Category: a creative life
4 tips for crocheting without pain
Oh, how we love to crochet! We do it as often as we can, for hours on end!
But sometimes, our body suffers from our enthusiasm. Our fingers hurt, our shoulders tense up, and tendinitis makes it hard even to hold the hook.
How can we crochet without pain? I am not a doctor or a physiotherapist, but I have been crocheting a lot for decades – and I have 4 tips that I hope can help.
Please note that this is all about prevention. If the damage is done and you are already hurting, please see a doctor!
Manage your time
You’re back home from work, dinner is finished, and you can at last settle down and crochet for hours until you go to bed!
But that might not be such a great idea…
Crocheting means repeating the same, tiny movements over and over again. When you do this for hours on end, you can end up hurting a lot from repetitive strain injuries.
My tip: intervals. I suggest that you take regular breaks.
To help me remember to take breaks when I delve into a fascinating project, I use a timer. When it goes off, I put down my hook and go do something else for a little while.
How long you can crochet and how long your pause should be depend, of course, on your specific situation.
I personally try not to crochet for more than 45 minutes at a time, and then take a break for at least 15 minutes. This enables me to continue crocheting after the break without injury.
Of course, it is frustrating to have to stop, but I tell myself that in the end, this enables me to crochet more. Crocheting in intervals means that I no longer have to refrain from crocheting for days or weeks because of tendinitis.
Manage your posture
How are you sitting while you crochet? Slouching on the couch? With your shoulders pulled up to your ears and your work right under your nose?
Take notice of your posture, and modify it according to the needs you observe. Perhaps the slightly firmer armchair will be better. And perhaps your back will get better support if you simply slide a cushion behind it.
When you concentrate on your stitches, it’s so easy to tense up, tighten your shoulders and bring your work close to your eyes. When you do this for a long time, you put a lot of tension on your muscles. Try to remember to lower your shoulders and relax your arms.
I’m nearsighted, and I often find myself holding the work very close to my eyes. When I deliberately lower my hands, I almost always realize that I can see my stitches perfectly well even with my work on my lap.
If your hands, arms and shoulders feel tense, it might be a good idea to use your break (when that timer goes off!) to massage yourself and do some stretching. You don’t necessarily need to do anything very complicated or specific, but if you want to dive a bit further into this, there are plenty of exercises to be found with a simple search on the Internet.
Manage your activities
Always making the same, small movements puts a lot of strain on our muscles, joints and tendons. So, having lots of hobbies is a good thing!
Do you have something else you love to do? Knitting, sewing, baking, woodworking? Changing activity to do something else means that some parts of your body will get a well-deserved break, while you stay creative.
You can also vary your crochet projects. Working with a big hook is fun and gets quick results – but it can also be quite a strain on your hands. If I have an ongoing project using a 6 mm (US J-10) hook or bigger, I try to also have one going with a 3 to 3.5 mm (US D or E-4) hook. I find that using the smaller hook is more comfortable – it might be the opposite for you!.
Manage your hands
Once more, it’s time to have a good look at ourselves!
Let’s start with the tools – what kind of hook do you use? A thin metal hook, or one with an ergonomic handle? I find that the latter puts far less strain on your hands.
There are many brands and shapes of ergonomic hooks. At the moment, the ones I find the most comfortable are the Tulip hooks – they are also the ones I sell in my shop.
The material of the hook itself also matters. There are hooks in metal, wood, plastic…. Perhaps you will find that warm wood or lightweight plastic is exactly what you need.
Changing hooks is not too complicated. However, the way you hold your hands also counts.
For example, how do you tension your yarn? Do you pull with your index finger, lift your little finger or weave the yarn around all your fingers? There are so many ways to do this. We tend to always use the same method, but it can be very useful to try another one.
Changing the way you tension your yarn isn’t easy, but I think that it’s even harder to change the way you hold your hook. Nevertheless, that’s what I’ve done.
Like many crocheters in Europe, I learned to hold my hook as I hold a pen, and I crocheted in this way for many, many years. One day, I had to face the facts: if I crocheted for more than 15 minutes, my hands started to hurt intensely. I realized that I had a choice to make: change the way I hold my hook, or not be able to crochet at all.
