Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sewing and Quilting with Arthritis - My List of Favs

Recently I was reading a blog by the adorable and talented Jeni Baker of “In Color Order.” She has the cutest bunny named George who she features a lot on her blog. If you haven’t visited it please check it out. She has a pattern shop, tutorials, information on her book, patterns, her portfolio and her story. In her recent blog posting she shares her personal story of living and quilting with arthritis. This story hit home for me because not only do I have several friends who suffer with debilitating pain such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, I to have severe arthritis. It is mostly in my hands and is caused by degenerative disc disease. My mother had it and so does my sister. Apparently it is genetic and not caused by over-use. My thumb disc has totally disintegrated, and in addition to sharp and incapacitating pain at times, coupled with ocassional numbness and tingling, bone spurs are now developing as a result of bones scraping against bones. It’s an ugly disease and it has no cure other than surgery to clean out the bone spurs, replace the disc with an artificial one and rebuild the ligament connection. Most people, my sister included, have said that recovery is even more painful than the actual disease, however, when (and in some cases, if) recover is finished, most people report to have much less pain, more mobility and the ability to grip again. My jury is still out.

So, what to do when you love working with fabric? Sewing, hand stitching, holding a rotary cutter, seam ripper and believe it or not, a pair of thread snips are not only challenging but painful! As my condition worsened, I began to fear I would have to stop working with fabric all together. But, since holding a fork is just as painful, I decided to loose the fork and pick up the thread snips whenever possible.

Sometimes heat helps, sometimes ice. I have also used different ointment remedies and have found them to provide a little relief, however, shortlived. I try to remember to put them on before AND after sewing. However, my tools have also changed. Here is a list of items that I have found work best for me, put less pressure on my thumb joint when gripping and can be used with little to no sharp, piercing pain:

Karen Kay Buckley Perfect Scissors
- 4” Craftsy has them at a reasonable price.

Inspira EZ Snip (found on-line or in any Husqvarna-Viking Sewing Gallery)
I tried Havel’s Snip-a-Stitch but they caused a fair amount of pain

Clover Bordeaux Ultimate Shears 200 with Nancy Zieman 7 3/4 in.- Durable, sharp and very light weight

Bordeaux Embroidery Scissors by Clover

Oliso® Pro™ Smart Iron with iTouch® Technology TG1600

Rowenta DA 1560 Compact Iron (for machine side ironing) The handle is tilted at an angle that puts less pressure on my thumb joint. It may not work for everyone but it doesn't cause my thumb to work harder

Kai Rotary Cutter. I don’t have one yet, but I used my friend’s while she was visiting me for our in-home sewing and quilting retreat weekend. There is no need to slide the blade guard up and down. It is always in the safety position until you apply pressure against the fabric and cutting mat. It lifts itself and cuts like a hot knife through butter. Also, the blades are supposed to stay sharper longer than Olfa or Fiskars. What quilter does like to hear those words!

Clover Plastic Seam Ripper - Well, since I rarely use one (that's a big lie) I don't have a favorite yet, but my preference is one with a wide, flat grip. Right now that is Clover's Seam Ripper.

Straight pins are a little more difficult. I love Clover Patchwork Size 30 Glasshead Pins and Little House. But sometimes the small head size is too difficult for me to grip without shooting pain in my thumb and fingers. When I am having one of these days I switch to Dritz Pearlized dressmaker pins. They are easier for me to grip. I have also found a brand sold by Nancy’s Notions called Easy Grasp Pins Set. They are supposed to be for limited dexterity but I haven’t had a chance to try them yet.

If any of you are suffering with debilitating hand pain I hope my list will at least get you started on the road to less pain while doing what we love to do. Pet our fabric and create beauty.


  1. This is a WONDERFUL blog post! So great that you shared the actual tool and where you got them. I'm sure this info will help those who read it!!
    And PS you should have told me how much better your hand felt after using the Kai rotary cutter!! But I know some secret sister swappers who'll love to have this info on you!! Love you my friend!!

    1. Hi Sewister!!!! I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I want to share everything that helps me with my sewisters. Love you to sewister!!!

  2. I loved your blog post!!! If you hear of anyone that has issues with their legs let me know. I hate that I have to keep both of them elevated. Love you!!

    1. As a matter of fact.... I have a friend who needs to keep one leg elevated while sewing. I'll put you in touch if you like. I'm not sure if your issues are the same but what matters if you connect and share things the things that work for you. Thank you for following me!!!!

  3. Nice blog, I will be following!
    I so appreciate your tool review/tips as I have chronic pian in my arms and hands as well. I was forced to retire from dog grooming because of nerve damagel. I sure don't want to give up sewing too. For me, lots of mini breaks help. If I pull myself away from the machine, do some arm and neck stretchs and maybe wapk around a bit it gives me some relief.



Inspiration Merriam-Webster's definitation states: Inspiration: 1a: a divine influence or action on a person believed to quali...