Monday, February 15, 2010

Knitting Ergonomics

In just about any fiber community I have hung around, there has been a discussion on pain developing at one point or another. We all have heard about knitter's elbow, painful feet on weavers, back pain on spinners, the list goes on.
Laura Fry is a weaver that pays close attention to ergonomics, she has a great article on ergonomics=efficiency.

I have always been very careful with my hands and I refuse to participate in any type of contents of race that will put extra strain on them. If I knit one or two stitches faster a minute than the knitter sitting next to me, is THAT going to change the world or the quality of the finished garment? Probably not.
I am a fast knitter, I knit Continental and the number of movements involved with each stitch are less, that and 45+ years of knitting probably has a lot to do with the speed.

A while back I found a couple of articles on cabling without a cable needle, I thought it was clever and sure enough picked up the technique.
While I was knitting the Swirl Coat and later Cassidy, my right thumb started hurting. It hurt to the point where I could not hold things with my right hand. I blamed it on moving and boxes and packing and computer work and everything I could think of except of course on knitting. After the move things started settling down and the pain slowly went away. UNTIL I picked up Cassidy again and the pain was instantly back! Paying close attention to what was going on, I quickly realized it was the extra strain on the thumb while crossing the stitches without the cable needle. I finished the sweater with the needle of course, and let my hand rest for a couple of days.

I am happy to report that I knit the entire back of the Drops jacket, all in stockinette stitch and there is no pain at all. I can hold things without dropping them, I can open bottles just like I did before. The back took three days, the front with the cables might take a bit longer of course, but not by much.

Cabling with the needle is a tid bit slower, but hey! it does not hurt!
I want to be able to be a creative fiber artist until the day I kick the bucket, in order to do that, I have to take care of my hands and body.
It might be slower, but it pays off.

I urge all of you to be careful, when pain starts developing, it is your body crying for attention. Not every technique that you come across is suitable for your style and it might hurt!


Pru said...

I'm trying to alternate cable and FI projects in order to rest the tendons/muscles/ligaments which one stresses over the other. Have found that cabling on a tight gauge (e.g. Fulmar) is the main culprit for tennis elbow but certain stretching and weight bearing exercises and occasional use of the elbow brace help. Take care of those hands and arms!

fleegle said...

I often wonder about people who partipate in all sorts of knitting olympics and then wonder why they hae an aching body part. The 10 Shawls in 2010 seems to have the most pain potential of anything I've seen lately. Like you, I am very careful to listen to body parts, lest they start shouting :)

Peg in South Carolina said...

A very very good post. Thank you for the careful description of what happened to you.