It was very hard for me, in the beginning, to hold my hook like a knife. This is what is natural for many crocheters in the US and for people doing Tunisian crochet. But I felt extremely clumsy, as if I were just learning to crochet – a very uncomfortable situation for an experienced crocheter like me.
I kept working on it and managed to change how I hold my hook. At first, it was slow, uneven and, honestly, very frustrating. But it was worth the while. Today, I can crochet without pain.
So, there you have my 4 tips:
- – manage your time
- – manage your posture
- – manage your activities
- – manage your hands
How about you? Do you have any ideas on how to make crocheting more comfortable or more ergonomic? Or do you have a specific problem when you crochet? Let me know in the comments!
Happy New Year 2023!
I’m wishing you a very happy 2023, in the light of curiosity, creativity and kindness towards ourselves and others.
My most heartfelt intention for 2023 is to re-engage the conversation with you about crochet and creativity. Here’s to our future creative adventures!
The Creative Gamble
It all starts with an idea. You don’t really know where it comes from, and sometimes it’s very vague. It can be a kind of vision, but it might also be a memory, a scent, a feeling… and sometimes it’s a full-blown concept that shows up from nowhere, presenting itself to you when you brush your teeth on a Tuesday morning.
In all cases this idea begs to be translated and transformed using yarn.
Crochet or knitting? What kind of stitch pattern? Which fiber? Cotton or wool? Which weight? And the ultimate question: to make what?
You fumble, you think, you try some things. Sometimes you try many, many things before you happen upon something valid.
Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. The idea can’t be transformed into a real-life object, at least not right now.
However, often this is the start of a new project. It can be very close to the original idea – or it can be very far away, so that only you can know its origin.
And now it is time to take a creative gamble.
Whatever the size of the project, you will need to spend many hours to make this thing born from your imagination, this thing that doesn’t exist yet.
You don’t know if you will succeed. You don’t know if the finished item will be appreciated. If you’re making something big, you might spend weeks or months with a disappointing final result. If the creative process is also your job, you can potentially even lose money.
And yet, you must take this gamble, bet on your creativity and skills to give life to this nonexistent thing, create it out of thin air and present it to the world.
It’s an uncomfortable situation, and so many questions race through your head. It would clearly be much easier not to make this thing – but still, you make it.
You make it, because you know it can be a winning bet. There are no guarantees, but there is possibility, and you are far too curious not to try and see what happens.
And when the creative gamble pays off, when this idea becomes a beautiful thing, when you can share it with the world, your satisfaction is so much greater than your uncertainty ever was.
If you are inspired to take a creative gamble, I can help, in a positive and reassuring setting. I have already led several creative coaching programs in French, aimed at people who want to design their own pattern. Perhaps it’s time to start one in English?
If you are interested in creative crochet coaching with the aim of creating your own crochet design, click the button below!
My creative coaching sessions typically run over 8 weeks and include 5 live sessions via Zoom and access to a private discussion group where I connect with the participants several times a week – all for the very reasonable price of 99€.
Click the button to send me an email and let me know if you’re interested!
When you can skip the swatch
I know, I know, you must always swatch before you start a new project – this is what I tell people all the time. And I also know that very often, this is not at all what you want to do!
To be perfectly honest, there are situations where you can skip the swatch – and where I don’t swatch either.
You just need to know when you can do this, and what can happen.
Narrow projects worked in the round
Do you want to crochet or knit a sock, a glove, a cowl or a hat?
A swatch worked flat will never give you the correct information for a project worked in the round.
When knitting, the smallest difference between your knits and your purls will significantly affect your gauge when working flat or in the round, respectively.
When crocheting, a stitch pattern worked flat will hardly ever look exactly like the same pattern worked in the round.
And if you decide to work your swatch in the round, you will need to work it over twice as many stitches. Solution: Use your project as your gauge swatch!
All you need to do is to try on your sock, mitten or hat after having worked a few inches. (For constructions starting with some kind of rib, work at least an inch past the ribbing).
Is it too small or too big? You will know for sure with this full-sized project.
A sleeve is a gauge swatch
For garments worked bottom up, you generally start with the back (for a garment worked flat in pieces) or the body (for a garment worked in the round).
That’s a lot of stitches to work before you can start comparing the actual measurements with those indicated in the pattern.
