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Knit and crochet without pain — treat your body like you’re an athlete.

Knit and crochet without pain — treat your body like you’re an athlete.

Quick quiz:

  • Do you practice your craft daily, or several times a week?
  • Do you spend lots of time and money on your craft?
  • Do you use specialized tools related to your craft?
  • Do you have craft-related books or magazines on your shelves?
  • Do you watch videos or listen to podcasts where people talk about your craft, or show you craft techniques?
  • Do you belong to any craft-related online communities?
  • Do you enjoy talking to other people who practice your craft, or do you practice your craft with other people?
  • Are you reading this blog post, right now?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you’re serious about your craft. 

Now go back to those bullets and replace the word craft with the word sport.

Congratulations. You’re an athlete.

Tingling hands, achy forearms, pinched neck, tight shoulders — if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, chances are it could be because of how you’re using (or abusing) your body while you practice your craft.

You don’t need spandex or special shoes or a headband, though we definitely advocate wearing whatever clothes feel comfortable. At any and all times. 

If you love making things with your hands and want to keep doing it without pain, it’s time to start taking care of your body like you’re an athlete. Because you are. Embrace it!

Choose the right chair.

Knitters talk a lot about which hand we hold our yarn with, but we should be talking more about our chairs and pillows. 

Carson Demers is the absolute expert on the ergonomics of craft — though he’s a knitter and spinner, many of the principles he speaks about are applicable to crocheters too. Demers is a physical therapist and knitter who’s literally written the book on this topic, and he also offers online and in-person workshops. 

Demers says that our chair is our most important tool. Easy chair? No. Arms on armrests? Nope. Deep cozy couch? Not unless you’ve got some appropriately placed pillows. Reclined on your couch holding your knitting above your chest? Definitely not. 

Choose a chair that supports good posture so you can sit upright, but relaxed. 

This is where some good pillows can be helpful — not at your lower back, but behind your middle back so you’re supported while you sit tall.

Practice posture like Mary Poppins.

Once you’ve found your perfect sitting tool, let’s fine-tune our body mechanics like the athletes we are. 

Pull your shoulders up, then roll them back, and down. That’s where your shoulders should “live” — which naturally opens your chest muscles and sets you up for a good sitting position.

Your feet should rest comfortably on the ground (uncrossing my ankles right now), with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. 

Your arms should also be at about 90 degrees. This is a tough one for me when I’m knitting in low light — I want to hold my knitting closer to my face which strains my forearm ligaments. (Note to self: athletes also need good lighting.)

Try this: 

  • Sit at your kitchen table and see how it feels to adjust your posture based on the recommendations above. Are your feet able to rest on the floor? Does your chair support your mid back? 
  • Now pick up your knitting or crochet project. If you hold it in your lap, how does this affect your elbow angle? How about if you hold your project on a pillow in your lap? Or what if you rest your project on the table itself? See how it feels to knit or crochet a few stitches with your project on your lap, a pillow, or on the table. What support is most comfortable for you?

Try polygamy (in your crafting)!

It also helps to have a couple of projects going, so you can switch between them. If you’ve watched these recent episodes of the Cashmere Goat Podcast (here and here), you already know that Kristin and I are not monogamous knitters. We knit multiple projects at once. 

This actually helps with craft-related muscle fatigue. 

Different yarns and different-sized needles — and different projects — demand different things from our bodies. Knitting on a size 9 with heavy/bulky La Pampa by Juniper Moon Farm for my Ramona Cardigan is a really different experience than knitting on a size 9 with Plush DK by ontheround for my Schoodic Bay Cardigan

We hold our hands differently when we have a thin fingering weight yarn or a chunky super bulky yarn. When you’re deep into a big project like a sweater, and you’re hefting and holding a mostly-finished garment, that’s more muscular strain, too. 

Consider working on two projects at a time that use different weights of yarn and/or needle-sizes. See whether alternating between the two helps you avoid muscle fatigue.

Take breaks.

This might seem obvious but crafting for hours isn’t healthy for our body. It’s very hard to remember when we’re obsessed and in love with our current project! When we perform repetitive movements, even with perfectly Poppins posture, we are putting ourselves at risk for injury from overusing our muscles. 

So take breaks!

Be sure to:

  • Hydrate! Yes, our knitting and crocheting muscles need water for optimal performance. And another bonus of healthy hydration is you’ll need to get up to empty your bladder every so often, thereby building in another break, so it’s a win-win. 

  • Stretch! Take a few moments to stretch your hands, wrists, and arms. Here’s a seven-minute video with some ideas for stretching the hands and fingers, and this ten-minute video with stretches for your upper back, neck and shoulders.

Happy, pain-free knitting and crocheting!

The goal is never ever to hear this from your doctor: “Well, have you stopped knitting?” 

No. Just no. I’m still breathing, therefore I’m still knitting. But the reminder is a good one: never try to knit or crochet through the pain. It’s just not worth it.

Let’s learn some new ways to support our bodies so we can continue to create beautiful things with our hands, pain free. Let us know in the comments if you have your own favorite ways to keep your body happy while you craft!

And if you want to take a deep dive into Carson Demers’ work, check out this video for an in-depth interview on the Fiberchats podcast.
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