5 fantastic ways to prevent RSI for knitters and crocheters

As knitters and crocheters, we make a lot of repetitive movements.

Lots and lots.

Imagine you are working on a shawl, 43 in wide with a 23 in drop, and tension at 19 sts x 34 rows to 4in, we could easily be looking at a grand total of …

21,255 stitches!

HOW MANY STITCHES!!!!!

HOW MANY STITCHES!!!!!

Photo credit: Instant Vantage / Foter / CC BY-SA

Wowser.

That’s over 40,000 movements – the needle going into the stitch, the yarn going over (whether throwing or continental styles) and the needle picking up the yarn and out.

Each one of those movements results in a muscle or a tendon making tiny little movements and the poor things can wear out through use. Trust me, with tennis elbow in both arms, carpal tunnel and tendons that I can hear and feel snap, I know exactly how painful and life impacting that can be.
There is good news though:

You can help prevent injury. 

There are steps you can take to make your body work with you, to ease any aches or pains you may have and to help you keep knitting or crocheting for a very, very long time*. I wish I knew of these before I developed problems which are now lifelong and can only be managed, not cured.
So please, take time out to take care of yourselves.

It’s really very, very simple…

All you need is a can, your hands and a couple of minutes a day.

Exercise 1
Wrist Turn

Hold the can in your hand, with your palm facing up.

RSI avoidance for crafters170615_01

Turn your wrist so your palm is facing down, ensuring you gently grip the can – don’t squeeze too tight!

RSI avoidance for crafters170615_02

Turn your wrist back to the original position.
Repeat the turn 10 times with each hand.

Exercise 2
Wrist Lift

Hold the can in your hand, with your palm facing up.

RSI avoidance for crafters170615_03

Lift your hand, keeping your palm towards you.

RSI avoidance for crafters170615_04

Hold for up to 5 seconds, then relax.

Repeat the wrist lift 10 times with each hand.

Exercise 3
Reverse wrist  lift

Pick up the can with your palm facing downwards.

RSI avoidance for crafters170615_08

Lower the can so your palm faces your body.

RSI avoidance for crafters170615_07

Lift back into starting position.

Repeat 10 times with each hand.

Exercise 4
Wrist flex

I really enjoy this one! Flex your hand 90 degrees, so your fingertips are pointing upwards. Flex the fingers back (gently, please!) with your other hand.

RSI avoidance for crafters170615_06

Feels fab doesn’t it! Hold it for between 15-30 second then release.

Exercise 5
Reverse wrist flex

Flex your hand 90 degrees so your fingertips are facing the floor. Flex the fingers back (again, gently!) with your other hand.

RSI avoidance for crafters170615_05

Hold it for 15-30 seconds then release.
I love doing both flexes with my arm fully extended, so I get a slight bicep and elbow stretch too.

It feels soooo good!

They are so quick and easy to do – keep a can on your desk, by the phone, by the sofa – even in your handbag (or man-bag for all our male crafters!) so you can work out wherever you are.

Don’t forget to let your crafting friends know about these exercises too! 

With love,

* If you already have issues, you can do exercises too, but
pleasepleaseplease
seek advice from your GP or Physio first.

I’d love to hear your hints and tips for pain-free knitting and crochet,
so why not share them in the comments?

 

 

Rotherwick Scarf – a free knitting pattern x

ROTHERWICKSCARFA free pattern from

I leapt out of bed this morning, thinking it was 9.45am. This was very, very bad. I had an urgent appointment somewhere ridiculously important at 10am and it was a two hour drive away. There was no way I was going to make it and boy, was I going to be in trouble!

I ran downstairs and into the garden, carrying Mr Tinklepants, then thought – hold on, that’s not 9.45am daylight. Thats 6.15am daylight!

Whoop-whoop!

So, here I am, dressed, breakfasted (a French Hom-ellete, with thanks to Julia Child) and with time to spare. Mmm, what’s a girl to do? I know.

Show everyone the knitted Scarf she designed for Artesano,
it’s available for free on their website!

Yes, that’s right – absolutely free. Although I must warn you, when this post was written they had 20% off Aran yarns and I can’t be held responsible for any purchases!

You can find the pattern here. 

