The needle of a sewing machine quilting

24 Sewing Safety Rules

In Helpful tips by Maria Storgaard

Safety is really important and around the sewing area.

In this article, we take a close look at which safety rules you should apply around a sewing machine as well as was when you are sewing by hand.

We do have sharp objects as well as steaming hot irons around this sewing area.

So make sure you read the precautions below, in order to stay safe

We will start by going over out sewing machine safety checklist and then we will move on to a few safety tips specifically for sewing by hand.

Most of the safety tips will be universal and can be applied to both hand sewing and as good tips for sewing with the machine. It doesn’t matter whether you are using a home sewing machine, an industrial machine, a serger, a quilting machine, or an embroidery machine.

The tips are the same.

Safety Around the Sewing Machine

Sewing on the Sewing machine is very different from hand sewing. We have a lot of moving parts and when the needle is stitching up-and-down we need to take extra precautions.

1) Choose a safe setup

This is the way we prefer to set out the sewing room area.

And there are good reasons for this.

basic sewing table setup

The main reason for the setup is to make it easy to reach everything quickly.

But we are also separating the two tables in order to have a sitting height around the sewing machine and a standing height table for cutting and ironing.

The main reason we like to have a higher table for cutting an ironing is that we want to want to switch between sitting and standing up once in a while. This is important to avoid neck and shoulder problems.

Make sure there are no electrical cords running across the floor.

You also need to make sure the iron is placed in a safe distance from kids and cords. It’s a good idea to have a permanent space for it on the main table. Otherwise, it might get knocked over or maybe someone will be stepping on the electrical cord and cause it to fall down on his/her feet.

2) Eyes on the needle!

It’s important to keep your eyes on the needle at all times. Especially if you’re not very experienced.

As soon as something else catches your attention you should lift your foot from the pedal.

The phone might start ringing or maybe the kids are screaming for your attention. In that case, you should stop what you’re doing and make sure you can give your work full attention.

You should also remember always to keep a safe distance to the moving needle. Have at least one inch (or more) between the needle and your fingers and hands. When the machine feeds the fabric you might suddenly move your fingers as well so we need a little “wiggle room”.

3) Unplug when changing the feet (and you are done sewing)

Make sure the machine isn’t turned on when you are changing the presser feet. Otherwise, you might end up injuring yourself if you accidentally hit the pedal.

It only takes a few seconds extra and is an important safety precaution to take before you put your finger under the needle.

On newer machines is not enough to detach the cord to the pedal because you will also have an on/off switch mounted on the machine. So make sure the power cord is disconnected entirely before you proceed.

You also need to unplug it and turn it off when you are done sewing. You should not let it sit by itself with the power on. Even if you just leave the machine to go eat, you should turn it off.

4) Unplug the machine when you clean it

It’s really important to disconnect the power cord out from your machine before you start cleaning it.

When you’re cleaning the machine, you are going to open up the bobbin case and you are also going to place your hand around the needle area. So before you do so always turn the machine off and remove the power cord.

Now you’re ready to start cleaning the machine. Here’s an extensive guide on how to clean your sewing machine.

5) Always use the correct needle

It’s really important to use the correct type and size needle with your machine.

We have a lot of different types of sewing machine needles. We will use one set of needles for leather, vinyl, denim, and other heavy-duty fabrics and we will use other needles for lighter types of fabric.

Now that you have made sure you’re using the correct type of needle you need to make sure the needle made to fit your specific machine.

Some sewing machine brand uses its own set of needles. So you need to check your manual before you buy needles. Some machines will have a flat part of the needle shank to the right or the back of the needle.

Here’s a little image to illustrate what we’re talking about:

parts of the needle

As you can see that surrounded side to the shank. For your normal home sewing machine one side will be flat and for your industrial sewing machine, it will be round all the way.

We have also seen sewing machine brands which will have the flat side of the shank pointing to the left. So as you can see this varies a lot from model to model and what type of sewing machine you are working with. So the bottom line here is to always check your manual before you go out and buy needles for your sewing machine

If you’re not sure which needle is right for your project you can check out this guide: All you need to know about sewing machine needles.

6) Don’t go (too) fast

If you don’t have much experience with the sewing machine you definitely need to start out slow.

This is also true whenever you are working on another machine then you are used to. Sewing machines work differently and there can be many differences between models and brands.

Some sewing machines will go really fast like this heavy-duty machine from Singer.

It will go as fast as 1,100 stitches per minute and if you are used to another model which is slower (normal) you might get an unpleasant surprise if you try to go for full speed!

So until you get really familiar with your machine, you should always start out slow.

If you’re running the machine too fast you might end up with a needle in your finger. Give the machine time to feed the fabric properly in a way that you have plenty of time to move everything around.

7) Turn off the iron between uses

Another good tip is to always turn off the iron when you’re not using it.

Maybe you can remember that it is hot but someone else might come by and accidentally touch it. So to make sure no one gets hurt, the best way is to just turn it off when you aren’t using it. It will heat up very fast when you have to use it.

