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Sewing, fiber arts and ergonomics

 
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This subject came up in another thread, and we thought it deserved its own thread.

The goal of this thread is for people to chip in on ideas of ways to help with problems we've encountered which demonstrate the combination of body mechanics and "changing the environment" to make things safer and more comfortable. Questions are welcomed - if you do something and it's painful, maybe someone else will have ideas you can try!

My sewing machine is in my multi-purpose living/dining room, so the chair I use is one of the dining room chairs which I recovered years ago, adding 2" foam to the minuscule padding they came with. The Sewing machine normally sits on an old narrow desk (for really big jobs, it moves to a table). To be able to see what I'm doing, I tended to hunch my back which it doesn't approve of. I made a small wooden ramp which can sit on the chair seat with a small pad on it for comfort, and now my back is starting out at a 12 degree angle. A simple change with a big impact and made of scraps of wood.

Edited to add picture:
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This is such a good topic!
Every individual is unique and our bodies have their individual needs and limits.  If the body is in pain, then it will be difficult to complete a project, level on feel joy from it.   Adjusting the environment, tools, and behaviour to accommodate this difference is vital.

When using those fold-out tables, I often put bed risers under them.



Just those few inches make a huge difference to how long I can stand and work at the table before my back demands I lie down.  
 
r ranson
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Something that has helped me tremendously is to have a dedicated space for crafting, so I can leave my mess out.  

The pain means I can only do one type of task so long before having to swap.  So I usually have three different crafting projects on the go at any one time.  

The big problem is, some days, I have only 5 min of energy/low pain that I can spend on crafting.  If it takes 4 min to set up the supplies and 6 min to pack them up again, I'll just have a nap instead.  But having the materials out and easy to get at means I can spend more time crafting and often times, the crafting part energizes and relaxes the body to help me spend more time crafting.  
 
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r ranson wrote:This is such a good topic!
Every individual is unique and our bodies have their individual needs and limits.  If the body is in pain, then it will be difficult to complete a project, level on feel joy from it.   Adjusting the environment, tools, and behaviour to accommodate this difference is vital.

When using those fold-out tables, I often put bed risers under...  



This can also be accomplished with equal lengths of pipe, mine is PVC.
 
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This is going to make some people cringe. I have serious back issues, and the most painful things I can do are slouch, or feel unstable on too soft of a surface. I HATE big gooshy couches. I'll sit on the floor rather than on them.  

When I sew I need to be forced to not slouch because I'm not paying attention, and I need to feel very stable. My current sewing chair:



I know cringe worthy, ain't it? It works for me. I have other stools that same height, and other stools that are higher, all with very little padding. I use them in the kitchen when I have to sit when I'm cooking, and in my room etc. My desk chair needs to swivel and roll, or I'd use one of my stools here at the computer too.

I, too, adjust table heights as I need to, and I really wish I could find an old adjustable table that I can modify to do what I want, something like this would be cool, but this one is $658.40 – $743.20  (at ErgoSource  if you need one.)




This one is even better, but custom made, and they don't even give a ballpark price...


http://thomasmanufacturing.com/wp/services/rfq-work-platform/

(But I see how they are making it move, and scissor jacks are easy to find.... hmm..... :D )

I also do things other than sew, and I need differing heights of work surfaces in general. The design for my kitchen, workbench, and crafting areas all have multiple heights of counters, and for the kitchen sinks to be adjustable height (not quickly, but can be done if needed, in case of wheelchair etc.) But some of those expensive tables would be SO COOL! That would make it so I could put my stools on wheels, which I'd prefer, but just doesn't work right now.

Something else I realized is a constant primary pattern in my life is for all the tools I use for whatever I am doing to be in an arc around me. I have taken that into the patterns for my house (See "A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander if you want to learn about patterns of house construction design) and different areas will have U shaped areas with the tools I need for each style of work I do stored with reach. So things like a sewing niche, a small machine repair niche, a car repair niche, a computer and drawing/layout area niche, painting niche, dye and embellishment niche, as well as various kitchen spaces designed similarly. All with the same idea: My tools and supplies for this type of task easy to reach.

:D

 
Jay Angler
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

I, too, adjust table heights as I need to, and I really wish I could find an old adjustable table that I can modify to do what I want

I've seen a picture of an adjustable hospital bed turned into an adjustable height table. It is *totally* on my wish list, but I don't have a workshop to put it in and I really don't want it in my living room!
 
r ranson
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Lately, I've been using a lightweight headlamp when hand sewing.  



It's making a huge difference to my speed and reducing eyestrain.
 
Jay Angler
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Headlamps are great for all sorts of things! The one I use actually pivots so you can keep your head/neck in the posture you want and direct the light where you want it to go. I couldn't tell if the one R Ranson pictured does that or not.

"Light weight" is important if you're going to be wearing it for a while. Hubby was using his to replace some screws outside after dark last night.
 
r ranson
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Yep, the light tips so there are lots of different angles.
It also has a broad beam, a focused beam, or a mixture of both.  Also a dimmer switch.  
 
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r ranson wrote:Yep, the light tips so there are lots of different angles.
It also has a broad beam, a focused beam, or a mixture of both.  Also a dimmer switch.  


That is a very cool one! I can think of all kinds of uses, for that, from stitching to beadwork, to electronic repairs to first aid, to helping livestock with difficult births, in a non- electric barn!
 
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Carla Burke wrote:

r ranson wrote:Yep, the light tips so there are lots of different angles.
It also has a broad beam, a focused beam, or a mixture of both.  Also a dimmer switch.  


That is a very cool one! I can think of all kinds of uses, for that, from stitching to beadwork, to electronic repairs to first aid, to helping livestock with difficult births, in a non- electric barn!



Lambing season is exactly what I got this lamp for.  It lasts about 6 hours (on my favourite brightness setting) on one charge and takes about an hour to recharge.  I love the red light for nighttime critter care.  It's only recently I tried using it for crafting and it's fantastic for that too.  Although, if it wasn't lightweight, I probably wouldn't use it as a normal headlamp hurts my neck after about 2 min.
 
Carla Burke
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I have lost count of how many times, in the last 20min, I've removed the dog fur from my cutting mat. I think I need one of those tables, up there!
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r ranson
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some tips on hand health, specifically for hand sewing, but good advise in general.

 
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