So, pick up your sticks and get knitting – it’s never to early to start on (ahem) holiday gifts!

Sorry about that.

With love,

 

Hungry for Socks

I love socks.

Correction…

I love knitting socks.

Any kind is alright by me. Vanilla, lace, cabled, entrelac (when I am feeling brave), colour work (ok, maybe not intarsia, but don’t tell anyone!), mini socks, welly socks and everything in between.

What I love most of all is knitting a sock in a great yarn, in a great pattern.
It makes me happy.
I cast on the Dawlish socks by Rachel Coopey last weekend, with Bat’at Hand Dyed 4ply yarn in the most amazing colour.

Dawlish Socks

Now, I have reviewed this yarn before, and I really hope I used words like

buttery
daffodil
egg yolk
creamy

cheese…

…ok, maybe not cheese, but I had a real hankering for an omelette after knitting a while.

The repeats are short, there’s no risk of pooling and the twist is perfect for giving me nice, crisp cables – which is important on such a geometric pattern.

I’m throwing Caution to the Wind and cabling without a cable needle too.
I’m just that adventurous!

Dawlish Socks

I think it’s safe to say that I am having fun working this pattern in this yarn. They were meant for each other. Every time I find a Perfect Match, I feel justified in having a stash.

It’s not hoarding.
It’s a Dating Agency for Yarn.

Got to dash – my omelette is ready!

With love,

The Philosophy of Selfish Knitting

An epiphany

I had a ‘eureka’ moment today, and appropriately enough it was in the bath!

Since moving to yet another new town, I have discovered the most amazing Charity Shop. I have scored some real bargains there, that have made me happy – a camel hair coat (a genuine one!), an almost knee length scottish hand-loomed cashmere cardigan, a cashmere jumper, some Boden jeans, a vintage dress-form and various other bits. This weekend I also struck gold.

Mucky Pup

There was a bin bag labelled ‘dog blankets’ going for £2.50. Now, My Boy is a real mucky pup, especially with the rain we’ve had lately which has turned the fields near me into mud baths and lakes, so I thought the dog blankets would be perfect to keep in the back of my car just-in-case.

2013-12-08 09.36.20

I really want a cute little boat!

When I got home, after a lovely walk by the canal with family (followed by the most incredible home-made cakes and a pot of tea) I investigated the ‘dog blankets’ only to discover that there were TWO Pure New Wool blankets in there, one of which was by Charles Early of Witney, Oxford. Early’s was started in the 17th Century and was considered to make the finest blankets in England. They were a very prosperous company, making blankets for the Royal Navy in the late 19th Century, but with the increasing popularity of the duvet cover (a Swedish invention, I believe?) they struggled to compete and eventually closed in 2002. There are still some companies that sell their blankets, which go for a small fortune. Anyway, the ‘dog blanket’ I got was in perfect condition and, as I have been after a wool blanket for some time now, there is no way that My Boy will get his mucky paws on it!

How did this lead me to a Eureka Moment, you might ask? I was pondering on the things I have been lucky enough to ‘rehome’, the things people donate – like my ‘new’ cashmere cardi, and then I recalled a hand-knit garment I ‘rescued’ several weeks ago.

It’s not cashmere, it’s not soft and luxurious, but someone spent a long time making it, possibly for someone they loved very much, only for it to end up cast aside in a charity shop. Ok, so I might be being a little unfair – after all, I don’t know the reason why it ended up there – but such a small value was given to the work the knitter put into it (I paid just £3.99) that it made me a little sad.

So, my Eureka Moment? That I am proud to be a Selfish Knitter and to only knit for myself and those I know who love and appreciate my handmade gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t make them to be applauded and showered with praise.

The Gift of Time

I make them because I love the recipient enough to give them the Gift of Time and Thought. I haven’t simply gone to a shop and purchased something that has been ready-boxed and prettified, or the latest ‘must-have’ that will be obsolete shortly. I don’t make them as a ‘cheap’ alternative. True, the yarn cost money (lots, sometimes!) but I am really giving time. I am giving the 30 hours it took me to knit the shawl (and to hook on every.single.bead); the 15 hours it took me to knit the scarf; the 9 hours it took me to make the amigurumi toy; the 12 hours it took to crochet the hat, because the whole thing was Slip Stitch (can you believe that?) so it looked like it was knitted. I should just have KNIT the flaming thing! If I were to attach an hourly rate to the gifts, they would work out very expensive indeed. But I don’t make them because of that.

