Reduce Back Pain and Love to Sew Again

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Sunrise through my window.

Silence in the house. Steaming coffee by my side, my journal in my lap. My shoulders are relaxed and my mind is starting to bubble with ideas, strategies and enthusiasm for the time I have ahead of me.

I’m ready to sew.

An hour later, just as I’m buzzing along with the brrrrrr of my Berrrrrnina, I  feel the shoulder ache begin. Do I stop? Do I stretch? I do not. I sew and sew like some kind of crazed so-and-so and pretty soon I look like this:


This goosenecked scrunch is not a good look and it isn’t a good feeling. Here are some ways you can avoid the pain and sew (or write, or paint or cook) for as long as you want.

  1. Invest in proper equipment. Yes, that may mean a monetary outlay. If your passion is sewing or writing, you probably do it in a chair and that chair has to provide certain specific benefits. While your local sewing shop will gladly sell you an adorable chair specifically designed for sewing, you can also get an armless office chair for less than $50 and spend the difference on fabric. Certainly it’s your call. If your passion is cooking or woodworking you probably stand and your investment may be in a shock absorbent gel mat  you can stand on while you work.  A proper workstation is crucial to enjoying your hobby without pain.
  2. Do as I say, not as I do! Take some short breaks. Even a quick stretch or walk around the house will shake out the kinks.
  3. If it’s your back that hurts, its probably your belly that’s the problem. No, I’m not saying you need a snack. You probably need to get on a regular exercise program that targets the core muscles deep in your abdomen. Try a free video exercise approach like Holy Yoga. When you’re toned, your muscles will support your back properly instead of letting you slip into bizarre postures. That goosenecked scrunch pictured above overextends the muscle group under my shoulder blades. They get painfully inflamed and I get grumpy.
  4. Take a day off. A complete twenty-four hours away from your passion does a lot to improve your relationship with it. May I suggest a Sewing Sabbatical on a regular basis? You will end up with more joy and less back pain in the long run.

Zero Waste

Google Zero Waste clothing. There’s a ton of stuff out there, right? “Zero waste clothing” is a subset of the sustainable clothing movement referring specifically to clothing manufactured with no waste.

How nice of Joost de Cock, pattern maker and philanthropist, to make this simple version available to anyone, anytime, any where at And at no cost! He calls it the Tokyo Top and you must just go to his fabulous website to learn more and make one for yourself.

I prance about the house feeling frisky in this slinky red ankle-length version.  I also made one in a bright yellow jersey, which I use for a bathing suit coverup.

Only a small sliver of fabric is cut from this clever take on a large folded rectangle. As soon as I saw the sliver I knew it could be fashioned into an embellishment. So each of my Tokyo Tops has a jaunty flower on the shoulder. Hope you love yours as much as I do mine. Don’t forget to buy Joost a cup of coffee by donating to his site when you get there.

5 Sewing Time Management Strategies

A time management strategy makes sense for a sewist because it makes more time for sewing. And who doesn’t want that?

Finding time to sew means you are wearing or using what you produce when you want it. It means you might have a few gifts ready for before the holidays. Yikes! If you teach, it means there’s no last minute scramble before the students walk through the door.

First, do you recognize yourself in one of these time management styles?


I sewed this way for years. I bought a specific amount of fabric to make a specific outfit, began to sew and didn’t stop until it was done. I bought no other fabric until that project was finished. Then I tidied the sewing space and didn’t start anything else until I was prepared to finish it.

PROS: This is a powerful and focussed way to Get. It. Done. This simple strategy is very zen, calming and gentle on the mind.

CONS: Now that I have more skills, more fabric, more tools and more time, I don’t like to restrict myself to the one-at-a-time method because it doesn’t allow for sudden inspiration. More on this below.


I count between a dozen and fifteen projects in various states of completion in my present sewing life.

  •  ongoing projects to stock my Etsy shop.
  •  a tee-shirt quilt project for which I’m gathering materials
  • a fitting muslin for a ball gown I’ll wear later in the year
  • a plastic chest that holds my students’ works in progress
  • seasonal sewing/craft projects to be refreshed
  • patterns/fabric yardage hanging in my closet to sew for my own wardrobe.
  • Oh, and the entire “Wyatt’s Legacy” line of heirloom gowns and accessories.

