|Photo courtesy OSHA|
The trouble I'm having is that there seems to be more consensus in Congress about tax reform than there is from the experts on sewing ergonomics. I've consulted five different sources (The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines, Sewing.org, Carolyn Woods' Organizing Solutions for Every Quilter: An Illustrated Guide to the Space of Your Dreams, Leslie L. Hallock's Creating Your Perfect Quilting Space: Sewing Room Makeovers for Any Space and Any Budget, Lynette Ranney Black's Dream Sewing Spaces: Design and Organization for Spaces Large and Small, 2nd Ed.), and I'm getting wildly different advice from all of them about the correct height of sewing, pressing, and cutting surfaces. Today, we're going to discuss the height of the sewing surface.
|Proper Sewing Surface Height, per OSHA|
I want to clarify that, in ergonomic discussions, the sewing surface is the STITCH PLATE OF YOUR SEWING MACHINE. If your machine is recessed into a cabinet like mine will be, then the surface of the cabinet is the sewing surface. However, if your machine is sitting on top of a table, then your actual sewing surface is going to be several inches higher than table top.
All of the experts I consulted recommend that your sewing cabinet or table allows you to sit with your body centered on the needle of your sewing machine so you aren't constantly twisting your spine and leaning sideways in order to sew -- this sounds obvious to someone who sews, but the carpenter/handyman/husband building your sewing cabinet might think your body should be aligned with the center of the sewing machine if you don't tell them otherwise. To determine the height of your sewing table or cabinet, start with a good, adjustable, supportive chair that enables you to sit with your knees and hips bent at approximately 90 degree angles, with your feet flat on the floor. Once your chair is adjusted properly, sit down and bend your arms at right angles, palms down with your forearms parallel to the floor, and have someone measure from your elbow to the floor (some sources just said to measure from your elbow to the floor, others specified measuring from the bottom of your elbow or from the midpoint of the joint -- and this wass the beginning of the confusion). Got that measurement? Okay. Depending on whose advice you're taking, that elbow-to-floor measurement is either your correct sewing surface height, OR you should add anywhere from 5 1/2 to 7" to get your ideal sewing surface height. This means that my own ideal sewing cabinet should be anywhere from 29" to 34" tall. Well, it was 30 1/2" tall before we took it apart, and the commercial sewing cabinet manufacturers offer their cabinets in standard heights ranging from 29" to 30 1/4". I did notice that I was hunching my back and shoulders when I was free-motion quilting with my old setup, but that could have had more to do with inadequate task lighting than with the sewing surface height. It's hard to know whether raising my sewing surface would be helpful or whether it would create a whole new world of pain and suffering!
|Koala's Quilt Pro Plus IV, 29 1/4" Sewing Surface Height|
Tomorrow we'll look at the correct height of the other two main work stations in a sewing room: the cutting table and the pressing station. Onwards and upwards!