I make them because I love who I am creating for. I make them because I know they appreciate the thousands of hand movements that went into each item, because they know that the colour was picked (in some cases dyed) just for them, that the fibre was chosen specifically because it’s their favourite or I want to wrap them in something exquisite, and that I sometime design a one-off just for them that won’t be repeated, ever again. I know that they will cherish the gift, won’t think it’s ‘cheap’ because it’s hand-made, and will never, ever, let it be cast aside to be rescued by someone like me.

Or, at least I hope they won’t!

Multi-tasking made easy

Over The Moon!

I got a little (ok, a lot) excited yesterday over a gadget. It doesn’t happen often – the last time I went all ga-ga for tech was when I got my shiny new macbook pro. I even took photos of the unboxing. I didn’t go quite that far this time, but only because I don’t have a decent camera (yet – but soon, oh so very soon!). So, what got me dancing round my front room (and confusing My Boy in the process!)?

Over the Moon!

An E-Reader!

Bookworm

I honestly never thought I would be tempted, as I am a book-loving book-worm. I like holding something tangible, tactile. I love the smell of the pages, the sound of them turning, the fact that my oldest and most treasured books have been read so often the are falling apart (or, in some cases have fallen apart and are held together with tape!). I have books I turn to when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am feeling nostalgic. I have moved a lot over the years, and have had to ‘downsize’ my collection time after time, so the books I have kept are like family to me. So, why get an e-reader?

It was all down to a chance comment. A knitter I know got an e-reader as a gift. She reads. A lot! Nothing unusual there. However, because she liked reading so much, not a lot of knitting was being done – most projects cast on for ‘deadline’ knitting (usually gifts) were passed over to me in a blind panic for finishing asap. Since getting the e-reader she was delighted to tell me (and I was delighted to hear) that she could read and knit at the same time – she even had a rare FO (Finished Object) as proof!

I frequently combine knitting with something else. Usually, when knitting or crocheting, I can be found spending  quality time with My Boy, watching a film or listening to the radio, an audio book  or catching up with friends in person or on the phone. It’s rare that I just ‘sit and knit’ but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t read. It was too tricksy – balancing the book, trying to turn the pages, moving my knitting to see the other page…all sorts of issues!  I needed more hands. So, it got me thinking – should I give in and get one too, so I was no longer limited to just reading in bed?

reading in bed

The decision was made for me when I spotted one on offer for under £30! It’s not an all singing, all dancing model, and it is tiny, but I did some research and went for it. What really sold it to me is that (unlike some other well known brands!) you can ‘borrow’ e-books from your local library – at least, you can in the UK and US – and there is a great selection available. I would be able to feed my love of reading without taking up any more space and keep my book collection to my three favourite authors and my Old Faithfuls.

I went for it, and today I was really glad that I didn’t get a whooshy one with a back light, or I would still have been reading when the alarm went off this morning. It is so light that I could read for much longer, I was spoilt for choice with books and it fits in my pocket. Perhaps I can  downsize my handbag now too?

Did I get any knitting done while I was reading? Of course not! I was ‘bonding’ with my New Toy, but I know that it will be easy to knit and crochet with it when I get a chance.

Extreme multi-tasking

You can see that most of my multi-tasking while crafting is sedentary – what about you? Do you knit or crochet while doing something else? How about while working out on an exercise bike? It’s probably not a good idea to try to knit while on a treadmill – although David Babcock, possible holder of the Guiness Record for knitting the longest scarf while running a marathon, might disagree with me there!

Marathon Knitter

(c) David Babcock

Right, the kettle has boiled, My Boy needs a hug and I might just give knitting and reading at the same time a go this evening!

Until next time,

pw x

Rewind, please!

Can I have a rewind on this weekend, please? It’s not been bad, per se (in fact, I’m feeling rather chipper!) it’s just that the things I wanted to achieve have been a little tricksy. Take this post, for example. I’ve already written it once, but half of it disappeared. The strange thing is that it was the FIRST half! So, I’m writing it all again….

