Are you like me? Mesmerized by the process of quilting...I get to working on a project and ignore television, phone, cats wanting dinner, and the next thing you know it’s tomorrow!
But I try to quilt safely every day. As quilters, we handle potentially dangerous tools in dangerous circumstances. We owe it to ourselves and to those whom we teach to use the best safety practices.
So let’s review some important quilting safety points:
SharpsRotary cutters, scissors, pins, needles, and other sharp objects (metal or plastic) are a constant hazard. Handle them all with respect. The best safety tip for rotary cutting is to close the cutter every single time you make a cut. If it helps you to use a cutter that closes automatically, that’s a good solution for you. They drive me crazy. So I have accustomed myself to pushing the blade protector closed every time I set it down. I’m so used to it now that I’m uncomfortable if I don’t do it, just as when I’m sitting in the car without my seat belt fastened.
Take a class in rotary cutter care and feeding. It’s well worth the time and it is essential for beginners.
I keep close track of the pins and needles I’m using and account for them all when I finish for the day. Don’t stick them in the chair arm. Use a handy pin cushion or thread catcher. You will use fewer pins and get stuck less often.
Invest in a telescoping magnet to do a quick sweep of the floor around your chair if you drop a pin (or think you have).
Use a small plastic container for used/bent pins and needles. A prescription pill bottle works great! When it is full, the whole thing can go in the garbage without risking a stick.
Remember to wrap rotary cutter blades for disposal, too.
Don’t share needles with other quilters. A prick can leave blood on a needle and exchange of body fluids is a bad idea.
PetsI used to have a cat who would pull pins out of the pin cushion with her teeth and spit them out on the floor. So I got in the habit of tracking all pins carefully and putting all pin cushions in cat-proof storage when not in use. The first time I saw her do it I almost had a coronary.
Pet-proof your quilting areas with as much care as you would for small children. Cats are notorious for swallowing thread, which can cause a life-threatening condition. Use zip-closing plastic bags to store thread and floss for projects in progress, although don’t put textiles in sealed containers for long-term storage.
“Ironing and pets” is a bad combination. Large pets can knock over the whole ironing board. Cats can – and will - jump up on the board and send the iron flying. That dangling cord is a temptation for pets and kids. And when you are ironing, be careful stepping backwards to go to the construction area, as that sleeping or hungry pet behind you will cause a fall or mutual injury.
Motors and electricityA sewing machine needle is powerful. Ask anyone who has sewn through their finger. I haven’t, but it’s my greatest fear in quilting. Use safe practices to keep your fingers away from the needle. The needle shaft also has things protruding from it that can pound your finger bloody.
I never leave an iron plugged in, even if it is turned off. If the iron falls to the floor and breaks open (that pet!), the coils inside can heat and cause a fire. Never leave the house with the washer or dryer running.
Irons use more amperage than you think, and more than other small appliances. It’s best to plug an iron into a circuit by itself. Using electrical gadgets that require more amperage than the circuit supplies is a recipe for overheated wiring and fire in the wall. Ask for advice from a professional if you have questions. Each electrical appliance has the required voltage and amperage printed on it. Make a list of the items you normally use at one time and add up the amperes required. If you’re setting up a quilting room or studio, get professional advice on how many circuits of what capacity you need.
ErgonomicsInvest some time in reading about ergonomics for quilters and determining the best height and placement for your cutting and sewing surfaces. Take frequent chocolate breaks, rather, stretching breaks and walk around to give all those muscles a chance to operate. There are so many options for quilters with regard to chairs, frames, tables, and tools that you can find the right combination to let you quilt for hours without one sore moment!
ShoppingIn addition to using safe practices for handling your credit/debit cards and money (to avoid identity theft and maybe avoid overspending…) be sure to safely lift those 10 bolts you are taking to the cutting table. Bend your knees! Use a cart or a helper. During a great sale, if you wrest a bolt out of another quilter’s hands, give her/him fair warning and plant your feet firmly. Don’t twist.
Be aware of your surroundings whenever walking to and from your car. It’s always better to shop with a friend. Put purchases out of sight in your car; if thieves see bags of new items in your car they will break in, regardless of the contents.
SummaryIt is easy to get excited about starting a new project or finishing a UFO! That’s when safety takes a holiday and you become at risk for quilting-related injuries. Maximize your enjoyment and productivity by planning for safety. The easiest way to remember safe practices is to say to yourself, “How would I teach a child to do this task right now?” and then follow your own good advice.