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Thread: Assistive Tools/Gadgets For Impaired Quilters?

  1. #1
    Ginakra's Avatar
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    Hi all, I have fibromyalgia (the diagnosis so far), and I get terrible pain in my arms, chest, and back when I do anything that requires strength or control. I used to be an avid knitter/crocheter, but pushing the needles together hurts too much now, and the repetitive motion of the craft makes pain flare-up..SO I've decided to try hand-quilting. I've been on the lookout for tools/gadgets that will make quilting easier for me. I've seen:

    - Simpliciy Electric Rotary Cutter Machine, which cuts fabric strips for you

    - Accuquilt Go

    - Computerized Longarm Machines (totally drool worthy-how cheap can I get one of these anyway? $7000?)

    What else is out there? Do you have pain, arthritis, physical limitations and what tools/cutting systems, and machines have you found that help you with quilt crafting? I can use all the help I can get! :)

    Thank you!
    Gina

  2. #2
    Super Member CajunQuilter2's Avatar
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    Gina, You might look into the Martelli Rotary cutters, they are really good for people with arthritis.

  3. #3
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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    I have heard that the Simplicity rotary cutter does not cut very accurately; I would skip it. However, many people with arthritis and other problems really like the Go, and you can cut strips with it also. One woman posted that she pre-cuts the fabric with an electric scissors for the Go. Electric scissors do not cut accurately, but would be great for this purpose.

    Hand quilting requires repetitive action. If you decide to take this up, you should probably investigate some of the newer methods that keep the wrist in a neutral position. The Thimble Lady from Australia has a method like this:
    http://www.thimblelady.com.au/

  4. #4
    Super Member sahm4605's Avatar
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    Well I haven't been diagnosed or anything, but I will end up with fibromyalgia too. Everyone on my maternal side has it. And I am already showing some of the signs. I just use lots of Advil and Tylenol. I totally understand the pain though. I think that your only problem will be pinning and sitting at a machine to sew and quilt things. there is lots of repetition there. Well at least for me. What I do when I start to get sore and hurting is just to get up and move. I had to stop cutting fabric after 40 min of being hunched over my ironing board cutting diamond shapes. Just keep at it and hopefully you will be able to find some peace from the pain.
    My mom has a water bead and it really really helps her. My dad bought a regular bed for them a few years ago and my mom had a horrible time in the mornings and all day. so this Christmas my dad got another water bed. it has made a world of difference for my mom. If you don't have one you might want to think about that. especially getting one with a heater in it. to help relax the muscles. good luck. hope you love quilting as much as you loved knitting and crocheting.

  5. #5
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    I am sorry you are in pain and wish you the best. I don't have fibromyalgia but using my arms waist length with my head bent kills my neck and shoulders. I have my cutting table and my ironing board just above waist length and it has made a world of difference for me.
    Good luck to you. Wishing the best for you.

  6. #6
    Super Member virtualbernie's Avatar
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    I have the Simplicity electric rotary cutter and I was never able to get a straight cut on it and it really didn't cut my fabric either, it wouldn't even cut paper for me no matter how much I adjusted it. As far as the Go is concerned, you do need a little muscle to roll the dies through. That Martelli cutter seems to be a good alternative.

  7. #7
    Power Poster amma's Avatar
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    You may find that hand quilting will be as hard on your hands as knitting and crocheting and other handwork. I had to quit doing these things too, due to fibro.
    I can quilt using a sewing machine. I rotate between cutting, pressing, pinning and sewing. I have everything laid out so that I can do some of each for a while. Switching back and forth, and getting up and moving around seem to help my hands, neck and back.

    Seam rippers and other tools with bigger handles help, as well as stocking up on rotary cutting blades, the sharper they are, the less pressure needed to cut. Finding the suction cup handles for your rulers may help too. It may take the strain off of your wrists/arms. Putting the Invisigrip on the underside of the rulers also helps hold them in place, and puts less strain on arms/wrists/hands.

    Make sure your cutting surface, sewing machine, ironing boards, etc... are the proper height for you.
    Try to do some warm up exercises before you start, it really does help the muscles :wink:

  8. #8
    Super Member sahm4605's Avatar
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    another thought. don't know if you have heating pads to help ease the muscles but a fun project that I have done is make rice bags. you can use beans or peas too. anything that holds heat well and wont rot. you just make a simple bag. PM me if you want help making one. there are probably others that can help with this too. I have two. use dot have three but after my dd was born left the small one at the hospital by accident. made some for my grandma and my parents too. you can even make them scented too. hope this helps. Sitting here typing with mine across my neck and shoulders. it helps.

