Ten Exercises for Quiltmakers


Many hours of cutting, sewing, and hand or machine quilting can take a toll on your body. According to medical sources, good posture and certain exercises can help relieve stress and prevent problems associated with repetitive quilt-related activities.

Learn these ten exercises for happy and healthy stitching, republished with permission from Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky.

Click the images to view the quilt exercises in larger detail.

Good Sitting Posture

Good sitting posture allows your back to do its job of supporting you.

Your goal is to keep the three natural curves of  your spine in their normal, balanced alignment.

Neck Retraction

To realign your cervical curve, slide your chin straight back keeping your head and ears level. You should feel like you have a double chin.

Repeat 5-10 times, several times during the day.

Neck Stretch

To release muscle tension in your neck, try to touch your ear to your shoulder. Be sure to keep your nose pointing forward and move slowly.

Repeat 5-10 times, several times during the day.

Shoulder Circles

To release muscle tension in your neck, shoulders, and upper back, circle your shoulders backward in a wide arc. Make several circles then relax.

Repeat 5-10 times throughout the day.

Elbow Press

To release muscle tension in your middle back, bring your elbows out to the side at chest height. Press them gently backward, hesitate a moment, then release.

Repeat 5-10 times, several times throughout the day or whenever you feel stiff or tired.

Middle Back Stretch

To realign your thoracic curve, bend both elbows and press one arm above you.Then press the other behind you to complete the exercise.

Repeat 5-10 times, several times throughout the day.

Abdominal Strengthener

Strong abdominal muscles will help support your lower back and keep it aligned. Sit with your buttocks firmly against the back of you chair and exhale and tighten your abdominal muscles for a count of 10.

Release and repeat 5-10 times, several times during the day.

Backward Bend

To revers the slouch curve and release muscle tension in your lower back, stand up, press your palms on your lower back for support, and gently bend your upper and lower back backward. Hesitate for a moment, then release.

Repeat 5-10 times, several times a day.

Certain repetitive hand activities may put you at higher risk for developing a variety of wrist problems. By learning how to modify how you use your hands, you may be able to reduce the risk.

  • Keep your wrist in neutral. Avoid usingy our wrist in a bent or twisted position for long periods of time. Try to maintain your wrist in a neutral (straight) position.
  • Rest your hands. Periodically give your hands a break by letting them rest briefly. You may be able to alternate easy and hard tasks, switch hands, or rotate activities.


To release muscle tension in your hands, slowly make a fist then stretch you fingers out straight while spreadking your fingers. Hold this position for a second, then relax.

Repeat 5-10 times, several times during the day.

Thumb Stretch

To release muscle tension in your thumbs, stretch you thumb out to the side gently pullingon it with your opposite hand. Hold it in a stretched position for a count of 3, then release.

Repeat 5-10 times, several times during the day.

View the PDF of the 10 Exercises for Quiltmakers

Posted by Christine N. Brown, American Quilter magazine editor-in-chief

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Thanks so much for this information. I suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome and these exercises make quilting less painful and help me to limit any further damage to my hands and wrists. Great info.

Lillian Pery

Great information/reminders…I’m going to make a copy to tack above my sewing machine! Thanks. LP

Susan Myrick

These are very good. My #11 would be to remember to get up and move around for a few minutes several times during the day.

Birdie Cutair

thanks so much for these. As soon as I get a working printer I will make a copy of these for sure.

Marlene Nestande

These are wonderful. But could not find an area/click for making a copy. Did I miss it.

Marlene, Try clicking this link to the PDF and print from that, http://www.quiltviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/exercises_crop_300_2.pdf. Sylvia Thomas, AQS Social Media Manager.

[…] Quilt Studios posted about The Comfort Zone just yesterday, including a very handy AQS link to ten exercises to keep quilters loose and comfortable:  which couldn’t have been timed better  (Thanks, Melanie!)  So I’m taking it a […]

[…] We had a wonderful presentation by Lee Boyle on Wednesday, January 18th about the proper way to sit while doing sewing work.    She gave us a handout of exercises that we can do when taking a break from sewing, they can be found here […]