And now we come to the third and final installment in our series on ergonomics for quilters and sewists. In our first article we examined how to properly adjust your cutting table, sewing table, and sewing chair to keep your hips, back and neck in proper alignment and prevent fatigue and pain. In the second installment, Larkin Van Horn offered exercizes to stretch and strengthen stitch-cramped hands and fingers, and we introduced a new DVD from the folks who brought us the film Stitched, called Stretching for Quilters. Today, we’re going to look at some specific products out there that are made to give you and all your aching parts (or at least the ones you sew with) a break.
There are literally tons of ergonomic tools on the market that can assist in safe sewing efforts. And not all tools are equal in their abilities to cure the aches and pains. Here is a sampling of a few of our favorites, tested and tried several times over. Of course every person’s needs and bodies are unique and what works for us may not for you. As we always, always say: At the end of the day, it’s all about what does work for YOU.
Olisso Smart Iron. Jake’s been using this one for years and can attest to its remarkable ability to ease the pressure on her wrists and arms. Jake has had carpal tunnel syndrome for years–not enough to keep her from stitching–but every little trick helps keep her at the machine. The reason the Olisso works so well for her is that it has a sensor in the grip that tells the iron when you’re using it. This iron sits soleplate down on the surface and when you’re not touching its grip, its risers lift it about a half inch from the surface. When you touch the grip, the iron lowers onto the surface and you press away. This eliminates the need to constantly raise and lower a heavy iron for your work. It does take some getting used to; our instinct it to lift it all of the time. But you’ll get it. Prices range from $129.99 to $199.99 depending on the model.
TrueCut My Comfort Cutter by The Grace Company. At a full-on test session earlier this year with our former magazine endeavor, we played with many versions of ergonomic rotary cutters and this one came out ahead of the pack for safety and ease of use. My Comfort Cutter has a funky shaped handle which will allow your wrist and hand to sit in a natural position while cutting. When you pair it with Grace’s Quilting Rulers, it’s a dynamite combo because the rulers and cutter are designed to work together. The cutter has a special lip which grips the raised edge of the ruler. The cutter can be used with any other ruler, but when locked along the edge of its partner, the cutter won’t shift. If you’re prone to the shakes, use too much pressure to cut, or maybe if you’re allowing your youngling to try her/his hand at cutting, this might be the answer. My Comfort Cutter starts at $24.99 and comes in several sizes.
Score Ergonomic Sewing Chair by the Reliable Corporation. Possibly the MOST important ergonomic item to invest in is your sewing chair. A bad chair can ruin your back in no time flat. A good chair allows for many adjustments and offers comfort into long hours of sewing. This one fits the bill. At $199.99 it’s a good buy and there’s a more portable model priced at $99.99.
The Sit Upon by The Gypsy Quilter. Lanette Edens, owner of the Gypsy Quilter, comes by her ideas from hard won experience. In this case, a weekend quilting retreat where she struggled with comfort in a metal folding chair caught the attention of a stitching neighbor who happened to be an physical therapist. This gal was sitting on a rubber cushion similar to The Sit Upon and loaned it to Lanette, who sailed through the rest of the weekend in glorious comfort. Turns out the PT used this cushion for her patients to help improve their posture and ability to sit for long periods. $28.95 from Lanette’s website.
Tiltable Sewing Set by Ergonomic Advantage. When you think about it, ergonomics is all about angles. The most natural angle relieves the need to twist and contort in painful ways. So with these products, which mount under your sewing machine and foot pedal, you can work at a correct angle for hand manipulation and vision. Voila! No more stress. The complete system (machine and foot pedal) costs $99.99. Both are available separately as well.
Connecting Threads Ergonomic Quilting Tools. Online and mail-order retailer Connecting Threads has a page on their website devoted to ergonomic tools for quilters, including the TrueCut My Comfort Cutter described above. In addition, they have two kinds of seam rippers, wrist and elbow support gloves and straps, and a microwaveable heat pack made especially for shoulders (which we are giving Megan for Christmas, since she has a bad habit of hunching her shoulders when she’s stressed).
So, TELL US: What ergonomic tools have you tried and which ones have worked for you?