In just about every candid photo in which I make an appearance in the last twenty years, I have horrible posture. My chin is thrust forward, my shoulders are hunched, and my chest collapses in toward my stomach. You know those pictures of Neaderthals? Yeah. Like that. And while it’s always been a sort of aesthetic bee in my bonnet, the health consequences of poor posture are now coming into full effect as I get older. I’ve spent the better part of two decades now hunched over a computer or a sewing machine, either for school or for work. My job is fabulous in that it lets me work from home, but studies have shown that sitting in front of a screen, whether at a desk or
sprawled, unwashed, in my pajamas on the couch not, is slowly destroying us all.
Due to some pretty substantial neck, back, and hip pain at the tender age of 33, I’ve lately been trying to change the ergonomics of my work situation. I now sit on a wedge seat cushion, which makes me sit up straight, and I’ve put my laptop on a riser so that my screen is at eye-level. It’s helped a lot. But my pain definitely rears up when I’m working for long periods of time at my sewing machine. I have to hunch over to see the needle and seam allowance, and I have to stick my foot out to push the pedal, which strains my back even more. I’ve recently been drawn to accounts of standing desk arrangements, which allow people sitting at a computer screen to, instead, stand at a computer screen. People have raved about this solution for desk work. So I decided to investigate whether such a thing could be accomplished for sewing and quilting.
1. The High Roller
Naturally, because every fabulous idea I come up with has already been created, there is already a standing sewing desk on the market. The Sew Perfect Sewing Table is height-adjustable, so it can move from sitting to standing, and it’s got the customized built-in hole for your sewing machine. It also tilts forward and back so that you can sew at precisely the right angle for your spine curvature. It’s a great idea. The only setback? Sit-to-stand desks are typically expensive, what with all the hydraulics involved in the adjustable height. This one is no exception at $1799, plus freight shipping, plus $78 for the insert for your specific machine. But it’s probably cheaper than back surgery, right?
2. The Kickstarter
Thanks to all of my Google searching about back pain, I’m now bombarded with Google and Facebook ads about treatments and solutions. The Ervo might have come along at just the right time. It’s just now entering production, but this sit-to-stand desk is now featured on Kickstarter and has garnered a bunch of attention for its revolutionary approach to ergonomics. Made of birch, this desk fits on an existing desk or table and provides a ridiculously easy solution for those who are wanting to split their time between standing and sitting. The desk surfaces easily slide into adjustable slots for the perfect height. And the company’s little infomercial even used a sewing machine! “Oh, sure,” I thought. “Put a lightweight straight-stitch machine on there. I’d like to see it try my 30-lb. Janome.” The manufacturer, however insists that the Ervo can hold up to 280 lbs. without a problem. The price is right for those looking for a relatively inexpensive setup, too: the 29″-wide Ervo is $199 and the 38″ version is $249. (At the time of posting, though, pre-order pricing is still available!)
3. The MacGyver
I reached out to Instagram and looked for people who routinely stand up to sew. What setups did they use, and what benefits did they find from standing up? I got some great responses, and all of them involved rigging a setup using an existing countertop or table. A lot of people choose to use tall cutting tables as sewing surfaces; even if they don’t use sewing machines there, a cutting table was a favorite place to stand and serge as the serging process is so quick. But quite a few people use their machines there, too.
I liked Gina Pina’s arrangement for her sewing studio. She purchased a standard IKEA table/desk top but then stuck standing-height legs on it. (Incidentally, this is the same thing I did for my cutting table.) The size of the table gives her great flexibility for storage next to her machine, which is a potential downside of a tabletop desk like the Ervo.
Melissa of The Cluttered Curator writes that she had suffered from some back pain and wanted to try a standing arrangement: “We put up the cutting table in the lower living room and turned that space into a sewing studio! The table is 35″ high, plus the 3″ base height of my Juki TL2010q. I’m 5′, so a 38″ sewing height is perfect. I will switch which foot I use on the presser foot if one leg gets tired.”
Everywhere I asked, people who had tried stand up sewing tables really liked them. They’ve noted the difference in their back pain and the convenience of having a stand-up arrangement. Melissa says, “The difference in my back pain is night and day! Plus, since you are already standing up, moving to the pressing board is much easier.” Other folks have said that they prefer to stand while quilting, which allows them to guide the quilt through the machine more easily and avoid shoulder pain.
I definitely think that stand-up sewing is something that people will want to consider, especially those like me with poor posture and recurring back pain from being hunched over a desk. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m really interested in pursuing this arrangement further. The anecdotal evidence certainly appears to support it, and I’m sure that my FitBit would thank me. I’ll be experimenting more with solutions for more ergonomic sewing in the future, and I’m looking forward to reporting back with my own official verdict!
What solutions do you use to protect your back while you sew? If you’ve tried stand-up sewing, how has your experience been?
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