I suggest you start with a sleeve, which has many fewer stitches but still is big enough to yield a significant sample. Once you have checked that the width of the sleeve is correct, you can simply leave it to one side while you tackle the main part of the garment.
When size doesn’t matter (that much)
Very often people don’t make swatches for shawls, scarves and other accessories that are to be worn without a precise fit.
As long as you like the fabric you get, you can of course go ahead even if your gauge is tighter or looser than the pattern states – provided that you are a bit adventurous.
It is important to know that your gauge will affect the yardage needed for your project and its finished size.
If all your stitches are a bit (or much) smaller than the ones in the original item, you will obtain, for example, a narrower and shorter scarf.
If all your stitches are a bit (or much) larger than the ones in the original item, you will use more yarn, and you might not be able to finish the pattern as written.
If you are willing to improvise the final steps of your project, or to buy more yarn – no problem! You only need to know that this can happen, and have a plan for how to handle it.
And now, I’m off to knit a few more rows on my hat in progress. My head is larger than average, so I have chosen a larger needle size than the one suggested in the pattern. I have worked a couple of inches past the ribbing, and I’ve just tried it on – it looks good! I know that I will most probably use more yarn than stated in the pattern, but I have more in my stash – and if needed, I can add another colour in a similar yarn.
You have already guessed it – this is a project for which I didn’t make a swatch!
4 strategies against mistakes in crochet and knitting
A terrible mistake!
Your heart is beating fast, a cold hand seems to compress your chest, you have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach… You’ve just realized that you’ve made a mistake in your crochet (or knitting) project.
A mistake can have so many reasons. You’re tired, you’re distracted, you didn’t read or understand well…
Sometimes it’s just a mistake that needs correcting, with no other consequence. You undo a few stitches or a couple of rows, you pull out your mistake and redo it correctly – end of story.
But often, this mistake can teach you something (more than that you made a mistake).
Is it time for you to put down your project and go to bed? Do you simply need to concentrate a bit more on the chart? Do you need to get more information about the technique you’re using, asking a friend or Google?
In any case, we’d prefer not to make any mistakes – but everyone makes them, all the time… (yes, me too, all the time!)
I have four strategies against mistakes to suggest.
1) Learn to “read” your work.
I think this is one of the most important skills for any crocheter or knitter. I will get back to this in more detail, but for now, I’ll simply suggest that you frequently take the time to stop and admire what you’ve just made!
2) Ask yourself if it’s really important.
If there’s a wonky or missing stitch somewhere, will it really show when you or someone else wears or uses the finished object? Can you conceal it in a simple way?
But let’s agree on the fact that, if you’ve done 20 decreases too many, it’s probably best to correct that.
3) Learn to correct the most common mistakes. (I’ll have more to say about that, too – but in the meantime, Google and YouTube are your friends!)
4) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
First of all, if you are stressed over the idea of making a mistake, you will considerably increase your chances of doing something wrong.
And learning how to discover your mistakes and how to correct them will make you a much, much better crocheter or knitter. I honestly think that the best way to learn something new is to do it the wrong way first and understand why it happened before you do it correctly. You will remember how to do it much better than if your first try was perfect.
And I repeat myself: it might not be important at all. Once is a mistake, twice is a problem, three times is a new design!
Want to play with me?
This is a bingo game just for fun, to be adapted to all your yearnings, carefully planned projects and changes of heart!
Your own interpretations of the prompts are welcome – play along to the end of the year!
Here is the pdf version if you want to print it out:
What do you do with your leftovers?
At least once a week, I check the crisper drawer in my fridge to see what’s left over – a lonely leek, a couple of carrots that start to get a bit dry, the remaining part of a butternut squash, a piece of celeriac.
I take them out and cut them in roughly equally big pieces, I mix them with a dash of olive oil and some salt and pepper – and I roast them in the oven. To get the mix of vegetables right, I just try to get a blend of shapes and colours. My sad little leftovers become a colourful and tasty dish!
This week when I cut up my vegetables, I thought that I should really do the same with my leftover yarns. Check what I have on a regular basis, blend the partial balls and lonely skeins according to colour and weight, and do something with them.
But what? A blanket, a pair of fingerless mittens, something completely different? What do you do with you leftover yarns? Tell me in the comments!