RA adds a unique challenge to sewing – probably to any craft project.
- tendonitis in both thumbs makes use of scissors next to impossible
- sitting in one position for an extended period of time increases stiffness
- pinning and unpinning pattern pieces – don’t even go there
- needles are difficult to thread
In addition to the traditional scissors, options include:
- Lay out your pattern pieces, then get someone else to work the scissors. If you can handle pins, this can work well when you’re sewing for someone else. When I sewed my kids’ Christmas shirts, I pinned, they cut, I sewed. It made them appreciate the shirts a little more since they helped with the process.
- Home Depot carries electric scissors. I have not tried them yet, but have had them recommended by a number of people. These same electric scissors are available in fabric stores for an extra $20. If I get some, I’ll buy mine from whoever has the lowest price.
- My favorite option is to skip both the pins and the scissors. A good cutting mat and a rotary cutter allow me to lay my fabric flat, set a pattern piece in position (no pins), and cut. A rotary cutter is faster than scissors, and doesn’t require thumb maneuverability.
To minimize stiffness, take frequent breaks. Stitch for a while, then iron for a while. The change of position between activities provides just enough movement. Every hour or so, I take a break out of the sewing room: meal prep, start a load of laundry, play a game with the kids…
Skip this step whenever possible. Already omitted in the cutting step, I find that it can often be left out of the stitching portion of sewing projects, too. That’s not how I learned to sew, but when I got a serger, I discovered how unnecessary pins often are. I just lay the pieces of fabric together and stitch them together with my serger. Only rarely are pins really needed. I still use pins when working with gathers, but rarely need them for anything else.
Pins are most useful in holding tissue-paper pattern pieces onto uncut fabric. Two other options make things easier:
- Use weights to keep the pattern paper from slipping. Pattern weights are available, specifically designed for this purpose. Or, if you’re a little more frugal-minded (as I tend to be), you’ll find that those scissors you no longer use for cutting, make great weights. Other things that can be used as weights include spools of thread, seam rippers, and just about anything you find laying about the sewing room.
- Don’t use tissue paper. If you have a favorite pattern that you use over and over again (as I do), tissue paper will rip. Fabric stores carry pattern cloth that works wonderfully. It’s the weight of medium-weight interfacing and doesn’t rip. My favorite kind has a one-inch grid printed on one side. This pattern cloth doesn’t get all crinkled up the way tissue paper does, and it doesn’t slip about on your fabric. When I lay pattern cloth on my garment fabric, it stays exactly where I set it. No pins or weights are needed.
Threading needles can be a challenge at times. I try to organize my projects so that thread-changes are minimized. Every sewing project that uses red thread gets completed before I move on to the project that uses brown thread, then every project with brown thread gets done before I move on to the next color.
I’m fortunate enough to have more than one sewing machine, so always keep one machine threaded with white thread. On days that my hands just don’t want to cooperate (fortunately those days are few and far between), I get someone else to thread the needle for me. I’m sewing for my kids; the least they can do is thread the needle!
Now, I’ll be heading back to my sewing room!