things Up
Sitting in one position or performing the same task over and over again wears on your body. An easy way to prevent muscle fatigue is to switch things up from time to time. Even though it may seem efficient to cut away all the stabilizer from 20 embroidered ornaments at a time, it probably isn’t best your body. Instead, stitch 5 ornaments, take them with you and sit in a comfortable chair, and remove the stabilizer from them. Then, go back and stitch the next set.
By using different muscle groups, you are giving one part of your body a rest but still getting things done. In the end, this will be more efficient because you won’t have to stop due to muscle aches.
If you need to press several pieces of fabric to prepare them for stitching, take short micro-breaks in between every few pieces. You don’t have to walk away from your task, just pause for a bit and have a good stretch. Walking away to get yourself a sip of water wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Just make sure you remember to come back to your iron (unless it has an automatic shut off). If you are like me, a trip to the kitchen for a drink can turn into all kinds of side adventures. This Hamilton Beach Commercial iron shuts off if you leave it face down for 30 seconds. They must have been thinking of me when they made it.
Consider Your Movements
The way you move can affect your body’s musculoskeletal health in several ways. One way that your movements may cause you pain is if you are constantly twisting or overstretching to reach things that are too far from your working space. That switch that is just a little too far away or that box of stabilizer that you’ve stashed under the desk may be the source of your pain. Rearrange your space or use tools to help you make the most of your stitching resources and room.
And absolutely keep your scissors sharp and have multiple pairs for different uses so they don’t become dull. Trying to cut with dull scissors is bad for your fabric and horrible for your hand and wrist. As I tell my children, paper scissors are for paper only. Designate a different pair of scissors for paper templates and stabilizers, fabric stabilizers, and fabric.
The other way that your movement can affect your muscles involves your posture but on a smaller scale. Don’t twist your wrist awkwardly or hold your arm at an uncomfortable angle when you are working on a project. Doing so will put strain on your muscles and lead to sprains and strains.
Taking Care of Yourself is the Best Hobby to Have
I hope that this article has given you some things to think about and will help you to improve the time you spend stitching. Hobbies are so much more fun when they don’t cost us in the form of an aching back. Make some adjustments and plan to enjoy your next project in comfort!