PROS: I seldom run out of things to do or materials with which to do them. When a new idea strikes, I record it in Freedcamp then make a prototype or simply go ahead and create it.

CONS: When you have this kind of supply and stock situation, it has to be organized, stored, labelled and replenished. Because materials don’t last forever, you have to keep track of time (when did I buy this?) as well as materials. You can Google Craftybase and see what inventory programs come up. Though inventory isn’t time management, lack of inventory management will will eat your time if you don’t know what you’ve got and where to find it.

Day Planner

The Franklin Covey Day Planner time management system has been around for decades. Within its pre-printed pages you can record the details of your projected days and weeks in infinite detail.

PROS: If you do it right, the Day Planner provides a snapshot of where you are and where you are going. If you do it right, projects don’t fall through the cracks and they are prioritized in a way that makes sense to you and your values.

CONS: This applies to all the tracking systems, really. You can easily could lose yourself the details of recording the details. It takes time and dedication to plan, record and track projects.

Planners Exploded! Bullet Journals

I believe this is still the newest kid on the time management block. I’m experiementing with it myself, but frankly it feels more like a new hobby than management. I especially like it as a place to record ideas as mentioned above–those projects that pop in your head when you’re working on something else.

PROS:  Fancy lettering and lots of pens, pencils and stencils–what’s not to like? This is a natural for creative souls.

CONS: With no pre-sets, each person is re-inventing the calendar wheel. Whereas other systems teach their clients how to use symbols and processes the Bullet Journal invites you to explore the internet and your own creativity to invent your own. To begin at the beginning:

Project Management Software

Project management is what we’re talking about here. Conveniently enough, I’m married to a project manager and he’s taught me


because he’s an engineer and I’m a normal person and we do not speak the same language. So everything I know about project management, I learned in church. Seriously, I fill different roles in different church service areas and I found the best way to keep track has been cloud-based project management software.

Freedcamp  is an Australian company that’s been keeping me organized for several years. They have a great help department (remember they’re on the other side of the world from North America, so I’ve had phone appointments at 7PM). There’s a ton of competition in the cloud-based project management arena but again, the folks at Freedcamp have treated me well for several years and I highly recommend their product and service. (Nope, I’m not compensated in any way by their organization.)

The No-Plan Sewing Plan

So you CAN just wing it and sew what you will when you will.


Absolutely no time spent on planning. Walk into the store (with your magic bottomless credit card), pick a pattern, buy all materials and go home and sew. If you decide to make something else on the way home, download a PDF pattern and hope you have enough tape to put 17 rows of tiles together before you have to go to work. Or just drape your mannequin and start slashing and pinning fabric. Man, it’s great to be creative!


It’s rare to finish a project well or timely under these conditions. If you’re doing your whole life this way, you probably don’t have time to sew anyway. Quickly conceived projects are often as quickly abandoned. You can watch your sewing motivation whoosh out the window when a massive mess of half-done projects are staring you down at the sewing room door.

How do you fit your sewing into your life? Are you drowning in WIP’s (works in progress) or are you cruising serenely through your planned projects? May I gently suggest you get a plan?

Making yourself the boss of your time is extremely empowering. You may even find that time management is your sewing superpower.

I’d love to hear how you are the boss of your own time or how you’d like to get there. Leave me a comment!



Ooooh, Lookie! My Site Crashed

Anyone who’s worked in print journalism knows on some level her life’s work will end up lining the bottom of somebody’s bird cage. I accepted that as part of the ephemeral nature of daily news reporting. You could even think of it as a positive spin on the fate of the written word; at least there was a way to recycle old newspapers.

But what’s the use of the little bytes of data that have been permanently misplaced after a website cash? Old blog posts can’t even be recycled as bird-doo catchers. I’m pretty sure I’m not bitter nor philosophical about this turn of events.

Just amazed! Lookie…now you see it, now you don’t. Where did my 2016 posts go?


Sew True

A day hemmed in prayer seldom unravels. Anonymous