Does it hurt when you’re quilting? Let’s check your set-up!

Posted by on June 5, 2017


Many of us get into our quilting ‘zone’ and forget about everything else until the quilt is completed or we begin to hurt.  Let’s take a look at some of the things to check that may be causing you to ‘hurt’.

What height is my machine frame set at?  What should it be set at?  There are ergonomic guidelines (ergonomics is the study of the human body and its interaction with work activities) for a work station height that minimizes the stress on the body.

  • For precision work; work station height should be above elbow height (37”-43”)

For light work; work station height should be just below elbow height (34”-37”)

Because our machines sit on the frame we need to look at the height of the frame with the machine on it and how we are moving the machine.  Stand at your machine and see how your elbows are bent.  Are they at a 90-degree angle or slightly above or below 90 degrees? 90-degree bend on the elbow is a more neutral position and when our bodies are in a neutral position we aren’t stressing our muscles and joints – keeping the hurt away. Try adjusting your machine/frame height to have your elbows at a more neutral position for you.

How do you normally hold your hands when you quilt?  If your handles adjust, do you adjust them throughout your quilting?

  • When we keep our muscles locked in one position for extended periods of time they begin to hurt.  Changing our hand positions frequently during quilting will help.

If your machine handles are adjustable, pick a quilting motif that you frequently use and quilt it on a practice piece changing your hand position on each pass.  This will help you with muscle memory at various hand positions.

If your machine handles are not adjustable, try to see what other positions you can have your hands on the handles and practice to have the confidence to adjust your stance while quilting.

Do you stand throughout the quilting?  What type of surface are you standing on?

  • Is the surface hard; hardwood flooring, ceramic tile, concrete?
  • Is the surface covered; carpeting – with/without padding?
  • What type of footwear are you wearing?

When looking at our standing surface we want it to have some cushion.  This gives your body the ability to naturally sway and the cushion provides some shock absorption. Ergonomic rated mats are available at many retailers.  You may want to get one to try and then determine if it helps you or not.  Also, wearing footwear with support can help give this same cushion effect.  You may find that a combination of footwear and mats may work best for you.

Have you tried alternating between standing and sitting while you quilt?  There are adjustable height stools with castors that can get your arms and hands into the neutral position, and that you can move/roll back and forth as you quilt.

These suggestions are guidelines to help you set up your quilting process to keep you quilting happy and healthy for many years to come!


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