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Pain-Free Quilting
By Carole Leroy
Pain-Free Quilting, Inc, 2002
Paperbound, 108 pages
Suggested retail: $24.95

Review by Lynn Holland

Many of us are, well, obsessive about our quilting. We spend marathon-like hours at our sewing machines, trying to wring maximum productivity from each precious minute. Consequently, many of us begin to suffer repetitive stress problems and a host of other ailments. In our concentration on perfect point-matching, we often forget our posture.

Although this is certainly not a laughing matter, Carole LeRoy’s book, Pain-Free Quilting takes a simultaneously serious and light-hearted approach to helping aching quilters solve the problems that we often experience. Subtitled “The Self-Help Book for Women Who Sew Too Much,” Pain-Free Quilting addresses the issues from both a medical and sewing perspective. Trained as an occupational health nurse, Carole provides physically sound yet immensely practical suggestions for preventing and/or treating those nagging pains that most of us eventually develop. She then proceeds to address most of the known complaints that quilters experience, from back pain to eyestrain to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Of course, hers is not the first such book of this kind, but what distinguishes it from the others is the author’s sense of humor and her artistic talent. Carole provides us with two quilting buddies “Sue and her Gal Pal” along with a unique cast of characters to make her points both palatable and memorable. Almost every page has one of Carole’s clever illustrations or a photo to help emphasize the things that we may do without thinking that can affect our overall physical well-being. There are quizzes and checklists to aid in the prevention or early identification of most common hazards of quilting, along with practical advice about how to solve problems. (For example: How can you tell if your sitting posture measures up? Have someone take a picture of you!) Much of the advice you’ve probably heard before, but Carole’s cute and clever presentations provide you with a memory “hook” to help you keep it in mind and actually do it. Poems, cartoons, reflections and commentary by the various characters in the book prevent this from being a dull recitation of maladies and remedies. "You've been sewing too long," she says, "when you can't feel your buttocks any more!"

Acknowledging that for most quilters, “exercise is not our agenda,” Carole provides a whole section on easy but effective exercises for the parts of our body which are most prone to sewing stress. She gives us photos and sketches along with little sayings (“Keep those eyeballs rollin, rollin’, rollin, rollin”) so that we can’t get them out of our head and forget to do them! Also included is advice on picking the right sewing chair, pointers for back care, and techniques for pain-free hand quilting. Breathing and relaxation techniques round out the picture.

In addition to this great book, Carole has developed a line of gadgets to save us from ourselves when we sew. However, her gadgets have evolved from her true concern for the health and well-being. For many of her clever products, she also offers do-it- yourself solutions. 

Perhaps, at this point in your life, you have no quilt-related stresses or strains other than fabric selection. Unfortunately, if you continue to enjoy this activity, you are bound to need the hints and suggestions in this book to keep yourself pain- and injury- free. Carole offers a fun way to deal with repetitive stress appropriately. 

Pain-Free Quilting is available at a discount from the Planet Patchwork Store.

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