Your Most Important Knitting Tools

I occasionally have pain in my lower left arm, and what I do to alleviate this is switch from picking to throwing, or vice-versa. By doing this, I can keep knitting—I just use a slightly different set of muscles with each technique.

Gratuitous puppy/kitty photo! I got a new kitty over the weekend. His name is Milo and his favorite toys are knitting needles.

Sometimes my hands hurt too (do you think I knit too much?!?), and what I do when that happens is switch from metal to wooden needles. The wood warms up in my hands, and it has that little bit of give that helps ease the pain.

We need to take care of our most important tools—our hands—in order for us to be able to devote  many happy hours to knitting!

Here's Knitty Editor Amy Singer to tell us a little more about taking care of our hands. (This piece appeared in the summer 2008 issue of Interweave Knits, which is now available on CD!)

Last year, I hurt myself knitting. There was no stabbing of needles involved, but a little more stabbing pain than I would have liked (none would have been better), and worst of all-it was all my fault.

I hurt myself, quite simply, by using my hands too much. I was taking full-day spinning classes at SOAR (Interweave's Spin-Off Autumn Retreat) and then knitting and spinning a little more every evening. After four days, I woke up in the middle of the night with pain in my wrists like I'd never felt before. And it was all avoidable.

In my case, I'd aggravated an old case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). I should have known better: There's a wealth of information on the subject on the Internet! The number-one piece of CTS-related advice you'll find on the Web is to take frequent breaks from any repetitive activity.

Gentle stretching of the hands and wrists is often recommended for knitters, crocheters, and spinners, and some sites offer a selection of suggested exercises.

Of course, it's not just your wrists that can be injured in the seemingly innocent act of knitting; good posture is essential if you're going to be stationary for a while. There are great sources for ergonomic products-from seating to lighting to knitting needles and crochet hooks to knitting bags-all over the Web. The Internet is full of health information, but you can't assume any of it is accurate just because it's on the Web. Know the source of your information and check with your doctor before beginning any course of treatment, even if you trust the information source.

Sure, the Mayo Clinic's website is likely more accurate than Joe's Nifty Health News, but only your doctor knows your history and what's right for you. I found a few handy pages from government agencies that give additional guidelines on where to look for the most trustworthy health information, and I'll share those with you on the Knits blog (

Also remember: It's really easy to misdiagnose yourself with Internet information. Unless you're a doctor, use the Internet with prudence for health-related research. You don't need an anxiety disorder on top of strained muscles.

Here are some exercises from the makers of Handeze Gloves. I do these and they're really helpful.

Hand Massage: With the thumb of the left hand, massage the palm of the right hand. At the same time, wrap the fingers of the left hand round the outside of the right hand and massage. Massage for one minute. Repeat with opposite hand.

Clench and Fan: Clench your hand into a tight fist and hold for five seconds. Release smoothly, extending the thumb and fingers into a fully stretched position and hold for five seconds. Repeat five times for each hand.

Thumb Stretch: With the left hand, gently pull the thumb of the right hand away from the thumb and down toward the forearm. Hold for five seconds. You should feel the stretch in the base of the thumb, palm side. Repeat for the left thumb. Five repetitions, alternate thumbs
Wrist Stretch: Hold the right hand in front of the body, palm facing out, fingertips up, fingers together. With the left hand, grasp the right hand's outstretched fingers and gently pull the fingers back toward the body. Hold for five seconds. You should feel the stretch in the wrist area. Repeat for the left wrist. Five repetitions, alternative wrists.
Wrist Circles: With hands in front of the body and elbows held at a comfortable angle, gently rotate the wrists. Five repetitions in each direction. Good work! Now you're ready to knit in comfort!

Knit healthfully!



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