Recently, while helping a newer knitter fix a mistake, my stitching habits came up during the conversation. The new knitter was shocked to learn how little knitting I actually do on a daily basis. She was under the (common) misconception that to be a knitter you had to knit for hours a day, or at least for long stretches of time, and churn out item after item.
It's true that knitting and crocheting requires much practice to be comfortable with the stitching, and practice takes time. So it's easy to understand why so many people think stitchers spend much of their day working on their projects. It's also fairly common to see people stitching in waiting rooms, on the bus, in meetings, or at their kids' extra-curricular activities. Yet many talented stitchers don't actually work on their projects every day, carry them with them, or even work on them for hours at a time.
It's quite possible that for every stitcher you see in public, there is one who isn't working on a project at that location/ event. Many stitchers don't carry projects with them for "in case I have to wait" scenarios; for example, I know I'll be spending a few hours in a waiting room tomorrow, yet I will take a book instead of a stitching project - and believe me, I've got quite a few WIPs (work-in-progress) to choose from!
Also, life often forces many of us to limit, or give up on, stitching due to injuries or the common aches and pains of aging. Sometimes these limitations are temporary, sometimes they stretch into what can feel like an eternity and can become a permanent fact of life.
These days I find myself forced to limit my stitching due to health related restrictions. These restrictions have forced me to rethink a few things - how often, when, and how I work on my projects. I'll admit, as a yarn shop owner, it has caused quite a few sleepless nights and Debbie Downer moments - 'cause I just want to make all the projects and work with all the yarn.
So I thought I'd take a moment to share, or remind you of, a few of the solutions, ideas and tips I've been trying to implement and incorporate more into my stitching life as I cope with not being able to stitch as often, or as much as, I would like.
Many of these suggestions are related to one another, but if you're like me, you just needed a reminder. Sometimes the easiest solutions are so obvious we forget about them, or we need someone to tell us that it really is OK to do them. Honestly, no one will think you less of a stitcher for taking the time to care for yourself.
Please remember, I'm not a doctor, and I don't play one on TV, so take all of this with a grain of salt, don't go against any doctors orders because you saw a suggestion here. ;)
Any good athlete will tell you how important it is to stretch. While you may not see crocheting or knitting as a "sport" it does require muscles, and muscles need stretched - sometimes to help with the activity and sometimes to counteract the posture or over use of a muscle during an activity.
There are a number of good hand and arm stretches you can do. Even if you simply stand up and stretch your arms out to the sides, that'll help. If you need a reminder, or some ideas, check out this video from Love Crafts. It shows a number of good basic hand and arm stretches, many of which you probably already know how to do. The trick of it all is to actually remember to do them!
Don't sit still to long. Stitching while watching TV and/or binge watching your new favorite show is a ton of fun, but it doesn't help your body. Pause during commercial breaks - yes, even when binge watching on a streaming service. You know those somewhat awkward scene breaks? That is where the commercials would be. Even if the commercials aren't there, plan on using the breaks anyway. Hit pause, get up, and move. This also helps you keep better track of how long you've been working on something.
If you're not watching something, or even if you are and need to make your own "commercial breaks", try setting a timer. This will help get you moving and will also help you keep track of time. How many times have you thought, "just a few more stitches..." and then looked up and hours have passed? By setting a timer, you're less likely to go from 8 pm to midnight with out noticing. (Notice I said less likely, it's still possible.)
Don't work longer than you should. If all you can manage is a few minutes at a time, then only do a few minutes at a time. The trick it to keep it up. Just like all those stats about how much time is wasted in traffic, or while standing in line, even 5 minutes a day adds up to quite a few stitches over time! Sure it will take you a lot longer to finish something, but then maybe this is your chance to pick a fun smaller pattern and use yarn you really love.
As a yarn shop owner, this is the one suggestion on this list that surprises and stuns the most people when I bring it up. Currently, I can only work for short amounts of time, and I also limit myself daily. If I put in extra time at the shop, like teaching a class or working during a group, I don't work on anything at home that day. Nothing. Sure there are some days my hands are fidgety and I really want to work on something while watching TV at night; but if I was busy stitching during the day, I know I can't do anything at home with out risking further injury. It stinks, I won't deny it. But by limiting myself in this way, I can allow myself to keep stitching in the long run. All my projects just take longer to complete now.
