Thursday, November 27, 2014

in my studio: knitting pain

This post has been ruminating in my brain for months. Since the Spring actually. I've hesitated to post it because I'm not sure I know entirely what I'm talking about. I am in no way qualified to give professional medical advice (just typing this sentence makes me laugh...) But I have learned a few tricks along my journey and so I thought I would share what works for me. But let me just say it: if you are experiencing extreme pain while knitting, talk with a medical professional! 

Ok, without further ado, let's get on with it.  

I am a thrower and for the most part I'm proud of it. If you're not a knitter then I know you're thinking what the heck does that mean? Basically there are two different ways to knit- English style (by holding the yarn in your right hand and throwing it around the needle) or Continental style (by holding the yarn in your left hand and using the right hand needle to pick it up). Hense the terms: thrower & picker.  For a little more clarity on the two styles, check out this video from Elise. It's a really quick and clear example of throwing vs picking (though I do hold my yarn different than she does when throwing to avoid having to drop my needle...)

As I was saying, I knit English style, as that's what I learned back in the day from my British Grandmother. But I live in Germany, where most people knit continental. If I knit in public, I will often meet other knitters who tell me I knit funny. I didn't think much of it until I saw Elise's video and she mentioned learning to knit continental to help with the pain in her wrists.

Now, I'm not sure that I'll make the switch over the continental knitting. But this all got me thinking again about how important it is to take care of ourselves when knitting. I know it sounds a little silly, but knitting injuries are real! Our hands can do amazing things but they're not invincible. For the most part I've been pretty lucky in terms of wrist pain. I knit a lot (like, for real, a lot) so I've learned about what works for me and what doesn't. Back in the Spring I had a period of about a week where I had to stop knitting entirely. It sucked and I do not want to get to that point again. So here are a few tips and tricks that have helped me over the past few months:

  • never knit with cold hands. I'm serious. I wear my Archery mitts (which I designed for keeping busy hands warm) whenever I'm knitting. Even in my house with warm socks and cozy sweaters and blankets. I've just found that knitting with cold hands causes pain faster than almost anything else.
  • figure out what tools work for you. This will be different for every knitter out there, but I do believe that tools make a huge difference. I learned this from my grandma, who always knit on circular needles to reduce pain in her arm from an old injury. For me this has meant getting rid of both my straight knitting needles, and any small sized crochet hooks without a grip or handle as I just can't hold them without causing pain to my wrists. I've also found bamboo needles are great for me as they're not too heavy.
  • pay attention to your posture. This has been really helpful for me. I try not to slouch too much when I'm knitting and even if I'm curled up on the couch, I try and pay attention to how I'm sitting. Related to this, I've also started stretching my hands & arms every once in awhile throughout working on projects, or on occasion massaging them with lotion. 
  • switch up the project you're working on. Related to the whole throwing vs picking question, I've found using a different material or working on a project in a different gauge can help. This is particularly true when I'm working on something larger that sits on the needles for awhile (like a blanket or shawl) since they can get quite big and heavy. 
  • when all else fails, just take a break. Like for real. It's just not worth jeopardizing your health for a few more rows.   

so, that's what worked for me. Again, let me say: if you're experiencing a lot of pain when knitting, make sure to talk to your doctor about it. And of course, I wanna know- are you a thrower or a picker? 


  1. Thanks for these tips! I sometimes find my fingers get achy and sore too when I knit too much (usually when I'm nearing the end of a project and just can't stop knitting!).

  2. I'm a thrower too! Also living in Europe, but here in Holland most people throw so they don't look at me funny, haha. I've had wrist pain before from too much crocheting, it was terrible! Now I've learnt that you should move your wrists in a circular motion once in a while, and that helps. There are also special crochet/knit gloves to help protect your hands! Might have to check that out.. Great tips in your article!

    1. thanks for sharing that tip! I hadn't heard that, and I find crocheting much worse for wrist pain than knitting...I've heard of those gloves too. Hoping it doesn't get to that point, but it's nice to know they are available!

  3. I'm a thrower too. I actually had a little old lady pull my knitting out of my hands and show me how to knit "better" (nooo my pattern...). Someday I will learn both styles. I am a believer in respecting your body while crafting - last Christmas I gave myself a knitting injury trying to knit up four chicken sweaters the week before Christmas. Finished the sweaters but was out of commission for a couple of weeks (!!!) after.