This is also important in order to save a few bucks on the electricity bill. A Steaming hot iron or is pulling a lot of kilowatts!

8) Good safety around scissors and rotary cutters

You need to pay special attention to your scissors and rotary cutters. Let’s start by talking about scissors.

We have many different kinds of scissors around the sewing area and they are all meant to be super sharp at all times. So make sure they are always placed back in your sewing box (or wherever you keep them). You should never leave them laying around on your table because they might fall down on the ground and pierce your feet.

It’s also important to always move the rotary cutter away from your body. You should never move it toward yourself because it might slip your fingers and cause an injury.

It’s important to always keep your scissors and rotary cutters super sharp so they are easy to operate. Otherwise, they might get stuck in the fabric.

We want the scissors and rotary cutters to operate exactly as we plan, and for the reason, they should only be used for fabrics.

9) Choose a good posture

Wedge Cushion For Chair

Another important aspect of sewing is to keep a good and healthy posture.

If you are sitting like the person to the right, you are probably going to cause long-time problems. This is a sure way to give yourself back and shoulder problems. It’s important to sit upright and it can be a good idea to use a wedge pillow.

The wedge pillow will help you get a good angle from your bottom to your knees. Make sure you’re not leaning forward in order to operate the sewing machine. You should be able to sit upright at all times, so place the things you need close by.

Make sure you read the first tip as well which will help you set up your sewing area. It’s important to switch between sitting and standing during work. We recommend setting up the standing station for ironing, measuring, and cutting.

We use this chair which works really well for both of us. It’s a Norwegian design which can be adjusted in a TON of ways.
It gives really good support for the back. We don’t use the wedge pillow with this chair since it can tip the seat forward and backward.

10) Good safety around pins

Always use a pin cushion.

It’s really important to keep track of the little pins we use around our sewing machine. The same goes for sewing by hand.

You might use several pins for attaching the pattern to the fabric and you also might use a handful of pins which need to be removed after you have stitched everything together. Always make sure to count how many pins you inserted into the fabric. This way you will know exactly how many pens you need to remove from the fabric once you’re done with the project.

So what if I lose pins on the floor?
The good tip is to keep a strong magnet around the sewing place. It will be very much easier to find the little pins if you have a good magnet.

Use the magnet to search the floor, especially if you are working with the carpets. It can be very hard to find the little pins if they fall down into the carpet fabric.

By waving a magnet slowly and carefully all around the area, you will be able to snatch little pins.

11) Avoid hanging hair and loose garments

Make sure to tie up your hair before you enter the sewing room. We don’t want the hair to interfere with a needle and get tangled up into the fabric.

The same goes for loose garments.

Make sure to never wear a scarf or any other loose sleeves etc. They might get tangled up into the fabric and the needle area and before you know it, you are pulling yourself down toward the needle. Not a very good situation!

So always make sure to have your clothes sitting close to the body without any loose parts that can get into the machine.

12) Have a good lamp so you can see what you are doing

You need a proper sewing lamp to light up the working space. It’s dangerous to sew in dimmed light and you will increase the risk of stitching the wrong things together (like your fingers).

It’s especially important if you like to sew in the evening or at night time. This is where the mind will relax and you will have difficulty seeing what you are doing.

If you are visually impaired you should get a lamp with a magnifying glass. Otherwise, a good lamp with a natural light tone is the best option. There are 3 different types of light we can have from lamps and there are different use cases for each type.

magnifying lamp for sewing

We have written an extensive guide on light around the sewing space. In this article you can read all there is to know about different types of light and how you get the perfect light for your sewing room.

13) Remove any pins before you start sewing

We don’t want pins inside the fabric when we start sewing. This can be dangerous because when the needle starts stitching it might hit one of the pins on its way down. If that happens, the needle will probably break and it may fall into the bobbin area and end up inside your machine.

As we mentioned before, it’s always a good idea to keep track of how many pins you insert into the fabric. This way you will be able to make sure you remove all of them before you start stitching.

If the needle does not get into the machine it might spring out in the room and end up on the floor (or hit you!). That’s not good either, as someone might step on it and get it stuck in the foot.

So always put all the pins back into the pin-cushion before you start running the machine.

14) Check the voltage and watts of the machine

If you are using a new machine or you are using your machine in another country you should always make sure to check how many watts the machine needs.

In Europe, sewing machines run at 20 Volts and in the States they run at 110 Volts. So this affects the amount of Watts the machine gets. So make sure to check the manual and the back of the machine for these numbers before you plug it in.

Back of sewing machine sticker with watts

Normally a sewing machine will need between 80- 120 Watts but always check with your machine. If you are using an industrial sewing machine model it might also have a special setting you need to pay attention to.

You should also check the cords once in a while. There should not be any cracks and cuts on the cords and if you find any irregularities you need to replace the electrical cord immediately.

15) “Safety device has been activated”

This is a message you might get with your Brother sewing machine. When that happens here’s what you should do.

