Lessons Learned at Quilt Retreat

The retreat was wonderful, as expected! I did take The Misery Quilt with me to work on, and really made great progress on the machine quilting. It was also good to have other quilters around for input and opinions on some of the decisions that needed to be made about thread colors and quilting patterns while getting started.

And the lessons learned? Never forget extra lighting, extra pillows (to raise the chair height, or keep the butt comfy after hours of sitting on it!), or eye drops. You’d think I’d never been on a retreat before, considering the things I forgot to bring. However, the most important lesson was this: never get so stuck in your box that you don’t try doing things differently once in a while.

The tables at the retreat were much higher than my table at home, which is adjustable and I had it set at about 65 cm off the floor. I bought this table specifically for machine quilting, because I’ve always thought (and been told by all those people who study ergonomics and repetitive stress injuries) that to minimize pain while machine quilting, you should be sitting straight up, with your arms down at your sides and elbows bent at 90 degrees.

What all that means is that my table has to be pretty low, and then my view is usually obstructed by the machine itself. All kinds of maneuvering is required to see what I’m doing, and I usually end up with pain in my neck and back anyway, since I hunch down in the chair to see the needle.

So, off I go to retreat, and the tables are about 74 cm from the floor, and I can see the needle just fine, and I’m not hunching down so much in my chair. And even after nearly five straight days of machine quilting, three at retreat and two after I got home, I don’t have pain in my neck and back. Go figure. After all the years of thinking I needed to lower the table height, I now feel slightly silly about it all. Even when I was in Paducah at the Diane Gaudynski Workshop in March, I saw the way she was sitting—very low in relation to the machine bed, and leaning on the table with her elbows, and she even said that you needed to be comfortable, however that worked out for you—do you think I got the hint? Nah, that would have been too easy, right?

I came home and had ITMan help me adjust the table to 74 cm from the floor, and now I’m a happy, and comfortable, machine quilter. I’ve really got to do something about that box that hems in my thinking sometimes! So forget everything I’ve ever said about table height, chair height, and preventing pain by sitting up straight in the chair. Just get comfortable, people. I am, finally. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned at Quilt Retreat

  1. I’m so glad you had a great time at your retreat. I’m excited about the one I’m going to this weekend. An extension cord was on my list, but now I probably have to add an extra lamp too! 😉


  2. Consider adding a little trash bag or bin of some kind too, Kristin. I usually take my OBI bucket with my extra lamp in it, just for transport, and then I can use the bucket for threads and scraps while I’m at retreat. There are never enough bins around the room, and I don’t have one of those things that hangs off the side of the table to collect bits, so this works for me. Have fun at yours this weekend!


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