It doesn’t matter what age you are or what your level of crochet expertise we are all at risk of damaging our wrists, arms, neck and backs if we don’t take precautions while handcrafting hats, blankets, and adorable amigurumi for our loved ones. I’m relatively new to crochet and while perusing my favorite crochet website I stumbled on a beginner video by Mikey of The Crochet Crowd discussing “Body Positions & Being Comfortable” and it was mildly alarming. Working all day at a computer building websites and writing content I understand the dangers of Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) and yet it didn’t dawn on me that my favorite hobby could cause some of the same issues. If you are a beginner like I am you are hyper focused on technique and not as much on the way we hold our body while we crochet. I ask you now to step back for a few minutes and evaluate the way that you sit when you start crocheting. It’s amazing just how much we hunch over and scrunch ourselves up in to a little ball when we are trying to learn. Crochet is supposed to be fun and relaxing so take a few minutes before you start your next project and run through this list.
Exercise your hands – Did you know that Crochet is an exercise? (or so I learned watching this video by Red Heart). Make sure you stretch your fingers and your wrists before you start.
UPDATE 2/26/2017 – the original pdf that I linked here when this article was published in 2014 is no longer functioning. I have included some other resources for hand exercises here.
Sit properly – I don’t know about you but I don’t pay a bit of attention to the way I sit at the end of the day. I want to relax so I plunk down in my super comfy sofa and toss my feet up on the ottoman. Then I grab whatever work-in-progress I have nearest to me (I use freezer bags to store the yarn, pattern and appropriate hooks all in one place). There seems to be a transformation when I pick up my hook and my body gets tense because I’m so new to this whole process. According to much of the research I’ve done on ergonomics for crafters that is the worst way to get started! (I figured as much but I’ll never admit that, you can’t make me). . Sitting in our fluffy sofa makes our bottom sink below our knees and that’s bad for our backs (especially when you are using your back and shoulders to support your crochet). While we are crocheting our bottom and our knees should be even to alleviate any potential back pain (Mikey explains this nicely in his video posted below) In order to protect our backs find a relatively straight back chair – it can have a cushion but not too much of one. Grab a couple sofa cushions and put one under each arm to help keep your arms level while you crochet.
Use an ergonomic hook – Ergonomic is not the same for everybody. Our hands are shaped differently so a hook that may be ergonomic for a male hooker (see what I did there) may not work for a woman with small delicate hands. There are a wide range of options for ergonomic hooks – take the time to find one that fits in your hand comfortably.
Position your yarn for optimum tension (or lack thereof) – I learned to roll my yarn up in a ball and I spend a lot of time chasing it across the living room or digging it out of the couch. Whether you keep the skein as is or roll it up in a ball there are techniques for positioning our yarn so we aren’t constantly fighting the tension. We get wrapped up in our tv show or talking to a friend and can become oblivious to the repetitive motion of pulling our yarn so it is the right tension for our stitch. You can use a bowl from the kitchen to set your ball of yarn in or you can buy a pretty one just for your crochet (I’m obsessed with Yarn bowls these days! oh and those cute yarn markers!). Make sure wherever you put your yarn gives you plenty of leeway and just the right amount of tension.
Take frequent breaks – I know when we are under the gun to complete a project for an upcoming birth or holiday we tend to marathon our sessions. Bring a timer with you and set it for 15 minutes or so- get up and walk around- do your hand stretches- grab a glass of water. You’ll find when you take breaks like this you can work on your masterpiece for much longer.
Do you have anything you do to alleviate the inevitable strain on our bodies while we do what we love most?
Be safe, be kind and crochet on!