  • First, you just turn the machine off.
  • Then you need to check your upper thread as well as your bobbin thread.
    Make sure the machine is set up properly, and check that the upper thread is running through all the appropriate guides and hooks.
  • Check the bobbin case for lint, dirt etc.
  • Check the needle isn’t bent or broken
    Start by turning the handwheel toward you to make sure that the needle is not hitting the metal plate beneath the needle area. Make sure to replace the needle if the problem persists.
  • Turn the machine back on.

So now that you have rethreaded the machine and you have checked all the issues above, the machine should work properly again.

However, if you’re experiencing the same problem you should call the repair shop.

Hand Sewing Safety Tips

16) Use thimbles

The thimble is a great little tool. It makes sure you won’t get the needle into your fingers as you sew. It’s supposed to protect your fingers from the needle and there are many different types and sizes.

Get a size and model that fits your finger so it won’t fall off.

The thimble is especially important when you are working with heavy fabric like leather, vinyl, denim etc. Because you will have to apply more force on the needle and if it slips it can end up doing some real damage.

Always keep an extra set of thimbles in your sewing box so you know you have an extra if it breaks or you lose it.

17) Keep needles away from your mouth

It can be tempting to use your mouth as a third hand. But you should not use your lips to hold needles and pins. You might accidentally get it stuck in your mouth or swallow it if you happen to trip over something or if someone surprises you.

Make sure to keep pins inside the pincushion or inside your accessory tray. That’s where they belong when you are not using them with the fabric.

18) Keep your sewing box tidy

Avoid throwing your sewing gear into your sewing box (or the accessory tray on the machine). You might get hurt when you try to pick up an item and you have scissors and pins laying around in there.

Make sure all pointy and sharp objects are enclosed in a box or a piece of fabric at all times.

Take your time to keep the working area tidy and always finish off by organizing your boxes and drawers so you know exactly where everything is located. That will both save you time and help you treat the sharp and pointy items with care.

19) Safety gloves for sewing

You can get special gloves which are designed to keep your fingers safe while you sew.

These will typically cover your thumb and two other fingers and they will often be sold as quilting gloves. They are pretty useless if you ask me but they do exist. So if you feel like this might help you they could be something to check out.

But under normal circumstances, you will be well covered with a thimble. The safety gloves are mostly protection from cuts so unless you are doing a lot of cutting they probably won’t be of much help.

Special Sewing Safety Tips For Kids

Let’s finish off by listing some good safety tips for kids who are sewing.

Kids should always be supervised when they sew. Especially if they are working with a sewing machine. It’s hard to define when you are big enough to handle the electric sewing machine. You need to watch your kid until you feel they are comfortable and safe around the machine.

It’s a machine built for adults so make sure your kids don’t play around with it when you are not home. Lock it away in a cabinet safely and out of reach from smaller children.

20) Keep these things locked away

Some items around the sewing area or not meant for the children to mess around with. So make sure to never let kids use these items unsupervised:

  • The Iron
  • The needles
  • The scissors and rotary knives

21) Teach the to gooo… sloooowwwww…

Kids often get eager to speed things up once they feel like they get it. It’s your job to teach them to be patient around the sewing machine.

They need to learn how to sew slowly and keep the speed down until they have been sewing for many hours.

Pay attention to the sound from the sewing machine. When you listen carefully it’s easy to detect when the machine is running too fast. Talk with them about safety and make sure they understand the real dangers of touching the needle.

22) Never leave a kid unattended with sewing gear

You should always be supervising the kid when he or she is using your sewing gear of the sewing machine. Its important in order to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Especially if your kid hasn’t been sewing much before or if he or she is very young.

Learning to sew is a great skill they will benefit from their whole life but you need to set time aside to work alongside them as they learn the basics of sewing.

23) Introduce a “no fingers” zone

If your kid is working with the sewing machine it’s a good idea to agree on a “no fingers” zone. This will be the area around the needle as well as the bobbin area. Don’t let the small kid mess around with the bobbin case and the needle.

You should assist and help them every time when want to thread the machine or change the needle settings.

You can mark the area around the needle with colored tape to make it very visible where the fingers are not allowed. This is a great way of ensuring the little fingers will not end up below the needle.

24) No walking (or running!!) with scissors and needles

We don’t the little ones running around the house with scissors and pins. Make an agreement about where they are and where they can use them. Have the scissors stay around the machine and the cutting table so they don’t end up on the floor or in other rooms.

It’s important to teach them how to handle sharp and pointy object with respect and care.

Let them know exactly where everything is supposed to be and why you want it to be that way. It gets a lot easier for the kids to grasp and remember your rules if you take your time to explain why you are making up these rules for them.

Have fun!

We hope we haven’t scared you away from the sewing room with all these precautions. It’s important to have fun in the sewing room and we don’t want to sit back with a feeling that sewing is dangerous.

Sewing isn’t dangerous if you take the proper precautions and with the tips above you should be in good hands.

Just use your common sense and make sure to always be alert and fully awake when you pull out the sewing machine or your sewing gear.

Happy sewing!