A simple stretch-self-care routine can help keep your body happy and you sewing longer.
I can’t claim to be a sewer, but I do sew. A novice at best. My first experience with the machine was when I was in highschool. I was a short child (and a short adult too!), and all my pants had to be hemmed. My mother, a sewer, had always done this for me, but when college loomed, she coaxed me into learning. I was not top of the class (class of one), but I did enjoy myself. It was many years later, after post secondary, I started to get back into it. I’d spend a Saturday afternoon crouched over my machine, attempting to make a pillow, or some curtains. I once even tried an apron for my friend’s child, which she graciously accepted. And although my projects were sub par, my self-care was not, I knew when to stretch!
As a Registered Massage Therapist, I know very well the importance of mobility and stretching, especially when you are crouched in one position for a very long time! This happens all too often with sewers. Fixated on finishing the project, your neck and back remain hunched, your hands begin to tire from the repetitive back and forth, and your eyes slowly fuzz out of focus. This can lead to some serious strain and long term aches and pains, all of which can easily be avoided.
These are a few key techniques I’d encourage every sewer to try.
The first thing I tell any of my clients who are sitting for an extended period of time is to get moving. Our bodies are designed to move from posture to posture. So when we stay stationary for longer than we should, our body tries to compensate. The easiest way to avoid this – get up and move around. Every now and then, remind yourself to stand up, go grab some water and take a peek outside, then return to work. I’ve even had clients set alarms on their phones as reminders!
Find a rhythm that works for you, but for every 15 minutes of work, taking a 5 minute break is a good place to start. You can also use your break time to do the other homecare exercises below
Strengthen your Neck
Shouldn’t I stretch the neck? Well yes, but that’s not the part I’d like to focus on. A more essential self-care exercise for sewers is to strengthen their neck. It’s a common habit that if we are focusing on something, our heads draw closer to it. This is even more pronounced when the neck gets tires, leading to a kinked neck. Sound familiar?
So instead of waiting for the kink and trying to stretch it out, you can strengthen what are known as your deep neck flexors. These help to keep your head in a neutral position.
When these muscles are strong, your head is less likely to gravitate forward.
To perform these, stand against a wall, or lie in the floor. Slowly tuck your chin in, creating a lovely double chin look. Hold for 30 seconds, then release. Repeat 3-4 times. You can increase the length of time as you get stronger.
Stretch out the wrists
The final body area I want to address are your wrists. From cutting fabric to feeding the machine, your wrists are getting a workout. Stretching your wrists out during the course of the day can help alleviate elbow, wrist and finger pain!
The muscles that control our hand are mostly located in the forearm. A few even start as high up as the elbow. So in order to stretch all of these, it’s important to follow this stretch accordingly.
Extend your arm out to 90 degrees in front of you, with your elbow locked! The first stretch will have your palm facing up. Grab your palm with the other hand, and pull the hand back. You should feel a stretch through the top part of the forearm. Hold for 45 seconds.
The same stretch should be done with the palm facing down. You should feel this on the opposite side of the forearm. Hold for 45 seconds and repeat on the other arm.
Now that you have the tools to keep your muscles happy, go on and sew forth! But just like your machine, you may want a tune up ever so often. That’s when the muscle experts like myself come in. A massage can help release taut muscles, improve range of motion in stiff joints and relax the mind. Perfect way to prepare for that next big sewing project!
Thanks to this month’s Guest Blogger Emillie McKay RMT