Work Longer, Not Harder
We all dream of days where we do nothing but knit or crochet all day long.....no dishes to do or jobs to commute to or dogs to walk. How lovely would that be? Or, if you are like me, there are days when I have to get a project finished (What do you mean Christmas is in 37 minutes? Or...today is only Tuesday and his birthday isn't until Thursday, I can start his sweater tomorrow, right?).
No matter if your yarn marathon is a dream scenario or a nightmare situation, it can take a toll on your body. Hands get tired, wrists ache, your neck gets that weird bend in it or your hips sound like popping bubble wrap when you get up (maybe that one is just me).
There are things you can do to alleviate some of these issues....get up and move around frequently, stretch and shake out your hands and arms, make sure your arms are supported while you work and be aware of your posture. Those seem pretty obvious, even if we don't always remember to do them.
What you might not think about are your choice of tools. There are so many makes and models of knitting needles and crochet hooks available today, and the differences between them are more than just cosmetic. The tool you choose can really make a big difference in your stamina and comfort level while you work.
Over the years (and after carpal-tunnel surgery), I have found that using straight knitting needles can put quite a strain on my wrists. Having all the weight of your project sticking straight out and being supported mostly by the wrist can really tire you quickly and add to wrist and elbow pain. Using a circular needle instead can help; the weight of the project hangs down more on the cable and your lap or table rather than the wrist. We carry five different types of circular knitting needles here, and they each have their own characteristics. Let's talk about the differences.....
Addi Rockets are coated with slick nickel and have a moderately sharp tip.
They allow for fast, effortless knitting, and are particularly helpful if you are knitting with a sticky, wooly yarn. Reducing the drag on your stitches can significantly reduce the workload on your fingers and wrists, so if you feel like each stitch is an effort with the yarn you are using and you are on a wood or bamboo needle, try a slick metal like this instead. It can really make a difference in your speed and fatigue level. Conversely, if you are using a slippery yarn like cotton or linen, they may make more work for you if you are tensing up trying to keep stitches from slipping off the needles when you don't want them to.
ChiaoGoo Red Lace needles are also metal, but they have a slightly grainy coating on them to slow them down a little. They have a very sharp tip, which makes them ideal for lace knitting.
As a tight knitter, I love the sharp tip for digging into my tight stitches (again, reducing the workload on my hands). The only downside to these needles comes for the knitter who uses a fingertip against the point of a needle to move things along; they are sharp enough to be a little painful on the fingertip.
The third type of metal needle we carry are Addi Squared needles. They also feature the nickel coating, but as the name suggests, they are square rather than round. They also have a unique spiral groove running along the length of the needle shaft.
These features serve a couple of functions. First, the square shape can offer many people with arthritis or other painful hand issues some relief in holding the flat sides of the needles; it is easier to grip a flat surface than a rounded one. These needles also seem to help even out the consistency of stitches. Many people experience a discrepancy between the gauge of their knits and purls and these tips also seem to make a pretty big difference with this issue (I believe it is the grooves which assist there). Cameron, who tends to be a loose knitter with a little inconsistency in her gauge, swears by these needles! She has a whole set of them now and loves them. This tight knitter does not enjoy them....they made my stitches so tight I could barely move them along the needle. You should give them a try and see how they feel in your own hands.
Knitter's Pride Dreamz needles are smooth, polished birch. They are a good all-around needle for most fibers. They are pretty too, each size dyed a specific color.
I really like them for cotton or silk or anything slippery, but would probably not choose them for sticky wool. They are nice and warm in your hand as you use them, which can also help you relax and not work so hard.
Last are ChiaoGoo Patina Bamboo. They are great for slippery fibers....you don't want to be working harder to keep your stitches from falling off your needle than you are in moving them along.
Like wooden needles, they are warm to the touch and lightweight in your hand. Many people with arthritis prefer them for this reason. If you are using bamboo on rustic wool and feeling like you are getting a workout, try something slipperier.
There are a variety of crochet hooks out there too....we carry three different styles here. I grew up using the good old Boye aluminum hooks and used to think they were fabulous, but maybe that was because the only other choice at the time was sticky, slow-moving plastic. Both kinds were basically a slender, straight shaft with a little flat area in the middle to grip. As I have aged, I find that I need more to hang on to than just a little stick; closing my hand around a small diameter handle gets pretty painful pretty quickly.
I hold my hook in my fist (as opposed to holding it like a pencil); I have heard that called a "shovel-grip" or "knife-grip". I firmly believe there is no wrong way to hold your hook....whatever is comfortable for you and gets the job done is the right way. That being said, I do think that different hook styles can work better or worse for you depending on what grip you use.
I have heard from quite a few folks that use the "pencil" grip that the slender hook like the old Boye hooks are the most comfortable for them. If you find that true for yourself, your favorite hook from Stix might be a Bryspun Palmwood hook.
This hook is made from polished palm wood and is warm and smooth to the touch. It has a pointy head to dig in to the tops of your stitches and a fairly deep indent to hang on to in the center of the shaft. Pencil-grip folks seem to like this indent and overall size and shape....maybe because it actually is closest to a pencil.
For me, an apparent cave-woman crocheter, I like more of a handle to grip in my fist. My favorite is the Clover Amour hook.
It really makes a huge difference in lessening wrist strain with its rounded contoured handle coated in soft rubber; I seem to just relax this hook more in my hand. The head of the hook is rounded and medium- slippery....all of these features add up to the optimal tool for me. Besides, they are cute!
The other hook from Clover that we carry and really like is their original Soft Touch. It has a wider, flat handle with a little cushion for your thumb.
If I can't find an Amour hook to use, this one will work almost as well for me, though I do tire more quickly with it.
One thing to keep in mind before trying a new tool: because it can significantly change the way your body works, it can really affect your tension. It might not be good idea to change tool types in the middle of a project, and it is ALWAYS best to do your gauge swatch with the same needle or hook type you intend to use for your project. Your gauge swatch is a perfect time to see if one type of needle feels better to you than another.
Everything I have talked about here leads to the same end: look for ways to support your hands and body in your crafting efforts. Stretch, move around, maybe even try a new way to hold your yarn or a new chair to sit in. Always keep in mind that what works for me or your mom or your best knitting friend may not be what works best for you. But the hands-down (see what I did there?) easiest thing to try is a new tool......it might just change your whole knitting or crocheting life!