Quilting with Arthritis

More than 50 million Americans live with arthritis, but few people understand the full impact of a disease that prevents people of all ages from enjoying hobbies and completing everyday tasks. Fortunately, new treatments and support are enabling people living with arthritis to say Yes to more of the activities they love. For those of us who love quilting, a bad flare or joint pain will prevent us from simple tasks but there are ways we can still enjoy what we love and doing things we love to do.

  1. Quilt on: Unless your doctor recommends otherwise, continue to quilt. Its more than an enjoyable hobby, activities like quilting may increase dexterity and prevent joints from becoming stiff.
  2. Set a timer: To avoid straining joints or muscles due to prolonged, repetitive movements, set a timer to ensure you take appropriate breaks. It’s not about quitting it’s about your joint health, taking time to relax means no setbacks and less frustration in the long run.
  3. Get loose: Before starting your project, loosen stiff joints and muscles with light movements or the application of heat. Your doctor may have provided creams such as Voltaren, or medicated creams like bengay, peppermint creams to assist with stiff joints.
  4. Stretch: Following a quilting session, take a moment to stretch any joints or muscles that may feel tight. This will allow for the muscles and joints to relax. Remember that saying you hear all the time, Knowing your limits and remember you pay to play. Don’t pay, take the time to stretch so the set back is less. Means you might get to quilt the next day or the day after.
  5. Get a grip: Utilize leather- or rubber-fingertip thimbles to increase traction and reduce strain when grasping smaller tools or objects. There are tons of equipment out there to make it easier to do things that use to be simple for us.
  6. Gloves on: From active compression gloves to thumb stabilizers, there are a number of products that can be worn to ease arthritis pain while quilting. You can find a number of these products through the Arthritis Foundation Ease-of-Use page. If your doctor has not ordered you compression gloves Isotoner has great pairs. I personally had some custom made and they never felt right or fight right. My doctor’s office started carrying Isotoners and I love them! The best gloves out there or at least in my opinion.
  7. Remember that Living with arthritis is not the end of life, it just means it may take more time to complete a task or project. Never get discouraged we are marching to our own drummer.

When talking about every day living there are so many medications, pain relievers and creams our doctors prescribe to us to allow us to be as active as we can be. I do not want to go into the medical side of it. I want to talk about the things we can use to help us, new tools and fun stuff that brings back the joy and less of the frustration.
Cutting the bane of my existence! Cutting fabric can be really hard on your wrists, and my wrists are at the biggest risk of being overworked. I used to use one of these contour Fiskars rotary cutters but found that the way I was squeezing it caused me additional pain. Last year I switched to one of these quick-change Olfa rotary cutters and it’s made a big difference for me. My wrists feel better and I don’t get raw patches or blisters from it. If that isn’t what you are looking for and need more ease of cutting there are fabric cutting machines that you feed the fabric into Cricut Expression 2. I used to have one of the original Cricut machines from many, many, many years ago. I actually stopped using the original machine because of my arthritis. In the original machine, you had to push graphic cartridges in and out of a slot, among other things that made it difficult to use. Then my friend purchased a Cricut Expression. I was in awe with the magic at her fingertips and promptly upgraded my old machine for an Expression Air. The Expression Air is a breeze to use and lured me back into my craft room again. I also see a lot of users posting online that their special needs children and grandchildren love this machine, and are able to operate it on their own. The Cricut expression cuts paper, vinyl, iron on, fabric, and so much more. But if you like another option an electric cutter such as Hercules HRC-100 Octagonal Knife Cloth Cutting Machine – 4-Inch Round Knife Fabric Cutting Machine. Each person will have different needs. Let us be honest it also depends on the amount of money you want to spend. Scissors is easy Fiskar No 8 Scissors are the best to keep that budget in check. They are spring-loaded so after you make a cut they automatically spring open, reducing the wear on your hand joints. Love them and they are recommended by the Arthritis Association. Pre Cut squares are also an option nowadays. You can find them online or in any arts and crafts store. I even buy some that are super pretty and can’t walk away from.

Let’s move on, you know how I love to ramble about things I am passionate about. To Sewing machines! Did you know they have sewing machines now that don’t use a foot pedal? There do! Mine is a Brother that can be totally operated by push buttons. It is a dream come true for me. If you haven’t looked at new sewing machines in a few years you should. However I still have my old foot peddle sewing machines, I couldn’t live without them, they are great for the jobs that just need that old-style flare and the heavy duty you get from something well made. I am always afraid for those tough denim or heavy fabrics that it will break my new machine so sometimes its good to go old school just for the peace of mind. Tried and true.

Quilting frames for the ones that just need that extra special touch.
I have no opinion on this at all since all frames are created equal. I enjoy using my stand frame to my old school hoop frame. Its all about what you are doing, the size of the job and what is most comfortable for you. In the past I use to do all my square sewing on my machine and finish with hand quilting, finishing the borders with my machine. However, there are times when the mind is willing but the body is weak and hand stitching has become more and more a thing of the past for me. However, I still have several projects that sit and wait for those really good days and the hoops are on standby. Old school brings back the creative side where perfection meets quilt.

Where there are many things you can do, its all about your ability and what you can do. But you don’t have to give up what you love you just have to modify how you go about it and use the tools that are out there Good Luck!

Before I end this post I shop on a wonderful site called Missouri Star Quilt and for 9.99 and a tube of quilting paste I use this all the time 10″ Paper Piecing Squares. I paste my scrap material to the square, sew the seams right on the paper, once sewn cut around the edges of the square to clean it up, turn it over and pull the paper right off. So much fun and so much easier for us! I am sure you can find paper piecing squares at any quilting site, Amazon or your local arts and craft store, but I get 250 papers for a very low price and when they go on sale I stock up!

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