Switching it up can be one of the more fun suggestions as well as one of the most mentally exhausting ones. Because switching it up can often require learning something new, it's often not the easiest solution, and as mentioned, it can be one of the more challenging solutions.
Did you know there are multiple ways to knit? Or that not all crocheters hold their hook the same way? Or even that knitting and crocheting use different muscles?
If you're and English/Throwing knitter, try learning Portuguese or Continental knitting. If you knit Continental, have you tried Throwing? How about circular vs. straight needles? Believe it or not, we hold them differently - does one style of needle work better for you? Use them instead. Does purling bother you more than knitting? Look into garter stitch patterns or those knit in the round with minimal purls and seaming.
If you can knit and crochet, does switching between the two help? Does one bother you more than the other? Then don't do that one as often.
If you crochet using the pencil hold, have you tried the knife hold? Or vice versa? This short post on Interweave has a lot of good information in a concise article, as well as pictures of the two basic holds. Have you tried Tunisian?
Sometimes something as simple as switching up how you hold your tools can help.
Related to the suggestion to switch things up, ergonomics just doesn't require as much active brain power as learning something new does.
Needles and hooks come in bamboo, wood, different metals, and even plastic. These different materials all have different features, like warmth and slide. Find the one that works best for you. Metal is slippery and cold, while wood is warmer but less slick. Both have their pros and cons. But maybe you subconsciously hold your tools to loosely or tightly based on how the yarn slides across them. Sometimes just using a different material can help.
The length of the needle or hook shank can affect how we hold our tools as well. Try different lengths if possible. Again, try straight needles instead of circular, or the other way around.
Also, many manufacturers are experimenting with hook and needle shape; square, triangular, and hexagonal knitting needles are all on the market. The yarn still loops around theses tools in a circle, but who knows? Maybe a differently shaped needle or hook would help you. Personally, square knitting needles are very comfortable for me.
Crochet hooks also have a variety of come grips - some have thumb holds, large grips, or unusual shapes to help with ergonomics. You might even be able to find add on "grips" used for utensils and pencils that will fit over your hook. Many crocheters find them helpful (they look like mini pool noodles). Find the hook style or grip that works for you.
Then there's the issue of posture. Does propping your arms up help? Use a pillow or arm chair on which you can prop your elbows. Sit at a table and prop up your arms if necessary.
If you can't see you're work and find yourself hunching over for a better view, try better lighting or even a magnifying glass - there are some that can be worn around your neck allowing you to see your work while you're stitching. If you're using light yarn, place a dark blanket or cloth on your lap, and vice versa. Try not to use a set of needles or a hook that's the same color as your yarn.
Sometimes the solution is a simple as picking the right project! If you're hands can't hold wee hooks and needles, don't plan on projects that use sport, fingering, or lace weight yarns! The opposite holds true as well - if large needles or hooks are difficult for you, don't use the bulky and super bulky yarns.
The Ravelry advanced search is great for this, scroll down and pick the yarn weight you'd prefer to use. If you use Ravelry but don't know how to find the advanced search features, ask me the next time you're in the shop and I can walk you through it.
If you don't use Ravelry, the same idea applies. You'll just need to familiarize yourself with your chosen website's search features.
For example, right now I struggle with purling, and thin or thick yarn, so my next projects will mostly use mid-weight yarns and will be worked in garter stitch, knit in the round, or crocheted. Sadly, many of my WIPs are languishing in their bags as I don't want to pick them back up just yet, in case my gauge has changed between when I put them down and now. Only time will tell if I pick them back up or frog them.
So if you've been struggling with issues related to your stitching, we hope these suggestions help. As we move into the gift giving season, keep these tips in mind. Don't overextend yourself by promising hats to everyone you know, or something like that. But do continue to enjoy your stitching.
Just remember to plan accordingly, stretch, move, and use the right tools for you. Hopefully, you'll be able to keep on stitchin' for as long as you'd like.