  9. #9
    Super Member purplemem's Avatar
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    I have severe fibro and a lot of other impairment problems.
    For fibro pain, I sleep on a heated mattress pad, summer and winter. It really does make a big difference. My sewing table and cutting tables are elevated for less strain on my shoulders. I hand quilt and use a gadget I got at Tractor Supply for pulling my needle through the fabric layers. It is a pair of curved needle nose pliers with a spring action handle. I don't use a hoop, but put 5 or 6 stitches on the needle and then pull with this. It was only $6. a Godsend. I bought a Brother XR9000 sewing machine, has a push button start and stop, and a needle up/down. Now I don't have to sit in one spot, don't need my legs or knees, and that helps with strain. The machine was $200.

  10. #10
    Super Member Tink's Mom's Avatar
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    I also have severe Fibromyalgia...I don't have any of the items that you have listed. Don't have the extra money for them, since I had to quit working due to the Fibro.
    All I can say is don't give in to it....keep doing as much as you can, every day...even on the bad days, do something...if you don't use it, you will lose it, according to my Dr.
    I do have the Martelli rotary cutter, and I love it.....

  11. #11
    Super Member raptureready's Avatar
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    My mother had that and Collengen's disease, Raynods, Arthritis and Lupus. She said that the trick was to take the pain meds and stay busy to keep your mind off the pain. Also to keep moving as much as possible. The lupus made her muscles hurt, the fibro made her skin hurt, arthritis hurt her joints, collengens and raynods made her tendons and veins hurt. She always said that she each day her goal was to make it through that day. She hand pieced and quilted beautiful quilts but she'd get up and move around quite often.

  12. #12
    Power Poster earthwalker's Avatar
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    I have Systemic Lupus and have recently been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis as well. Like raptureready's Mother I hand piece and quilt and have now decided to work more with machines. Her secret is mine too, do things in "bites", so no sitting, standing or staying on one task for long periods and keep as mobile as you can, without overdoing it. Staying warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather is important...I use fingerless gloves, wheat bags etc in winter which helps a lot. I don't use any "aids" as such,
    'cept a walking cane may be a necessity soon - I am looking around trying to find one that I deem "cool" enough to use...but then again I am a stubborn individual and hate the idea of becoming doddery!

  13. #13
    Power Poster Lacelady's Avatar
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    Use a portable cooking timer (the kind you can set for up to an hour) and set it to remind you to stop what you are doing and move on to something else or to rest. Otherwise it's very easy to forget, carry on, and pay for it later in more aches and pains.

  14. #14
    Super Member dotcomdtcm's Avatar
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    I have seen gloves that are supposed to help. Fibro will require that you modify your ambitions. Smaller quilts, fusible applique, precut strips, Maybe you could trade lessons with someone for help. My daughter has fibro. It is a real challenge but don't give up!

  15. #15
    Super Member raptureready's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dotcomdtcm
    I have seen gloves that are supposed to help. Fibro will require that you modify your ambitions. Smaller quilts, fusible applique, precut strips, Maybe you could trade lessons with someone for help. My daughter has fibro. It is a real challenge but don't give up!
    Mom kept on making king size quilts, it just took her a lot longer to get them done. She did it ALL by hand, the piecing, the quilting, the binding. She did her piecing at night while daddy watched tv. Did I mention that she was also blind in one eye? She was a trooper. She snuck a peek at her doctors notes one time and noticed that he'd written "the fortitude of a military war horse." When he came back in the room she said, "War horse, huh?" He snatched up the file and told her not to be so nosy. LOL Of course that was back when doctors knew their patients---before HMOs. Grab a heaping helping of determination and you can do anything. Sheer determination and stubborness was what kept mom going--she just absolutely refused to give in to the pain.

  16. #16
    Super Member wvdek's Avatar
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    When I was diagnosed eeons ago, since I am not fond of meds because of how they can mess up other systems in your body, (Tylenol goes right to your liver and stays for too long and can cause problems after awhile) my Dr. recommended 1500 mg. of Feverfew a day. All natural get it at my neighborhood pharmacy for about $5.00 a bottle. Took about 35 days to see real improvement, but I did. He also said to get some exercise every day, use heat when necessary (I can't sleep on heating pad because it increases the pain and discomfort), rest even for five minutes, take a break every hour whether at computer watching tv or driving. Get a good nights sleep, eat healthier, cut out sugar, artificial sweeeners, white flour, caffeine, take ALeve or Advil as noted, realize my limitations but don't stop living. Good thing about Fibro is it is not life threatening, just a big pain in the ars. Dr. did put me on some of the earlier meds for this, but it messed with my gut. Then they pulled two of them off the market, so... I have been in 'remission' for about 13 months and just recently it has started up again.
    I have raised my sewing table to a more comfortable height so as not to bother my neck and shoulders, raised my cutting table with the PVC pipe legs about 4 additional inches, use a nice Fiskars rotary cutter and Fiskars scissors, and not much else. NO hand quilting for me. Hurts my hands too much, howevr, I can still crochet and they will have to bury me before I give that up. Don't give in to the disease but learn your limitations, what works for you, give up some of those addictions (artificial sweeteners, caffeine, smoking, non-exercise) and you will be surprised how much better you will feel. And keep moving!

