If you have taken my beginner knitting class, you know that I do harp about posture while knitting. Beginner knitters (and even a few advanced) are notoriously tense, putting a great deal of stress on their hands, arms, neck and shoulders, not to mention the needles and yarn. Experienced knitters tend to get repetitive stress injuries because they become obsessed and can’t stop knitting even when their body is telling them that they should. (I don’t know anyone like that. Not at all)
When you are new to knitting or even if you aren’t, it is important to be aware of your posture. Try to keep your knitting project as close to eye level as possible and use a pillow to prop up your arms if you need to. (it helps to not have to look at your knitting at all, but we know this takes some serious experience). Do that “yoga shoulder roll thingy” where you roll your shoulders back. Stop frequently and roll your head around, up and down and from left to right to help loosen up the upper back and neck muscles.
If you are experiencing pain in your hands or elbows, stop knitting! Take a break and try out a few exercises. One of my students makes a few hilarious figures with her hands: crap claw, fist, duck bill, and something else that I can’t remember. These will all help to stretch out the fingers and loosen up the joints.
Lastly, choose good tools. Your knitting needles can do a great deal for your comfort, particularly on large projects. If you are using silk or other slick yarns, don’t use metal needles. You will tend to tense up, trying to keep the stitches from flying off of the needles when a birch or bamboo needle would do the trick. If you are knitting a blanket or other heavy large project, use circular needles instead of long straight needles. Those giant metal Boye needles that grandma gave you are out of fashion for a reason! The weight that they put on your wrists is unnecessary. Use a circular instead, and the weight of the project will fall in your lap and below your hands rather than pulling down on your wrists and hands from the sides.
My final words of wisdom: don’t commit yourself to knitting all of your holiday gifts. This will land you in physical therapy by January and its just not worth it. In the end, only about 20% of your relatives will really appreciate the gesture anyway 🙂