Hard Lessons

Xray Sewing Machine Needle in Index Finger

Inattentive Quilting-A Cautionary Tale

Good Morning, Quilters,

As I planned my syllabus for the five-day class I’m teaching (as you read this) at The John C. Campbell Folk School, I knew I had to include a lesson on sewing safety.

It’s been almost three years since my sewing accident. (Read about HERE:  Inattentive Stitching:  A Cautionary Tale)  I stitched through my finger (while sewing a Tuesday Tutorial) and required surgery to have the needle, shards, and thread removed.  While the wound has long since healed, my finger has never been the same.  It doesn’t have full range of motion and it always feels a little stiff.

Xray Sewing Machine Needle in Index Finger

After the bandages were removed, I was forced to analyze how I work and why it happened.

I came to the following conclusions:

  • A sewing machine is a power tool and deserves respect.
  • When using a darning foot for free motion quilting, the needle is more exposed than in regular sewing.
  • My hands were frequently under the needle to reach short threads.
  • The foot pedal on my sewing machine is very sensitive…a small tap-and DOWN comes the needle.

Xray Sewing Machine Needle in Index Finger


I recommend everyone adopt these two safety precautions:

  • Use  tweezers to reach the threads under the needle.
  • Train yourself to remove your foot from the pedal every time you stop sewing.

Three years have passes, and I can honestly say, I have adopted both of these habits.  I ALWAYS have a pair of tweezers next to my sewing machine, and I move my sewing foot to the rung of my chair every time I stop sewing.

If I every forget, I’ll just look at these X-rays again and get a cold shudder reminder.

What about YOU?

Ever have a run-in with your sewing machine?

What safety measures to you take in YOUR sewing room?

We’d LOVE to hear!

Happy, Safe Sewing!


PS…All tutorials, images (including X-rays) and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at lckennedy@hotmail.com.  Thanks!

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80 thoughts on “Hard Lessons

  1. Ouch, that was a really nasty accident. When I was about three or four I went into the front room (out of bounds) at my Grandmothers house. It was an Aladdin’s cave with all the fabric, yarn, thread, buttons – oh, and a treadle machine. I managed to run the needle through my finger, and feeling very upset and in pain I went into the living room, standing in front of the fireplace. I wasn’t brave enough to tell anyone what I had done – knowing that I would get into trouble. They guessed pretty quickly though, as although I hid my hand in my pinafore pocket – the blood somewhat gave me away!

  2. I have never had this serious of an accident with my machine but several times I have caught my self reaching for a thread or doing something where my fingers are under the needle and I remove my foot from the pedal or re-position my hands. Having a tweezers beside your machine is a good suggestion. I will need to get one for that purpose.

  3. I have stitched my finger at least 3 times I can think of but always managed to get the needle out myself. it does hurt a lot though. I learned and haven’t done it for years as I use bent headed tweezers to get at short threads.

  4. I’m so sorry that you had to have surgery! I had a similar X-Ray several years ago…boy the fastest way to move through administration in a NYC ER is to walk in with a needle sticking out of your finger. I was lucky, it broke in 2 pieces cleanly as it hit the bone so the resident was able to pull them out (in spite of the fact that HE looked as if he was about to pass out ;)…) I now make sure I keep my fingers further away as I stitch…

  5. Ouch! Those Xrays give me the shudders too. But there are other things that can cramp your sewing style that don’t need a machine. I once tore off the tendon in my little finger by falling on it, and while going about my daily life one-handed for several weeks, injured hand elevated as ordered, I heard a lot of stories mostly from elderly ladies at bus stops. This injury used to be called “housemaid’s finger” back when people had housemaids, and it happened while tucking sheets under a mattress or sliding piles of folded linens onto a shelf. Easy to bend the little finger in a bad way, but all the fingers are vulnerable. Made me think of all the folded quilts and piles of fabric we handle.

  6. OMG! Yes! Many times! After my first visit to the ER with a shattered needle incident to my index finger,I learned to stop the machine immediately, unscrew the needle from the machine and remove the needle with a pair of pliers. So far i have not shattered a needle and sometimes manage to extricate the needle from the nail still threaded. Since I stopped using a foot peddle I have not had this incident. I think my foot and sewing hand were not coordinated.

  7. Ouch, ouch, ouch. I’ve had near misses too, usually when not paying attention, or when my mind starts to wander. I did read somewhere, I think, or saw, that there is a needle guard for the FMQ foot?

  8. Lori….just a thought ( am a physician). Since the needle did not go through the distal joint of that finger, theoretically your range of motion should be OK. The tendons may have got shortened with your finger being less mobile during the healing. Gentle exercises (ie. Physio) may help over time.

    • I am a physical therapist and agree in theory. But I definitely have stiffness in the joint–nothing major. I’ve tried everything.

  9. Even if you do not have your foot on the pedal, if you have a pet or child in the room with you, they can inadvertently press the pedal and you could end up with a needle through your finger. It happened to me, so now if I have to make any adjustments that bring my fingers close to the needle or near the bobbin area; I turn off the machine before hand.

  10. I taught sewing to middle school students and even after my warnings, I had one student get her finger caught under the needle. I calmly walked over to her and moved the hand wheel so that the needle came out. She must have thought I had a magic wand and/or magical powers, but no. I have had my hand get caught by the screw that holds the needle in place and that makes my heart rate go up. So I try to use a chop stick or other pointed tool when I want to get “in close.”

  11. My experience was a bit different. I ran a needle clear through middle of index fingernail. It broke the needle off in thick part, just under screw that hold it in! I felt extreme pressure, but not pain. I kept waiting for that, amazed that it didn’t hurt. When husband yanked it out with pliers, I nearly fainted, as all the blood in my body rushed to the finger!

  12. I long ago adopted moving my foot off the foot pedal and using forceps for thread tails, and have had only two nicks in a long life time of sewing. As a quilter, I also have cats. When sewing, a cat would jump on my sewing table, I would immediately take my foot off the pedal. The needle would stop up. (Bernina 32 years). Never a close call. Free motion quilting is different. I use needle stop down, and that means I have twice sewn a cats paw. I cried more than they did, and they quickly forgave me. No more needle stop for me. Loss of using that feature is minor to insure my cats safety. I can’t and won’t shut them out of the sewing room. They really are my quilting buddies.

  13. Never sewed my finger (yet), but I have cut my hair off with a rotary cutter. Now I always tie my hair back before I start cutting!

  14. Let’s see…the major injury was cutting the corner of my index finger off while rotary cutting. That was probably the worst injury I’ve ever had. The nerves at the tips of your fingers, as you know, are the most sensitive and any little bump to it caused me to turn white & almost faint. I’ve also caught my other finger under my longarm needle and been pelted by broken needles in the face, but thank God, not in the eye. I feel like I need to wear Kevlar when I quilt sometimes!

  15. I have only been sewing for 18 months, so to date have avoided a sewing machine accident. I did come close when my 4 year old crawled under my table and pressed the sewing machine peddle when I hadn’t seen him. I have however become a victim of the dreaded rotary cutter. I cut the end of my thumb quite badly. I was so sore but more annoyed as my sewing was put on hold for a few weeks. I would like to think there will be no more injuries but I’m sure there will be, I only hope they don’t hurt as much as the last one!

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