  17. #17
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    there is a little device for hand quilting that, I am told, is very good for those with difficult hand motions. I had one and gave to a student recently in my hand quilting class and she says it works great. I can't remember the name. However, it looks like a small paddle with depressions on the flat end. You hold it in your hand rather than on your finger. I will try and find out the name and post here.

  18. #18
    Ginakra's Avatar
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    Wow, everyone here is so helpful and nice! I'm genuinely overwhelmed! :) Thanks so much for all the tips on quilting with pain, and pain in general. I'm sorry for those of you suffering fibro and other limitations, too. I will look into each and every tool you all suggested, and will try all the tips on staying healthy. :)

    I read some bad reviews on that Simplicity Rotary cutter, but I was thinking of trying it anyway, I'm stubborn that way. I will make sure I can send it back if it does turn out to be lousy! My husband has offered to help me do stuff as well, as he's seen me suffer two years of not being able to craft without pain, so I might have a free, automatic rotary cutter right here in my house! I won't even have to plug him in LOL!

    The ergonomic rotary cutter looks interesting, and I'll be waiting on the name of that tool, Holice. I am going to reply to some specifics on what some of you have said, but I'm feeling not so well today. I have limited time in front of the computer, but I couldn't let another minute go by without telling you all how much I appreciate your replies, suggestions, advice, and concerns.

    I'll be back in a couple of days, hopefully. Thanks everyone, keep the suggestions coming if you have any.

  19. #19
    Power Poster Lacelady's Avatar
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    Sorry you are not having such a good day, come back to us when you are feeling more up to it.

  20. #20
    Super Member topper1's Avatar
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    i have fibromyalgia and polymyalgia rheumatica, thyroid, IBS, etc. just keep moving at all possible. use things to make all easier. pain and fatigue all my life. but will keep on sewing and all as long as i can. :D

  21. #21
    Junior Member frogella's Avatar
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    I have fibro and lupus. I tell myself every day that I rule my disease...it doens't rule me. ( now if I could get it to agree...lol) Keep moving. Keep doing, even if only a few stitches or cuts a day!

  22. #22
    Super Member Roberta's Avatar
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    I have fibromyalgia and have the Accuquilt Go machine and love it. If you put 6 layers of fabric on the dies the handle can be hard to turn but, depending on my pain level I can cut one layer or 6 and they are far more accurate then I could ever do. If you shop online you can find some really good prices on the machine and it's worth every dime you might spend.

  23. #23

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    There is a glove that you can purchase. I believe it's easy to find at drug stores, etc. I started having difficulty (I hand-quilt exclusively) but what I did, I stopped quilting every day if I'm working on something, I'll quilt, using my glove, for about an hour and a half and stop. I make sure i skip a day before i continue to quilt. ( I developed "trigger finger" and the doctor informed me that it was due to over use.( He didn't know that I was a quilter, but I knew, immediately what the problem was.) I haven't had a problem since. Good luck!

  24. #24
    Super Member GrammaNan's Avatar
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    I know you weren't fishing for sympathy but I feel so badly for you. I have tendonitis in my shoulder, elbow and hand which requires cortisone shots every three months. I congratulate you for hanging tough and wish you the best. I suggest that you quilt in short time increments and rest every other day. Sometimes I hold my scissors while holding a wash cloth. I also do this when doing hand embroidery. It helps to keep my hand and wrist open more. I hope that the suggestions on the board will be of help to you. You are an inspiration to me. HUGS!!!

  25. #25
    Lyn4ty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CajunQuilter2
    Gina, You might look into the Martelli Rotary cutters, they are really good for people with arthritis.
    I agree that this rotary cutter is the best by far. I've had mine for years now and wouldn't trade it for anything. I feel for you, I have severe arthritis in my knees and moderately bad in the rest of my joints, had my left shoulder replaced this spring. I was told once by my dr. that you need to keep getting up and moving, sit too long and your joints will freeze. So this is what I try to do when I am quilting or working or anything else, I get up and walk around to get the stiffness and pain out. Lots of (((HUGS))) and positive thought being sent your way!!

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