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R.Kay Design: Safety in the Sewing Room

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Safety in the Sewing Room

At work today I was working on an online training assignment that needed to be completed by the end of the month. Included in that training were several modules about different types of safety. That reminded me that I had cut my finger recently with my rotary cutter and that when we sew there are things we need to do to stay safe.

Even though, for the most part, safety when sewing is common sense, I thought I would list a few things for you to think about. In the end, even the smallest injury could ruin a beautiful project by staining it with blood. Larger injuries could change our lives forever. Safety is up to each of us, just being aware may help you prevent an injury.

Most sewing tools are sharp, e.g., scissors, rotary cutters, pins, needles, and seam rippers, to name a few. And I didn't even mention the sewing machine. Since all sharp items can cause injury, here are a few safety tips when using some of our most used tools.

Seam Ripper - when using a seam ripper, aways point it away from you. When I rip a seam, I pull the two pieces of fabric apart and catch the thread between the fabric about two or three stitches in, then I pull just a little. That usually releases several stitches and then I do it again. I hold the fabric close to my body using one hand to pull the fabrics apart with my thumb and my first two fingers. The seam ripper motion is away from my body. When finished, I put the seam ripper away and if yours has a cover, use it.

Needles - I almost ruined my daughter's wedding veil when I poked myself with the needle when I was attaching her tiara. I was lucky that the blood only touched the underside. I was working on this just a couple of days before the wedding, it would have been very hard to replace it had I bled more and gotten blood on a portion where it could be seen. When using a needle to hand sew, a thimble can really help. I also use little leather grabs that I buy in the quilting department. These help me pull the needle through thick layers and keep the sharp point away from my skin.

Pins - When using pins, just stay aware of what you're doing. I stick myself mostly when I'm trying to do two things at once, like when I'm thinking about something else and pinning at the same time. Also, sweep often to pick up stray pins that may be on the floor and wear shoes in the room where you sew. I stepped on a pin once when I was young and it hurt for a very long time. Wearing shoes will also give your feet protection against a dropped pair of scissors or a rotary cutter.

  • TIP - Keep something in your sewing area for discarded pins, needles, and sewing machine needles. An old mint tin or empty prescription bottle works great. If you cut a hole in the top of the prescription bottle you can just drop the old needles in, then tape the hole shut when you put it in the trash.

Scissors - When using scissors, try to remember to lay them down in a closed position. When handing them to someone else, be sure they are closed, grab with your hand around the blade, and hand them with the handles facing the other person. Also, when clipping seams, sometimes I find myself holding the fabric taut with one hand, thumb and first two fingers. Since with this type of clipping you use the very tip of the scissors, be sure the skin between your fingers and thumb is out of the way of the tips of your scissors.

Rotary Cutters - A rotary cutter has got to be the most dangerous tool in the sewing room. When used safely, a rotary cutter can cut the amount of time to cut out a project in half. But when safety is not used, a rotary cutter can cause a lot of misery and even end a sewing hobby forever.

When using a rotary cutter, before you start to cut, stop and look at your hands. Make sure the hand that's not holding the cutter is not anywhere that could come in contact with the blade. When I first started using a rotary cutter I found that the straight edge ruler I was using to cut against didn't always keep the cutter on track. The cutter would fly off the line I was trying to cut. Be absolutely sure your other hand is nowhere that the blade might end up. I try to keep that hand behind the blade.

Additionally, get in the habit of always retracting the blade to the safety position or put a cover on it before you set it down. The last accident I had was when I layed the blade down for a second without pushing the safety cover up. I then wiped up some frays from the table with a sweeping motion and my finger ran against the sharp edge of the blade. It's really a lot sharper than you think, so think about safety when using it and go slow.

One other thing to consider when using a rotary cutter is to wear a cut-resistant glove. I haven't found one but have only started looking after that last accident. If anyone reading this post knows where to get a good one that has flexibility, please post a comment.

Lastly, before discarding a rotary blade in the trash, fold a piece of cardboard around it and tape the edges. You can use the cardboard from a box of crackers or something from your kitchen. You don't want a sharp blade to cut through the trash bag and hurt someone when they're taking out the trash.

Sewing Machine - The only thing I can say here is don't sew when you're tired or talking. If you have someone there with you, just don't talk when the machine is moving. When I first learned to sew in jr. high school, I had a classmate who sewed a lot like I did. One day she came to school and her finger was all bandaged. She told me that she wasn't paying attention and her finger got in the way of the needle. It was very painful for her. I still cringe to think about it and am very careful when I have to get my fingers close to the moving needle on my sewing machine.

If you've never seen or used a needle felting machine - OMG - it has five fast moving needles and the needles have barbs! It's like a needle fest under there. Thank goodness those machines have a needle guard!

Lastly, I want to close with a word about sewing safety where there's children in the house. I'm not going to say much as that's a whole other subject and I know all of you already know how to keep your children safe. Please understand that I'm not trying to talk down or patronize you, I just feel I need to add a word in this regard. All these items are very dangerous in the hands of a child. Be sure to put things away when you're not using them so that children cannot get to them without supervision. I don't have young children in the house any more but one thing I always used to do when I did have small ones was to take the electrical cord off my sewing machine and hide it every time I was finished sewing. That kept curious hands from getting into a moving needle. Of course, that was along with all the obvious stuff having to do with scissors, cutters, needles, and such.

Until later ~


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At September 21, 2011 at 10:48 PM , Blogger Bethany said...

I work in the Health and Safety department for my company, and we frequently do training. I try to impress upon the trainees how important it is to take safety home with them. I try to be very aware of where everything is when I'm sewing, and luckily have had no major incidents. Great post, Reba, and something we all need to be reminded of!
OH! And we use a safety equipment provider called Northern Safety. I know they have cut-resistant gloves as they provide our plants with them. They might have something useful for you....

At September 27, 2011 at 10:36 AM , Blogger Ana said...

Love this post Reba! Having worked at my LQS I can attest to safety with the rotary cutter. Many a newbie worker would "wound" themselves eventually using the cutter. They would leave the rotary cutter open after cutting fabric then go off and do something else. Even today when I go to any shop that sells fabric I am constantly on the lookout for open rotary cutters!
I keep one of those long handled magnets to run over my carpet around my machine every day to pick up stray pins, learned my lesson!
Have a "pieceful" week!

At September 27, 2011 at 6:07 PM , Blogger Reba said...

Ana, thanks for the comment. A long-handled magnet? That's a great idea!

Also, I found a cut-resistant glove at JoAnn's this weekend. It's by Fons & Porter in the quilting section. It looked good and seemed flexible. However, it was nearly $28! I didn't have my 50% off coupon with me, so I left it behind. I may pick one up next time when I have a coupon.

Ana - love that "have a pieceful week!" Cool! You too.


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