The other thing I wanted to achieve was a tutorial on Log Cabin squares. I have wanted to do a log cabin blanket for a long time, but ‘work’  meant that I just didn’t have the time for any ‘me’ projects. I’ve decided that I need to take time out to knit for myself, for relaxation, for stress relief, or just to reconnect and so when I received some Hayfield DK with Wool, that’s exactly what I did! I had one ball of every shade, so I had a lot to choose from and the Log Cabin was an ideal project. I looked at all the colours together as a whole, and knew that some wouldn’t work in the blanket – white and cream were ‘shouty’ and the orange clashed a little; the black and grey pulled the colours back a little, so I was left with 9 colours in total.

I decided to do a square with 9 ‘logs’, so I could use each yarn equally (I hope!), to maximise the size of the blanket. To achieve this, I picked an order for the colours and did the first square as follows: light pink, purple, rose, maroon, teal, light blue, navy, olive and brown. For the second square, I started on the second colour, adding the first colour to the end, so it went: purple, rose, maroon, teal, light blue, navy, olive, brown and light pink. The third square started on rose, the fourth on maroon, and so on. Once I have completed all the squares, I am planning to edge them in black, then seam them together for a blanket.

Anyway, today I sat down to prepare for a tutorial and duly prepared the fabric, shot it and wrote out the steps, all of which took the best part of the afternoon, made a coffee then sat down here.

Which is where it all fell apart. Unsurprisingly, it seems that sheets of A4 paper, a desk lamp and the lid of a plastic container for a light box and a (very old) i-phone do not emulate professional photography equipment, which is what I am used to using! Here’s the painful evidence:

And, believe me, these were some of the better shots.

So, instead of writing up the tutorial I have spent HOURS preparing, I am off to stalk DSLR kits on ebay, and will (thankfully, I hear you say!) save the tutorial for another day.

Knitting without guilt

Having finally ‘given’ myself permission to knit without guilt, I have had a great time looking through patterns on Ravelry – there are some beauties there! I have, for a long time now, had my eye on ‘Pretty as a Peacock‘ by Jae Koscierzynski (aka Some Knitting Required), and while it’s stunning, I am not sure that I am ready to spend THAT much time knitting without guilt just yet – especially when a friend reminded me that I should be working on my own patterns, not someone else’s! But sometimes I just want to kick back and let someone else take control. Yes, really, I do. It’s nice to just follow a pattern, trust that it works and enjoy the knitting. Not to be disheartened, I found ‘His Golden Lair‘ by Kourtney Robinson, which is much more feasible and ticks all the boxes!

Copyright: Kourtney Robinson (with permission and thanks!)

But, someone else pointed out that I still have my Sylvi to finish (yes, thank you for the reminder!) so perhaps I could work on that instead?

I clearly have too many choices, and know I have too-little-brain to decide at the moment, so for now I am just content to work on my blanket. I guess I am still happy in Garter St territory after all!

Until next time,

pw x

New Year, New Start?

I was catching up with a lovely friend earlier today, Sharon of fivemoons, when she pondered whether anything ‘new’ decided  today is doomed to failure, simply because it could be construed as a ‘new year’s resolution’. We haven’t spoken in a while though, so my ‘new’ news and plans, although they are starting now aren’t really ‘new’ to me as I have been planning them for a while so I figure they don’t count as resolutions! I am, however, really rather looking forward to what the New year has in store for me – lots of hard work, but hopefully a smoother ride.

My last post, counting my blessings, was somewhat appropriate. The following week, My Boy was startled on a pavement and leapt into the path of an oncoming car. He bounced off and ran away so fast I couldn’t catch up with him. I had only just started  working in the village where he went missing, but word quickly spread and everyone was out on foot and horseback looking for him. He was found, six or so hours later, waiting at my office. The vet gave him the all clear and I definitely counted my blessings that day.

