July 27, 2008

Knitting FAQ: Ergonomics and Posture

Knitting FAQ index

"How should I hold my knitting? What about posture?"

Like any activity where you use your hands for long periods of time, knitting can give you repetitive stress injuries if you do it wrong. It's important that you not let that happen. Here are some tips to help you avoid it:

Try lighter or shorter needles. The heavier your needles, the more work your hands have to do with every stitch. Longer needles apply more leverage to your hands; once again, your hands have to work harder to make that stitch. If you're using long metal needles, switching to wood or plastic needles a few inches shorter might make all the difference.

Support the weight of the fabric in your lap. The more fabric you've knitted, the heavier it is. If it's long enough to reach your lap when you're sitting down, take that extra second to arrange it so it's supported whenever you turn the work. The more weight you can take off your hands, the longer you can knit.

Put both feet flat on the ground. I confess, I don't always do this myself; I like to put my feet up. But even so, I pause to put my feet flat from time to time to check that I'm not off balance. You want to make sure you're not listing to one side or the other. Leaning puts a strain on your whole body; you can end up with a sore back, sore neck, and sore hands.

Sit up straight. Just like leaning to the side, curling forward puts a strain on your body. If you can't see your work without bending over it, go where the light is better, or get your glasses prescription updated. Hunching like a cobbler elf means you'll eventually look like one.

Keep warm. Cold weather makes you feel like knitting, it's true. But do the actual knitting somewhere warm. Cold joints are already under stress; putting them under further stress will make them sore.

Let both hands share the work. If you find that one hand gets sore faster than the other, take a good look at your knitting style. There are several different methods for holding the working yarn and moving the stitches, and while they're fairly balanced in their ideal forms, it's possible to pick up habits that leave one hand doing all the work; you might want to consider switching to a different method.

Keep your arms relaxed. You don't want your elbows out and flapping. Not only does it look goofy, it wastes energy and makes you tired. The strain on your upper arms travels all the way to your hands, and the next thing you know you're too sore to knit.

Look at experienced knitters. It's easy enough to find pictures of people knitting; have a look at their hands and arms. Everyone's a little different in the details, but the general posture is the same.

Most importantly: if it hurts, stop! Tendonitis and carpal tunnel are no joke! If you don't take the time to let your hands and wrists heal, you can do permanent damage. Better to lay off the knitting for a day or two now than to end up unable to knit ever again.

To discuss this question and answer, please comment on this post. To ask other questions, please comment on the FAQ index post. Hope it's helpful, and have fun knitting!


Anonymous said...

Kickass! This is going to help a lot.

I should get the froghat tutorial done in a day or two. I'll post it to RHQ, since I want to make little images to go with the instructions and I know those'll work in an LJ post. :)

Jesse said...

Awesome, thanks!

mosrael said...

Hey hey... I am interested in getting some yarn from you. I love the color of the maple flame, but 1) I don't know if it's hardy enough for the sweater I want to make, and 2) I think I'd need a lot. :3 Email me if you like, blue_infinity@shaw.ca