7 simple ways to prevent the health troubles dressmaking brings

I used to make dresses alot but now I do it just for fun or when I need to. I also used to cut patterns. Pattern cutting in my opinion is more difficult than the actual sewing. My pattern cutting skill is intermediate so I tend to spend a huge amount of time making and cutting the patterns. This means I make a few mistakes and take longer to get the job done. I used to spend long hours standing at my cutting table – sometimes I would lose track of time and stand almost all day. By the time I was through, I would feel so weak and have pain piercing through every fibre of my being. Sometimes I would be unable to walk to the train station and would have to sit and wait until I felt up to the task. I actually loved sewing so much that once I started a dress, I never wanted to stop. 

Well I have been working on a dress I need to wear to a friend’s wedding and it has taken me down memory lane. Before I decided to make it myself, I had to remind myself that I need to take and make steps to ensure my health and sanity remains intact. I actually paid someone to make the pattern so I only need to do the sewing. Half of the job done.

Many dressmakers go through this same trouble. Alot of them are sole traders and therefore work alone. This means they get to do it all by themselves.

I have come up with a list of how to love and enjoy dressmaking without the health scares. So here are 7 simple ways to prevent the health troubles dressmaking brings.

1. Your cutting table should be height adjustable. This for me is the most important furniture. Why is that? Getting the height wrong can leave you with back pains which can get worse over time. I don’t like to specify what height the cutting table should be because just like computer workstations, the cutting table has to suit the user. So my advice is to get a height adjustable table. Get a carpenter to make one for you.
Ideally, the height of the table should be perpendicular to your waist. You shouldn’t be bending when using it if not you are likely to end up with back pains. 

2. Your sewing station. Sewing tables come non-adjustable especially the industrial machines. So you need height adjustable chairs to ensure good posture. Awkward postures can result in back pain. Watch out for my upcoming post on setting up sewing workstations.

3. Take regular breaks. I find it difficult to sit when drafting/cutting patterns. So if like me you like to stand while working on your patterns, take regular breaks. 

4. Be attentive. There are many risks from the various machineries you use. I have never had any accidents while sewing except for the usual pin pricks. But it is easy to stitch your finger when using your sewing machine especially the industrial ones or to slice your finger while using a rotary cutter. So take care. Look at your machine while sewing and focus on the task at hand. And if you have to look away, take your feet off the pedal.

5. Pins. They are so tiny, it is easy for them to get lost in your fabrics. Ensure you have taken off all pins especially if you are going to be doing fitting on a human being. And while doing fitting, although it might be easier to use dressmakers pins, I recommend using safety pins instead. I once attended a fitting and while it was going on, I tried to move my hair out of the way. Instead the tip of my finger got slashed by a pin and I bled, not profusely but it hurt a lot. Be careful with your customers, you don’t want to get sued for injuries caused by you.

6. Risk assess your work area and make sure there is enough working space, you can get around easily and have sufficient light. Sewing rooms can get cluttered pretty easily and can therefore make you prone to accidents. Good housekeeping is important- that way your cleaning won’t pile up and become an impossible task. Read this article on conducting risk assessments

7. Delegate. This was my mistake, thinking I could do everything myself. Most small businesses and sole traders can’t afford to take on staff but there are lots of students looking for work experience who will be happy to help you a few hours/days a week. I am all for being fair and paying people when and if they work for you. You can also take on apprentices. There is a minimum wage of £2.68 for apprentices (from 1st October 2013). Not sure how people survive on that income but at least you won’t be breaking the law if you do. If you can afford to pay more, then even better. 

We have a health and safety for fashion and sewing course designed by us specially for the fashion, textiles and clothing industry. Why not attend one or visit our safety for fashion dedicated website www.hswfashion.com for lots of information on what services we provide and how we can make your job safe, and enjoyable.

Is there anything else you can think of? Then please leave a comment.