Anyway, this is seriously at risk of this becoming the Diary of My Dog (perhaps he should get a blog!) so I guess I’d better crack on with the crafts! I have been rather good at finishing projects these past few weeks, but not so good at photographing them. With all this rain, the light has been appalling! I will get them shot as soon as I can. What I have photographed (rather badly today) was some fingerless mitts I had great fun putting together. I purchased the yarn from ebay, from kingcraigfabrics – £3 for a 100g ball, 95% merino, 5% cashmere. It was project specific – my father had asked for an autumn coloured scarf, and the brown flecked yarn was ideal. I must admit to being a little hesitant when placing the order as I’d never ordered from an unknown (to me) supplier before, not without seeing the yarn first anyway, but was pleasantly surprised when it arrived! It was lovely to work with, so when I’d finished the scarf (photos to follow!) I cast on straight away for my ‘Rustic Chorus’ fingerless mitts. I have wanted a pair of ‘oversized’ fingerless mitts for a while, with rolled edges and simple cuffs, so here they are:

And here is the (very basic, un tech edited and originally written in my almost illegible scribble!) pattern for the ……

RUSTIC CHORUS FINGERLESS MITTS

To fit: Adult

Using a light aran yarn (I used less than 100g, you could probably work it with 50g!) and 4.5mm circulars (long enough for magic loop) cast on 32 sts; join to work in the round, taking care not to twist sts.
PM (place marker) if desired – personally, I just use the tail to let me know when I’m at the beginning of a new round.
Place half the sts on each side of the magic loop. Knit 40 rounds.
Next rnd: K15 sts, yo, k1; k1, yo, k15.
Next rnd: Knit.
Rep last two rounds (increasing the number of sts after/before each yo as set) until there are 21 sts on each ‘side’ of the magic loop.
Next rnd: Knit to last 6 sts before the tail/marker; place 6 sts on waste yarn. Place the next 6 sts (from the next ‘side’) on waste yarn.
Pull yarn tight to close gaps/minimise laddering and continue knitting to the end of the next round.
Working on the live sts only, knit another 12 rnds.
Cast off loosely.
Thumb:
Replace the 12 thumb sts on the needle; pick up 1 st at ‘hand’ end, k6; k6, pick up another st.
Next rnd: K2tog, k to last 2 sts, ask.
Knit 5 more rnds.
Cast off – I found a suspended cast off helped to prevent the thumb from being too tight.
Weave in ends.

This style gives yo ‘ladders’ at the thumb join. If you want to have solid gloves, work a m1l/m1r increase instead. However you work it, make the second mitt the same.

Enjoy!

Counting my blessings

I realised today that it has been about one year since My Boy, Bilko, came into my life. Bilko is the first dog I have had as an adult, having had rescue cats all my life. I had just moved into a ridiculously rural area, was working from home, and the time was right to give a loving home to a dog. I originally went to the Little Valley rehoming centre to see another dog, Murray, who had been with them for about four months. Murray was a German Shepherd cross (but no one knew what with) who was very wary and just couldn’t connect with anyone who came to view him. As my friends will tell you, I have a real soft spot for sob stories and the underdog, so Murray intrigued me. I met him and he was painfully shy. Now, I’m no animal psychologist, but it made sense that I made myself as unthreatening as possible so when I met him in the field, I first walked and talked with the trainer, paying him no attention at all. When he seemed a little more comfortable with my presence, I crouched and offered him a treat (given to me by the trainer) behind my back so there was no eye contact. I gradually brought my arm round to the front with several more treats, until he was facing me and absolutely ok with me. He was such a lovely boy!

I went home and did some research on the breed, having not had a dog before, and it broke my heart to realise that my home (and I) would not be the right match for Murray, for several reasons. I didn’t know what he was crossed with, GSD’s need a lot of exercise and around deadline time I was usually superglued to my mac for several days in a row. They also shed a lot, which (on a purely selfish level) would mean a lot of work to keep it away from my yarn. Working on commissions with dog-fluff flying around is not ideal! Also, anyone who visited me who had a dog allergy would suffer. So, it was with great reluctance that I went back to the rehoming centre to explain my reasons for being unable to offer a home to Murray. They understood, but it didn’t ease my conscience any. On the way out, I saw a rather scruffy looking Tibetan Terrier, who took one look at me and started barking like mad. It was definitely not love at first sight! I enquired about the TT, and was advised that he had been a house dog for an elderly gentleman, he hadn’t been socialised and was a problem dog who needed a quiet household, no other dogs nearby and someone with lots of time to be with him. I knew a bit about the breed, as a friend has several TT’s so I know that they are demanding, intelligent, don’t like to be left alone, bond closely with their ‘owners’ and wasn’t looking at it through rose tinted glasses. I also knew that, due to their double coats, they tend not to moult like other dogs, which is great for allergy sufferers (and for my yarn!).

