Sewing Machine Safety: Rules & Tips

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

This lesson provides comprehensive guidelines for sewing machine safety. Topics discussed include sharp objects, electrical dangers, distractions, and hazards while each section includes helpful tips to avoid injury.

Extreme Sewing

Welcome to the world of extreme crafting and design. Yes, you heard that right! Sewing, especially with a machine, can be a dangerous activity. In 2005, 2,700 emergency room visits came from avoidable sewing machine injuries. The good news is, this lesson will provide you with key safety tips to prevent that from happening to you.

Emergency Sign

Pins and Needles

Let's start with the most obvious hazards, pins and needles. No one sits down to sew with the intention of stabbing themselves with these pointy, metal objects. Nonetheless, it happens every day.

Pins and needles

  • Safe Distance

One of the easiest ways to avoid injury from a fast moving needle on the sewing machine is to keep your hands a safe distance away. Give the needle an inch of free space on all sides and make sure your fingers are kept to the sides of the presser foot and not in front. Sometimes, a complicated seam needs extra guidance, tempting you to break this rule. However, any craft store will sell small tools for guiding fabric without putting your fingers in harm's way.

  • Proper Storage

Stray pins and needles, or holding them in the wrong way, can often lead to tragic accidents. A needle or pin hidden in carpet can require a tetanus shot. More importantly, never hold the pin or needle in your mouth. Contrary to countless films showing tailors and seamstresses with a mouthful of pins, it is too easy, when startled or bumped, to swallow or inhale them.

  • Avoid Breaking Pins and Needles

A broken pin or needle, especially when using a sewing machine, can become a fast moving projectile ready to stab anything in its path. The worst part is, your face is pretty close to the machine and more than one crafter has needed an emergency room visit to extract shrapnel from an eye. You can avoid these dangers by inspecting your pins and needles before sewing. Next, take the pins out of your fabric as you sew. Most pins will bend or break if sewn over, which can also damage the machine and the needle. Finally, with the variety of needles available, make sure you use the correct size or type for your fabric.

  • Proper Disposal

Treat broken pins and needles like you would a syringe. Those pesky things have a way of poking through a garbage bag and sticking you one last time on the way to the curb. Sometimes, they even fall out and lie in wait for a bare foot to find them. Close them in a container before putting them in the trash. You can use any kind of bottle with a lid.

Distractions and Impairment

Even though you might have the bright idea of sewing your wedding dress or tuxedo after a night on the town with friends, step away from the sewing machine. Never attempt sewing under the influence of alcohol or after using any medication with a warning about heavy machinery or driving. Also, if you are tired or sick, go ahead and take a break from your project. It's too easy to get distracted, look away, and find your fingers under the needle.

Also, keep your pets out of your sewing room. Cats and dogs can chew thread and cause intestinal damage or swallow a needle. They also crave attention, distracting you.

Electricity

Keep in mind that your sewing machine is a piece of electrical equipment and it generates plenty of heat.

Electrical danger sign

  • Turn of the Machine

If you are walking away from your sewing area, even for a short time, turn the machine off. Leaving it powered on can build up heat and start a fire.

  • Unplug the machine

When you are done sewing, unplug your machine. Also, when you open your machine to change a needle or refill a bobbin, unplug it. You don't want any stray shocks or the risk of it starting up with your hands inside.

  • Keep Magnets Away

These can mess up the machine or draw electricity, giving you a shock.

  • Don't Overload an Outlet

The last electrical safety tip applies to all appliances, not just sewing machines. Too many plugs in one outlet can cause fires.

Machine Use and Maintenance

Antique Sewing Machine

  • Use the Machine Properly

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