Bilko and I went for a walk, with a trainer, in the field. He had clearly bonded with the trainer, and viewed me as a stranger. Although I held the lead, he was more eager to walk with her than with me. There was no magical ‘connection’ at our first meeting, in fact I left wondering if we were right for each other.

All that changed when I got him home a couple of weeks later and it quickly became apparent that we were a perfect match! I can still remember how uncertain he seemed of everything, but I let him take things at his own pace. I talked to him all the time (and still do!), let him investigate and find his feet. He quickly became my little shadow. In the year we’ve been together, he has changed beyond recognition. He is a confident, assured boy, who takes commands well (sit, stay, up, down, wait, gently, rest, high five!) and is my best friend. He is no longer a ‘problem dog’ (unless you count his predilection for Hungry Hector biscuits as a problem), has canine (plus the occasional feline) friends and is the funniest dog I have ever met. He snorts like a little piglet when he wants something, shakes with excitement when he’s happy, hides my slippers, loves to play ‘Biscuit!’ and regularly has ‘funny five minutes’ when he dries his beard after drinking!

Right now, he is snoring on the sofa after a lovely walk, and I will join him in a moment for some Sunday Afternoon Knitting on a very secret project indeed, involving almost ONE MILE of lace yarn. More on this later…x

It’s bliss and I am happy to count my blessings today.

*Bilko images are copyright of the lovely and talented Magda at studiomag.co.uk

Knit therapy

And relaaaaaax…

I find knitting and crochet incredibly soothing. Knit classes should be available on the NHS, as it is cheaper than medication or therapy – although possibly more addictive! While I learnt to knit and crochet as a child, I only took them up seriously later in life as a form of stress relief in my former career, and I am so glad I did – I haven’t looked back! It is the only real activity, other than reading (or playing guitar, badly), that helps me to completely tune out and lose myself. I suppose it’s a form of mindfulness, although more on that another day. It doesn’t matter what I am doing – if my day has been particularly mundane, it is wonderful to fall headfirst into a complex lace pattern, requiring intense concentration and silence. If my day has been busy and I just want to veg (or I am feeling under the weather, physically or emotionally) then something basic does the trick just as well – plus you can watch a film at the same time. Bargain!
I haven’t been particularly well of late and as a result had lost my knitting mojo. I was worried. I was still just as stressed, but without knitting I had no other way to unwind. I knew that I had to knit to get my mojo back, but how? And with what?

Easy knits

I turned to an old friend, the garter stitch. There was a time when I (wrongly) thought little of the humble garter stitch, but it is such a lifesaver and I really love the simplicity and the resulting squishiness! For some yarns, garter stitch is a great way to go. I love those little resulting ‘pops’ of colour. So, to get me back on the knitting path, I needed just plain knit. I picked the very popular (and fun!) ten stitch blanket by Frankie Brown, but made a couple of alterations. I worked on 20 sts, as I knew that I didn’t want to be turning every ten stitches (or knitting backwards, as I tend to do on short row sections) and I added a slip stitch join to get a lovely box-spiral ridge. While working on it, if I dared to put it down for a second, my gorgeous Tibetan Terrier would run to sit on it and claim it as his own. Luckily, I tend to work all my knitting on circs, otherwise he could have done himself an injury! I knew that it was never going to be the prettiest blanket, because all the balls were different, but the aim was just to get me back on track. So with no other intended recipient, it rapidly became ‘Bilko’s Blanket’.  When I finished, I added a 5st applied i-cord edging, just to make it that little bit more substantial. It goes everywhere with him!

My little stinky fella is pooped after a long walk so I couldn’t tear him away from his blankie long enough to get a photo of it on its own (and he loves to play to the camera anyway!), so this shot will have to do for now.

Not that I don’t have a million and one other projects on the go, but once Bilko’s Blanket had been cast off, I needed another garter stitch saviour, and so  began the ‘Curious Case of the Log Cabin‘.

Oh, happy day – I was hooked again!

pw x